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    Jo-Carroll Energy announced today its plan to build an 80 megawatt, biomass-fueled, renewable energy center in Illinois. The US$ 140 million plant will be fueled by various types of renewable biomass, such as clean waste wood, corn stover and switchgrass. Jo-Carroll Energy - September 18, 2007.

    Beihai Gofar Marine Biological Industry Co Ltd, in China's southern region of Guangxi, plans to build a 100,000 tonne-per-year fuel ethanol plant using cassava as feedstock. The Shanghai-listed company plans to raise about 560 million yuan ($74.5 million) in a share placement to finance the project and boost its cash flow. Reuters - September 18, 2007.

    The oil-dependent island state of Fiji has requested US company Avalor Capital, LLC, to invest in biodiesel and ethanol. The Fiji government has urged the company to move its $250million 'Fiji Biofuels Project' forward at the earliest possible date. Fiji Live - September 18, 2007.

    The Bowen Group, one of Ireland's biggest construction groups has announced a strategic move into the biomass energy sector. It is planning a €25 million investment over the next five years to fund up to 100 projects that will create electricity from biomass. Its ambition is to install up to 135 megawatts of biomass-fuelled heat from local forestry sources, which is equal to 50 million litres or about €25m worth of imported oil. Irish Examiner - September 16, 2007.

    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.

    Ethanol Statistics, a new industry information resource, reports that U.S. petroleum refiners Citgo and Valero are the top 2 ethanol importing companies in the United States in the first 6 months of 2007. Overall imports were up 7.64% compared to the same period in 2006, from 193,620 gallons to 208,404 gallons. Chevron imported 43% less, whereas Noble and ConocoPhilips' imports were up 255% and 372% respectively. Data are reported in 'The United States Ethanol Market 2007’, which also provides a breakdown of U.S. ethanol production costs and a detailed analysis of U.S. consumption and production. Ethanol Statistics - September 10, 2007.

    The government of British Columbia launches a $100,000 study into the production of biogas, heat, power and clean water from household waste streams. Raw sewage water can be cleaned by microbial fuel cells that deliver electricity as they clean the water; other technologies include classic anaerobic fermentation. Canada.com - September 10, 2007.

    Saudi Aramco in its Annual Review 2006 said that last year the company's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent, compared with the previous year. Crude oil production in 2006 averaged 8.9 million barrels of oil a day (b/d) and exports 6.9 million b/d. Saudi Aramco - September 9, 2007.

    Chinese packaging manufacturer Livan Biodegradable Product Co. Ltd. will build plants in Alsozsolca and Edeleny in eastern Hungary at a combined cost of €18 million by 2009, the Hungarian economics ministry says. The plants, which will employ 800 people, are planned to produce initially 50, 000 metric tons a year of environmentally-friendly packaging material, and double that amount by a later date. Livan will use corn to manufacture biodegradable packaging boxes with similar properties to petroleum-based plastic boxes used in the food industry. Dow Jones Newswires - September 7, 2007.

    South Korea aims to raise biodiesel content in domestic diesel to 3 percent from the current 0.5 percent by 2012, Seoul's energy ministry said today. The government was initially set last year to impose a mandatory 5 percent blend, in line with the level targeted by the European Union by 2010, but the country's powerful refining lobby opposed the move, forcing it to push back the target, according to market sources. Reuters - September 7, 2007.

    Virent Energy Systems, Inc. announced today that it has closed a US$21 million second round of venture financing. Investor interest in Virent was driven in large part by the Company’s continued development of its innovative BioForming process beyond its traditional hydrogen and fuel gas applications and toward the production of bio-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Virent Energy Systems - September 6, 2007.

    The U.S. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) announces that 31 models of motor vehicles will be offered in the U.S. with an E85 capable engine in 2008. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes Benz will all offer flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the coming year. The NEVC expects 750,000 such FFVs will be produced in 2008. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    Spanish renewables group Abengoa released its results for the first half of 2007 financial year in which its consolidated sales were €1,393.6 million, which is a 27.9 percent increase on the previous year. Earnings after tax were €54.9 million, an 18.6 percent increase on the previous year's figure of 46.3 million euro. Abengoa is active in the bioenergy, solar and environmental services sector. Abengoa - September 4, 2007.

    Canadian hydro power developer Run of River Power Inc. has reached an agreement to buy privately owned Western Biomass Power Corp. in a $2.2 million share swap deal that could help finance development of new green sources of electricity in British Columbia. The Canadian Press - September 4, 2007.

    As of Sept. 1, a biodiesel blending mandate has come into force in the Czech Republic, requiring diesel suppliers to mix 2 per cent biodiesel into the fuel. The same rule will be obligatory for gasoline starting next year. In 2009 the biofuel ratio will grow to 3.5 percent in gasoline and 4.5 percent in diesel oil. CBW - September 3, 2007.

    Budapest's first biofuel station opens on Monday near the Pesterzsébet (District XX) Tesco hypermarket. This is the third station selling the E85 fuel containing bioethanol in Hungary, as two other stations are encouraging eco-friendly driving in Bábolna and Győr. Caboodle - September 3, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Tembec - September 1, 2007.

    Innovative internet and cable/satellite channel CurrentTV is producing a documentary on Brazil's biofuel revolution. Biopact collegues and friends Marcelo Coelho (EthanolBrasil Blog), Henrique Oliveira (Ethablog) and Marcelo Alioti (E-Machine) provided consulting on the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of Brazil's energy transformation. ProCana - August 31, 2007.

    Oil major BP Plc and Associated British Foods Plc won competition clearance from the European Commission on to build a plant to make transport fuel from wheat in Hull, northeast England. U.S. chemical company DuPont is also involved. Reuters UK - August 31, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Orissa announced its policy for biofuel production which includes a slew of incentives as well as measures to promote the establishment of energy plantations. The state aims to bring 600,000 hectares of barren and fallow land under Jatropha and Karanj. At least 2 million hectares degraded land are available in the State. The new policy's other objectives are to provide a platform for investors and entrepreneurs, market linkages and quality control measures. Newindpress - August 29, 2007.

    Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said today it expects to reach large scale cellulosic ethanol production in 2015, with the first plant entering operations as early as 2011. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet, making up the bulk of the structure of wood and plants. In a first phase, Petrobras intends to use bagasse as a feedstock. Reuters / MacauHub- August 29, 2007.

    Seattle based Propel Biofuels, is announcing a $4.75 million first round of capital from @Ventures and Nth Power. The money will be used to help Propel set up and manage biodiesel fueling stations. BusinessWire - August 29, 2007.

    BioEnergy International, a science and technology company committed to developing biorefineries to produce fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable resources, announced today the closing of a major US$61.6 million investment that will provide funding for the Company’s three strategic initiatives: generating secure cash flow from its conventional ethanol platform, product diversification through the introduction of novel biocatalysts for the manufacture of green chemicals and biopolymers and the integration of its cellulose technology. BusinessWire - August 28, 2007.

    German company Verbio Vereinigte BioEnergie, the biggest biofuels producer in Europe, says it is considering plans to invest up to €100/US$136.5 million in a biofuel production facility in Bulgaria. The company wants the new facility to be located close to a port and Bulgaria's city of Varna on the Black Sea is one of the options under consideration. If Verbio goes through with the plan, it would produce both biodiesel and bioethanol, making Bulgaria a major source of biofuels in southeastern Europe. Verbi currently produces around 700,000 tonnes of biofuels per year. Sofia News Agency - August 27, 2007.

    Czech brown-coal-fired power plant Elektrárna Tisová (ETI), a unit of the energy producer ČEZ, could co-fire up to 40,000 tons of biomass this year, the biggest amount in the company’s history, said Martin Sobotka, ČEZ spokesman for West Bohemia. ETI burned more than 19,000 tons of biomass in the first half of 2007. The company’s plan reckoned with biomass consumption of up to 35,000 tons a year. Czech Business Weekly - August 27, 2007.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

African Development Bank approves €10 million loan for replanting and expanding palm oil, rubber in Gabon

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a €10 million loan under its private sector window to finance Belgium's Tropical Agriculture Investment Company (Société d’Investissement pour l’Agriculture Tropicale, SIAT) for its expansion project in Gabon.

The project involves both replanting old plantations and establishing new ones with high-yielding trees (see table for an overview of current operations):
  • Oil Palm: (1) establishing a new 4,250-ha oil palm plantation and replanting 1,500-ha in Bindo; (2) replanting a 750-ha oil palm plantation in Zilé; (3) replanting a 1,000-ha oil palm plantation in Makouké; (4) modernizing a palm oil mill and palm kernel crushing plant in Makouké; (5) expanding the capacity of the palm oil refinery in Lambaréné from 50 tons per day tpd) to 75 tpd; (6) modernizing the soap manufacturing plant in Lambaréné, and (7) increasing the capacity of palm oil storage tanks in Lambaréné and Port Gentil by 3,000 tonnes.
  • Rubber: (1) re-planting 4,100-ha nucleus rubber plantations in Bitam and Mitzic; (2) supporting a 2,000-ha out-grower rubber scheme; and (3) establishing a new crumb rubber line with a capacity of 40 tpd in Mitzic.
According to the AfDB, the project will have a strong social development impact. At the local level, it will inject capital into the economy of Woleu-Ntem and Moyen-Ogooué provinces and help increase the living standards of the rural population.

The expansion project will provide employment for an additional 520 permanent staff for field preparation, planting, harvesting oil palm fruit, and tapping rubber latex. The project will further support some 500 out-grower farmers. The project staff and out-growers will be provided regular training to enhance their skills and improve their productivity. At the national level, the project will help Gabon expand its oil palm and rubber industries and produce more value added products. It will also generate tax revenue for the state and help to generate foreign exchange earnings.

The project will contribute to diversify Gabon’s economy, which is heavily dependent on crude oil, a sector controlled by a tiny elite. The country's petroleum resources are in decline and even though Gabon has a large agricultural potential, the sector has been underinvested because of the past oil boom. Palm oil and natural rubber now offer the most immediate strategy to make Gabon less dependent on oil revenues and to prepare it for the unavoidable post-oil era. Both commodities are experiencing record prices as a result of high petroleum prices (palm oil as a substitute for diesel, natural rubber which follows petroleum-derived synthetic rubber prices):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Siat Gabon is actively involved in community development initiatives in the project area, providing social infrastructure such as roads, bore holes, and electricity. The company has created six modern townships dotted with over 900 houses for the workers. In addition, Siat Gabon has established “Cités cadres” with a total of 200 houses for senior staff, supervisors, and skilled workers in the project area. The project has further provided 8 primary schools in the neighboring communities with a combined enrollment of about 800 pupils. The company also operates 2 clinics, one for general healthcare and the other for maternal healthcare.

Women represent about 35% of the permanent workforce and about 40% of the seasonal workers. They are mainly involved in nursery activities, fruit collection, processing operations, quality control, and as office work. Women hold about 25% of the middle management positions in the company, including the post of Deputy MD. Women will benefit from a number of indirect jobs like retail shops and small restaurants to cater to the needs of the local population. The company operates a 'village plantation program', under which women are encouraged to cultivate food crops in the company’s plantations within the first two years of planting. This has enabled the women to ensure household food security as well as generate additional incomes.

As a result of a privatisation exercise implemented by the Government of Gabon in 2003, Siat acquired Agrogabon, Hévégab and a part of Sogadel, namely the Ranch of Nyanga. On the 5th of April, 2004, the take-over convention for the above mentioned enterprises was signed. Siat Gabon was created in order to accommodate the assets of these SOE’s.

The rubber activity of the company, located in the northern part of Gabon, consists of the Bitam Estate (2,500 ha mature rubber plantation) and the Mitzic Estate (5,500 ha of mature rubber plantation). It also includes 2,500 ha of mature outgrower plantations. At Mitzic the company operates a crump rubber factory with a daily capacity of 50 tonnes. Expansion work on estates and factory have resumed. The entire rubber production of 15,000 tonnes per annum is exported.

The oil palm activity is located around Lambarene and Makouké, and comprises 8,000 ha of mature oil palm plantation, a palm oil/palm kernel mill with a capacity of 30 tonnes ffb/hour, a soap factory of 25,000 tonnes/annum and a refinery/fractionation plant of 50,000 tonnes of oil per annum. Production is mainly meant for the domestic market.

The cattle ranch, located in the Province of Nyanga in the southern part of the country, comprises a concession of 100,000 ha. Presently, a heard of 2,000 head is meant to be increased to 20,000 over the next ten years. Cattle of the Ndama type will be imported from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also envisaged that approximately one third of the ranch area will be converted into an eco-tourism site.

Siat is an active member of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

SIAT: Siat in Gabon.

Africa News: Gabon: AfDB loans €10M for palm oil, rubber - September 17, 2007.


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