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    Finland's Metso Power has won an order to supply Kalmar Energi Värme AB with a biomass-fired power boiler for the company’s new combined heat and power plant in Kalmar on the east coast of Sweden. Start-up for the plant is scheduled for the end of 2009. The value of the order is approximately EUR 55 million. The power boiler (90 MWth) will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology and will burn biomass replacing old district heating boilers and reducing the consumption of oil. The delivery will also include a flue gas condensing system to increase plant's district heat production. Metso Corporation - September 19, 2007.

    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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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Carbon-negative energy gets boost as UNFCCC includes CCS in CDM mechanism

Very important news: the capture and sequestering underground of carbon dioxide from power plants will earn carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol, following amendments to the treaty’s main carbon trading scheme. A UNFCCC official says approval has been given for so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to claim Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credits under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Jose Miguez, a member of the CDM Executive Board, said the CDM would be expanded to cover some specific CCS activities in the upcoming first Kyoto commitment period to 2012. Projects would only be eligible in developing countries where at least half the nation’s electricity is generated from burning coal.

Carbon-negative energy ever more closer
This means, very importantly, that so-called 'bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) systems will be eligible for the credits too, which is what the bioenergy community has been asking. With this decision, the revolutionary potential of BECS can finally begin to be realised and transform the world's energy production systems - starting in developing countries.

The techniques currently being developed for the capture and geosequestration of carbon can be applied to biomass instead of coal, and thus deliver carbon-negative fuels and energy. Renewables like wind, solar, hydro or geothermal are all carbon-neutral. That is, they merely prevent the release of emissions in the future. Carbon-negative bioenergy and biofuels on the contrary clean up emissions from the past. They take back what we emitted years ago.

Scientists who developed BECS concepts within the context of 'Abrupt Climat Change' (ACC) scenarios, project that BECS systems can reduce atmospheric CO2 levels rapidly, safely and without the need for alternative and risky geo-engineering interventions. If implemented on a global scale, BECS can bring atmospheric CO2 back to pre-industrial levels by mid-century (earlier post and especially here).

Geo-engineering, the safe way
Some have suggested that we are already facing a future of catastrophic climate change and that this calls for radical geo-engineering solutions. One of the least controversial of the ideas is the use of 'synthetic trees' - machines that capture CO2 and sequester it underground. The problem is that the idea represents a costly intervention, and does not replace the polluting fossil fuels that are responsible for the problem in the first place.

BECS systems are based on the same principle, but use real trees instead. Contrary to the synthetic trees, BECS systems yield energy while capturing CO2. As energy crops grow, they store carbon. When they are transformed into useable energy, the carbon released is captured via a range of techniques (pre-combustion, oxyfuel or post-combustion capture), and then locked away. The balance is carbon-negative energy in the form of electricity, heat, or liquid and gaseous fuels. In short, BECS systems allow societies to keep using energy as usual, while cleaning up their past emissions.

This is a far less radical approach than some of the more questionable geo-engineering options presently on the table, which would require societies to power down, with all the risks this entails. Some of these proposals include:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Seeding the oceans with iron to ensure that algae sequester carbon dioxide which would then drop to the bottom of the ocean (earlier post), creating artificial clouds that reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere and lead to global cooling, or launching billions of tiny mirrors into space to prevent sunlight from reaching the planet. The most controversial proposal is the suggestion that mitigating global warming could be accomplished by emulating a volcanic eruption because volcanic aerosols scatter incoming sunlight, reducing outgoing radiation. Rockets full of sulphur particles would be launched into the upper atmosphere and envelop the earth in a blanket of aerosols. Scientists advise against this idea because it is too risky (more here).

The BECS-concept could be seen as a geo-engineering option that is much more feasible, far less costly and virtually risk-free. 'Geo-engineering', because it requires the establishment of vast energy plantations across the globe, the biomass of which must replace coal.

Because of the confluence of several factors, this idea is becoming more and more feasible. First, there is vast potential for energy crops in the South. Projections by the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 40, which looks at this potential, assesses the biomass potential to be as high as 1300 Exajoules worth of energy by 2050 (this is roughly three times as much energy as the total amount of energy used today by the entire planet from all sources, - coal, oil, gas, nuclear) (more here).

An EU-study looked at things in a more concrete way. It asked what the potential is for tropical tree crops that might be used for the production of green steel. Its conclusion: there are more than 46 million hectares of suitable land available in Central Africa (southern Congo, the western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern and eastern Angola, western Zambia, western and southern Tanzania, northern Mozambique and the western and central parts of the Central African Republic), and another 46 million in Brazil. There, fast growing and high yielding trees like Eucalyptus can be grown in a reasonably sustainable manner (earlier post).

Many other biomass crops can be grown in other parts of the subtropics and the tropics, where land-use is extremely limited and much arable land is available without the threat of a conflict between food and fuel production, and without the need for deforestation (see the IEA projections).

A second factor is the progress made by scientists in developing ever better crops for bioenergy. Examples are myriad, but we will refer only to a most recent one: the design of a eucalyptus tree that sequesters far more carbon dioxide than normal trees, and has a lower lignin content (earlier post). This is an important example, because the more CO2 a tree captures, the more of it can be sequestered when used in BECS-systems.

A third reason is the advances made in the design of highly efficient bioconversion processes that are becoming competitive with oil, gas and coal. Some of these include new biogas, gasification, biomass-to-liquids and combustion processes. Some of these can already be coupled to CCS technologies.

Finally, BECS can be decoupled from power generation. This means that a geosequestration site (e.g. a depleted oil or gas field) can be selected independently of the location of a power plant but in function of the local biomass production potential. Biomass would be grown close to the sequestration site, converted into a (gaseous or liquid) biofuel, the CO2 captured and stored, and the ultra-clean, carbon-negative fuel shipped out to end-markets.

For all these reasons, BECS-systems become flexible concepts that can be applied in a wide range of contexts and that can rely on the large global potential for the production of dedicated biomass.

Growing awareness
The BECS-concept is only gradually permeating the minds of the energy and climate communities. But some concrete projects are underway that hint at its potential. Recently we discussed a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) focused on a highly advanced generation of fuels made from combining the liquefaction of both coal and biomass, and then coupling the system to carbon sequestration technologies. It's a mouthful, but the radical concept comes down to: coal+biomass-to-liquids (CBTL) + carbon capture and storage (CCS), or CBTL+CCS. The CBTL process consists of the production of so-called synthetic fuels, obtained from the gasification of feedstock, with the gas then liquefied via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis into an ultra-clean synthetic fuel. If the coal is left out and biomass is used exclusively, the fuel becomes carbon-negative.

The above example is one based on the production of fuels, not power and electricity. Alternatives to this concept are the production of ultra-clean carbon-negative biomethane. Energy crops are digested anaerobically after which the CO2 fraction is scrubbed out of the gas via pre-combustion techniques. The carbon dioxide is then ready to be sequestered. Pure carbon-negative biomethane can then be shipped to markets.

But BECS-systems will find their most wide and earliest applications in power plants, in settings similar to CCS coupled to coal plants. The CCS-techniques can be applied to fully dedicated biomass power plants that burn wood or biomass pellets instead of coal. However, in a first stage, it is most likely that biomass will be co-fired in coal plants to which CCS is applied. Several 'clean coal' projects are now beginning to grasp the fact that the inclusion of biomass as a fuel could make the fuel carbon-negative instead of merely carbon-neutral.

For example a new CCS project announced by Praxair and Foster Wheeler explicitly hints at the inclusion of biofuels (earlier post); it calls these still 'opportunity' fuels, but with the advent of global biomass trade and given the huge potential for its sustainable production in the South, biomass will soon transit from an opportunity fuel into a main fuel in power plants.

The fact that the UNFCCC is set to include CCS for carbon credits in the CDM, implies that BECS could be introduced first in the South, precisely there where large-scale sustainable biomass production is most feasible.


Carbon Positive: CCS given Kyoto green light - September 19, 2007.

Biopact: A closer look at the revolutionary coal+biomass-to-liquids with carbon storage project - September 13, 2007

Biopact: En route to carbon-negative energy: Praxair and Foster Wheeler team up to pursue carbon capture demonstration projects - September 18, 2007

Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007

Biopact: Climate change and geoengineering: emulating volcanic eruption too risky - August 15, 2007

Biopact: Capturing carbon with "synthetic trees" or with the real thing? - February 20, 2007

Biopact: Green steel made from tropical biomass - European project - February 08, 2007

Biopact: Scientists develop low-lignin eucalyptus trees that store more CO2, provide more cellulose for biofuels - September 17, 2007


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