<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

    Timber products company China Grand Forestry Resources Group announced that it would acquire Yunnan Shenyu New Energy, a biofuels research group, for €560/$822 million. Yunnan Shenyu New Energy has developed an entire industrial biofuel production chain, from a fully active energy crop seedling nursery to a biorefinery. Cleantech - November 16, 2007.

    Northern European countries launch the Nordic Bioenergy Project - "Opportunities and consequences of an expanding bio energy market in the Nordic countries" - with the aim to help coordinate bioenergy activities in the Nordic countries and improve the visibility of existing and future Nordic solutions in the complex field of bioenergy, energy security, competing uses of resources and land, regional development and environmental impacts. A wealth of data, analyses and cases will be presented on a new website - Nordic Energy - along with announcements of workshops during the duration of project. Nordic Energy - November 14, 2007.

    Global Partners has announced that it is planning to increase its refined products and biofuels storage capacity in Providence, Rhode Island by 474,000 barrels. The partnership has entered into agreements with New England Petroleum Terminal, at a deepwater marine terminal located at the Port of Providence. PRInside - November 14, 2007.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Thursday, September 27, 2007

European Plant Science Organisation calls for more action to kickstart the bioeconomy

With the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to cut our reliance on increasingly costly and non-renewable oil, the need for action in plant sciences arises to obtain an economically viable and sustainable production of renewable biofuels, green chemicals and biomaterials. While other countries already attribute significant research money to this field (e.g. more than $800 million in recent projects on biofuels in the US, $3 billion for the bioeconomy in Brazil), Europe still lacks concerted action. The EU's renewable energy directive, calling for 20% biofuels and renewables by 2020, is ambitious, but research support is insufficient to achieve these goals. In response, the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), has released a set of recommendations on how Europe can meet this challenge and provide a basis for integrated approaches towards the future knowledge-driven bioeconomy. The call for action comes after the EPSO-coordinated ‘Plants for the Future’ Technology Platform outlined its strategic research agenda (earlier post). EPSO represents more than 140 academic institutions from 25 European countries with over 20,000 people in plant research.

In 'Sustainable Future for Bioenergy and Renewable Products' [*.pdf] Europe's plant scientists state they are willing to take a responsible role in the implementation of a sustainable future bioeconomy by developing the knowledge and skills required for obtaining increased quantities of biomass suitable for conversion to biofuels and to renewable resources, at economically competitive prices, and within an environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural system that is an essential part of a future bioeconomy.

Societal and economic relevance
Today’s economies are based on carbon resources of fossil origin, which provide societies with their major energy sources and raw materials for chemical production. However, several major challenges for mankind arise from this approach:
  • the use of these fossil-based resources as fuels, but also as non-degradable substances and composites, causes severe regional and global environmental problems, including CO2 emissions for which there is increasingly compelling scientific evidence that they are a major contributory factor in global warming and climate change;
  • the availability of fossil resources does not match the expected increase in consumption of energy and raw materials in the future;
  • the distribution of fossil carbon sources around the globe makes them an even less reliable source in the future.
These aspects make clear that the present high dependence on fossil fuels is not sustainable. Together with the economic fact that energy and raw material prices have drastically increased over the last decade, these factors necessitate the development and establishment of alternative concepts and products.

Bio-based strategies hold great promise for sustainable solutions and are presently being developed worldwide to contribute significantly to the future mix of energy sources. Plants provide the major source of organic substances on our planet. They include relatively under-utilised forms such as cellulose, hemicellulose, starch, lipids and lignin that have major potential for use as raw materials for energy and industrial feedstocks. Significant impact is expected from bioenergy with respect to mitigation of climate change, development of rural areas and employment options as well as the provision of alternative energy forms. This is especially true for fuels used in transportation.

However, in order to make bioenergy a sustainable alternative, a holistic approach is needed, which:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  • improves biomass supply with respect to amount and quality
  • improves conversion of biomass into other energy forms
  • reduces or eliminates toxic waste products
  • develops zero-waste biorefinery concepts for efficient conversion of plant raw materials into diverse products
  • manages bioenergy production systems in a sustainable manner
  • has minimal impacts on the environment
Effective and multilateral networking between the different, hitherto separated, research communities will be crucial to make bioenergy and bioeconomy a sustainable success. This approach will form the basis for the network required for a knowledge-based bioeconomy (KBBE) and will also provide new opportunities to farmers, the forestry sector and other stakeholders.

Plant science: creating the knowledge base for the bioeconomy
As plants will provide the major resource in a KBBE, plant science will play a major role in developing the capacity and novel opportunities for a bio-economy in line with the environmental and economic settings in Europe. European plant science is very well positioned to contribute with its strong expertise to obtain increased quantities of biomass at adequate qualities for the various optional routes of conversion, at economically competitive prices and with acceptable impacts on the environment.
There are numerous fields of action in which knowledge from plant sciences on agriculture and forestry crops needs to be used to deliver to the overarching aim of a sustainable bioenergy economy:

Higher biomass production urgently needed
This includes activities that increase biomass potential through direct improvement of growth and biomass production. This can be realised by increased growth rates, prolonged vegetation periods, or improved architecture of crops. It can also be achieved by reducing the loss of biomass due to pathogens and pests, by improved stress tolerance to allow using marginal lands and to lower competition with food production. Since the amount of biomass has to be enlarged significantly, all possible options have to be addressed in parallel.

Improved bioconversion for bioenerggy and biomaterials
This requires strong interdisciplinary interactions with microbial, chemical, engineering and process sciences to develop new industrial processing methods. In plant science, activities include modifying cell wall structure and composition to increase the ease with which it can be decomposed into units that are either themselves useful as biofuel, or are good starting points for the production of chemicals. Enhancement other aspects of the organic and inorganic composition of biomass with respect to the conversion processes (e.g. removing compounds inhibiting decomposition or fermentation, reducing alkali for improved combustion behaviour, etc.) and residue handling should also be achieved. Improving composition of harvestable plant biomass will also be beneficial, for example to provide lignin more suitable for making lignin-based composites.

Improved resource use efficiency

This is the key to higher biomass yield at low environmental impact. Achieving this includes improving processes such as energy collection through enhanced photosynthesis efficiency and nutrient use efficiency. This will reduce the dependence of plant growth on the application of additional inputs such as fertilizers that require high amounts of energy for production and have a deleterious environmental impact. Also topics like nitrogen-fixing bioenergy crops, associations with beneficial soil microorganisms and improving phosphate use efficiency are of prime importance to address decreasing availability and anticipated rising costs of fertilisers. Furthermore, minimising the water consumption per unit of energy gained is critical because fresh water will be a key limiting factor for food and energy production in the future on marginal land and with changing climatic conditions. Utilisation of plant varieties that can remove harmful substances from water and soil (e.g. excess nitrogen in overfertilised land, excess salt in highly irrigated land) can even provide additional beneficial effects.

Increased genetic diversity of bioenergy plants
This is key to achieving new properties in bioenergy crops. A bioenergy roadmap needs to be established and will include (i) the use of traditional food crops for which all the scientific tools are available, (ii) the development of novel crops via genomics-driven domestication of hitherto not or not significantly used species, (iii) the development of specific energy crop rotation systems and (iv) the use of the different options originating from agriculture, forestry or even an biofactory (e.g. algae) approach. Actions include the development of specific energy crops having improved properties in comparison to the classical crops, probably via an initial round of genomics-supported breeding, followed by introducing novel features through smart breeding or genetic modifications. Throughout the introduction of novel species, their potential to displace native species and their potential impact on biodiversity needs to be considered. It will be crucial to address the alternatives of food and energy utilisation.

Plant research in tune with bioenergy and environmental sciences

Plant scientists in Europe are prepared to take this challenge in close coordination with researchers and engineers in related disciplines in order to develop a new, sustainable and economically viable bioenergy sector within the bioeconomy of the future. Integration of plant research programmes must be obtained with:
  • White biotechnology: in order to obtain new biocatalysis features to form useful energy sources (e.g. bioethanol, biogas, etc.)
  • Conversion technology, chemistry and chemical engineering: significant interaction is required to obtain useful breeding targets on quality and quantity of biomass supplied to the alternative conversion routes.
  • Agricultural and forestry management, ecosystem and biogeochemical research: as the production of large scale biomass for bioenergy will be done in new production systems, new plant features must be integrated in them and they must be checked for their biogeochemical impacts.
  • Agricultural and forestry management and economics: it will be important to consider the potential to utilise non-food components of existing crop plants (e.g. straw, stover) for bioenergy as an added-gain that does not jeopardise food/feed production, and to consider how new dedicated energy crops are best integrated into agricultural practice and rotations in a manner that aids rather than competes with food and feed production.
  • Sustainability assessment: for an ecologically, socially and economically viable bioenergy sector, impact analysis on all the above stated aspects must be integrated and evaluated in macro and microeconomic contexts. It is important to provide society with scientifically validated information about options using transgenic and/or clonal plants and on the conversion of marginal land, grass or agricultural land and forests into efficient production units for various energy feedstocks. A thorough discussion of the balance between food-feed-energy outputs from agriculture must be based on sound scientific evidence.
Taking significant steps forward
This concept for a sustainable bio-economy is in agreement with the strategic research agenda (SRA) of the European Technology Platform ‘Plants for the Future’ published in June 2007. EPSO member institutions are committed to contribute to the implementation of the SRA, but significant steps are required in a coordinated manner between stakeholders from the public and private sector to transfer this plan into action:
  • significant investments into research and implementation similar to those presently done in leading countries outside Europe at national and European levels;
  • co-ordination with industry as well as governmental agencies and NGOs;
  • co-ordination and development of a common research agenda between all platforms committed to the idea of a sustainable knowledge-based bio-economy along the entire value chain.
EPSO published a position paper entitled ‘Sustainable future for bioenergy and renewable products’ and opened an internal discussion on it, asking its members to comment and send their feedback. After compilation and integration of the replies, the position paper was presented by Uli Schurr to the participants of the Venice Conference 'The Future of Science - The Energy Challenge' on 21 September 2007.

By publishing this present paper, EPSO wants to take an active role in the current debate about bioenergy and the potential ways to address this societal challenge. It presents insights on how research activities can contribute to tackling issues such as: How plant science can contribute to achieving the 10% goal for biofuels by 2020? What can plants do and not do? How can EPSO contribute?

The text was developed by an expert group comprising Mike Bevan (John Innes Centre Norwich, UK), Wilhelm Gruissem (ETH Zürich, CH), Hermann Hoefte (INRA, FR), Dirk Inze (VIB Gent, BE), Karin Metzlaff (EPSO, BE), Ulrich Schurr (Institute Phytosphere Jülich, DE – chair of the group), Mark Stitt (MPI Molecular Plant Physiology Golm, DE) and Björn Sundberg (Umeå Plant Science Centre, SE).

EPSO: EPSO position paper 'Sustainable Future for Bioenergy and Renewable Products' - September 27, 2007.

EPSO: Sustainable Future for Bioenergy and Renewable Products [*.pdf] - September 2007.

Biopact: 'Plants for the Future' technology platform presents plan for European bioeconomy - July 02, 2007


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home