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    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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Sunday, September 16, 2007

A quick look at natural gas and biogas hybrids

Last year in June, the Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) participated in the Challenge Bibendum in Mortefontaine, near Paris. IFP presented, with Gaz de France, an all-natural-gas hybrid prototype vehicle developed on a Toyota Prius II base, with which it achieved record fuel efficiency and slashed greenhouse gas emissions compared to a gasoline powered hybrid. The prototype used only 3.56 kg of natural gas for 144 km of combined city and highway driving. In energy terms, this performance is equivalent to a fuel consumption of 3.63 liters of gasoline per 100 km (64.8 miles per gallon). On gasoline the Prius achieves a combined fuel economy of only 5.11 L/100 km (46 mpg). Most impressively, CO2 emissions for the natural gas hybrid were less than 75 g/km.

We have a look at this exceptional car, because it can just as well be fueled by biomethane instead of natural gas, lowering its carbon footprint still further.

Biomethane is obtained from biogas that has been upgraded to natural gas quality. In Europe, the fuel is increasingly used as it is by far the most efficient transport biofuel. In Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, the gas is already being fed into natural gas grid, and dedicated CNG infrastructures supplied with upgraded biogas are now available. Of all transport biofuels made from dedicated energy crops, biogas by far yields most useable energy per hectare. Researchers have found that for temperate grass species, one hectare can yield between 2,900–5,400 cubic meters of methane per year, enough to fuel an ordinary passenger car for 40,000 to 60,000 kilometers (one acre of crops can power a car for 10,000 to 15,000 miles) (earlier post).

The combination of hybrid technology and biomethane fuel has enormous potential for improving both the fuel economy and cutting the CO2 emissions of vehicles. Last year, the EU published a well-to-wheel analysis of more than 70 different fuels and propulsion technologies but forgot to include biomethane hybrids. After pressure from many organisations, a new version of the document was made available, including the compresed (bio)gas-hybrid (it calls the fuel Compressed Biogas - CBG - analogous to CNG). The CBG-hybrid came out as a concept as efficient and clean as cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. However, CBG-hybrids do not require the new and expensive infrastructures needed for the hydrogen economy.

The study also looked at coupling carbon capture and storage (CCS) to fuel production. CCS would increase the cost of fuel production, but would considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As we have reported earlier, CCS technologies can be applied to biogas in a cost-effective way, in which case the fuel becomes carbon-negative. Carbon-negative fuels can only be obtained from biomass (more here on a concrete project in the U.S. that is applying CCS to biomass and coal to obtain carbon-neutral jet fuel; if the biomass fraction were to be increased, the fuel would become truly carbon-negative and start taking historic CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere).

In short, one of the cleanest and most efficient vehicles would be a car running on a carbon-negative biofuel coupled to CCS and used in a hybrid-electric propulsion technology or in a fuel cell. The CBG-hybrid would be one of the most promising candidates over the medium term because (1) of all carbon-negative biofuel production pathways, biogas+CCS is the least costly, (2) contrary to hydrogen and fuel cell cars, CNG-hybrids can be brought on the market today, whereas (3) compared to hybrids running on liquid (bio)fuels, CNG-hybrids running on gaseous fuels are more efficient on a well-to-wheel basis:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The IFP and Gaz de France demonstrated that CNG-hybrids can reduce both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The vehicle was adapted for natural gas using simple technological solutions, without sacrificing the passenger compartment or the trunk: the gasoline tank is replaced by strong, lightweight natural gas tanks placed under the chassis, with a special manifold, and natural gas injectors replacing the gasoline injectors.

The project was a natural next step in a joint research effort being carried out by IFP and Gaz de France on natural gas as a fuel for vehicles: it was preceded by a first Smart-based demonstrator with a "downsized" engine (an engine having a reduced displacement, turbocharged to preserve performance) running on natural gas alone, developed in 2004, and will soon be followed by a Smart-based natural gas hybrid prototype currently under development.

IFP, a research center active in the fields of energy, transport, and the environment, develops new engine and fuel technologies. In an energy context marked by the need to diversify sources while protecting the environment, IFP devises innovative solutions to meet sustainable mobility needs in the decades to come. Using its unique experience in fuels and engines, IFP is developing alternative fuels (biofuels, synthetic fuels, etc.) and clean, economical vehicles (Natural Gas for Vehicles or biofuels, hybrid powertrains, etc.).

IFP's transport business, and, more specifically, its Powertrain Engineering Business Unit, draws on the skills of multidisciplinary teams, comprising over 200 highly specialized engineers and technicians, and is supported by a very broad range of testing facilities and equipment. The research program is hinged around the following strategic themes: fundamental research (particularly in the field of combustion), low-emission engine technologies (CO2, pollutants, noise), engine control, advanced fuels and lubricants as well as alternative fuels with low greenhouse gas emissions, and demonstrators.

For a number of years, Gaz de France has been using its experience and its extensive industrial experience to make natural gas a genuinely promising alternative fuel. The research that the Group has undertaken in the use of natural gas as a fuel has meant that it is coming to be increasingly used, and that the market is in constant growth, first and foremost with local authorities (buses and cleaning and waste collection vehicles) and, more recently, in company vehicle fleets.

The advantages that natural gas displays mean that it is imposing itself as a credible solution for the necessary changes in road mobility in coming years. Natural gas fuel is a means of reconciling the desires of car users with the challenges facing the transport and energy sectors in the years to come, in terms of the environment, of public health, of energy supplies, prices, performance and comfort of use. Gaz de France offers a whole new energy for automobiles.

IFP: Record fuel efficiency for the first all-natural-gas hybrid prototype developed by IFP and Gaz de France - July 4, 2007.

European Commission, Joint Research Institute, Institute for Environment and Sustainability: Well-to-Wheels reports [updated and revised frequently].

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

Biopact: Report: carbon-negative biomethane cleanest and most efficient biofuel for cars - August 29, 2007

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward? - March 31, 2007


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