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    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.

    PetroSun, Incorporated announced recently that it has formed PetroSun BioFuels Mexico to establish algae-to-biofuel operations in the State of Sonora, Mexico. PetroSun BioFuels Mexico will enter into joint venture agreements to develop algae cultivation farms and extraction plants in Sonora and southern Arizona that will produce algal oil, algae biomass products and excess electricity for the Mexican and U.S. markets. MarketWire - August 27, 2007.

    China's Yunnan Province hopes to reach an annual output of 2 million tons (approx. 417 million gallons) of fuel ethanol by 2010, according to the province's fuel ethanol industry development plan released recently by the Yunnan Economic and Trade Commission, state media report. Interfax China - August 23, 2007.

    Seven companies have teamed up to create Kazakhstan's first Biofuel Association. Its aim is to integrate interested parties for creating favorable conditions to have the country’s biofuel industry developed. An initiator and coordinator of the Association is the National Holding KazAgro, the Agriculture Ministry’s press service informs. KazInform - August 23, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec today announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction closed on August 15 and 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. Newswire Canada - August 22, 2007.

    Taiwan's representative to Brazil, Chou Shu-yeh, is urging Taiwan's government and private enterprises to invest in Brazil's biomass energy sector. Chou was speaking at a workshop on global investment and trade opportunities in Taipei. RTi - August 22, 2007.

    An algae-to-biofuels startup by the name of Inventure Chemical has raised about $1.5 million to continue its development of a chemical process that turns algae into biodiesel and ethanol. One of the biggest backers of the company is Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel producer. Seattle Post Intelligencer - August 22, 2007.

    The government of India's Karnataka state has approved the blending of six million litres of ethanol with diesel for use as fuel in State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) vehicles. Automotive World - August 21, 2007.

    VeraSun Energy Corporation, one of America's largest ethanol producers, announced that it closed on its acquisition with ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC for three ethanol plants with a combined annual production capacity of approximately 330 million gallons (1.25 billion liters) per year. VeraSun - August 21, 2007.

    Fujitsu develops a biodegradable laptop chassis from corn-starch bioplastic. The material reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to a chassis made from petroleum-based plastics. CNET Asia - August 20, 2007.

    India's Rana Sugars Ltd has decided to set up a new plant for producing ethanol in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated investment of €9 to 10.9 (US$12.2 to 14.7). The facility will have a capacity of 180,000 liters per year and will generate, besides ethanol, 26MW of carbon-neutral power from bagasse. Economic Times India - August 20, 2007.

    Prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike. "We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike," said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group. Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and commodity prices. The Star - August 19, 2007.

    Canada's Cavendish Farms, one of the country's largest food processing companies is to build a biogas plant to recycle spent cooking oils, starch and sludge from its waste-water plant to fuel its potato processing operation. Use of the carbon-neutral biofuel will limit the amount of bunker C fuel oil currently in use by the company. The plant, expected to be ready for operation by next fall, has received a $14-million loan from the Province of Prince Edward Island. CBC - August 18, 2007.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tallgrass Prairie Center to implement Tilman's mixed grass findings

Last year, the bioenergy community was given a boost by the results of a study in Science on polycultures of multiple grass, wildflower and prairie species. The researchers, led by David Tilman, found that such plantations of mixed native energy crops can be carbon-negative, restore biodiversity, can grow on degraded land, and provide substantially more biomass for biofuels than the most promising monocultures. A bioeconomy based on mixed prairie grasses can restore the beauty of a lost landscape and helps soak up the vast amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Known as the 'Tilman study' on 'low-input high-diversity grassland bioenergy systems', the findings showed that the polycultures yielded not less than 238 per cent more useable biomass than a single crop of switchgrass (long seen as the leading energy crop in the U.S.). Biofuels derived from the colorful fields resulted in 51 per cent more energy per acre compared to corn, the most widely used biofuel crop. Inputs of energy, fertilizer and herbicides were much lower as well. And because the perennial species store atmospheric carbon deep in their roots, they become part of a carbon-negative energy system.

The results of the study are highly important for bioenergy projects elsewhere, especially in the Global South, where plans are underway to establish large energy plantations (e.g. the African Miscanthus Plantations project in Western Africa). Instead of monocropping, baskets of local grass and herbaceous species could be grown that reinforce or restore local biodiversity and yield more sustainable, carbon-negative energy.

In an interesting initiative, the Tallgrass Prairie Center (TPC) at the University of Northern Iowa and the Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) have now joined forces to researching ways to implement the findings of the Tilman study in a practical way to produce liquid and solid biofuels from such mixed grasses to generate electricity. Earlier this year, the TPC/CFU scientists secured $300,000 in state funding to start the project. The two groups will likely go back to the Iowa Power Fund board to seek additional money.

Tilman's study was conducted on small, hand-weeded plots of land. The TPC would like to expand the scope and work things out on a practical scale for farmers and energy producers. The scientists will look at how the polycultures thrive on poor soils, how the biomass should be harvested, how it can be turned into biofuels and how the fuel burns in power plants.

As in Tilman's study, the TPC will start its experiments on sandy, marginal agricultural land. They will plant 100 acres in the Cedar River Wildlife Area north of La Porte City. The researchers believe using the prairie plantings on marginal agricultural land would be beneficial on several levels: reducing soil erosion, cleaning water resources and producing more energy, healthy soils and better habitat for wildlife. They plan on planting a few different mixtures of prairie plantings and switchgrass, then comparing which is most productive:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The research will evaluate how the prairie grass stands can sustain harvest. In a typical prairie planting, a prescribed burn every two to three years maintains the stand's health. Researchers will evaluate whether the prairies need the burning less with harvest or whether parts of the stand should be harvested each year in a rotation.

The research will also go into how the grasses are turned into a usable fuel. Experiments will turn the biomass into pellets or cubes and examine how the new fuel burns.

Electric generation would require massive amounts of biomass. Smith estimates the 100-acre field will provide just enough fuel for an eight-hour test burn at Cedar Falls Utilities.

CFU has two coal-burning plants, Streeter Station 6 and 7. Streeter Station 6, the older of the two plants, has the ability to burn 100 percent biomass.

The utility has experimented with burning various forms of biomass during the past several years, including corn cobs, oat hulls, cornstalks and switchgrass. CFU also worked at refining methods for producing cubes or pellets of biomass to make them into a form that can be burned in the power plant's stoker units. Most recently, CFU has worked to establish a supply chain of biomass material for burning in Streeter Station 6.

The joint study on prairie plants as biomass fuel will be done with an eye toward making the concept practical and commercial for utilities. Additional funding would make research on commercialization possible. For this reason the scientists are applying fo more research money from the Iowa Power Fund. This fund came out of a growing interest in alternative fuels and concern for reducing the reliance on coal and oil.

Restoring a lost landscape
The Tallgrass Prairie Center is a strong advocate of progressive, ecological approaches utilizing native vegetation to provide environmental, economic and aesthetic benefits for the public good. The center is in the vanguard of roadside vegetation management, native Source Identified seed development, and prairie advocacy.

The center primarily serves the Upper Midwest Tallgrass Prairie Region, but is a model for similar efforts nationally and internationally.

The TPC aims to develop research, techniques, education and Source Identified seed for restoration and preservation of prairie vegetation in rights-of-way and other lands. The center was stablished at the University of Northern Iowa in 1999 as the Native Roadside Vegetation Center.

The center has some major programs running: the Prairie Institute, the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program and the Iowa Ecotype Project.

Recently the TPC helped produce a beautiful, awarded film titled 'America's Lost Landscape, the Tallgrass Prairie', which tells the rich and complex story of one of the most astonishing alterations of nature in human history.

Prior to European settlement in the 1820s one of the major landscape features of North America was 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie. But between 1830 and 1900, in the space of a single life-time, the tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed into monocultural farmland.

The new bioeconomy may restore this landscape and bring a source of energy and a range of bioproducts that clean the vast amounts of carbon dioxide emitted since the Industrial Revolution out of the atmosphere.

Photo: Iowa's climate supported a vast native tallgrass prairie prior to Euro-American settlement. Lavender spikes of blazing star, white balls of rattlesnake master, and golden rays of black-eyed Susan bloom in August at Williams Prairie State Preserve in Johnson County. Credit: Constance Tuthill / Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

WCFcourier: Center researches grass as fuel - September 2, 2007.

The Tallgrass Prairie Center.

Biopact: Carbon negative biofuels: from monocultures to polycultures - December 08, 2006

Biopact: Scientists debate benefits of low-input high-diversity grassland bioenergy systems - June 15, 2007

Biopact: West-Africa launches 'African Miscanthus Plantations' project - April 01, 2007

Film: America's Lost Landscape, the Tallgrass Prairie.


David B. Benson said...

It would be interesting if they also did some studies in which biochar (agrichar) was introduced into the soils.

8:47 PM  
vay said...

Nice blog

11:00 PM  
trini said...

buen blog, te felicito,
mal, por que el hombre se ha dedicado a cambiar el ecosistema
Saludos desde chile.

12:55 AM  
Cocinarg said...

Very nice blog, interesting information!

6:49 AM  

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