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    Brasil Ecodiesel, the leading Brazilian biodiesel producer company, recorded an increase of 57.7% in sales in the third quarter of the current year, in comparison with the previous three months. Sales volume stood at 53,000 cubic metres from August until September, against 34,000 cubic metres of the biofuel between April and June. The company is also concluding negotiations to export between 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of glycerine per month to the Asian market. ANBA - October 4, 2007.

    PolyOne Corporation, the US supplier of specialised polymer materials, has opened a new colour concentrates manufacturing plant in Kutno, Poland. Located in central Poland, the new plant will produce colour products in the first instance, although the company says the facility can be expanded to handle other products. In March, the Ohio-based firm launched a range of of liquid colourants for use in bioplastics in biodegradable applications. The concentrates are European food contact compliant and can be used in polylactic acid (PLA) or starch-based blends. Plastics & Rubber Weekly - October 2, 2007.

    A turbo-charged, spray-guided direct-injection engine running on pure ethanol (E100) can achieve very high specific output, and shows “significant potential for aggressive engine downsizing for a dedicated or dual-fuel solution”, according to engineers at Orbital Corporation. GreenCarCongress - October 2, 2007.

    UK-based NiTech Solutions receives £800,000 in private funding to commercialize a cost-saving industrial mixing system, dubbed the Continuous Oscillatory Baffled Reactor (COBR), which can lower costs by 50 per cent and reduce process time by as much as 90 per cent during the manufacture of a range of commodities including chemicals, drugs and biofuels. Scotsman - October 2, 2007.

    A group of Spanish investors is building a new bioethanol plant in the western region of Extremadura that should be producing fuel from maize in 2009. Alcoholes Biocarburantes de Extremadura (Albiex) has already started work on the site near Badajoz and expects to spend €42/$59 million on the plant in the next two years. It will produce 110 million litres a year of bioethanol and 87 million kg of grain byproduct that can be used for animal feed. Europapress - September 28, 2007.

    Portuguese fuel company Prio SA and UK based FCL Biofuels have joined forces to launch the Portuguese consumer biodiesel brand, PrioBio, in the UK. PrioBio is scheduled to be available in the UK from 1st November. By the end of this year (2007), says FCL Biofuel, the partnership’s two biodiesel refineries will have a total capacity of 200,000 tonnes which will is set to grow to 400,000 tonnes by the end of 2010. Biofuel Review - September 27, 2007.

    According to Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, one third of the value of all of Finland's exports consists of environmentally friendly technologies. Finland has invested in climate and energy technologies, particularly in combined heat and power production from biomass, bioenergy and wind power, the president said at the UN secretary-general's high-level event on climate change. Newroom Finland - September 25, 2007.

    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

    Analysts fear that record oil prices will fuel general inflation in Kenya, particularly hitting the poorest hard. They call for the development of new policies and strategies to cope with sustained high oil prices. Such policies include alternative fuels like biofuels, conservation measures, and more investments in oil and gas exploration. The poor in Kenya are hit hardest by the sharp increase, because they spend most of their budget on fuel and transport. Furthermore, in oil intensive economies like Kenya, high oil prices push up prices for food and most other basic goods. All Africa - September 20, 2007.

    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.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Biomass pellets revolution in Austria: 46% less costly than heating oil; most efficient way for households to reduce carbon footprint

Biomass pellets are taking Austria by storm, as they are by far the cheapest energy source on the heating market and reduce CO2 emissions more efficiently than any other alternative. Credit: proPellets Austria.

As part of Austria's Energy Efficiency Day [*German], Austrians enjoy the opportunity to learn about renewables and climate change. One form of energy has taken absolute center stage because it represents a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, allows large carbon reductions and has become the most competitive of all renewables: biomass pellets. In Austria, the biofuel used for heating is currently a whopping 46 per cent less costly than heating oil and 30% less costly than natural gas - which explains its soaring popularity. Moreover, a recent study comparing strategies with which households can reduce their carbon footprint, shows biomass is the least costly and most efficient way of all.

Austria's demand for biomass pellets, made from forestry residues and wood, stands at 400,000 tonnes so far this year. But production has risen to 750,000 tonnes in 2007. Next year, producers are expected to manufacture more than 1 million tonnes. This would meet rapidly rising demand, and leave room for exports. After a sharp increase at the beginning of the year, prices have stabilized since April and are currently almost half those of heating oil on an energy equivalent basis (graph, click to enlarge).

For the average Austrian household, this makes a very significant difference. The yearly heating bill (24,000 kWh per year) costs around €2000 when heating oil is used. Heating with natural gas will cost a family around €1800 per year. With biomass pellets the bill can be reduced to €1100. Heat obtained from pellets thus costs around 3,8 eurocent/kWh, against 6 eurocent/kWh for gas and 6,7 eurocent/kWh for heating oil.

No wonder last year in Austria three times more biomass systems were installed than heating oil systems. In 2006, some 21,300 small (100kW) pellet heating boilers were built, which have saved the country some 80 million liters of heating oil and 80 million cubic meters of natural gas. In the same year, some 777 medium scale (100-1000kW) systems were installed, a 19% increase compared to 2005.

According to Christian Rakos, director of proPellets Austria, the sector's umbrella organisation, the advantages of biomass pellets are obvious: they are carbon-neutral, can be used in modern boiler systems as a ready alternative for heating oil and gas, and their price is completely independent of fossil fuel prices, which guarantees stability, an important advantage for households.

Strongest weapon against emissions
The Salzburger Institute for Urbanisation and Housing (SIR) released a study for the Energy Efficiency Day which showed biomass pellets offer households the most efficient way of reducing their carbon footprint. By switching from a heating oil system to a pellet heating system, the average Austrian household can avoid up to 10,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions. This is more than the emission reduction potential of all other renewables and efficiency measures.

Using highly efficient insulation materials throughout the home, which would cost on average 4 times more than a biomass heating system, would only offer CO2 savings of around 3300kg.

Geothermal heating systems are an attractive alternative to heating oil, but they too perform weakly compared to biomass. This is due, the SIR says, to their reliance on relatively large amounts of electricity - which, in Austria's electricity mix, is obtained mostly from fossil sources:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Moreover geothermal can only be used for floor and wall heating systems. But most houses in Austria use central heating systems that give off their heat via radiators. Geothermal systems can not deliver the high initial temperatures needed to operate radiators. Finally, geothermal heat pumps have the disadvantage of requiring very costly boreholes.

Other strategies with which households can reduce their carbon footprint include a switch of all lighting systems to efficient lamps. This has a potential for saving only around 100 to 300 kg of CO2 per year.

In short, biomass pellets for heating are unsurpassed in their capacity to reduce household emissions in a cost-effective manner.

Energy security

Biomass pellets were promoted at the Energy Efficiency Day for another reason. The latest study by the International Energy Agency (July) was highlighted, as it offered a grim outlook of both oil and gas price evolutions. Biomass already being much less costly than heating oil, its prospects become even brighter in light of this energy outlook. The study warns for a possible oil and gas crisis, because output in producing countries is growing much less than expected.

Biomass production is fully independent of oil and gas prices. Austria has the capacity to utilize its vast forestry resources in a sustainable manner and can meet increasing demand with ease. Imports of pellets can supply the country at a later time. In this sense, the biomass sector - which relies on fuels that can be traded physically - plays a key role in providing energy security not only to states, but to the average Austrian household.

Translated by Jonas Van Den Berg & Laurens Rademakers for Biopact.

Picture & graph credit: proPellets Austria.

Salzburger Nachrichten: Pellets erweisen sich als sehr kostengünstig und verlässlich - October 6, 2007.

Salzburger Nachrichten: Holzpellets sind aktuell um 46 Prozent günstiger als Heizöl - October 6, 2007.

Salzburger Nachrichten: Tag der Energie-Effizienz - October 6, 2007.

ProPellets Austria
, the umbrella of the biomass pellet sector.

Salzburger Institut für Raumordnung & Wohnen - SIR.


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