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    The Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program at Colorado State University received a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand the use of woody biomass throughout Colorado. The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program is to provide financial assistance to state foresters to accelerate the adoption of woody biomass as an alternative energy source. Colorado State University - October 12, 2007.

    Indian company Naturol Bioenergy Limited announced that it will soon start production from its biodiesel facility at Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The facility has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 10,000 tons of pharmaceutical grade glycerin. The primary feedstock is crude palm oil, but the facility was designed to accomodate a variety of vegetable oil feedstocks. Biofuel Review - October 11, 2007.

    Brazil's state energy company Petrobras says it will ship 9 million liters of ethanol to European clients next month in its first shipment via the northeastern port of Suape. Petrobras buys the biofuel from a pool of sugar cane processing plants in the state of Pernambuco, where the port is also located. Reuters - October 11, 2007.

    Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in biomass-to-biofuel technology, announces that it has completed a $10.5 million equity financing with Quercus Trust, an environmentally oriented fund, and several other private investors. Ardour Capital Inc. of New York served as financial advisor in the transaction. Business Wire - October 10, 2007.

    Cuban livestock farmers are buying distillers dried grains (DDG), the main byproduct of corn based ethanol, from biofuel producers in the U.S. During a trade mission of Iowan officials to Cuba, trade officials there said the communist state will double its purchases of the dried grains this year. DesMoines Register - October 9, 2007.

    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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Sunday, October 14, 2007

EU and Belgium implement program to kickstart bioenergy companies in West and Central Africa

Rising fossil fuel prices are truly catastrophic for developing countries, especially for the poor segments of society. They drain states' treasuries, which forces them to cut back on public spending (often, social services, health and education are the first victims). High energy prices also have immediate impacts on all sectors of the economy, especially in energy intensive developing countries. Oil importing African countries spend between 10 to 15 percent of their GDP on imported energy (compare this to the 2 to 3% for OECD countries). On a micro-economic level, high energy prices are a burden on the weakest, because they spend most of their budgets on this most basic of goods. Small businesses and farmers find it more difficult to operate and to bring their produce to market (earlier post).

Bioenergy offers an obvious opportunity to break this disastrous dependency on fossil fuels, and to transit to more efficient energy systems based on local resources. For this reason, the European Commission and the COOPENER (Cooperation on Energy) program, part of the EU's Energy Initiative in developing countries, and Wallonia's development agency have partnered [*French] to launch a bioenergy facilitation program for small and medium enterprises (SME's) in West and Central Africa aimed at boosting energy security, sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Senegal and Cameroon will be the first beneficiaries. The projects' local partners are ENDA Tiers-Monde and ERA-Cameroun (Environnement, Recherche, Action au Cameroun).

The agencies recently presented the third stage of the €905,000 ($1.3 million) project titled 'Removal of non-technological barriers to encourage SME energy efficiency by the rational use of biomass' (ENEFIBIO), in Thiès (Senegal), where they explained that the goal is to create an infrastructure to facilitate the establishment of small and medium-scale bioenergy companies who will produce electricity from biomass, as well as rationalising energy use at existing SME's by transiting to efficient bioenergy systems. A first meeting dealt with the ways in which SME's can overcome administrative barriers to implement the projects, whereas a second gathering concluded accords with national energy companies (Senelec, AES-Sonel).

Currently a session is underway at the Forestry Center in Thiès to train twenty experts - ten Senegalese, nine Cameroonians and one Beninese - who will become the projects' directors. They are financial and administrative experts whose competences will be strengthened so that they can help establish the bioenergy entrepreneurs' businesses. The experts will accompany them along the entire project cycle, support them with finance, management and negotiations with third parties.

According to Belgium's Romain Crehay (engineering department of Wallonia's Development Agency), the goals of the project are to strengthen existing local capabilities in relation to the use of sustainable energy for poverty alleviation (helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals) in developing countries. It addresses sustainable energy services as a cross-cutting issue, providing power to supply the most urgent development needs such as access to food, clean water, health services, and education through new and more appropriate approaches. It aims to help West and Central Africa to move away from fossil fuels, especially petroleum products, used by many businesses and small utilities, and to rationalise biomass use.

Stated objectives for the facilitation component of the project are:
  • the stimulation of a dialogue between policy makers and SME entrepreneurs to improve the administrative and regulatory framework
  • the training of project developers to conduct pre-feasibility and feasibility studies and on project development methodology
  • the development of tools to assist project developers
  • the development of information tools to advise SME entrepreneurs on the potential of energy improvement in their companies with adapted bioenergy technologies
  • the setting up of an information service for the SME entrepreneurs
Feedstocks for the bioenergy companies and SME's will consist of agricultural and forestry residues, which are currently not exploited in any efficient way. By utilizing the resource in modern, efficient biomass power plants, businesses and regions can 'leapfrog' into a new era of locally generated, affordable, clean and secure energy. In Senegal, abundant residues are found in the cotton and rice sectors, whereas in Central Africa, residues from the forestry and palm oil sectors will provide the feedstock:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Secou Sarr, coordinator of Energy, Environment and Development at ENDA Tiers-Monde explains that biomass resources are abundantly present in the regions where the projects will be implemented. Biomass is used there in the traditional way: on open fires. This is extremely inefficient (around 90% of the energy is lost when biomass is burned on an open fire) and causes health problems due to indoor smoke pollution (note: according to the World Health Organisation, this 'killer in the kitchen' ranks amongst the top ten of most lethal afflictions in developing countries, claiming around 2 million women and childrens' lives each year - earlier post). Likewise, SME's use both fossil and biomass resources in highly inefficient ways.

Sarr says this type of 'primitive' biomass burning makes up 90% of the energy consumption by West and Central Africa's populations and SME's. Hence, there is tremendous scope for efficiency improvements. Moreover, modern biomass power plants not only produce heat (or cold), but generate electricity - a very scarce resource across Africa.

According to Sarr, besides the general population, small enterprises and businesses cannot do without electricity; it is a prerequisite for development. The biomass projects will for the first time bring this good in a decentralised, medium scale manner.

Finally, the utilization of biomass in efficient power plants as a substitute for fossil fuels - coal and petroleum products (widely used in diesel generators; heavier oils are also used for power generation) - contributes significantly to a reduction in greenhouse gases. Even though West and Central African economies are poor, developing countries, they too can and should be contributing to fighting climate change.

COOPENER is the external component of the Directorate-General for Transport and Energy's 'Intelligent Energy - Europe programme 2003-2006'. COOPENER addresses the role of sustainable energy for poverty alleviation in developing countries. It was launched in 2003 in the framework of the EU Energy Initiative, with a budget of €17 million.

COOPENER supported activities have been operating since early 2005 with three rounds of calls, resulting in 40 signed projects in sub-Sahara Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Wallonia's efforts in development assistance are focused on the three Central African countries (the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Translated for Biopact by Jonas Van Den Berg

ENEFIBIO project website.

Walf Fadjri: Projet bioénergie : Une alternative au pétrole comme source d’énergie - s.d. [October 2007].

European Commission: EU Energy Initiative - COOPENER.

COOPENER: Energy Services for Poverty Alleviation in Developing Countries: 24 projects for sustainable energy services in Sub-Saharan Africa - February 2007.

Wallonian Government: Relations internationales - Les relations avec les pays en développement.

ENDA Tiers-Monde: Environnement et Développement du Tiers Monde.


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