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    Massey University and Palmerston North City Council in New Zealand have found a way to increase the production of biogas to help drive the council's cogeneration engine to produce steam and electricity by co-digesting whey, an unwanted byproduct from milk processing, with sludge from a wastewater treatment plant. A full scale trial is under way at the Totara Road Treatment Plant to develop a cheap method of disposing of whey, increase gas production from the city's digesters and ultimately earn more carbon credits. Manawatu Standard - October 30, 2007.

    U.S. oil prices and Brent crude rocketed to all-time highs again on a record-low dollar, tensions in the Middle East and worries over energy supply shortages ahead of the northern hemisphere's winter. Now even wealthy countries like South Korea are warning that the record prices will damage economic growth. In the developing world, the situation is outright catastrophic. Korea Times - October 26, 2007.

    Ethablog's Henrique Oliveira, a young Brazilian biofuels business expert, is back online. From April to September 2007, he traveled around Brazil comparing the Brazilian and American biofuels markets. In August he was joined by Tom MacDonald, senior alcohol fuels specialist with the California Energy Commission. Henrique reports about his trip with a series of photo essays. EthaBlog - October 24, 2007.

    Italy's Enel is to invest around €400 mln in carbon capture and storage and is looking now for a suitable site to store CO2 underground. Enel's vision of coal's future is one in which coal is used to produce power, to produce ash and gypsum as a by-product for cement, hydrogen as a by-product of coal gasification and CO2 which is stored underground. Carbon capture and storage techniques can be applied to biomass and biofuels, resulting in carbon-negative energy. Reuters - October 22, 2007.

    Gate Petroleum Co. is planning to build a 55 million-gallon liquid biofuels terminal in Jacksonville, Florida. The terminal is expected to cost $90 million and will be the first in the state designed primarily for biofuels. It will receive and ship ethanol and biodiesel via rail, ship and truck and provide storage for Gate and for third parties. The biofuels terminal is set to open in 2010. Florida Times-Union - October 19, 2007.

    China Holdings Inc., through its controlled subsidiary China Power Inc., signed a development contract with the HeBei Province local government for the rights to develop and construct 50 MW of biomass renewable energy projects utilizing straw. The projects have a total expected annual power generating capacity of 400 million kWh and expected annual revenues of approximately US$33.3 million. Total investment in the projects is approximately US$77.2 million, 35 percent in cash and 65 percent from China-based bank loans with preferred interest rates with government policy protection for the biomass renewable energy projects. Full production is expected in about two years. China Holdings - October 18, 2007.

    Canadian Bionenergy Corporation, supplier of biodiesel in Canada, has announced an agreement with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. to partner in the construction of a biodiesel production facility near Edmonton, Alberta. The company broke ground yesterday on the construction of the facility with an expected capacity of 225 million litres (60 million gallons) per year of biodiesel. Together, the companies also intend to forge a strategic marketing alliance to better serve the North American marketplace by supplying biodiesel blends and industrial methyl esters. Canadian Bioenergy - October 17, 2007.

    Leading experts in organic solar cells say the field is being damaged by questionable reports about ever bigger efficiency claims, leading the community into an endless and dangerous tendency to outbid the last report. In reality these solar cells still show low efficiencies that will need to improve significantly before they become a success. To counter the hype, scientists call on the community to press for independent verification of claimed efficiencies. Biopact sees a similar trend in the field of biofuels from algae, in which press releases containing unrealistic yield projections and 'breakthroughs' are released almost monthly. Eurekalert - October 16, 2007.

    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.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Expert: China's biomass power plants to be profitable in three years

China has recently overtaken the U.S. as the largest emittor of greenhouse gases, mainly because of its intensive reliance on coal. The country is however investing in the renewables sector, but the appeal of cheap and abundant coal remains strong. One sector that might begin to compete rather soon is made up of the many biomass power plants that are beginning to appear in the energy landscape. These plants are expected to record profits in three year's time, though currently they are striking a balance in cost and economic return, according to an official with the country's leading state-owned biomass-based power producer.

With core technologies sourced from Europe, China's largest producer of electricity powered from biomass - the National Bio Energy Corp. (NBE) a subsidiary of China's State Grid - was assigned by the State Council to carry out pioneer work in the field. Now, the company has not less than 30 such projects under construction with six of them already producing electricity, according to Zhang Yanru, project manager of the company's science and technology department.

We earlier presented a short overview of these biomass plants and the feedstocks they utilize, here. The NBE's largest competitor is Dragon Power, a Beijing-based company which plans to raise as much as 15 billion yuan (€1.45/US$2bn) from an initial public offering in Hong Kong to build not less than 100 biomass power plants across the People's Republic (previous post). Another important bioenergy producer is China Enersave, which retrofits existing coal plants and turns them into facilities that generate power from biomass (more here).

The NBE aims to have around 2,050 megawatts or 2.05 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity of biomass power projects under construction and in operation by 2010, Zhang says. According to China's newest renewable energy development targets, biomass power will become the second largest sector after hydropower and grow almost three-fold to reach 5.5 GW in 2010 from 2 GW in 2005, and 15 times as much by 2020, to 30 GW (table, click to enlarge, and seeearlier post on China's new $265 billion Renewables Program).

As the raw materials of the projects are mostly forms of straw, the cost of power production varies according to the quality of straws in different regions and seasons, but on average, it costs around RMB 0.5 (€0.046/$0.067) to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity. But even with the RMB 0.25 (€0.023/$0.033) subsidy from the government, the on-grid tariff such power plants get from the grid operators can still hardly cover the costs. As biomass power generation technologies progress and rising awareness of farmers to keep such straws in good quality, Zhang said she is positive that the biomass power plants will be able turn a profit in three years.

China produces 600 million tons of rural straw annually, around 300 million tons of which can be used as energy, which is equivalent to about 150 million tons of standard coal, whereas dedicated energy crops can replace another 400 million tons per annum. China's current coal consumption stands at roughly 2.5 billion tonnes per annum:
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However, the country is still lacking an efficient system to collect the biomass material from dispersed farmers. In the meanwhile, farmers are still lacking awareness that straws should be kept in good quality, have a value and can be turned in to the power plants.

The NBE started three pilot biomass power projects in Shan county of Shandong Province, Suqian in Jiangsu Province and the Wei county in Hebei Province from 2003 and signed an agreement with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to sell the emission reduction credits from the projects from 2007 to 2012.

Further, the company recently started cooperating with bioenergy companies in Sweden to build integrated green power plants there with the aim to achieve tech transfers and share experiences (earlier post).

In addition to NBE, the country's power producers such as Guodian Group, are all actively constructing biomass-based power plants, mostly in the provinces of Shandong, Jilin, Jiangsu, Henan, Heilongjiang and Liaoning.

Other particularly interesting bioenergy initiatives in China an EU-China project focused on biomass co-firing (more here). The €590,000 China-EU Bioenergy Project, funded by the European Commission, is a two-year initiative that will evaluate commercial possibilities of co-firing biomass in China’s coal-fired power stations to help cut the country’s dependence on fossil fuel and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Australia recently announced that it is going to cooperate with the People's Republic on developing carbon capture technologies (earlier post).

When carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems are applied to biomass power plants, they can yield carbon-negative energy - a feat that no other form of renewable energy nor nuclear power can achieve.

Interfax: China's national biomass power projects to profit in three years - leading developer - October 29, 2007.

Biopact: A closer look at China's biomass power plants - April 19, 2007

Biopact: China unveils $265 billion renewable energy plan, aims for 15% renewables by 2020 - September 06, 2007

Biopact: China's Dragon Power to raise US$2 billion for 100 biomass power plants - August 07, 2007

Biopact: China EnerSave retrofits coal plants to burn biomass - June 18, 2007

Biopact: EU project to help China use biomass in coal plants - November 23, 2006

Biopact: Australia and China partner to develop carbon capture and storage technologies - September 07, 2007


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