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    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 23, 2007

Growth in carbon emissions accelerating; exceeding worst case scenario

An international team of scientists has taken another look at how rapidly Earth's atmosphere is absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) - the biggest greenhouse gas in terms of volume - and the news is not good: a high-flying world economy is pumping out the gas at an unprecedented rate while natural carbon sinks such as oceans and terrestrial ecosystems have become less efficient in sequestering carbon. Because of this, current atmospheric CO2 levels are outstripping the best estimates used by modelers to predict future climate trends. The team reports its findings in an open access article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

The growth of carbon emissions from fossil fuels has tripled compared to the 1990s and is now exceeding the predictions of the highest IPCC emission scenarios - the problematic A1FI scenario, based on very rapid, fossil intensive economic growth (graph, click to enlarge). Key data from the report:
  • Atmospheric CO2 has grown at 1.9 parts per million (ppm) per year compared to about 1.5 ppm during the previous 30 years
  • The growth in emissions from fossil fuels increased from 1.3% per year for 1990-1999 to 3.3% per year during the period running from 2000 to 2006; total carbon emissions now stand at 9.9 Petagram per year, of which 8.4 comes from fossil fuels and 1.5 Pg from land-use changes (graph, click to enlarge)
  • Emissions generated by land-use changes have remained constant, but have shifted in geographic focus (from South America, where a decline in deforestation has occured, to South and South East Asia)
  • The efficiency of natural carbon sinks - oceans and terrestrial plant growth - has decreased by 10% over the last 50 years and will continue to do so in the future, implying that the longer we wait to reduce emissions, the larger the cuts needed to stabilize atmospheric CO2. A number of large droughts in the mid-latitudes (Europe, North America, Central asia) has reduced the capacity of plants to sequester carbon in these regions (map, click to enlarge)
  • For the first time in 100 years, the carbon intensity of the world’s economy has stopped decreasing; since 2000, carbon output per dollar of productivity has been increasing by 0.3% per year, whereas during the previous 3 decades, it was dropping by an average of 1.3% per year (graph, click to enlarge)
  • All of these changes characterize a carbon cycle that is generating stronger climate forcing and sooner than expected
The share of the different drivers of the increased atmospheric CO2 levels is as follows:
  • 65% due to the increased activity of the global economy
  • 17% due to the deterioration of the carbon intensity of the global economy
  • 18% due to the decreased efficiency of natural sinks
When it comes to regional contributions, the trend is straightforward: all economies have increased their carbon emissions. The largest growth can be seen in China and India, two countries whose economies are growing very rapidly; the developing world's contribution (D1, D2, D3) is inreasing significantly, whereas that of the Former Soviet Union is beginning to pick up again after the decline resulting from the economic collapse during the 1990s. Only the EU seems to have succeeded in more or less stabilising its carbon emissions (graph, click to enlarge).

Between 2000 to 2006, human activities such as burning fossil fuels, manufacturing cement, and land-use changes contributed an average of 4.1 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere each year, yielding an annual growth rate for atmospheric carbon dioxide of 1.93 ppm. This is the highest since the beginning of continuous monitoring in 1959, states the report. The growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide is significantly larger than those for the 1980s and 1990s, which were 1.58 and 1.49 ppm per year, respectively. The present atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is 381 ppm, the largest concentration in the last 650,000 years, and probably in the last 20 million years:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

While the worldwide acceleration in carbon dioxide emissions had been previously noted, the current analysis provides insights into its causes. “The new twist here is the demonstration that weakening land and ocean sinks are contributing to the accelerating growth of atmospheric CO2,” says co-author Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology.

Changes in wind patterns over the Southern Ocean resulting from human-induced global warming have brought carbon-rich water toward the surface, reducing the ocean’s ability to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On land, where plant growth is the major mechanism for drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, large droughts have reduced the uptake of carbon.

Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels constituted the largest source of anthropogenic carbon, releasing an average of 7.6 billion metric tons each year between 2000 and 2006, a significant jump from 6.5 billion tons in the 1990s. Emissions generated by land-use changes such as deforestation have remained constant, but shifted in geographic focus.

The study also shows that the carbon intensity of the global economy (kilograms of carbon per dollar of economic activity) has increased since 2000 at about 0.3% per year, reversing a 30-year decline of about 1.3% per year. Because practically all proposed scenarios for managing future emissions postulate improvements in carbon intensity in the global economy, this deterioration of carbon intensity presents a serious challenge in stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide and mitigating climate change.

The paper presents "a consistent picture of the increasing accumulation of atmospheric CO2 and, hence, the increasing urgency to do something about it," says physical scientist S. Randy Kawa of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. But he cautions about jumping to long-term conclusions. "Just because the last 7 years have shown accelerating trends does not mean that the next 7 or 50 or 100 will be the same," Kawa says. "But they are what they are, and we need to pay attention."

The research team included scientists from the following institutions: CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (Australia); the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg (Austria); the Commissariat a L'Energie Atomique, Laboratorie des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (France); University of East Anglia, School of Environment Sciences, Norwich, (UK), the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge (UK); the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Global Ecology, Stanford (USA); the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder (USA); the Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth (USA); and the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge (USA).

Michael R. Raupach, Gregg Marland, Philippe Ciais, Corinne Le Quéré, Josep G. Canadell, Gernot Klepper, and Christopher B. Field, "Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions", PNAS, June 12, 2007, vol. 104, no. 24, 10288-10293

Eurekalert: Rise in atmospheric CO2 accelerates as economy grows, natural carbon sinks weaken - October 22, 2007.

GLobal Carbon Project: "Recent Carbon Trends and the Global Carbon Budget updated to 2006" [*.pdf], GCP-Global Carbon Budget team: Pep Canadell, Philippe Ciais, Thomas Conway, Chris Field, Corinne Le Quéré, Skee Houghton, Gregg Marland, Mike Raupach, Erik Buitenhuis, Nathan Gillett; Last update: 20 October 2007

The 6 emissions scenarios developed by the International Panel on Climate Change and still used as the reference can be found here: IPPC Special Report: Emissons Scenarios, Summary for Policy Makers [*.pdf] - 2000.


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