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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.

    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 21, 2007

Interview with Senegal's Minister of Biofuels and Renewable Energy

Extremely high oil and energy prices were one of the topics of Senegal's recent presidential elections. Whereas industrialised countries can cope with oil at $90 per barrel, for poor countries the situation is truly catastrophic. Some cash-strapped, oil importing governments are already forced to spend twice to thrice as much on importing energy than on health care. Senegal, which has no oil, coal or gas resources, can not cope with this scenario and has therefor vowed to invest in alternatives instead, especially bioenergy. It is hoped the sector will revive agriculture in the country, boost its energy security, and open poverty alleviation opportunities for its vast rural population.

In the following interview [*French], Christian Sina Diatta, professor of physics and Senegal's first Minister for Biofuels and Renewable Energy explains the reasons behind his country's transition towards alternative energy.

Senegal has made investments in renewables and biofuels a political priority. What's the current state of the sector?

In fact, for Senegal it is not a matter of giving priority to agriculture, fisheries or energy. The energy problem is a global one and affects all activities. All of use are confronted with the geopolitics of energy. High prices for oil, gas and coal are a worry everywhere. For this reason the transition towards alternative energy can be seen across the globe, in the United States, in the countries of the South, in tropical countries, Europe, Asia. On all continents we observe a rush towards alternatives with the sole aim to fight high prices and energy insecurity. Nowadays, there's even an international form of solidarity which authorises the installation of nuclear capacity for civilian use, to overcome some of these problems.

The option for us is to rely on our biomass resources, which allow man to produce energy with the assistance of nature. We are also looking at utilizing marine resources and solar energy, as well as other forms. Today, we no longer talk, we build: large projects have come online in many countries.

Senegal has no petroleum and coal resources whatsoever, and only a tiny bit of natural gas. This is why we have taken up reseach into renewables in a serious way. For us it is a matter of surviving high energy prices without reducing economic growth.

To achieve this, we have given a new direction to national energy, infrastructure and education policies. These three sectors must be integrated to ensure economic growth, so that our country's mothers can finally live well.

But concretely, what has the government done so far when it comes to renewables?

Our energy policy has been developed by the president of the Republic [Abdoulaye Wade, who was recently reelected] and by a dedicated committee. This has resulted in the creation of a Ministry of Biofuels and Renewable Energies. The establishment of such a dedicated ministry is unique in Africa, and perhaps in the world:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Where are we? At the stage of structuring the new ministry. But important programmes are being implemented in not only in renewables but also in nuclear energy. Once the budget is voted, some of these projects will come online relatively quickly. One of those is biofuels. An army of investors has been knocking on our doors for this. In the biomass sector, we are working on a very important project dealing with organic waste treatment. The investments mainly come from foreign entrepreneurs and groups, so we are not dependent on state funds to implement them.

When will we see the first results of your actions?

No doubt in the weeks after the vote on the budget, because then a project for marine energy will be implemented. For biofuel projects, like those based on the cultivation of sunflower, you will have to wake a few months to see the first harvest after which we will produce the first batch of fuels.

But foreign enterprises have vowed to install biofuel plants in Senegal with the aim to export the fuels. The important thing is that we will have factories in our country [and not merely be exporters of raw materials].

Since a few years we have obtained serious success in the production of sugarcane in the North of Senegal, which is important too. We have already tested the conversion of sugarcane into ethanol - we must now scale up these efforts. Some want to establish an irrigated agricultural zone ranging from 60,000 to 600,000 hectares for the production of ethanol in our country.

We are looking at ways to import efficient [flex-fuel] vehicles. It's no news that ethanol has now become cheaper than gasoline. This will allow us to make significant progress on the level of the economy.

Ever since the idea of a bringing nuclear energy to Senegal was launched, people have asked critical questions. Some have said you are dreaming. Is it a dream?

First of all, it's an international reality. It is one for Senegal too, because we are more serious than anyone thinks. But I prefer not to delve into this too much at this time. People will see the results over the coming years.

But at a time when Senegal can't even manage its fossil fuels portfolio, why do you think we can manage nuclear, which is even more costly and complex?

In Senegal, we do not shy away from controversy. When we look at a particular energy technology, we calculate the costs per kWh. This calculus shows nuclear is less costly than other alternatives, with the exception of tidal power. In other words, if Senegal were to pool its resources and invest them in nuclear, we would be well off, because other factors make alternatives less secure options.

To say we can not manage nuclear is a false debate. When the investors think it can be done, they will bring in the know how and sell electricity to the Senelec [state-owned electricity company] and to other utilities that will enter the country to make money.

Several countries have expressed interest to build nuclear power plants in Senegal, and our electricity bill would not suffer because will will not invest a dime ourselves.

Our role is of a supportive nature: we must offer the infrastructures and the people to manage the sector.

Does Senegal have the human and financial resources needed to support a nuclear program, or would it have to rely on foreign funds?

The installation of a nuclear power plant depends on a chronogram which involves all the aspects you evoke here. We do not assume that we already have the necessary resources; these resources will be developed. This means, educating experts. But even then, this comes at a social and political cost, because the interests of those who want to work in the plant and those who are going to run it are not the same. To make a nuclear power plant working you need at least 200 qualified people.

In 1992 we created a third cycle [masters program] in 'Nuclear physics' and by the end of this month, we will have a doctoral program in the subject. We already have one PhD student, who is working for his degree in France. Another Senegalese citizen has been educated at the Institute of Mathematics and Physics of Porto-Novo (Benin). In short, we have more highly educated persons in our country than many think. We have nuclear energy engineers active in important international laboratories - Senegalese citizens. So we do not start from scratch.

Besides these resources, we have doctors in nuclear medicine and biologists who utilize nuclear sciences for their research. We have a long history of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which makes we know the sector from within.

Hydropower, solar and wind energy - so many resources that remain untapped. When will we begin to use them?

We have had several programs with these technologies. We have trialed wind power, for example. But the average wind speeds in Senegal are relatively low, around 3 meters per second. This means we do not really have any wind resources that make large scale power generation feasible. Those who say we have offshore and near-shore wind resources, are forgetting that these winds are of a turbulent type and that they interact with the waves. The only region with potential is the lagoon area, where the winds have a consistent direction.

When it comes to solar power, we are in the process of experimenting with small and medium-scale technologies for use at the household level; we are looking into large scale production too.

To come back to wind turbines, there is one technology that could be more promising and that is submerged turbines that tap the energy from the movement of the tides. We are looking at a zone measuring 6 by 21 kilometers - there where the Rufisque river meets the ocean - to place such turbines at a depth of 20 meters. Provided this does not obstruct sea and river traffic, we could be looking at the energy equivalent of 3 small nuclear power plants. We are looking at this type of innovative programs, which are currently being developed in countries of the Nort, notably Norway, France, and the UK.

Which zones are targetted for the cultivation of jatropha [known locally as tabanani]?

No zone has been excluded. The entire country is suitable for jatropha, which is a hardy, robust crop. Foreign companies interested in the crop have come to Senegal with a hydrological map in their hands, and they show that we can even utilize drip irrigation. We believe there are opportunities in intercropping food crops with jatropha.

So in principle we haven't excluded any zone, except for regions with a relatively dense forest. Because it would be problematic if investors were to deforest land in order to plant jatropha merely with profits in mind.

Over the coming months, we will be making decisions within the framework of our feasibility studies. These will include the decision to designate the most promising zones measuring between 40,000 to 100,000 hectares as 'Zones d'Amenagement Concertées' (ZAC), which means the state will be the regulator and decide, together with the companies, how the land will be exploited and how the revenues and profits will have to be distributed to ensure that they benefit the Senegale people.

Interview conducted by D. Mane and E. Kaly, translated and abriged by Jonas Van Den Berg and Laurens Rademakers, cc, 2007.

Le Soleil (Dakar): Christian Sina Diatta, ministre des Biocarburants ET des Energies renouvelables : "Ceux qui pensent que le nucléaire est un rêve se trompent" - October 15, 2007.

Biopact: Senegal in possible $2 billion biofuel & oil refinery deal with Energy Allied International - September 25, 2007

Biopact: Biofuels and the presidential elections in Senegal - February 25, 2007

Biopact: Senegal in the spotlight: cooperation with Brazil, EU on bioenergy and migration - October 27, 2006

Biopact: Senegal's president explains the urgency of biofuels development in the South - November 02, 2006


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