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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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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Japan's Ajinomoto switches from oil to rice hull biomass - cuts 100,000 tons of carbon emissions

By the end of 2008, Japan's Ajinomoto Co., a global food processor, will switch from oil to rice hulls for most of the fuel consumed at one of its key seasonings plants in northern Thailand. The biomass resource is abundantly present in the region, but has no market value. Farmers and rice processors often simply burn the hulls as waste, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Ajinomoto now wants to utilize the biomass in an efficient combustion system to power a large food plant and so cut back its own emissions. It will apply for the project to be registered at the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The food plant in Thailand ferments sugars and starches extracted from sugar cane and cassava to produce seasonings and will generate steam for this fermentation process in dedicated boilers that use rice hulls for fuel. Rice hulls will be purchased from farmers in the surrounding area, where large quantities of the hulls go unused. This will mark the first time Ajinomoto has used biomass fuel at an overseas production site.

As the biomass fuel adds no carbon dioxide emissions the atmosphere because the CO2 released during the combustion process is absorbed by plants as they grow, Ajinomoto's carbon footprint will improve considerably by utilizing this 'carbon neutral' form of energy. The switch to rice hulls will reduce annual CO2 emissions by around 100,000 tons, or nearly 5 per cent of the global group's annual total.

There has been growing interest in the utilization of rice hulls as a biomass fuel. The resource is abundant in all large rice producing countries, but its efficient use requires the development of high tech combustion facilities. Major energy companies, including France's nuclear giant AREVA (more here) and the Thai Board of Investment (here), are building biomass power plants in Thailand with dedicated technologies for rice hulls. The Fraunhofer Institute - Europe's leading applied technology institute - is developing a highly efficient circulating fluidized bed combustion system that unlocks the energy potential contained in the residues (earlier post).

After paddy rice is processed, a large amount of biomass with a relatively high energy content (18 GJ/ton - higher heating value) is left over in the form of rice husks. According to the IEA's Bioenergy Task 33 on thermal biomass gasification, for each ton of processed rice, roughly 280kg of hulls are left over, worth around 120 kWh:
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Now consider that Thailand as a whole produced some 29.4 million tons of rice in 2004. At a residue-to-product ratio for hulls of 0.20 to 0.35 (meaning that for each ton of rice produced, some 200 to 350 kilogram of husks are left over, with an average of 280kg/ton), and at a lower heating value of between 13 to 19 MJ/kilogram (with an average higher heating value of 18MJ/kg) then it is not difficult to see the energy potential contained in the resource: if all rice hulls were used in gasification or combustion systems with an overall efficiency of 33 per cent, the country's technical energy potential from rice husks alone can be estimated be around 49.5 TJ of energy. (For the residue-to-product ratios and energy potential of biomass residues, see this earlier post).

Rice also yields a large amount of straw, which is being investigated as a feedstock for the production of cellulosic ethanol.

Ajinomoto is preparing to apply to the governments of Japan and Thailand as well as to the United Nations to have this recognized as a clean development mechanism project, giving it credit for emissions reduction.

Ajinomoto has been present in Thailand since 1960, as the first overseas production base of Ajinomoto Co., Inc., Japan. The company has gone through an intense diversification phase, and nowadays operates 18 group companies in the country employing over 5,000 staff in the manufacture of a variety of products.

The Ajinomoto Group is active in 23 countries and regions worldwide, employing around 24,861 people as of 2004. Yearly revenue stands at US$9.84 billion.

Nikkei (via TradingMarkets): Japan's Ajinomoto to use rice hulls to fuel Thai plant - October 30, 2007

Biopact: French nuclear energy giant AREVA to build 6 biomass power plants in Thailand and Brazil - March 13, 2007

Biopact: Unlocking the vast energy potential of rice husks - August 15, 2006

Biopact: Surin, Thailand: first biomass power plant using rice husks starts feeding electricity to grid - January 13, 2007


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