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    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

The strange world of carbon-negative bioenergy: the more you drive your car, the more you tackle climate change

Imagine this. The year is 2015. An innovative automaker has teamed up with a novel type of energy company - a negative emissions producer. They make the amazing claim that by buying their efficient car and using their particular type of energy, you will be fighting climate change each time you drive the vehicle. You will not merely be "reducing" your carbon emissions (which is old world language). Instead you will in fact be taking carbon emissions from the past out of the atmosphere. You will be cleaning up old gas guzzlers' emissions. You will be taking CO2 from the 1980s away. By driving, you will be saving the planet. And the more you drive, the more you prevent catastrophic climate change.

The companies make another amazing claim: they say the EU's widely hailed efforts to reduce carbon emissions from cars from the present 160 grams per kilometer to 120 g/km are complete nonsense - an incredibly mediocre proposal. Because with their car and energy, you will be reducing carbon emissions by -30 grams per kilometer. Yes, minus 30 grams. Not 120, not zero, but -30.

Finally, they say leading scientists have calculated that when all of us were to do the effort of driving this car with carbon-negative energy and if we replace all other fossil fuels (coal, natural gas), with negative emissions energy, we can bring atmospheric CO2 levels back to pre-industrial levels by mid-century and thus prevent the destruction of life on the planet by global warming.

After hearing the news from the companies, climate campaigners began protesting at wind, solar and nuclear power plants which supply carbon-neutral electricity used by supposedly climate saving electric cars which had begun appearing on the market. Why are they protesting? They explain their anger:
We protest against the use of these old world renewables because they are carbon-neutral. These technologies are not ethical. People should stop using them because there are carbon-negative alternatives available that take historic emissons away. We cannot use carbon-neutral technologies because the window to fight climate change has long closed. All money must now be invested into negative emissions technologies, not in old-school solar and wind, let alone in dangerous nuclear. All those who refuse to invest in negative emissions energy are commiting a crime against the planet! - climate campaigners in 2015
Welcome to the bizarre, mildly surreal world of carbon-negative bioenergy. The public at large is not familiar with the concept yet. Anyone who claims that there will be a time when the more we drive our cars, the more we mitigate climate change, will be called outright crazy. Moreover, if the claim is correct it would mean the end of the climate change 'industry' and of global warming panic. This is clearly a threat to those who have an interest in keeping this panic alive without offering practical solutions. It is also a threat to the nuclear lobby and to some renewables lobbies who are offering mere 'carbon-neutral' energy. Understandably, for this reason, the concept is being ignored by these sectors, by governments and by mainstream media. The idea is too revolutionary.

However, it is only a matter of time before the amazing future of negative emissions energy becomes a reality. When people become aware of the implications of the concept, they will demand its immediate implementation.

But how does this concept work exactly? It is easy to understand:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

When we grow biomass (trees, grasses), CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere. The plants use it as a fuel for their own growth. When these energy crops are then burned in a power plant or burned as biofuels in a combustion engine, CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. This is a 'carbon-neutral' cycle: you do not add new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But now comes the trick. When you capture the CO2 from the biomass power plant or the biofuel facility before it enters the atmosphere, and then sequester the greenhouse gas in geological formations such as depleted oil & gas fields, or saline acquifers, you obtain carbon-negative fuels and energy. Negative emissions energy can only be obtained from biomass (schematic, click to enlarge).

In this concept, called 'bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS), energy crops act like 'carbon capturing' machines. BECS systems can result in negative emissions electricity (which can power future electric vehicles), or in negative emissions liquid and gaseous fuels (Fischer-Tropsch fuels, biohydrogen) for use in combustion engines and fuel cells.

Now each time you were to drive a car that taps such carbon-negative energy, something very strange happens. In the old world (today's world), you would have taken pride in "reducing" your carbon footprint. You thought you were doing a great thing by buying a hybrid that results in fewer emissions, but still adds greenhouse gas emissions. In the new world, you will only be content when you have taken emissions from the past - from the year 2000, from 1990, from 1980 - out of the atmosphere.

Where will the biomass for BECS come from? From any source: from grasses, from wood, from new energy crops that store more carbon-dioxide as they grow. The explicitly sustainable potential for biomass production is very high: IEA Bioenergy scientists have estimated it to be over 1300 Exajoules by 2050.

If we were to exploit this potential in a rational manner, we will be entering an entirely new, strange energy age, that of negative emissions. All the technologies and market mechanisms needed to make this happen are gradually coming together: efficient carbon capture techniques; highly productive non-food energy crops that require low amounts of inputs, yield high amounts of biomass and take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than older varieties; a carbon market; and a growing awareness of the fact that our time to mitigate climate change is up.

In practise, BECS can be coupled to 'intermittent' renewables like solar and wind power. Carbon-negative biomass power plants will deliver base load and peak load power to solar and wind farms. Nobody could any longer claim that wind power or solar actually increase the use of coal needed to deliver the base-load. A robust hybrid energy model will emerge - entirely clean, with a negative carbon balance.

Moreover, BECS allows for decentralised production: by identifying carbon storage sites that are located far away from populations, and by growing biomass nearby, liquid carbon-negative fuels can be produced and then shipped to markets. By decentralising the projects, the risk for CO2 leaks that would affect populations, is eliminated.

Another advantage of BECS over carbon capture from fossil fuels: leakage of sequestered CO2 originating from biomass would not be catastrophic, because, contrary to CO2 escaping from fossil fuel carbon storage projects, the CO2 that would enter the atmosphere does not add to the original CO2 levels.

Everyone who takes climate change seriously can only encourage the transition towards carbon-negative bioenergy. It allows us to drive our cars, buses and trucks guilt-free. It allows us to travel on airplanes guilt-free. It allows us to ship goods in a guilt free manner. In fact, it puts us before an entirely new, strange logic: the more we drive our cars with carbon-negative bioenergy, the more we tackle climate change; the more we prevent the extinction of thousands of species; the more we prevent the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming.

But we are aware of the fact that in order to make this amazing future a reality, a lot of courage and work is needed from all stakeholders: governments, energy companies, farmers and poor rural communities in the developing world, environmentalists and civil society, consumers in the West and the best geologists, plant biologists and engineers of this world.

Biopact is currently writing an introductory leaflet explaining the revolutionary BECS-concept and its bright green future more in depth. Anyone who will read it will be, we think, amazed at what it really implies. The concept deserves more attention. It is our best shot at preventing catastrophic climate change.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The total biomass of the Earth captures around 2000 exajoules of the sun's energy each year, so I'd say it's a bit optimistic to write that we could get 1300 exajoules of usable energy out of biomass. That would mean converting about 65% of the earth's new biomass each year into fuel, with a process that is 100% efficient. Not exactly realistic.

Furthermore, since much of that biomass is not new organisms, but rather additional growth of existing organisms, meeting that goal would require harvesting a substantial amount of long-term biomass each year and then replanting. Ecologically speaking, what that would mean over time is cutting down forests and replacing them with crop fields.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

Well, there are some projections by the IEA Bioenergy Task 40 showing that there's a theoretical maximum potential of 4000 Exajoules of the world's terrestrial biomass.

In a high efficiency scenario we can capture a maximum of 1300Ej of that, by 2050, without deforestation and after satisfying all food, fiber and fodder needs of rapidly growing populations.

These projections are well known and have been discussed here widely.

See this article (and the sources in the comment section):

IEA Bioenergy

But it's true that this is a highly optimistic scenario.

The more realistic scenarios are between 200 and 400 Ej (see the same article).

We were just trying to make a theoretical point, that in principle, you could replace a large chunk of our fossil energy by carbon negative bioenergy.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to add to the discussion on the global biomass potential: Berndes et al (Biomass and Bioenergy 25 (2003)) have reviewed a series of estimates and the potential is somewhere between 100 EJ/yr and 400 EJ/yr.

10:49 AM  

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