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    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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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Towards carbon-negative bioenergy: U.S. Senator introduces biochar legislation

This week Biopact will zoom in on the latest developments in carbon-negative biofuels and bioenergy. Over the coming days we will be looking at the science behind the concept, at results of field experiments, at information resources and documentaries, and at new educational initiatives. By way of introduction, we present new legislation recently introduced to promote biochar research in the United States.

Biofuels and bioenergy are often presented as 'carbon-neutral' because the carbon dioxide emitted by their use is taken up again as new energy crops grow. Like wind or solar power, they do not add CO2 to the atmosphere. But the bioenergy community has long gone beyond this concept and has begun looking at the production of carbon-negative fuels and energy instead. These do not merely avoid new emissions from entering the atmosphere, they effectively take CO2 from the past out of the atmosphere.

Carbon-negative bioenergy can be obtained via two ways: a high-tech and a low-tech process. The high-tech pathway involves transforming biomass into energy and fuels, while capturing the CO2 and sequestering it in its gaseous form into geological sites such as depleted oil and gas fields, unminable coal seams or saline aquifers. They draw on 'carbon capture and storage' (CCS) techniques currently being developed by the coal industry.

The low-tech route consists of transforming biomass into useable fuels while keeping part of the carbon locked into an inert form, called biochar ('agrichar'). This biochar is then simply added to agricultural soils, in which the carbon can be sequestered safely for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. The discovery of ancient 'terra preta' soils demonstrates that carbon effectively remains locked up for a very long period of time.

More and more research shows that soils amended with the char have very beneficial effects on crop growth. The enhanced nutrient retention capacity of biochar-amended soil not only reduces the total fertilizer requirements but also the climate and environmental impact of croplands. Char-amended soils have shown 50 - 80 percent reductions in nitrous oxide emissions and reduced runoff of phosphorus into surface waters and leaching of nitrogen into groundwater. As a soil amendment, biochar significantly increases the efficiency of and reduces the need for traditional chemical fertilizers, while greatly enhancing crop yields. Experiments have shown yields for some crops can be doubled and even tripled (previous post).

Biochar thus offers the promise of carbon-negative biofuel production sustained by a cycle in which crop production is boosted, emissions lowered, and reliance on synthetic fertilizers reduced. Moreover, unlike CCS it is a cost-effective carbon sequestration method: under a basic scenario sequestering biochar from biofuels produced by pyrolysis would be competitive when carbon prices reach US$37 (carbon currently fetches €21.55 on the European market, that is $30.5, and prices are expected to increase strongly in the near future).

The great advantage of biochar is the fact that the technique can be applied world-wide on agricultual soils, and even by rural communities in the developing world because it is relatively low tech. It is hoped that at the upcoming UNFCCC summit in Bali, experts will include biochar as a strategy to fight climate change that would be eligible for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism.

The biochar concept has meanwhile received formal political support. In order to speed up biochar research the U.S., Colorado's Senator Ken Salazar (D) recently introduced 'The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007' [*.pdf], focused on carbon-negative bioenergy production. The bill (S.1884) is awaiting discussion in the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. The following is a summary of the legislation as it relates to biochar:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative for the 2007 Farm Bill

Biochar and Bioenergy Co-Production: Protecting the Soil Resource and Combatting Global Climate Change
Bioenergy production from agricultural and forestry biomass can boost U.S. energy independence, create additional income streams for agriculture and rural communities, and help combat global climate change by displacing fossil fuel use. Policies to promote bio-energy production from agricultural products must preserve the soil resources necessary to support adequate U.S. food and fiber production, which provide the basis for a continued strong U.S. economy.

The biochar provisions in S.1884 promote commercial development of technologies that will simultaneously create clean, renewable energy from agricultural and forestry biomass products, while protecting and restoring soil resources and helping to address global climate change. Unlike most carbon-neutral biomass energy systems, biochar technology is carbon-negative: it removes net carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the form of stable soil carbon 'sinks', improving soil fertility, water retention, productivity and crop yields.

The Biochar Process
Energy and biochar can be co-produced from biomass using thermal processes. Biochar production processes can potentially utilize virtually any agricultural or forestry waste biomass, including wood chips, corn stover, rice or peanut hulls, tree bark, papermill sludge, and animal manure, for instance.

Under proper production conditions, the biochar can retain up to 50% of the feedstock carbon in a porous charcoal structure. The biochar product is a fine-grained, porous charcoal substance that, when used as a soil amendment, effectively removes net carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the soil, biochar provides a habitat for soil organisms, but is not itself consumed by them. Thus, biochar does not disturb the carbon-nitrogen balance, but holds and slowly releases water, minerals and nitrogen to plants. When used as a soil amendment along with manure or fertilizer, the char significantly improves soil tilth, productivity, and nutrient retention and plant availability.

The energy produced from the remainder of the biomass is used to heat the pyrolysis unit and/or provide energy for on-farm use, such as heat and electricity for lighting, fans, refrigerators, milking machines, etc. The co-production of biochar from a portion of the biomass feedstock will reduce the total amount of energy that can be produced, but basic soil science research indicates that even at today�s energy and fertilizer prices the net gain in soil productivity is worth more than the value of the energy that would otherwise have been derived from that charcoal. Once the cost of carbon emissions starts to rise and the value of CO2 extraction from the atmosphere is also considered, the balance will become overwhelmingly attractive.

The two predominant biochar production processes under development are externally heated pyrolysis and downdraft gasification. At small scales, downdraft gasification with air can produce a gas that is immediately burned in an engine to make heat and electricity. This will be practical on farms and at agricultural processing plants at scales from 5kW to 5MW of electricity. At the local or regional agricultural co-op scale, processing 800 to 1000 tons of biomass per day, externally heated pyrolysis or oxygen gasification can be used to make synthesis gas. Syngas can be catalytically converted into liquid fuels including methanol, mixed alcohols that perform like ethanol as a vehicle fuel, ammonia, dimethyl ether, or even Fischer-Tropsch diesel at a larger refinery scale.

An Example of an Agricultural Biochar Production System
An example of a fully-developed system that would be supported by S.1884 is the development of an intermediate scale pyrolysis or thermochemical conversion system which produces energy for on-farm use. The pyrolysis or gasification system can produce bio-oils for transport to a central location for conversion to liquid or gaseous fuels; and/or gases that can be used to produce heat and electricity for on-farm uses. The biochar produced will have specific surface chemistries that, when applied to soils, will sequester carbon while improving agricultural productivity and replacing some chemical fertilizer inputs. The permanently sequestered carbon can be traded and sold in greenhouse gas markets. The system will effectively manage and use on-farm byproducts such as lignocellulosic residue and animal wastes. The system can also be integrated with chemical conversion and biological conversion in an intermediate scale biorefinery.

S.1884: Specific Biochar Provisions in The Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

Title I - Energy
o Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements: (pg. 3 of S.1884) Provides a total of $150 million for pyrolysis and thermochemical conversion systems to be acquired by agricultural producers, in Section 9006 of the Farm Bill. Annual funding of $30 million is authorized for each of FY 2008-2012.
o Bioenergy Program/Feedstock Residue Management Program: (pg. 7 of S.1884) Provides assistance to cellulosic biorefineries in the form of transition payments in preparation for bioenergy operations; requires that land conversions for such operations ensure the protection and enhancement of soil quality and the prevention of soil erosion and nutrient leaching, and other impacts. Provides a total of $1.458 billion over the 5-year period FY 2008-2012
o Research and Demonstration Grants for Biochar Production Systems: (pg. 11 of S.1884) Creates a competitive grants program for research and development to develop and commercialize biochar production systems on multiple scales, including on a single farm, local community, and cooperative scale. Provides a total of $50 million, with annual funding of $10 million for each of FY 2008-2012.

Title II - Direct Payments for value-added and Renewable Energy Enterprises
o Direct Payments for Qualified Value-added Enterprises: (pg. 15 of S.1884) Provides direct payments of up to $10,000 per producer to match equity investments in value-added enterprises, to include the production and use of biochar as a soil amendment. Authorizes such funds as are necessary to carry out this section for each of FY 2008-2012.

Title III - Conservation
o Biochar Demonstration Projects: (pg. 18 of S.1884) Provides that demonstration projects on a farm and cooperative scale be carried out to demonstrate the advantages of using biochar production systems to improve renewable energy production and protect and enhance soil quality; and for demonstration projects that demonstrate the manner in which biochar may be used to generate agricultural credits for carbon trading within greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs. Promotes high-priority biochar research and demonstration projects in three areas: biochar production and commercialization; biochar�s behavior in the environment; and economic and life-cycle analyses of biochar systems. Provides upwards of $100 million for the section, by authorizing �not less than� $20 million for each of FY2008-2012.
o Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): (pg. 22 of S.1884) Provides funds for bioenergy production, including the installation of biochar production units

Title V - Research, Development, and Education
o High-priority Research and Extension Initiatives: (pg. 24 of S.1884) Provides upwards of $100 million in research grants to promote biochar technology for adding biochar to soil to improve soil fertility, nutrient retention, and carbon sequestration; and the movement of the technology from a pre-commercial to a fully-commercial state. Authorizes not less than $20 million per year for each of FY 2008-2012.
o Renewable Energy Research, Education and Educational Program: (pg. 28 of S.1884) Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish standardized protocols for market-based trading of greenhouse gas emissions reductions from soil carbon sequestration; to provide information on economic opportunities available to producers from such markets; and to provide grants to land-grant colleges and universities to develop curricula and training related to renewable energy fields. Such sums as are necessary are authorized for this section.

Renewable Electricity and Renewable Fuels Research and Development: (pg. 30 of S.1884)
Creates a joint USDA/DOE research program that includes a quantification and verification of the carbon sequestration benefits of various bioenergy and agricultural crops and practices, including the development of models to estimate the carbon sequestration benefits for different crops on different soils; and an additional research and development program to study, among other things, methods to sustainable increase agricultural and forestry crop energy yields while enhancing environmental benefits, in particular improving soil quality and air quality; methods of developing small-scale and distributed renewable energy technologies; and biochar�and other potential non-fossil-fuel-based renewable fertilizers to integrate energy production or agricultural management practices with enhance soil quality and long-term carbon sequestration. Provides up to $300 million per year for each of FY 2008-2012.

S.1884 - The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007 [*.pdf], introduced July 26, 2007.

An excellent introduction to biochar can be found in Johannes Lehmann: "A Handful of Carbon" [*.pdf], Nature, Vol 447, pp. 143-144, 10 May 2007.


Blogger M. Simon said...

You might find this of interest re: climate change.
Criminals And Moralists Working Together

Enron Carbon Trading And Hansen

Enron And Carbon Trading

Plants don't do well with under 200ppmv of CO2. I'd be careful with this. It may be a bad idea.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

//Plants don't do well with under 200ppmv of CO2. I'd be careful with this. It may be a bad idea.//

Are you one of the 'more CO2 is good for us' pushers?

Plants have grown well during the pre-industrial age when atmospheric carbon levels were low.

One thing is certain, the planet, its ecosystems and humanity as a whole won't do well with 550ppm of CO2.

Doing nothing to reduce GHG emissions is the worst idea imaginable.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Edward Someus said...

From Edward Someus WEB: www.terrenum.net or EMAIL [email protected]

AS carbonization technology and soil science specialist, I strongly disagree with the classification that carbon-negative bioenergy can be obtained via high-tech (biomass-to-energy) and low-tech (agrichar) process, where biochar can be applied world-wide on agricultual soils in the developing world rural communities because it is relatively low tech.

In fact, if carbonization of biochar is made by low tech, than it certainly leads to uncontrolled emission, including tars which are highly toxic organic complexes. Low tech carbonization makes more harm than use for the environment. The world has been changed vs ancient times, now there is more concentrated population, more environmental care needed and the human impacts on our environmental are more complex.

PROPOSAL: reclassification of AGRICHAR to HIGHTECH, where the industrial production must be based on the advanced 21st century EU/US relevant norms and standards (and definitely not after the industrial standards of the developing world countries), furthermore the agrichar application must be supported by EU/US Authority relevant permits and scientific evidence (such as the RTD project PROTECTOR, EUFP6 Food Safety)

Thank you.

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

Edward, I agree with your assessment, that carbonisation can be made much more efficient.

It would be ideal for the developing world to have some kind of village-scale pyrolysis/gasification power system that yields both char and electricity from agricultural residues.

But for the time being we simple make the 'conceptual' distinction between low and high tech, as a way of introducing the concept to audiences that are not familiar with it.

In substance, you are right, the emissions balance of traditional charcoal production is often not that good and can be vastly improved with higher tech tools.

Thanks for the suggestion.


11:31 PM  

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