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    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

    Timber products company China Grand Forestry Resources Group announced that it would acquire Yunnan Shenyu New Energy, a biofuels research group, for €560/$822 million. Yunnan Shenyu New Energy has developed an entire industrial biofuel production chain, from a fully active energy crop seedling nursery to a biorefinery. Cleantech - November 16, 2007.

    Northern European countries launch the Nordic Bioenergy Project - "Opportunities and consequences of an expanding bio energy market in the Nordic countries" - with the aim to help coordinate bioenergy activities in the Nordic countries and improve the visibility of existing and future Nordic solutions in the complex field of bioenergy, energy security, competing uses of resources and land, regional development and environmental impacts. A wealth of data, analyses and cases will be presented on a new website - Nordic Energy - along with announcements of workshops during the duration of project. Nordic Energy - November 14, 2007.

    Global Partners has announced that it is planning to increase its refined products and biofuels storage capacity in Providence, Rhode Island by 474,000 barrels. The partnership has entered into agreements with New England Petroleum Terminal, at a deepwater marine terminal located at the Port of Providence. PRInside - November 14, 2007.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Brazil's CTC releases third generation of sugarcane varieties that yield up to 38 percent more profit

Brazil's universities and scientific organisations are world leaders in researching, developing and breeding sugarcane varieties. It was Brazil that first sequenced the energy crop's genome, and the country plants more of the genus than any other country. It also houses the world's largest library of genetic information on different sugarcane species. Now six new varieties have been developed [*Portuguese] by the Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC), which yield around 20% more biomass and contain higher levels of saccharose - the disaccharide that ends up as table sugar and ethanol. This results in increased profits per hectare of between 12.5 and 38 percent.

Breeding a sugarcane variety merely for increased biomass productivity does not suffice, says Marcos Casagrande, coordinator of plant breeding at the CTC. What use is a 20 percent increase in biomass when the variety has low levels of saccharose, cannot be harvested mechanically or is susceptible to diseases? To make a new variety worthwile for the production of sugar, bioenergy and ethanol, all of these factors must be targeted and combined in such a way that the new crop improves on all of them. A tall order indeed.

But the CTC delivered when it launched its third generation of sugarcane varieties for producers of different regions in the country's Center-South. The new varieties are called CTC10 through to CTC15, yielding more biomass with a higher saccharose yield.

The CTC's new varieties of the grassy crop are suitable for a specific region of the large country, known for its varied regional climatic conditions, its different soils and its different planting and harvesting seasons. The key to increased productivity is to develop varieties with the precise genetic material to match best with a specific region, and to plant them in the correct place. If this condition is not met, basic actions like correct fertilisation and cutting the cane at the optimal moment of maturation are in vain.

But what matters most, says Tadeu Andrade, director of Research & Development at the CTC, is the question as to whether a new variety will net more profits. And indeed, CTC 10 to CTC 15, bring in considerable more profits because the 'liquid margin' (margem líquida de contribuição) is much higher than current varieties.

According to Rubens Braga Júnio, statistician at the CTC, the 'liquid margin' represents the net profits generated by a given amount of sugar-rich juice harvested per hectare that can be processed into finished products like ethanol or sugar, after all costs for farm inputs (preparation, plantation, treatment, harvest and transport of the cane to the processing plant) and processing inputs have been subtracted. The liquid margin is averaged over a five-year period, the ideal life-cycle of sugarcane, which is a semi-perennial.

For CTC10 to CTC15 the liquid margin is between 12.5 to 37.85 percent higher than the conventional RB and SP varities that were developed by Brazilian universities and the Institute Agronômico de Campinas (IAC), which cover half of the sugarcane planted in the country:
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An example, CTC11 yields an average of 8.43 percent more biomass per hectare compared to existing varieties, but the liquid margin is R$539 (€210/$308) or 37.85 percent higher than the average. This is due because of a better performance on all parameters that count in sugar and ethanol production: higher saccharose content, better harvesteability and processing and improved tolerance to diseases, reducing the risk of losing harvests - a factor against which producers hedge, which costs money.

For the CTC, the success can be measured by the growing number of distributers and producers that join its program and offer its new varieties to planters. In 2004 the Center had 73 associates. Today the number has reached 163, which results in the CTC's sugarcane plants covering 54.4 percent of the total harvested in Brazil.

The Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira is the leading sugarcane research institute in Brazil, developing new varieties with improved processing efficiency and yield. It is further involved in phytosanitary research, biotechnology, agronomy, agricultural and industrial mechanisation as well as sugar, bioenergy and biofuel production itself.

The CTC is a non-profit whose aim is to disseminate knowledge, best practises and inputs to the sugarcane sector in Brazil.


EthanolBrasil: Novas variedades de cana rendem 38% mais - November 8, 2007.


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