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    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    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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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Consortium of NGOs, universities launches biofuels program to bring energy, food and water security to the poor in Africa, Asia

A consortium of international NGOs, universities and think tanks in Africa and Asia have launched a five-year research programme to help deliver sustainable, secure and affordable energy to millions of the continents' rural poor. Lack of access to energy is one of the key barriers to development and economic well being. Bioenergy and biofuels offer a historic opportunity to both strengthen the livelihoods of the poor, improve their access to energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The five-year research programme known as 'Policy Innovation Systems for Clean Energy Security' or PISCES, will therefore integrate thinking and research on water, food and energy security by focusing on the pivotal issue of bioenergy and biofuels. The project aims to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which, many experts feel, will not be achieved without tackling the intertwined issues of climate change and energy security.

The £790,000 (€1.1/$1.6 million) PISCES project is led by the African Centre for Technology Studies, (ACTS), a Nairobi-based science, technology and environmental policy intergovernmental organization that generates new knowledge through policy analysis and outreach. The programme is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). ACTS is partnering with Practical Action Consulting, an international NGO, the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), which focuses on technology for poverty reduction, the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Edinburgh, together with a network of national and international partners and collaborators including the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology (ICEPT), Imperial College London, UK, Germany's GTZ GmbH (Development Agency) and India's ICF International.

According to Professor Judi Wakhungu, the Executive Director of ACTS, the objective of PISCES is to produce policy-relevant information and approaches that can be applied by governments in developing the role of bioenergy in delivering energy access for the poor. PISCES is focused on bioenergy – incorporating biomass from natural sources, biowaste streams from agriculture and industry, and biofuels from purpose grown energy crops.

The Inception Workshop was held in Nairobi from September 26-29 and was attended by governments, donors, International Organisations, NGOs, companies and universities. Participation in initial consultations has come from across the regions of focus in Kenya, Tanzania, South India and Sri Lanka.

Currently 2.5 billion people still rely on traditional forms of biomass in the form of firewood, dung or crop residues for basic energy services. According to Wakhungu, there is exploding global interest and activity in the growing of energy crops for the production of biofuels. Increased cultivation of energy crops could provide increased energy access for the poor and offer a historic opportunity for the improvement of their livelihoods. But this requires appropriate policies to ensure the opposite does not occur.

Wakhungu says that at the macro-level, bioenergy has the potential to increase global energy supplies without increasing carbon emissions. At the local level it could absorb vital water supplies and fertile land needed to cultivate food. It is against this backdrop of unprecedented global interest in bioenergy that PISCES will integrate research on water, food, energy and environmental security, with a focus on the role of bioenergy in increasing energy access and security of livelihoods for the poor without degrading the climate and environment.

The new and existing technologies, including plant varieties, processes, appliances and practices, that are required if bioenergy is to power sustainable development will be analysed, developed and tested. The circular and dynamic relationships between the climate and environment, and bioenergy production and consumption, will be investigated and evaluated.

PIECES will also be looking at the socio-economic studies and market analysis aimed at determining types of structures, incentives and regulations that could create and sustain access and delivery of bioenergy to poor people:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The programme hopes to build a networked centre of expertise, bringing together experts and policymakers who are to bring these and other strands of research together and, crucially, into use. The Kenyan permanent secretary for energy, Mr. Patrick Nyoike, in his opening address at for the PISCES Inception Workshop, underlined the need for research into the realization of affordable and reliable energy with a particular focus on bio-mass energy.

The opening speech was read for him by the chief economist at the ministry, Mr. Wilfred M. Deche. The permanent secretary said in part: According to the PS, next to food, fuel represents the most important expenditure for poor households, yet the poor face limited, inefficient and expensive energy options to meet their heating and lighting needs.

Most rural villagers in Africa depend predominantly on biomass to meet their modest energy needs largely due to widespread poverty. Fuel wood, he said, is used together with crop residue and dung for cooking. These traditional fuels, as presently used, have inherent disadvantages.

“Collection is arduous and is also known to cause acute respiratory problems when combustion takes place in kitchens with limited ventilation. In addition, the uncontrolled use of bio-mass energy has been closely associated with climate variability with adverse Implications for hydro energy and food production”, he said.

Several policy reforms have been put in place to enable Kenya’s ministry of energy to effectively fulfil its mandate. These include the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation, Sessional Paper No.4 of 2004 on Energy, the Energy Act of 2006 which became operational on 7th July 2007 and vision 2030. All these policy documents recognize the pivotal role that provision of quality and clean energy services play in the country's social-economic transformation.

Kenya is endowed with significant amounts of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass.

With exception of biomass which account for 68 per cent of the national primary energy consumption and large hydro power projects, little efforts have been expended towards the exploitation of these other renewable energy resources which if harnessed, can play a significant role in the country's energy supply mix.

According to the PS, the biofuels offer cost-effective and sustainable opportunities with the potential to meet 50 per cent of the world energy demands in the next century and at the same time meet the requirements of reducing carbon emission from fossil fuels Biofuels sources such as agricultural crops, biomass residues and wastes provide about 14 per cent of the world’s primary energy supplies.

A task force has been set up to prepare a strategy for development of biodiesel which will in future be replicated for other forms of bioenergy.

: Kenyan Sorghum farmer. Credit: ICRISAT - pro-poor biofuels initiative.

UK Department for International Development: Improving access to Reliable and Affordable Energy Services towards Achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Africa Science News: DFID funds bio-energy programme in Africa, Asia - November 27, 2007.

Practical Action: DFID PISCES Energy Research Consortium.


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