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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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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CSIRO report on life cycle emissions of biodiesel in Australia confirms fuel cuts CO2, pollutants

A lifecycle analysis released today by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) confirms that using pure first generation biodiesel or blending biodiesel with standard fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from the transport sector.

First generation biodiesel can be manufactured by transesterification of any product containing fatty acids, such as vegetable oil or animal fats. The report titled The greenhouse and air quality emissions of biodiesel blends in Australia [*.pdf] assesses the emission levels and environmental impacts of biodiesel produced from Australia's most common sources including used cooking oil, tallow (rendered animal fat), imported palm oil and canola.

CSIRO Energy Transformed National Research Flagship researcher and report author Dr Tom Beer believes the wider introduction of biodiesel in Australia would help address the high greenhouse gas intensity of Australia's transport sector. The results of the study show biodiesel has the potential to reduce emissions from the transport industry by up to 87%. The transport sector is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in Australia, behind stationary energy generation and agriculture.

The greenhouse gas savings do however depend on the feedstock used to produce the biodiesel.

The upstream processes of growing and harvesting canola lead to upstream GHG emissions that are approximately 3.5 times higher than upstream emissions from refining the diesel. Tallow has upstream GHG emissions that are approximately 50% higher than the upstream emissions of diesel, whereas those of used cooking oil are slightly lower. Upstream GHG emissions of palm oil depend on whether the plantation was established before 1990, in which case the emissions associated with land clearing and with soil disturbance are not counted as greenhouse gas emissions under present methods of carbon accounting. In this case upstream greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 25% higher than the upstream emissions associated with diesel refining.

When using BD100 produced from tallow, canola, used cooking oil or plantation-based palm oil then the carbon dioxide emissions are offset by the carbon dioxide sequestered during the feedstock production so that the tailpipe GHG emissions are zero, which is to say that the emissions of fossil carbon are zero. However, fossil carbon or other greenhouse gases are emitted during the growth or manufacture of the feedstock.

Overall this results in a saving in total life-cycle GHG emissions for different feedstocks: canola (422 g CO2-e/km saving; 49%), tallow (646 g CO2-e/km saving; 76%) used cooking oil (746 g CO2-e/km saving; 87%), palm oil from existing plantations (680 g CO2-e/km saving; 80%) when compared to extra low sulfur diesel (XLSD), which emits 855 g CO2-e/km. GHG emissions from palm oil that is sourced from cleared rain- or peat swamp forest are 8 to 21 times respectively greater than those from diesel. (table, click to enlarge).
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The extra upstream processing required for reducing the sulfur content results in higher GHG emissions for XLS diesel compared with ULS diesel. The highest savings in GHG emissions are obtained by replacing base diesel with biodiesel from used cooking oil (725 g CO2-e/km for ULSD to 746 g CO2-e/km for XLSD).

The large difference between the upstream emission of tallow and used cooking oil are
based on the assumption that the tallow is being taken from existing market uses and is not a waste product, whereas the used cooking oil is taken to be a true waste, with no existing market. If low-grade tallow, with no other viable markets, was available, its emission profile would be similar to that of used cooking oil. However, low-grade tallow does require more processing to produce biodiesel than high-grade (edible) tallow.

Blends with 2% biodiesel lead to much smaller GHG savings (when there are savings) or
much smaller increases (when there are increases): the savings are 14-15 g CO2-e/km for used cooking oil blends when using BD2 compared with diesel; 12-13 g CO2-e/km for
tallow biodiesel; and 7-8 g CO2-e/km for canola oil biodiesel. Palm oil based BD2 produces savings of 12-13 g CO2-e/km if the palm oil comes from existing plantations, but can lead to increases in GHG emissions that range from 142 to 338 g CO2-e/km if the palm oil comes from cleared rainforest or cleared peat swamp forest respectively.

Obviously not all new palm oil plantations are established on peat lands - the report looked at these specifically, because some environmentalists have made a case of this. The peat swamp issue is specific to a small region in Indonesia. New palm oil plantations in Africa and South America will have very different properties and result in fuels with a much lower carbon footprint. Transporting palm oil in ocean-going tankers is a very efficient transport mode, releasing very small emissions.

If palm oil was to be grown in Australia (rather than imported from Asia), the emissions are likely to increase further because of the greater use of mechanisation in Australian agriculture, with its concomitant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The use of biodiesel also reduces the particulate matter released into the atmosphere as a result of burning fuels, providing potential benefits to human health. Life-cycle emissions of CO, NMVOC, and particles are reduced when biodiesel blends are used, but emissions of NOx may increase slightly.

While the results are encouraging, further research is required to establish the viability of the biofuels industry in Australia and address some of the associated issues such as sustainability, technological improvements and economic feasibility.

CSIRO, as part of the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship, is undertaking an extensive research program into alternative fuels such as biodiesel to assess possible biophysical, social and economic impacts of their production and adoption.

CSIRO: The greenhouse and air quality emissions of biodiesel blends in Australia [*.pdf] - November 27, 2007.

CSIRO: Alternative transport fuels: prospects and impacts.


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