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    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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Monday, November 19, 2007

Denmark opens world's largest experimental biogas complex to research biomass feedstocks, processes, logistics

The world’s largest experimental biogas complex was inaugurated last month in Denmark at the Aarhus University's Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. Research at the new reactors, which are situated at the faculty's Research Centre Foulum, will improve the utilisation of biogas and the effect of agricultural production on the climate and the environment. The project is financed by Denmark's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

According to the researchers, there is great potential in increasing the Danish production of biogas. Biogas replaces fossil fuels and reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases. Increased biogas production will make it possible for Denmark to meet its international climate obligations.
Our ambition is that the new biogas plant will contribute to bringing Denmark to the global forefront in the area of [research into] consumption of energy and nutrients from animal manure and other types of biomass. - Minister of Agriculture Eva Kjer Hansen
The new facilities consist of four experimental reactors each with their own holding tanks as well as a dosage system for adding different feeds of solid material such as leftover animal feed, deep straw manure, energy crops and other biomass materials. The plant will therefore be one of the most advanced and flexible experimental biogas plants in the world.

Apart from the experimental reactors, a full-fledged production plant was taken into operation as well. This anaerobic digestion facility will treat approximately 29,000 tonnes slurry and 2,000 tonnes biomass from the barns and fields at Foulum. On this basis the plant will be able to produce about 850,000 cubic metres methane gas, which will be utilised for heat and electricity at the local thermal power station.

Feedstocks, nutrients, production processes
In Denmark, biogas production will be based on animal production and sustainably harvested biomass. When animal manure is treated in a biogas plant, leaching of nutrients to the aquatic environment is reduced as are odour problems as less slurry is spread on fields.Waste products, which would otherwise be expensive to get rid of, enter into biogas production.

Biomass from natural areas such as meadows will also be included in biogas production. That way undesirable nutrients are removed from natural areas and production of biogas can contribute to the management of caring for natural areas that in turn have an added value as suppliers of renewable energy. There are approximately 500,000 hectares of lowlands in Denmark the biomass of which should be harvested to limit damage from excess nutrients.

According to a recent EU Biogas Barometer, Denmark leads in developing biogas technologies for co-digestion of different biomass materials (previous post). The new research reactors will make it possible to further develop this line of research:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
However, there is still a long way to go before the full potential of biogas is realized. In existing biogas plants turnover of organic material from, for example, animal manure and straw is still only 50-60 percent of what is theoretically possible.

There are many proposals for methods to improve biogas production. However, scientific documentation and testing of the methods under practical conditions is often lacking. The new experimental biogas plant at Research Centre Foulum will change that. The new plant, which is financed by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, will provide scientists, students and biogas producers with new opportunities to develop and test methods and technologies on a large scale. The new plant is the world’s largest experimental biogas plant.

Besides carrying out research that can optimise the processes in the actual biogas reactor, it will also be possible to do experiments in the various parts of the biogas supply chain.

The location at Research Centre Foulum gives access to an extensive choice of raw materials from the centre’s herds of dairy cattle, pigs, poultry and mink. The centre can also supply energy crops, straw and other types of biomass.
We expect the various technological ideas that will be tested at DJF’s new biogas plant will contribute to making future biogas plants more efficient and reliable, improve their economy and achieve a greater environmental bonus compared to the first generations of biogas plants. - Gunnar Hald Mikkelsen, Head of the Department of Research Facilities at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of Aarhus
When biomethane is produced from dedicated energy crops, it can yield more energy than any other current type of biofuel. The green gas can be made from a very wide range of biomass crops as well as from abundant crop residues. Scientists have found [*.pdf] that for temperate grass species, one hectare can yield between 2,900–5,400 cubic meters of methane per year, enough to fuel a passenger car for 40,000 to 60,000 kilometers (one acre of crops can power a car for 10,000 to 15,000 miles).

A recent 'Biogas Barometer' report, published by a consortium of renewable energy groups led by France's Observ'ER, cites a 13.6% increase growth in biogas use for primary energy production between 2005 and 2006 in the EU (earlier post).

According to the barometer, Denmark produced around 94,200 tonnes of oil equivalent biogas in 2006, mainly from agricultural waste (map, click to enlarge).

Codigestion is a Danish specialty. The country's production primarily comes from 20 codigestion units and small-scale farm production units (60%), that are far more advanced than biogas produced from rubbish dumps (15%) and sewage purification plants (25%). Biogas based combined heat and power plants running on biogas have been particularly developed in Denmark and are at the origin of practically all of the biogas-based electricity produced in the country. Denmark is, moreover, the fourth biggest EU country in terms of biogas production if primary energy production per inhabitant (with 17.4 toe per 1 000 inhabitants) is taken into consideration.

The total energy potential for biogas in the EU has been the subject of several projections and scenarios, with the most optimistic showing that it can replace all European natural gas imports from Russia by 2020 (more here). Germany recently started looking at opening its main natural gas pipelines to feed in the renewable green gas. And an EU project is assessing the technical feasibility of doing the same on a Europe-wide scale (previous post).

Biogas as a transport fuel offers particularly interesting prospects for the developing world, where oil infrastructures are not yet developed extensively. By relying on locally produced biomethane used in CNG cars, these countries could leapfrog into a clean, secure and green post-oil future (previous post).

The Research Centre Foulum is the largest unit under the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (DIAS). The majority of the research in animal husbandry and plant production is carried out at Foulum. Furthermore, Foulum carries out a large part of the interdisciplinary research, i.e. ecology, animal husbandry production and welfare.

In the area of animal husbandry the facilities include livestock buldings, livestock/herds, a foodstuff factory and a slaughterhouse. Research into cattle, pigs, mink, sheep and poultry is emphasized. The area of plant production include facilities for experimental cultivation as well as research in applied cropping systems and specialized facilities. The Research Centre Foulum disposes of a built up area of approx. 100,000 m2 and 550 hectares of land.

For comprehensive overviews of the latest developments in biogas research, development and applications across Europe, please search the Biopact website.

: The Research Centre Foulum, Denmark's leading animal husbandry and plant production research institution. Credit: Aarhus University.

Aarhus Univeristy, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences: Biogas for renewable energy and a better environment - November 1, 2007.

Biopact: Study: EU biogas production grew 13.6% in 2006, holds large potential - July 24, 2007

Biopact: Experts see 2007 as the year of biogas; biomethane as a transport fuel - January 09, 2007


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