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    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 12, 2007

Dutch partners agree to build commercial scale biomass torrefaction plant

The Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN), sustainable energy consultancy Econcern and engineering and industrial investor Chemfo announce they have agreed to build a first commercial scale biomass torrefaction plant that will produce second generation biomass-based pellets for multiple applications: BO2pellets.

The three partners bring together an extensive expertise and track record in the development and commercialisation of biomass technologies. The BO2-technology, developed by ECN, produces pellets of so-called torrefied biomass. It is considered a key technology that enables a broad range of biomass streams, such as wood chips and agricultural residues, to be converted in an upgraded sustainable solid biofuel with a high energy density. This type of pellets is sometimes called 'biocoal' (earlier post).

Current first generation pellets have a limited energy density which drives up logistics costs, requires indoor storage and brings difficulties with pulverization. These issues are all solved with the new pellets, which have a higher energy density, can be stored outside and can be pulverized directly in coal mills.

These BO2pellets can thus be used for electricity and heat generation in large-scale coal-fired power plants, in biomass CHP plants or in domestic pellet boilers and stoves. They also have high potential as a feedstock for gasification-based production of transportation fuels.

Torrefaction is a mild pre-treatment of biomass at a temperature between 200-300 °C in the absence of oxygen (schematic, click to enlarge). During torrefaction the biomass properties are changed to obtain a much better fuel quality for combustion and gasification applications. In combination with pelletisation, torrefaction also aids the logistic issues that exist for untreated biomass.

Torrefaction by means of the ECN process leads to an energy dense fuel pellet with a typical bulk density of 750 to 850 kg/m3, a net calorific value of 19 to 22 MJ/kg (as received) and a volumetric density of 14 to 18.5 GJ/m3 (bulk):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Typically, the torrefaction process has a thermal efficiency of 96% and the total production costs amount 40-50 € per ton of pellets. The logistics costs can be reduced to 50%-66% of the costs involved for first generation wood pellets.

Econcern and Chemfo now join ECN to bring the BO2 technology to market through their joint-venture BO2GO b.v., by agreeing to build a commercial scale plant.

Econcern’s mission is to ensure ‘a sustainable energy supply for everyone’ and consists of companies Ecofys, Evelop, Ecostream and Ecoventures. Together they deliver unique projects, innovative products and services for a sustainable energy supply. The Econcern Group employs about 900 professionals in 19 countries.

The Energy research Centre of the Netherlands concentrates on themes that contribute to a globally sustainable use of energy. This includes the development of technologies for the use of renewable energy, energy storage and energy conversion, including low-emission combustion. ECN can optimally employ the multi-disciplinary nature of its research potential and its particular expertise, experience, and professionalism in the construction and operation of complex research installations. With a staff of over 600 people and an annual budget of € 60 million, ECN has developed a portfolio of proprietary technologies and patents of which some are ready to be commercialised through spin-out companies.

Chemfo BV is the holding company of Mr. Paul Hamm. He is active in international engineering and industrial investment activities, and currently the President of the Dutch Energy Transition Platform for Green Feedstock, a platform initiated by the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs.

Recently, Belgium's Thenergo, a leading European combined heat-and-power (CHP) clean energy company, announced that it is developing a 5MW electricity and 'biocoal' plant, or 'E-park', in northern Holland. In partnership with Eclair-E, a Dutch CHP sustainable energy supplier and Venture Kapitaalfonds III BV a 100% subsidiary of NV NOM, the investment and development agency for the Northern Netherlands, the E-park will generate annually up to 42,800MWh of power and 75,000 tons of 'biocoal' pellets (previous post).

Earlier we reported that coal prices in Europe have skyrocketed to levels higher than $100 per ton. The situation has recently changed with several contracts for European DES/CIF ARA coal now reaching $130 per ton. If this trend continues (and energy specialists recently surveyed think this will be the case), torrefied biomass pellets, which will receive green electricity credits when burned (at least in many European countries), could soon become directly competitive with some types of coal in Europe.

: the torrefaction process developed by ECN. Credit: ECN.

Energy research Centre of the Netherlands: Econcern, ECN and Chemfo agree to build commercial scale biomass torrefaction plant - November 8, 2007.

Patrick C.A. Bergman, Jacob H.A. Kiel, "Torrefaction for biomass upgrading" [*.pdf], ECN, Published at 14th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition, Paris, France, 17-21 October 2005

Patrick C.A. Bergman, "Combined torrefaction and pelletisation: The TOP process" [*.pdf], ECN Biomass, July 2005.

Biopact: Belgian-Dutch partnership to develop 5MW biocoal project - August 10, 2007

Biopact: Coal prices hit records too - time for biomass? - October 03, 2007

Biopact: Centre for European Economic Research survey: experts see rising prices for all energy commodities over the next five years - October 06, 2007


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