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    Note: Biopact's mail-server is being changed, so any incoming mails will bounce-back. The problem will be solved in the coming 12-24 hours. Biopact Team - November 22, 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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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Germany massively increases biofuels targets to kickstart next generation fuels: 10% in 2010, 20% in 2020

The German government has announced [*German] its new Biofuels Roadmap, with which it will massively increase the country's biofuels target, doubling it from 5% by 2010 to 10% by that year, and to 20% by 2020. This way it doubles the EU's biofuel targets (which require 10% of all fuels to be biofuels by 2020). Europe's largest fuel consumer agreed on the measures after consultation with the agriculture, automotive and oil industry. The move is seen as a strategy to speed up the development of next generation biofuels. Germany is at the forefront of developing biomass-to-liquids fuels and new types of biodiesel based on hydrogenating plant oils. The country's land devoted to dedicated energy crops will be doubled and possibly tripled.

Launching the Roadmap Biokraftstoffe [*German], Minister of the Environment Sigmar Gabriel and Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer stressed that only biofuels will be taken into account that are sustainably produced and reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably.

The new, ambitious targets for biofuels look as follows:
  • For bioethanol, the target is now set at a 10% blend into gasoline by 2010, which poses no problem for use in current gasoline engines. The addition of bio-based Ethyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (ETBE) to gasoline will be promoted as well. E10 will become the new German norm and will be made available to consumers in at least 1,000 stations by the year 2016.
  • For diesel, a mixture of 7% biodiesel and 3% hydrogenated vegetable oils by 2010 is set as the new goal. Hydrogenated plant oils are also known as 'green diesel', or 'H-Bio', and draw upon advanced bioconversion methods found in the petroleum industry.
  • Between 2010 and 2020, the Agriculture and Environment Ministeries want the increasing shares - to reach 20% of all transport fuels by 2020 - to come from synthetic biofuels. Such biomass-to-liquids (BTL) fuels are obtained by gasifying biomass and then liquefying it via the Fischer-Tropsch process, a technique originally developed in Germany. This allows the use of cellulosic biomass from dedicated energy crops and from agricultural, industrial and forestry waste.
  • Cellulosic alcohols (ethanol, biobutanol) obtained from the biochemical transformation of biomass will be promoted over the same period.
  • Biomethane for transport will also be encouraged. The fuel is obtained after upgrading biogas made from the anaerobic digestion of biomass.
According to the Ministry for Agriculture, Germany currently only devotes 13% of its arable land to dedicated energy crops. This share will at least be doubled by 2020 and perhaps tripled if research indicates this is feasible and if market conditions and EU measures permit this, Seehofer said:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Sustainability and certification
A system will be implemented that computes the total greenhouse gas emission profile of imported biomass. The Environment Ministry says only those biofuel feedstocks will be allowed that result in a net reduction of emissions. The Germany government is working on the development of national, EU-wide and international certification mechanisms and sustainability criteria to be applied to international biomass trade.

When it comes to biofuels taxation, Seehofer said he is trying to scale back and halt further taxes for biodiesel, which recently lost its tax-free status. Because of the new tax, German biodiesel producers are closing or stopping production. Industry groups estimate Germany's once-booming biodiesel industry is producing at about 20 percent of capacity following the government's taxing of green fuels. A second round of tax increases on biodiesel is on the statute book and scheduled to be imposed in January 2008. The government has so far refused industry calls to reconsider this.

Asked at the presentation in Berlin about the planned tax rise on biodiesel, Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said this was still being discussed. "I am fighting to keep the competitiveness of biofuels," Seehofer said. "There is still no agreement." But a finance ministry spokesman said the tax rise would go ahead. A new report on biofuels to be presented by the government would show subsidies and special tax breaks were too high, the spokesman said.

Techno-neutrality and costs
Reacting to the news of the increased biofuels targets, Matthias Wissmann, chairman of the German Federation of the Automobile Industry, said: "we have set in motion a transition towards second-generation biofuels, which are virtually carbon-neutral and to not have any effect on food prices." The high quality standard of synthetic biofuels gives it a competitive edge over first generation fuels, for which standards may be increased.

The managing director of Germany's Mineral Oil Trade Association, Klaus Picard, said he was pleased to note that the German government has remained technology-neutral and does not choose one production process over another to reach the goals. This allows producers to compete and to reach the targets with the smalles cost load for consumers.

However, Environment Minister Gabriel stressed that that the massive increase in biofuels does not relieve the vehicle industry of its obligation to build more efficient cars. Improved engines and more efficient vehicles is a key part of transiting to a low-carbon economy, he said.

Minister Seehofer pointed out that the use of biofuels in the past year had already reduced Germany's carbon dioxide emissions by 12,7 million tons.

The organisations that participated in the consultation on biofuels that led to the new targets include the following: Verband der Automobilindustrie, Mineralölwirtschaftverband, Deutscher Bauernverband, Interessengemeinschaft mittelständischer Mineralölverbände and the Verband Deutscher Biodieselhersteller.

Bundesministerium fur Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz: Roadmap Biokraftstoffe - Gemeinsame Strategie von BMU/BMELV, VDA, MWV, IG, VDB und DBV - November 21, 2007.

Bundesministerium fur Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz: Roadmap Biokraftstoffe: Daten und Fakten [Numbers and Facts] - November 21, 2007.


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