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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

Illovo Sugar announces £100 million investment in Mali sugar, biomass and ethanol sector

South Africa's Illovo Sugar has announced that it has approved a £100 million (€140/$208 million) investment in the emerging sugar, biomass and ethanol sector in Mali, one of the world's poorest countries. The single project will by itself cover 10% of Mali's gasoline needs, supply electricity to thousands of the country's rural poor, eliminate sugar imports completely and meet growing demand for the foodstuff in the region.

Associated British Foods plc (ABF), an international food, ingredients and retail group holds a 51% stake in Illovo Sugar. Illovo Sugar will hold a 70% stake in the investment of 1.4 billion rand for the construction of a new sugar mill, an ethanol plant and an electricity co-generation unit that will utilize waste biomass (bagasse) from sugar processing to generate 4MW of renewable, carbon-neutral electricity. The remaining stake will be held by the government of Mali and private investors.

Illovo will manage a Mali government-sponsored agricultural development plan to produce the 1.5 million tonnes of sugar cane per annum required to supply the new facility. The project is based on a 14,000 hectare cane-growing operation that will be managed on behalf of the government and with the local community.

The project is vast in comparison to Mali's resource base. A Sahelian country, it currently produces less than 500,000 tons of sugarcane per year, primarily in the Southern region (map, click to enlarge). The Illovo project would by itself triple the entire country's output. Mali is a largely agricultural country, with over 80 per cent of its population making a living off the land. More than 60 per cent of all people there live under the poverty line.

Mali is fully dependent on oil imports. Luckily it only consumes around 4300 barrels per day of petroleum products, about half of which comes in the form of gasoline. Illovo's single ethanol plant would produce around 15 million liters per annum, thus roughly covering 10 per cent of Mali's total gasoline needs:
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Sugar production at the new mill will begin in December 2009, reaching full capacity two years later. The factory will ultimately produce 200,000 tonnes of sugar per annum. Mali's own sugar production currently stands at around 30,000 tonnes per year, while demand is roughly 130,000 tonnes. The Illovo project will thus cover the entire country's sugar needs and supply regional markets.

The deal between the Malian government and Illovo took two years to negotiate and it covers everything from long-term labour relations, shift systems and the legality of foreign workers to repatriation of dividends, set prices for ethanol and electricity and the incorporation of ethanol into the country's fuel.

George Weston, Chief Executive of Associated British Foods, said that this investment in Mali follows Illovo’s recently announced expansion in Zambia.

Illovo Sugar's managing director Don MacLeod has adopted a cautious approach to ethanol production. It can take place only if government makes its production viable through incentives or taxes, and mandates its use in the fuel mix. For instance, in Brazil ethanol makes up 25% of the fuel mix and there is a 35% difference on the duties of petrol and ethanol, he says.

Unlike the production of biodiesel - which has the potential to drive up world food prices because it diverts food to fuel - the production of ethanol is not expected to drive sugar prices higher. That is because ethanol is produced from molasses, a non sucrose byproduct.

Illovo Sugar is the largest cane sugar producer in Africa and one of the world’s lowest cost producers. It is the leading producer in South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Swaziland and has a strong and growing presence in Tanzania and Mozambique. It produced 1.7 million tonnes of sugar in the 2006/7 season and has development programmes to expand its capacity substantially.

Associated British Foods is a diversified international food, ingredients and retail group with sales of £6.8billion and 85,000 employees in 43 countries. It has significant businesses outside Europe in southern Africa, the US, China and Australia.

British Sugar is a substantial business within ABF. It has operations in the UK, Poland, China and southern Africa which process some 4 million tonnes of sugar annually. It is the most efficient sugar producer in Europe and has a proven ability to create value through improvement in agricultural yields, operational efficiencies, co-product development, marketing and product innovation. It has world class production facilities and technical expertise. The largest and most efficient beet sugar factory in the world is at Wissington in Norfolk and this is also the site for the UK’s first bioethanol plant.

British Sugar has four cane sugar mills in Guangxi province in southern China and sugar production exceeded 0.5 million tonnes in 2006/7. It announced on 24 August 2007 its first investment in the beet sugar industry in north east China.

Associated British Foods: Illovo Sugar announces £100 million investment in Mali - November 22, 2007.

Financial Mail: Illovo Sugar Power projects - November 23, 2007.


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