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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

Sun Grant Initiative wins $50 million in transportation funding

The transportation bill that the U.S. Congress approved recently includes $50 million over the next five years for the Sun Grant Initiative (SGI), a nationwide research effort to promote bio-based renewable energy that began at South Dakota State University (SDSU). The SGI has now grown to five regional centers that coordinate and disburse funds to research into biomass production, bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based products. A first series of 17 selected projects were announced in Ausgust (previous post).

Despite being nearly two years overdue, the new transportation bill overwhelmingly passed the House and the Senate on July 29. The Sun Grant Initiative, or SGI, will broaden the mission of land-grant universities to include biobased energy and bio-based products as a core effort.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59), enacted in 2005, authorized funding for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2009, to carry out biobased research of national importance [Section 5201(m)]. The funding comes from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and goes to each of the five regional SGI Centers.

Five land-grant universities serve as the regional Sun Grant centers to emphasize research, teaching and Extension work focusing on energy and biobased products. They are: Oregon State University, South Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Cornell University.

In addition, the National Biodiesel Board in Jefferson City, Mo., will also receive funding. Kevin Kephart, director of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, said Senator John Thune has informed him that each of the five Sun Grant centers will receive $1.66 million annually, or $8.3 million total, over the next five years. “

Each of the five SGI Centers manages its own regional competitive grants program, to best meet the challenges of bioenergy and biomass research and education needs within their respective regions:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

As part of the development of the Regional Competitive Grants Program, each of the SGI Centers developed a solicitation for their region, consistent with national priorities identified by an ad hoc federal agency panel led by DOT/RITA with representatives from DOE, USDA, EPA and DOD.

These national priorities for renewable transportation fuel development included: biofuel feedstock development; biofuels conversion processes; biofuel system analysis; economics, marketing and policy; and, environmental impacts.

These national priorities were considered in the context of the unique biomass and biomass resources and challenges within each of the regions. Each of the five regional Sun Grant Initiative Centers announced its regional competitive grants program in a Request for Applications (RFA) released in later February through early March of 2007.

Each region developed peer review panels with representatives from academia as well as specialists from national laboratories and federal agencies with appropriate subject matter expertise. Projects were selected on the basis of scientific merit, novelty, probability of success, timeframe for results, and priority for the region.

With a more diverse biomass resource base, the Western and North Eastern region funded a larger number of smaller “start-up” and exploratory grants.

The SGI was authorized in the 2002 farm bill. SDSU President Peggy Gordon Miller said the newly approved funding will allow land-grant university scientists to pursue new biobased products under the Sun Grant Initiative. "We are so pleased to be able to continue Dr. Kephart's national leadership in the biotechnologies," Miller said.

The Sun Grant Initiative is a national network of land grant universities and U.S. Department of Energy laboratories partnering to create energy and other non-traditional products from agriculture. Scientists will develop a practical vision to literally grow an increasing share of America's energy, while "harvesting" new products from agriculture that farmers scarcely dreamed of a generation ago -- from plastics and cosmetics to solvents and building materials.

Gary Lemme, dean of SDSU’s College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, said the members of the South Dakota congressional delegation have been leaders in supporting the Sun Grant Initiative:
The Sun Grant will permit outstanding scientists at South Dakota State University and across the nation to cooperate with entrepreneurs and agricultural commodity groups to develop renewable fuels and chemicals from locally produced agricultural products. - Gary Lemme, dean South Dakota State University, College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences
It is expected the biobased economy will be good for South Dakota by creating new markets and processing opportunities while helping out nation become energy self-reliant.”

The previous transportation bill, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), expired in September 2003. Senator Thune has included the funding for biobased fuel research at SDSU in a Senate version of a bill to re-authorize TEA-21 over the next five years (2005-2009). The bill that passed the Senate must now be reconciled with a similar bill that passed the House of Representatives in March.

The Sun Grant Initiative also manages the BioWeb, a non-commercial, educational website that provides current information about using biomass resources for bioenergy and bioproducts.

Sun Grant Initiative: Sun Grant Initiative wins transportation funding - s.d. November, 2007.

Sun Grant Initiative: Biobased fuel research included in transportation bill - s.d. November, 2007.

Biopact: Sun Grant Initiative funds 17 bioenergy research projects - August 20, 2007


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