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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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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thailand prepares for $200 oil: conservation, rail, biofuels and biogas

At the recent meeting of the heads of state of OPEC member countries, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez warned that oil prices would go stratospheric and could reach up to $200 per barrel if a conflict with Iran or tensions in the Strait of Hormuz were to break out. The left-wing leader's statements did not make much of an impression on the markets, because they remain hypothetical and are clearly ideologically burdened. Nonetheless, some countries take the warning seriously, and are preparing for the worst.

Speaking at a seminar on the promotion of biotechnology in Bangkok, Thailand's Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand acknowledged that rising political tensions in the Middle East present a major risk to global energy security. Citing the surge in oil prices to $100 a barrel from $20 five years ago, the minister said anything was possible and that a preparedness plan is now in order.

If the crude prices double from now, local retail prices would exceed 60 or 70 baht a litre. This would severely disrupt Thailand's economy. The country relies substantially on crude oil imports representing 6.5% of its GDP. Poorer oil-importing developing countries could enter an era of negative economic growth, mass unemployment and hyper-inflation, especially those energy intensive Least Developed Countries (LDCs) that spend more than 10% of their GDP on importing oil products (previous post).

One way of dealing with the problem is for the state to subsidise fuels. But Thailand's energy minister ruled out this approach and will instead step up its efforts to promote conservation, rail transport and alternative fuels including ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas and biogas.

In its latest move, the Thai government has set aside a 4.78 billion baht (€102/$152 million) fund to subsidise biogas, obtained from anaerobically digesting agricultural and industrial waste as well as energy crops.

The programme targets the farm sector and food-processing plants that have plans to convert waste biomass into methane gas to replace cooking gas. The fund will subsidise 20% of the total costs of biogas consulting fees, construction and installed equipment for successful applicants.

More than 430 plants, poultry farms and 300 community organisations are expected to join the biogas project, which could substitute as much as 760 million cubic metres a year of fossil fuels, valued at 5.4 billion baht (€116/$172 million) a year:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Waste water from agricultural processing industries as well as municipal waste is used by agricultural mills and municipalities, respectively, to produce biogas.

Palm oil and tapioca mills build biogas systems as part of their wastewater treatment and use the biogas produced to replace fuel oil or LPG consumption or to produce electricity.

To strengthen energy security and sustainability, the Thai government has set 2011 as the target date for 8% of the nation’s total energy, representing an estimated 1,900 MW, to be generated from renewable energy sources.

Conservation, public transport and improved efficiency are obviously on the radar as well, with the government considering the option of taking money from the State Oil Fund to promote these measures:
Freezing or intervening in prices of retail petrol is only a short term solution to the problem. If we don't begin to take energy conservation seriously, the country will continue to face this oil crisis over and over again. We will speed up energy-saving campaigns and expedite the construction of public transport systems such as railway lines using money from the State Oil Fund. - Piyasvasti Amranand, Thailand's Energy Minister
Commenting on the fears for economy-wrecking oil prices, Bangchak Petroleum executive Yodpoj Wongrakmit noted that while a price of $200 a barrel for refined oil could not be ruled out, the West would likely resort to economic sanctions rather than a full-fledged war against Teheran. Bangchak will consider increasing its retail oil prices across the board before this weekend since the current gross margin of 0.65-0.70 baht a litre is below the appropriate level of at least 0.70-0.80 baht a litre.

Picture: biogas plant under construction at the Nong Bua pig farming company, located to the south of Bangkok, Thailand.

MCOT Thai News Agency: Global oil may hit $200 if US attacks Iran: minister - November 20, 2007.

Bangkok Post: 'No subsidy even if oil hits $200' - November 20, 2007.

Bangkok Post: Minister warns oil prices 'could' double - November 20, 2007.


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