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    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    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.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The bioeconomy at work: Solvay to produce green PVC from sugarcane ethanol

Brussels-based chemical giant Solvay announces that the board of its affiliate, Solvay Indupa, has approved a further US$ 135 million investment program to expand and increase the competitiveness of its vinyls production plant of Santo Andre, Brazil. This second stage of expansion, following a plan announced in August 2006, comprises the creation of an integrated plant to produce ethylene with ethanol originating from sugar cane. Ethylene is one of the two main feedstocks needed to manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - together with chlorine, which is produced through a salt-based electrolysis process.

Santo Andre would be the first industrial project in the Americas implementing renewable, green resources for the production of PVC. This innovation will prevent the emission of large quantities of C02 into the atmosphere. In the case of sugarcane based 'bio-ethylene', the reduction can even be larger than 100% (check out why, here).

Just recently, scientists reported that the utilisation of bio-based feedstocks for the production of 16 of the most commonly used bulk chemicals can reduce emissions by up to a billion tonnes of CO2 in future scenarios (earlier post). Sugarcane was identified as the leading candidate for efficient bio-based chemicals and is attracting considerable attention from manufacturers and researchers (here, here, here and here). Bulk chemicals, currently made from petroleum and natural gas, are used in the production of everything from plastics and fertilizers to electronic components and medicines.

Ethylene (C2H4) is the most produced organic compound in the world with global production exceeding 75 million metric tonnes per year. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a thermoplastic polymer and one of the most valuable products of the chemical industry. PVC can be found in thousands of commonly used products, ranging from pipelines and hoses to traffic signs and floors.

Solvay Indupa’s ambition is to complete the expansion of Santo Andre by 2010. The plant would then have an installed capacity of 360,000 tons/year of PVC; 360,000 tons /year of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), 235,000 tons/year of Caustic Soda and 60,000 tons/year of bio-ethylene.

Solvay Indupa is also studying with Argentinean energy group Albanesi S.A. the construction of a 165 megawatt combined cycle electrical power plant on Solvay Indupa’s site in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. The project would require an investment of USD 135 million and would provide for a reliable and competitive coverage of the site’s entire energy needs:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
In order to finance these investments, Solvay Indupa is considering a capital increase of approximately USD 130 million, to be placed in local and international capital markets through Brazilian Depositary Receipts (BDRs) at the São Paulo Stock Exchange (Bovespa).
Latin American markets are among the most promising targets of our geographical expansion. Demand for vinyl products is experiencing continued and dynamic growth there. With these ambitious expansion plans, Solvay Indupa will be at the leading edge of competitiveness and innovation to serve the fast-growing Latin American economies with sustainable vinyl material. - Jacques van Rijckevorsel, General Manager of the Plastics Sector, Solvay
The Solvay group is one of the world’s leading vinyls producer, ranking second in Europe and third globally. In addition to SolVin, its joint venture with BASF in Europe, the Group’s activities in PVC and other products of the vinyl chain span across Asia and Latin America, through the affiliates Vinythai in Thailand and Solvay Indupa in Argentina and Brazil.

Solvay Indupa, a company of the Solvay group, is one of the most important petrochemical companies in the Mercosur. Its main products are PVC resins and Caustic Soda. Solvay Indupa has its main offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina and two industrial sites: in Bahía Blanca (Argentina) and Santo André (Brazil). Solvay holds 70.1% of Solvay Indupa, which is listed on the Buenos Aires stock market.

Solvay is an international chemical and pharmaceutical group employing some 29,000 people in 50 countries. In 2006, its consolidated sales amounted to €9.4 billion, generated by its three sectors of activity: chemicals, plastics and pharmaceuticals.

In June, a competitor to Solvay, Braskem (the leading company in Latin America's thermoplastic resins segment and Brazil's second largest privately owned industrial company), announced it had produced the first batch of internationally certified polyethylene made from sugarcane ethanol (more here). The Dow Chemical Company and Crystalsev, one of Brazil's largest ethanol players also unnveiled plans for a world-scale facility to manufacture polyethylene from sugar cane (earlier post).

Solvay: Solvay Indupa will produce bioethanol-based vinyl in Brasil & considers state-of-the-art power generation in Argentina - December 14, 2007.

Biopact: Researchers find bio-based bulk chemicals could save up to 1 billion tonnes of CO2 - December 17, 2007

Biopact: The bioeconomy at work: Braskem develops polyethylene from sugarcane ethanol - June 25, 2007

Biopact: Dow and Crystalsev to make polyethylene from sugar cane in Brazil - July 19, 2007

Biopact: Australia and South Korea team up to produce bioproducts from sugarcane - May 18, 2007

Biopact: Metabolix to develop bioplastics from sugarcane - May 09, 2007


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