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    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    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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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Choren announces site for world's first large-scale biomass-to-liquids plant

German biofuels company Choren announces [*German] it is to build the world's first large-scale biomass-to-liquids (BtL) plant in Schwedt, a city in Brandenburg, near the Polish border. The facility will be built in the vicinity of the PCK Refinery, where it will convert 200,000 tons of biomass into ultra-clean synthetic biofuels. Choren's site selection offers an insight into the complex logistical, technical, and scientific infrastructures that drive the production of next-generation biofuels.

Choren managing director Tom Blades presented 2010 as the year in which construction would begin with fall 2009 being the period in which the €800 million investment should be finalized. The announcement was hailed by both federal, state and local politicians.

Schwedt came out as the best of 60 possible locations in Germany. Five further locations were drawn onto a map where future plants could be built. Which factors did Choren look at when selecting this site? The proximity to the oil refinery made Schwedt a site where synergies can be created concering the supply of heat and energy. In addition the Uckermark region has sufficient land potential for raw material production and an abundance of existing biomass residues that can be converted into synfuel (table, click to enlarge).

Moreover the presence of the Fachhochschule Eberswalde (University of Applied Sciences) in the area makes it possible to draw on advanced scientific research into bioenergy (on fast-rotation energy trees). The university already operates experimental fields in the proximity of Schwedt, on which it trials fast-growing woody energy crops for cellulosic biofuels.

Synthetic biofuels such as Choren's 'SunDiesel' are considered to be renewable fuels of the of the second generation. The ultra-clean fuels have an exceptionally low emissions profile. They are obtained from the gasification of a wide range of biomass feedstocks with the syngas liquefied via the Fischer-Tropsch process. Choren's technology, the 'Carbo-V Process' is a three-stage gasification process involving the following sub-processes: (1) low temperature gasification, (2) high temperature gasification and (3) endothermic entrained bed gasification.

During the first stage of the process, the biomass (with a water content of 15 – 20 %) is continually carbonized through partial oxidation (low temperature pyrolysis) with air or oxygen at temperatures between 400 and 500 °C, i.e. it is broken down into a gas containing tar (volatile parts) and solid carbon (char).

During the second stage of the process, the gas containing tar is post-oxidized hypostoichiometrically using air and/or oxygen in a combustion chamber operating above the melting point of the fuel’s ash to turn it into a hot gasification medium.

During the third stage of the process, the char is ground down into pulverized fuel and is blown into the hot gasification medium. The pulverized fuel and the gasification medium react endothermically in the gasification reactor and are converted into a raw synthesis gas. Once this has been treated in the appropriate manner, it can be used as a combustible gas for generating electricity, steam and heat or as a synthesis gas for producing SunDiesel.

The Carbo-V process has the following advantages over conventional biomass gasification:
  • A wide range of feed materials can be used
  • A high-quality gas with a tar content below minimum detection limits and a very low concentration of methane (<>
  • Complete exploitation of the feed material used * Numerous fields of application (electricity, heat, cold, methanol, synthetic automotive fuels, waxes etc.) * Conversion efficiency for gasification (cold gas efficiency) > 80 %
  • Electrical energy efficiency levels of up to 35 %
  • Low emission levels
  • The ash is converted into a solid bonded slag granulate suitable for building purposes
High-quality synthetic automotive fuels are obtained from the synthesis gas via Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. During this process, the reactive fractions of the synthesis gas (CO and H2) interact with a catalyst to form hydrocarbons. In order to maximize the output of synthetic biodiesel, the waxes formed during the FT synthesis process are further processed using hydrocracking techniques, a standard process that is used in the petrochemical sector to recycle waste substances at refineries.

The synthetic biodiesel is an ultra-clean fuel which:
  • has a high cetane number and therefore much better ignition performance than conventional diesel fuel,
  • has no aromatics or sulfur and significantly reduces pollutants from exhaust emissions,
  • can be used without any adjustment to existing infrastructure or engine systems,
  • is largely CO2-neutral
The first BtL plant in Schwedt will bring about 700 jobs could develop, with 100 direct jobs at the facility with the remainder expected to develop in the forestry, transport, distribution and disposal sectors that will form around Choren's activities:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Schwedt wants to become a leading bioenergy hub. In the vicinity of the oil refinery a set of new biofuel factories have already been established, in which biodiesel, bio-ethanol and wood pellets for heating purposes are produced.
On the one hand we are pleased with each new job which revitalizes our city. On the other hand we are even more excited to be the host to the development of an entirely new industrial sector with enormous growth potential. - Juergen Polzehl, mayor of Schwedt
The city of Choren's choice is located in one of former East Germany's most economically problematic regions. The Federal Government's Special Envoy for the New States ('Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für die neuen Länder', who is still tasked with integrating Eastern German 'Länder' into the more prosperous West), also the Federal Minister of Transport, Wolfgang Tiefensee, said the investment is 'a trailblazing project for the development of second generation biofuel production' and it proves that investment assistance for companies that want to establish themselves in East Germany remains a central component of the policy for the reconstruction of the regions economic structure.

The company is currently building the world’s industrial scale BTL plant (Beta plant) at its Freiberg site. From 2008, the plant is expected to produce approximately 15,000 metric tons of fuel a year. This would be sufficient to meet the annual requirements of some 15,000 cars.

But Choren's large plans for biomass-to-liquids and the first 200,000 ton plant to be located in Schwedt received a boost recently when both Volkswagen and Daimler - two of Germany's largest automakers - became minority shareolders in the company. These companies offer the key to ensure that a framework is created for the sustainable market introduction of the BtL fuels.

Last month the German Government also announced an ambitious new Biofuels Roadmap in which it massively increases 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). The new plan is aimed at encouraging the development of next-generation biofuels such as synthetic biodiesel.

Choren: Weltweit erste Großanlage für Biomasse-Kraftstoff soll in Schwedt entstehen - December 18, 2007.

Biopact: Volkswagen and Daimler become shareholders of BTL company CHOREN, aim to mass introduce ultra-clean synthetic biofuels - October 11, 2007

Biopact: Germany massively increases biofuels targets to kickstart next generation fuels: 10% in 2010, 20% in 2020 - November 22, 2007


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