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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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Friday, December 28, 2007

Soil scientist: conserving forests by utilizing them for bioenergy

In this essay, Carol Kennedy, the forest soil scientist and watershed program manager for the Tahoe National Forest in California, explains why forest conservation can be enhanced by the use of forest biomass as a source of clean and renewable energy.

What would happen if the April showers that bring May flowers came in February instead? Do you think May's foliage might be affected?, she asks.

Most climate change models project significant changes in California's precipitation. We're in for longer summers and shorter winters. California, a state largely dependent on the Sierra Nevada snow pack for its drinking and irrigation water, can expect less snow.

The expected shift in precipitation has implications for everything from how farmers grow crops to aquatic species' survival, what Californians pay for drinking water, forest health and composition, firefighting costs and more. It also could mean more rolling blackouts.

With less snow melting, there may not be sufficient in-stream water to generate the hydroelectric power Californians rely on. Current predictions are that there won't be enough moisture to sustain our conifer-dominated forests. There will be dryer, stressed forests even more susceptible to insect infestation, disease and catastrophic wildfires than today's forests.

Imagine that — more than 8 million California acres stand at high or very high risk of wildfire, Californians spent more than $1 billion on firefighting between 2000 and 2006 and climate change figures to make the wildfire picture worse.

Fortunately, we can take steps to mitigate the impact of climate change on our forests and energy challenges.

It's no secret that many of California's forestlands are seriously overcrowded. On some public forestlands, more than 500 trees per acre stand where fewer than 80 per acre stood historically. The excess trees and shrubs, or biomass, often become fuel for devastating wildfires.

What if rather than watch all that biomass go up in smoke, we put it to good use making clean energy?

First, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires, which in itself would be significant. Wildfires in California release millions of tons of greenhouse gases every year. Removing biomass from the forest before it burns means fewer and less intense wildfires, which in turn means fewer greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere. It also could mean less loss of life and property:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

We'd get clean energy from a renewable resource in return. Burning fossil fuels for energy creates significant greenhouse gas emissions; burning biomass for energy does not.

There's also a substitution benefit. By not burning fossil fuels to produce the energy instead being generated from biomass we can realize additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, removing some biomass frees remaining trees from competition for water and nutrients so they grow faster and absorb carbon more efficiently. Plus, harvesting some trees to become wood products can keep much of the carbon they absorbed stored long-term in homes and furniture. Replanting begins the cycle again, with young, growing trees rapidly turning carbon dioxide into wood fibers.

Today, biomass contributes less than 2 percent of California's energy. That should change.

The obstacles that have prevented biomass from playing a bigger role in California's energy picture should not prove insurmountable. Biomass energy remains relatively expensive to produce, but its costs can't be viewed in a vacuum [note, generically speaking, biomass is the most competitive of all renewables - more here].

Utilizing biomass for energy, for instance, can save millions in firefighting costs.
Tapping biomass' potential will take innovative solutions and require private sector involvement. There isn't enough money in the federal budget to fund sufficient biomass removal without partnering with forest products companies. Adjusting the federal tax structure, which offers up to four times more production credits for wind and other renewable energy sources than biomass, should be on the table, too.

The Tahoe National Forest is taking a lead position in preparing for a warmer climate. We are working with the Placer County Water Agency to figure out how forest management and biomass energy might help offset its expected loss in hydroelectric power production due to a changing climate. In addition, the Tahoe is one of two national forests on the West Coast serving as case studies in climate change.

Now is the time to conserve our forests. If we want to sustain California's forests, we should manage our natural resources to make biomass energy a meaningful part of our efforts to address climate change.

The Tahoe National Forest straddles the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California, and encompasses a vast territory, from the golden foothills on the western slope to the high peaks of the Sierra crest. Carol Kennedy is the Forest Soil Scientist and Watershed Program Manager on the Tahoe National Forest, where she has worked since 1989. She is the Tahoe National Forest’s expert on climate effects on Sierra Nevada forests. Kennedy graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has worked for the Bureau of Land Management, Soil Conservation Service and the Forest Service.

Sierra Sun: Now is the time to conserve our forests - December 26, 2007.


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