<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    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.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Survey on low carbon technologies ranks bioenergy in the middle of the pack

According to a poll on low carbon technologies conducted by conservationists amongst climate policy makers, bioenergy technologies rank in the middle of the pack. First-generation biofuels are not seen as having a large potential to reduce emissions, while next-generation biofuels, 'biomass from forests' and cogeneration rank much better. The survey did not include third and fourth generation biofuels, nor carbon-negative bioenergy, the most radical technology with which to reduce emissions. The poll also contradicts some basic scientific and economic facts, which is interesting in itself.

The results indicate that the bioenergy community must tackle two problems simultaneously: first there is a clear lack of understanding of the basics of the bioenergy sector, and thus an obvious need to educate policy makers and environmentalists; secondly, it must try to convince campaigners wary of bioenergy of the many potential benefits of the sector. Scientists from the community are not used to lobbying, but it is becoming ever more clear that they too must begin to engage in such an effort.

The poll of 1000 climate decision makers and 'influencers' (environmental lobbyists) was presented by the World Conservation Union, an NGO, in Bali, where policy makers are discussing a post-Kyoto framework aimed at lowering emissions. The results are shown in the graph (click to enlarge).

World upside down
A few observations must be made to explain the quite incomprehensible opinions. The first issue to note is the fact that the polled people rank photovoltaic cells at the top of the list. Objectively speaking, this technology (1) results in more emissions (100 gCO2/kWh) than either wind or bioenergy (both 30 gCO2/kWh), and (2) is by far the most expensive of all possible technologies, up to 10 times as costly as bioenergy, the least expensive per ton of carbon dioxide avoided and per kWh of electricity generated (table, click to enlarge).

The question thus is: why would anyone assume that in a world in which economic feasibility and not idealism is one of the key drivers of achieving a low carbon economy, the most expensive technology represents the best way forward? This survey result is incomprehensible, but we assume questions were put in an idealistic manner and did not delve into how feasible, scaleable and cost-effective the low carbon technologies are. Realism is not one of the hallmarks of the conservationist and environmentalist discourse.

Secondly, the poll does not include the most radical of all technologies capable of reducing emissions, namely carbon-negative bioenergy. This is not difficult to understand: the concept of negative emissions energy has not yet penetrated the policy world and environmentalists are wary of it, because it represents the coupling of high technology being developed in the fossil fuel industry (namely carbon capture and storage - CCS) to bioenergy and biohydrogen production.

Objectively speaking, only bioenergy can result in the production of negative emissions energy. Clean coal which draws on CCS can never become 'carbon negative', because the feedstock is not carbon-neutral. Likewise, all other energy technologies can only remain 'carbon-neutral' at best: they do not add new emissions to the atmosphere, but they do not take carbon dioxide out of it either. Bio-energy with carbon storage (BECS) on the contrary is carbon-negative: it takes historic carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and can take us back to pre-industrial levels by 2050 (according to the Abrupt Climate Change Strategy group, which has a mandate to study the technology). A biomass power plant coupled to CCS can yield up to minus 1000 gCO2/kWh (that is: -1000gCO2). All other energy technologies have a positive carbon balance ranging from +10 to +100gCO2eq).

In short, the poll is grossly incomplete, because it doesn't include the most powerful technology available to reduce emissions. This of course says a lot about the quality of the survey.

Thirdly, the survey did not take into account the social and economic benefits of the technologies in question. There is a large body of research comparing the employment opportunities generated by different energy technologies. Again, bioenergy ranks at the top of the list, solar photovoltaic at the bottom. Bioenergy also offers a massive opportunity for sustainable development in the developing world, more than any other technology. This is tied to the economics of the energy technologies: bioenergy offers a way to boost economic growth (because countries and rural communities can trade on and export to a global market), whereas all other technologies come at a heavy economic cost. We think economic growth offers a better strategy to conserve the environment than energy insecurity and rural poverty, which are key drivers of environmental degradation. Once more, we can only deduce that these slightly more complex perspectives were not taken into account in the survey.

Finally, the poll results contradict what is actually happening on the ground, the actions of real policy makers and of investors in renewables:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Since 2005, bioenergy has been - by far - the fastest growing renewables sector. The economics are clearly in favor of their promotion, because they are versatile (biomass can be turned in both gaseous, liquid and solid biofuels, and in electricity), can immediately replace fossil fuels in existing infrastructures and thus have an immediate impact on reducing emissions. No other technology achieves this. Moreover, bioenergy does not have the many drawbacks associated with wind or solar power, most notably their lack of the capacity to provide baseload power. In fact, in Germany, the leader in wind power, the sector has even fueled a growth in coal consumption because of this lack of baseload.

Moreover, the countries that will really matter in the future and that currently are low per capita carbon emitters, have all put bioenergy at the top of their priorities. In China, bioenergy tops list in the longterm renewable energy plan alongside wind power; photovoltaics rank bottom because their economic unattractiveness does not allow them to make a big difference in reducing emissions. Likewise, in India, the biggest potential for clean energy is found in bioenergy, with wind and small hydro contributing far less; solar is seen as having an extremely small realistic potential (earlier post).

There can be only one conclusion from the survey: the bioenergy community must urgently start a campaign to educate policy makers about the sector. The lack of knowledge is simply staggering. Additionally, the community should attempt to bring anti-biofuels advocates back to reason. Like Achim Steiner, head of the UN's Environment Program (UNEP) recently said: these campaigners use 'sledgehammer' tactics and have dumbed down a complex debate by pushing 'extremely simplistic' views on a complex matter. This must be avoided in the future.

Maybe the bioenergy community could begin by conducting a survey amongst environmentalists and conservationists about their knowledge of negative emissions energy systems. The lack of understanding of this key prospect for bioenergy is a first area on which the bioenergy community could focus its educational efforts.

IUCN: Put biodiversity at centre of climate debate, says new experts survey - December 10, 2007.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home