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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Nipah ethanol project receives major investment

One of last year's most exotic stories came from Perak state, in Malaysia. There, a company is investing in a project to produce ethanol from the mysterious mangrove palm, also known as nipah (Nypa fruticans) (earlier post). Nipah palms are known for their extreme productivity: year round, they yield thousands of liters of sugar-rich sap, which is traditionally used to make alcohol and sweet liquors. Some researchers have found theoretical yields of 15,000 to 20,000 liters of ethanol per hectare of nipah stands.

Pioneer Bio Industries Corp Sdn Bhd, the company that invented a process to delay the spontaneous fermentation of tapped nipah sap, has now announced the scale of its investment. The company is committing not less than 1.4 billion ringgit (€304/US398 million) to set up the country’s first refinery plant to produce nipah ethanol on a large scale.
  • the factory will be built in the 1,000ha area where some 6,000 wild nipah trees were found growing in abundance in Trong, about 12km from the city of Taiping
  • scheduled to be in operation by early next year
  • capacity to process some 1.8 billion litres (475.5 million gallons) of ethanol per year; this is roughly 21,700 barrels of oil equivalent per day
  • major portion of the ethanol will be exported while only a small percentage would be marketed locally
Chairman Md Badrul Shah Mohd Noor estimated that the company would be investing a total of 43.2 billion ringgit over the next three years for the ethanol production project in Perak. This includes the building of nine refinery plants at areas where the company has been given the right to tap nipah sap. The wild nipah areas would be turned into mini-estates:
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Badrul adds that "ethanol is now much sought after in view of the increasing awareness among countries on the need to switch to biofuel to protect the environment. Besides, its usage could also help to save a country’s non-renewable oil reserve."

Local demand for ethanol would mainly come from the medical-related industry. Pioneer Bio Industries is a subsidiary of Pioneer Vaccination Biotech Corp Sdn Bhd, which has been in the biotechnology business since 2003.

Tajol Rosli, state governor, said the state government would share profits from the ethanol production based on land ownership. "We are only giving the company the right to tap nipah sap while maintaining the titles of all the sites they are operating on. Based on our share of land equity in the project, we expect an annual income of at least 324 million ringgit (€70.5/US$92.2 million)." Besides royalties for the state, the project is expected to bring a considerable number of jobs (earlier post).

Pioneer Bio Industries has also been given the right to tap the sap from 14,000ha of nipah trees found in the state’s coastal areas. Finally, the company is allowed to convert 1,000ha of coconut smallholdings in Bagan Datoh to plant nipah on a commercial scale.

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