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

    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.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Experts see 2007 as the year of biogas; biomethane as a transport fuel

Biomethane or biogas (CH4), chemically the same as natural gas yet available from essentially any kind of organic waste, is rapidly emerging as a viable renewable alternative to fossil fuels and could be the next 'hot' fuel this year. Biomethane's fundamental production efficiencies make it competitive with such better known liquid fuels as biodiesel and ethanol, even though vehicles need special fuel tanks to handle it. That's the word from Fleets & Fuels, a newsletter on advanced technology vehicles and the fuels that drive them. "We're extremely excited about the potential for biomethane," says Fleets & Fuels editor Rich Piellisch. "Its potential production efficiencies are terrific, and not at all dependent on the fossil fuel markets."

Those who have read Biopact on a regular basis have seen that we didn't have to wait for 2007 to see a biogas boom, because 2006 already did its part. Allow us to present a quick overview of developments and topics we devoted to the subject:

Biogas applications
The large-scale use of biomethane made headlines in Europe when several cities implemented innovative biogas projects that deliver power and heat to households. The gas can be used like natural gas in large existing power plants, or in smaller, dedicated, and highly efficient combined heat-and-power plants. In Germany, a unique large biogas digesting facility delivers biomethane to a city via a dedicated pipeline; the biogas maize (the feedstock) is irrigated with waste-water from the city, thus creating a loop of waste-streams that result in a very clean energy system (earlier post). In Austria, a pilot project is underway to build a genuine biorefinery around biogas, in which lactic acid byproducts yield the chemical building blocks for high value added green chemistry. The refinery-cum-power plant will deliver heat, electricity, specialty products and bioplastics (earlier post).

In an equally exiting project, the world's first large biogas fuel cell is delivering power and heat to a German district, in what is probably the most efficient energy system currently in operation anywhere (earlier post).

When produced on a large scale, biogas can also simply be fed into the natural gas grid and enter the energy mix without consumers noticing it. A select number of European firms (such as energy giant E.ON and world leading biogas plant manufacturer Schmack) has already begun doing so, while farmers who generate excess biogas on their farms make use of incentives to sell the electricity they generate from it to the main power grid. In Germany alone, some 5000 farmers did exactly that, last year. (For the stories on biogas as an automotive fuel, see below).

Biogas crops
Several European countries are experimenting with dedicated biogas energy crops, such as newly bred grass varieties (Sudan grass and tropical grass hybrids) or biogas 'super maize' developed in France. The crops are developed in such a way that they ferment more easily and yield enough gas when used as a single substrate.
Sweden is making a large investment in producing biogas from wood chips - a process that is more efficient and considerably less costly than the production of cellulosic ethanol (which has not yet achieved commercial status) (earlier post):

Contrary to first-generation ethanol crops, biogas crops can be used whole, which allows for the use of far more biomass per hectare. The conclusion of a German life-cycle analysis is that of all biofuels (including cellulosic ethanol, biomethanol and BTL-fuels), the production of biogas from dedicated crops yields more energy per hectare than any other biofuel production path and generates far less CO2 (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Biogas production technologies
The technologies to purify biogas to natural gas standards (96% methane content) are now available, wich allow the gas to be fed into natural gas grids and onwards to fuel stations. One of those technologies involves the use of algae which scrub CO2 and trace chemicals out of the biomethane, thus making the purification process itself green and renewable (earlier post). High-tech sensors have been developed that make monitoring the fermentation stages of organic feedstocks easier and the production process safer (earlier post).
Manufacturers of farm equipment are jumping on the booming biogas industry, by developing dedicated machines that can harvest grass (a preferred feedstock) more easily (earlier post).

Biogas-capable vehicles and infrastructures
In theory, all compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, of which there are some 5 million on the road worldwide, can use compressed biogas (CBG). Several car manufacturers however have developed multi-flex vehicles that explicitly cater to the use of biogas. Amongst them Fiat whose 'Multipla Multi-Eco' vehicle is a tri-fuel, that operates on two types of biofuel (ethanol and biogas) and ordinary gasoline (earlier post). In India, car manufacturers are looking into developing biogas-hybrids (earlier post).

In Europe, several projects are showing success with the use of biogas in public transport. The BiogasMax program that covers the French city of Lille and the Swedish city of Linkoping showed that the gas can be used in a very beneficial way in buses and large trucks (e.g. waste collecting trucks), because they allow for the concentration of dedicated refuelling infrastructures. Lille now has more than 100 biogas buses, Linkoping has 65. The project in Lille has inspired a developing country, the island state of Mauritius, whose state-run bus company will start using biogas in the country's largest public transport fleet (earlier post).

Last year, Sweden launched the world's first biogas train, a story well covered by mainstream media, while at the other side of the planet, in Australia, a project is underway which aims to utilize the vast stream of easily fermentable biomass released by a large banana plantation, for biomethane production. The gas will power all main farm equipment on the plantation (earlier post).

When it comes to the creation of an infrastructure that can service ordinary car users, major developments are underway as well. German energy giant E.ON is building over 150 fuel stations, supplied by its own biogas production facilities (earlier post). In 2006, Austria opened its first biogas fuelling stations (earlier post), Germany did so too (earlier post).

The construction of dedicated infrastructures is one of the biggest hurdles to get compressed biogas accepted as a main biofuel. But when we look at some developing countries, we see that it is not impossible. Pakistan, for example, succeeded in getting over 1 million CNG-capable cars on the road in under two years time, in a crash program that involved the creation of CNG-refuelling stations and the conversion of cars (earlier post). Compressed Biogas (CBG) could be integrated into such a CNG infrastructure with no major investments.

Biogas advantages and potential
The European Union commissioned a well-to-wheel study of over 70 different fuels, both renewable and fossil fuels. Its conclusion: biogas is the most carbon-neutral of all fuels (in some cases it is carbon-negative), and if derived from dedicated biomethane crops, it yields more energy per hectare than all other non-tropical biofuels (including cellulosic ethanol).

In Germany, a biogas pioneer who took up a role of energy advisor to the Federal Government, estimated that the potential of biogas is so great that it can replace all natural gas imports from Russia by 2030 (earlier post). The German Biogas Association is equally optimistic but puts the potential at half that (earlier post).

Since large-scale production of biogas is less technology intensive than other biofuels (certainly compared to next-generation green fuels), it presents a highly suitable component for a new energy paradigm for the developing world. Many countries in the South do not have a full-fledged fossil fuel infrastructure in place yet, so they still have the option of introducing CNG/CBG cars and infrastructures on a large scale. Biogas could become an important element of an 'energy leapfrogging' strategy in the South - Pakistan's successful CNG crash program makes the case, as does Mauritius's switch to biogas for its public transport bus fleet.

One advantage of biogas that might become important in the future, is that it can be used to make hydrogen in an economic way. Hydrogen is currently made almost exclusively from natural gas, which is why it isn't a 'clean' and 'carbon neutral' fuel. If made from electrolysis, hydrogen production is extremely energy intensive and very costly. So the idea is to use the same processes now used to make the hydrogen from natural gas, but only to quit using the fossil fuel and replace it with the green gas.

Finally, and on another note, biogas from dedicated energy crops offers an avenue towards the creation of radically carbon negative energy systems, by coupling carbon storage technologies to biogas power plants. In fact, such 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) systems are our surest bet to geo-engineer the planet in case it were to undergo 'abrupt climate change' (earlier post).

In short, this incomplete overview of stories on biomethane shows that, to us, 2006 already was fuelled by biogas. But let us listen to how Fleets & Fuels assesses the prospects for this year. "We're extremely excited about the potential for biomethane," said Fleets & Fuels editor Rich Piellisch. "Its potential production efficiencies are terrific, and not at all dependent on the fossil fuel markets," Piellisch said. "And, because its production actually consumes potent greenhouse gases that are often vented to the atmosphere, there's a double benefit in terms of climate change mitigation.

"The single investment in suitable vehicles pays off many times during the life of those very clean vehicles.

"Biomethane is fast proving itself in Europe, and entrepreneurs and policymakers in the United States are becoming aware of it too," Piellisch added.

Article continues

Saab sets new global sales record in 2006; ethanol vehicle drives success

Sweden is one of the most active biofuels players within the European Union. The country leads the development of new biofuels (such as biogas as an automotive fuel - earlier post), but it also imports a large quantity of competitive ethanol from the Global South, where it is actively investing in biofuel production (earlier post). Swedish car manufacturers play a significant role in getting the country's biofuels program off the ground and are deriving clear benefits from it.

Premium Swedish car manufacturer Saab is amongst them; the company announced it achieved its strongest-ever global sales performance last year, growing worldwide sales by 5.4 per cent compared to 2005 and also setting a best-ever sales volume in Europe. Global sales increased to 133,167 cars, exceeding the previous record set in 2000. For the second year running, European sales boomed, increasing by 11.1 per cent in 2006 compared to the previous year. This established a new sales record of 88,859 units for the region, which was well ahead of the previous benchmark set in 2005.

In terms of individual markets, Saab’s home market of Sweden performed exceptionally well during 2006, with full-year volumes up by 20.5 per cent. Much of this growth can be attributed to the enormous success of the Saab 9-5 BioPower flex-fuel car, which has taken the Swedish market by storm since its launch in mid-2005. Saab sold almost 11,000 9-5 BioPowers during 2006 in Sweden, meaning that almost one in three environmentally-friendly car sales in that market was a Saab BioPower. The green succes car has received a lot of attention after Richard Branson, a major biofuels investor, endorsed it by buying and touring one:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

In the UK, which is Saab’s single largest market outside of the US, the Swedish brand took its highest-ever share of the new car market, at 1.15 per cent. Booming retail demand, which swelled by an impressive 12 per cent in 2006 compared to 2005, contributed to healthy full-year volumes of 26,962 units. British customers confirmed their penchant for soft-top motoring as well during the year, buying more Saab 9-3 Convertibles in 2006 than in any other year since UK sales began in 1960.

Looking at model ranges globally, Saab 9-3 sales grew by seven per cent around the world last year, helped by the successful launch of the 9-3 SportWagon in the second half of 2005. Sales of the revised Saab 9-5 range, including the environmentally-friendly BioPower range, meanwhile, increased by six per cent.

Most encouragingly of all, however, Saab ended the year with an overflowing order bank for its key European markets, promising a great start to the year in which Saab celebrates 60 years of making cars.

Commenting on the news, Jonathan Nash, Managing Director of Saab Great Britain, remarked: “2006 has been a fantastic year for Saab in more ways than one. The unveiling of the Aero X concept car back in March reinforced Saab’s position at the forefront of avant-garde and cutting-edge car design. Shortly after then, Saab hit the headlines with the first deliveries of the 9-5 BioPower, which is the world’s first turbocharged car able to run on bioethanol, proving that responsible motoring can be exciting. The fact that Saab has enjoyed double-digit retail growth in a year when the rest of the UK market struggled is the icing on the cake for us.”

Nash continued: “I am confident that 2007 will be an equally positive year for Saab. The continued focus on our BioPower range of environmentally-friendly cars is sure to keep Saab firmly at the top of the green agenda, whilst the celebrations surrounding 60 years of Saab building cars will keep the British public’s interest in this great brand at their highest-ever levels.”

Article continues

MIT study shows corn ethanol's marginal energy benefit; tropical biofuels make more sense

Planting more corn to make ethanol is not a good idea, a new MIT study has found. Controversy over the benefits of using corn-based ethanol in vehicles has been fueled by studies showing that converting corn into ethanol may use more fossil energy than the energy contained in the ethanol produced. The new MIT analysis shows that the energy balance is actually so close that several factors can easily change whether ethanol ends up a net energy winner or loser.

This new analysis is important, because it shows once again that 'first generation' corn ethanol - a true 'lobby fuel' that is excessively subsidized (earlier post) - is a waste of money and energy. As the chief of the International Energy Agency, Claude Mandil, recently said: consumers in the West better import biofuels produced from crops that yield far more useable biomass and fuels, such as those that grow in the tropics (sugarcane, cassava, sweet potatoes, to name but a few). This is the 'green' thing to do (earlier post).

The Bush administration is pushing the use of ethanol as a domestically available, non-petroleum alternative to gasoline. But most U.S. ethanol is now made from corn, and growing corn and converting the kernels into ethanol consume a lot of energy--comparable to what is contained in the ethanol produced. Making ethanol from corn stalks, other agricultural wastes and wild grasses would consume less energy, but the technology for converting them to ethanol may not be economically viable for another five or so years.

So does using corn-based ethanol in place of gasoline actually make energy consumption and emissions go up, as some researchers claim? Why do others reach the opposite conclusion? And how much better would ethanol from "cellulosic" feedstocks such as switchgrass be?

To answer those questions, Tiffany A. Groode, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering, performed her own study, supervised by John B. Heywood, Sun Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Negative energy balance
Using a technique called life cycle analysis, she looked at energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with all the steps in making and using ethanol, from growing the crop to converting it into ethanol. She limited energy sources to fossil fuels. Finally, she accounted for the different energy contents of gasoline and ethanol. Pure ethanol carries 30 percent less energy per gallon, so more is needed to travel a given distance:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

While most studies follow those guidelines, Groode added one more feature: She incorporated the uncertainty associated with the values of many of the inputs. Following a methodology developed by recent MIT graduate Jeremy Johnson (Ph.D. 2006), she used not just one value for each key variable (such as the amount of fertilizer required), but rather a range of values along with the probability that each of those values would occur. In a single analysis, her model runs thousands of times with varying input values, generating a range of results, some more probable than others.

Based on her "most likely" outcomes, she concluded that traveling a kilometer using ethanol does indeed consume more energy than traveling the same distance using gasoline. However, further analyses showed that several factors can easily change the outcome, rendering corn-based ethanol a slightly "greener" fuel.

Co-products and 'system boundary'
One such factor is the much-debated co-product credit. When corn is converted into ethanol, the material that remains is a high-protein animal feed. One assumption is that the availability of that feed will enable traditional feed manufacturers to produce less, saving energy; ethanol producers should therefore get to subtract those energy savings from their energy consumption. When Groode put co-product credits into her calculations, ethanol's life-cycle energy use became lower than gasoline's.

Another factor that influences the outcome is which energy-using factors of production are included and excluded--the so-called system boundary. This part of life-cycle research evokes a lot of debate. In principle, the system boundary can be extremely broad, even bordering the absurd. (A case of imposing an absurd system boundary would be to include in the calculus the energy needed to grow the food that the biofuel farmers and processing plant managers consume each year so they can carry out their job...). A study performed by Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University in 2003 sets such a very broad system boundary. It includes energy-consuming inputs that other studies do not, one example being the manufacture of farm machinery. This way, his analysis concludes that using corn-based ethanol yields a significant net energy loss. Other studies with more strict system boundaries conclude the opposite.

To determine the importance of the system boundary, Groode compared her own analysis, the study by Pimentel and three other reputable studies, considering the same energy-consuming inputs and no co-product credits in each case.

"The results show that everybody is basically correct," she said. "The energy balance is so close that the outcome depends on exactly how you define the problem." The results also serve to validate her methodology: Results from the other studies fall within the range of her more probable results.

Cellulosic ethanol more promising
Growing more corn may not be the best route to expanding ethanol production. Other options include using corn stover (the plants and husks that are left on the field), or growing an "energy crop" such as switchgrass. While corn kernels are mostly starch, corn stover and switchgrass are primarily cellulose. Commercial technologies to make ethanol from cellulose are not yet available, but laboratory and pilot-scale tests are generating useful data on processing techniques. So how do cellulosic sources measure up in terms of saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Using her methodology, Groode performed an initial analysis of switchgrass and, drawing again on Johnson's work, corn stover. She found that fossil energy consumption is far lower with these two cellulosic sources than for the corn kernels.

Farming corn stover requires energy only for harvesting and transporting the material. (Fertilizer and other inputs are assumed to be associated with growing the kernels.) Growing switchgrass is even less energy intensive. It requires minimal fertilizer, its life cycle is about 10 years, so it need not be replanted each year, and it can be grown almost anywhere, so transport costs can be minimized.

Groode and Heywood now view the three ethanol sources as a continuum. In the future, cellulosic sources such as corn stover and ultimately switchgrass can provide large quantities of ethanol for widespread use as a transportation fuel. In the meantime, ethanol made from corn can provide some immediate benefits.

"I view corn-based ethanol as a stepping-stone," said Groode. "People can buy flexible-fuel vehicles right now and get used to the idea that ethanol or E85 works in their car. If ethanol is produced from a more environmentally friendly source in the future, we'll be ready for it."

Tropical crops: highly positive balance
Compared to corn ethanol's minor energy benefit, biofuels made from tropical crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, sugar cane or sweet sorghum have a very strong energy balance. Let us take the case of sugar cane ethanol, for which detailed life-cycle analyses have been carried out. The most authoritative study puts the energy balance at between 8 and 10 to 1. This means that for each unit of energy you put into planting, harvesting and processing the canes, you end up with 8 to 10 times more energy in the form of biofuel (earlier post).

Similar numbers can be found for most other tropical biofuel crops. The reasons for this large difference are relatively easy to understand: the agro-ecological circumstances in the tropics -- the amount of sunshine, rain, the length of the growing period, etc... -- combined with the special nature of the crops, are such that the crops' natural biomass productivity is consistently high.

For some crops, such as sweet potatoes, energy balance analyses have been carried out that look at using the easily convertible parts of the crop only (in this case, the starch-rich roots; sweet potato ethanol's energy balance approaches that of sugar cane ethanol); if, as is the case with the MIT study, the 'co-product' credit of the processed biomass was taken into account, the energy balance would be considerably higher still.

Article continues

Indonesia's $12.4bn biofuels plan inaugurated today; CNOOC to invest $5.5bn

In a ceremony held in Jakarta this morning, biofuel superpower Indonesia gave the green light to its massive bioenergy plan (earlier post) with the signing of 67 contracts for biofuel development. The contracts, which fall under the 'Joint Initiative for Biofuel Development', represent a total of €9.5/US$12.4 billion. The ceremony was attended by 9 Ministers and hosted by Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

Among the firms and institutions that will invest in Indonesian biofuels are:
  • The China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) which has committed to invest a staggering €4.2/US$5.5 billion
  • Malaysia-based Genting Energy brings in €2.3/US$3 billion
  • The investment of Hong Kong Energy was not disclosed but is expected to be in the billions too
  • Besides direct foreign investments, Indonesian (state-owned) Banks are to disburse 25 trillion rupiah (€2/US$2.7 billion) in loans to finance local farmers that help the biofuel projects (earlier post).
  • The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), the Research and Development Division of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources are amongst the scientific institutions that signed the Memoranda of Understanding to support biofuels projects in Indonesia.
Indonesia's bioenergy plan is expected to boost the rural economy and to bring employment and job security to 2.5 million people by 2010 (earlier post):

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The tropical island state is host to a myriad of energy crops that yield high amounts of useable energy. Under the bioenergy program, the government has committed 6 million hectares of land for the cultivation of four crops it deems to be most promising: sugarcane, cassava, jatropha and oil palm. Besides the establishment of new plantations, increasing the efficiency of smallholder activities and replanting old estates are amongst the priorities. When it comes to palm oil, a large number of Indonesia's farmers are smallholders who produce some 40% of the country's total oil output. It is expected that the ratio between smallholders and large estates is not to change dramatically under the bioenergy plan.

The funds released by banks will mainly go towards smallholders, even though the State is contributing a large amount of money for the creation of new infrastructures aimed at turning Indonesia into a biofuel economy. Infrastructures that are receiving funds include the building of rural extension roads, dedicated railways from estates to processing centres, and new port facilities.

Among the Ministries attending the signing ceremony were Coordinating Minister for Economy, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, Minister of Agriculture, State Minister for the Environment, Minister of Trade and State Minister for State Owned Company. The program was also attended by 7 Governors and 18 Regents from across the country.

According to the Chairman of the National Team for Bioenergy Development, Al-Hilal Hamdi, the commitment for investment on biofuels came to a total of US$12.4 billion from upstream to downstream activities.

The Indonesian overnment strongly encourages the private sectors to develop biofuels in order to reduce the country's dependency on oil. Even though Indonesia is an OPEC member, its own oil production has gone into decline, and the 220 million strong country has become a net oil importer.

Article continues