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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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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Biogas maize holds large potential in Europe: report

According to research by the 'Institut für Lebensmittel- und Ressourcenökonomik' (Institute for Food and Resource Economics, ILR) at the University of Bonn, Germany, maize destined for the production of biogas holds great potential [*German] in Europe.

Maize ('corn' in the US) is a feedstock that can be used for the production of ethanol and biogas. But the conversion into a liquid fuel is energy inefficient compared to anaerobically fermenting it into biomethane. Per hectare, corn yields an average of 20 Gigajoules (45Gj max.) per year if converted into ethanol; when the crop is converted into biogas, it yields an average of 55 Gj (125Gj max.), some two to three times more useable energy (earlier post).

Biogas has the advantage that it can be used both as an automotive fuel (in CNG vehicles) and as an energy source for stationary applications (such as in biogas fuel cells or natural gas power plants). After cleaning the biomethane, it can be fed into the natural gas grid (earlier post). In Europe, energy maize is being bred as a dedicated crop for biogas production, with a 'super' variant that yields a much larger amount of easily methanisable biomass than ordinary variants (earlier post).

On the basis of these developments and advantages, IFRE scientist Thomas Breuer ran a large series of simulations and predicts that Germany's agriculture will be dominated by energy maize in the near future. A large-scale biogas industry that can compete with natural gas is feasible. For some regions, like the Landkreis Borken, 50% of the entire agricultural hectarage will be covered with the dedicated biogas maize. A similar situation will be found in the region of Neumünster, Schleswig Holstein:
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But Breuer says that, even though the technical potential for biogas looks very promising, government policies, both at the national as well as at the EU level are decisive. Tax incentives, subsidies, policies that reward biogas producers who feed green methane or electricity derived from it to the grid, are all needed for the permanent establishment of a large-scale biogas industry that can compete with natural gas.

Breuer observes that biogas is now capable of delivering energy under 'real economic parametres'. Rising fossil fuel demand from India and China put a never-ending pressure on oil and gas prices, making longterm investments in biogas a realistic alternative. Add the EU-policies on energy security and climate change, and the framework is set: "the EU intervenes very strongly now in the issue of energy independence and has given the go-ahead to invest in biomass and bioenergy; this creates a politically secure investment climate for biogas."

The projected increase in energy maize hectarages will especially impact grain maize (used for the livestock feed industry) and other grain crop production. "Maize can now be grown much more cheaply and more easily than before by farmers", says Breuer. No longer a 'specialist crop', the biogas opportunity will lead to considerable increases in production efficiency and yields for maize, the scientist thinks. Farmers who invest in energy maize are expected to invest more (of their higher profits) in knowledge and expertise than maize growers who supply the livestock feed market, boosting their competitive advantage.

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Philippines: government should use biofuel profits to fund coconut re-planting program

Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the congressman who drafted the Philippines' biofuel legislation, has urged the government to set aside the money it saved from the use of coco methyl-ester (biodiesel) to replant coconut plantations in copra-producing regions, like Bicol, that were hard hit by a series of typhoons last year (see UNICEF's assessment). Because indeed, biofuel crops are fragile. They are prone to diseases, pests, climatic factors and, in the case of coconut palms, typhoons. In most cases, these risks can be mitigated relatively easily, making energy plantations safe. But natural disasters like the typhoons in the Philippines, show that even for bioenergy, the risk of supply disruptions is always present.

Typhoons are not uncommon in the Philippines, but last year's storms were exceptionally intensive. Some see them as the result of global warming. So this is the situation we face: bioenergy and biofuel production is one of the safest, most effective strategies in combating climate change, but as we go ahead with implementing vast bioenergy programs, they might get affected negatively by the damages caused by what we are trying to fight...

The regions of Bicol, Eastern Visayas and Southern Tagalog account for a third, or 1 million hectares, of the 3.11 million hectares of land planted with coconut trees in the island state. Collectively, they account for 22 percent of the almost 2.5 million metric tons of annual copra production.

But three typhoons, Milenyo, Reming and Senyang whiped out some 365,000 hectares of the plantations, which is why some are calling for a "coconut rescue program".
"Bicol’s economy and future are linked to coconut. Copra is what lubricates the regional economy," said Zubiri, noting that the country is inching toward the mandatory sale of diesel blended with 1-percent coconut oil-derived biodiesel.

Zubiri said the government should earmark a portion of the fees and taxes collected from the production and sale of coco-diesel to rehabilitate coconut farms in the affected regions.
We need to guarantee the future supply of coco-diesel. The best way to do it is ensure that primary sources are made sustainable. -- Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri, main author of the recently signed Biofuels Act.
He noted that with coconut soon fueling diesel cars in the country, a percentage of government income from the sale of coco-diesel should be plowed back for re-planting coconut:
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The landmark Bio-Fuels Law of 2007 requires the mandatory blending upon the effectivity of the Bio-Fuels Act’s implementing rules.

Zubiri said with the projected sale of 657 billion pesos (€10.4/US$13.5 billion) worth of bio-fuels based on current levels of fuel consumption, an estimated 29 billion pesos (€460/US$595 million) will be saved by the government.

“That alone is a already an incentive for the government to undertake a coconut re-planting program, so we can help the coconut farmers, the motorists, and the environment because coco-diesel is a clean fuel,” said Zubiri.

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Green Energy Resources sees ice storm damage wood as biomass supply

Quicknote bioenergy feedstocks
One man's tragedy is another man's profit... US-based Green Energy Resources, a biomass feedstock supply company, announces it has contacted Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma to accept woodchips and waste wood resulting from the recent ice storms. Major cities such as St.Louis, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio have been affected. The woodchips need only be loaded on trucks, barges or rail cars for transportation.

The company has to meet supply orders covering more than 1 million tons for 2007. It is seeking to find low cost or no cost supplies and thinks storm damage woodchips are a cost effective method of alleviating disposal costs for communities, cities and states, while supplying the global renewable energy industry. Government entities could save millions of dollars in expenses by adopting a recycling plan such as the Urban Tree Certification system (UTCS) offered 'free' by Green Energy Resources.

In other news Green Energy Resources is seeking financing to purchase two woodchip vessels. The two ships are panamax size transports and expected to cost around $25-$30 million each. The ships could be available as early as March. Green Energy Resources is looking to charter or purchase as many as 5 vessels to meet current and future export demands.Green Energy Resources has targeted a 20% market share of the European biomass imports by 2011. Each vessel would generate approximately $15-$25 million or more in gross revenues per year for the company [entry ends here].
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