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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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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Brazil boosts biofuels sector: €6.2 billion investments, 123 new plants, pipelines by 2010

The world's leading green fuel producer is stepping up its efforts to create a global market for biofuels, in an impressive way. As part of a major industrial program launched by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, aimed at speeding up economic growth in Latin America's largest country, Brazilian companies and other investors are to pour an estimated 17.4 billion Brazilian reais (€6.2/US$8.1billion) in the country’s biofuels sector over the next four years, the Energy Ministry says.

Minister Silas Rondeau said Brazil's ethanol output would grow by 40% to 23.3 billion liters from the current 16.7 billion by 2010 and biodiesel production would grow to 3.3 billion liters from the roughly 800 million liters now.

An advisor to the minister said the figure was a forecast of investment from the public and private sectors combined and that no Treasury funds were included. Government investment would come through the state-run oil and gas company Petrobras. The new investments in Brazil's biofuels sector will result in the following, impressive numbers and projects:
  • ethanol: the construction of 77 new ethanol plants has been confirmed, which will produce about 40% more ethanol in four years time than the roughly 17.5 billion liters of ethanol the country is expected to produce in its 2006-07 sugarcane season (May-April).
  • biodiesel: the country is on track to produce four times more biodiesel by 2010, compared to the roughly 840 million liters of biodiesel that local companies are set to deliver to Petrobras by the end of this year. 46 new biodiesel plants will be built by 2010.
  • H-bio: Petrobras plans to invest 150 million reais (€54/US$70 million) to make its innovatie, vegetable oil-diesel blend called H-Bio in four refineries in the states of Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul and Sao Paulo in 2007 (more on H-Bio).
  • dedicated pipelines: two ethanol pipelines spanning a combined total of 1,150 kilometers will be built by Petrobas. The first of these pipelines is a pipe running from the center-south state of Goias to Sao Sebastiao port in Sao Paulo state. Its construction has already begun (earlier post). The second is a proposed pipeline that would carry both ethanol and biodiesel. It would begin in the Mato Grosso state capital of Cuiaba and run to the country’s No. 2 port of Paranagua in the southern state of Parana. Both pipelines must serve the expanding global market for biofuels.
"These are projects that are confirmed - they have either started construction already or have the financing all set" a ministry spokesperson said:
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In addition to these pipelines, Petrobras has also committed to investing 570 million reais (€201/US$266 million) in three biodiesel plants with the combined capacity of producing 150,000 tons of biodiesel per year, with additional plants possibly underway.

"We're still negotiating with the private sector," said Jose Sergio Gabrielli, president of Petrobras. "The share (of the company's investment) is not predetermined."

Brazil has one of the world's most developed biofuels markets with over 30,000 filling stations offering motorists cane-based fuel ethanol. The country is also about to make a 2 percent biodiesel blend mandatory nationally in 2008.

The country currently has over 300 sugarcane mills that can produce ethanol, as well as a handful of biodiesel plants. It is also one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of biofuels, principally of sugarcane-based ethanol.

Last week, the president of Brazil's Cane Industry Association (Unica), Eduardo Pereira de Carvalho, said that current investments in cane milling and distillation capacity were estimated at €11/US$15 billion dollars. This figure includes sugar refining as well.

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As world's view of Washington worsens, corporate America pushes White House to tackle climate change

A Globescan/BBC/PIPA global opinion poll [*.pdf] shows that the world's view of American leadership is going from bad to worse. Some 60 to 80% of the 26,000 people questioned in 25 countries now disapprove of the way Washington deals with major international issues. Obvious geopolitical failures (Iraq, the Israelo-Palestinian conflict and the crisis in Lebanon, nuclear proliferation) are the main cause. The Globescan survey also included a series of questions on climate change, the most pressing and serious of global challenges. And once again, the participants think the U.S. is out of sync with reality and should do much more to combat global warming. After all, the U.S. is the world's largest polluter and responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions.

Surprisingly, on the latter issue, major forces within the U.S. now seem to agree with world opinion. On the eve of President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, a new alliance of NGOs and major US corporations has launched an appeal for mandatory action to reduce greenhouse gases.

The corporations (including DuPont, BP, GE, Alcoa and others) and four environmental groups (Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the World Resources Institute) presented the new US Climate Change Action Partnership (USCAP) on 22 January 2007. In its report, "A call for action" [*.pdf] the USCAP urges the federal US government to come up with strong legislation to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The alliance proposes to set mandatory caps on emissions with the aim of reducing them by 30% over the next 15 years.

President Bush is not expected to give in to this new climate-change lobbying when he gives his annual State of the Union speech on 23 January. According to US media, he will put energy security once more at the heart of his policies and embrace ethanol as the miracle solution to fight America's energy dependency.

Since the president rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, the US has come to be seen by many Europeans as the leader of the "axis of climate-change evil". With the US on the sidelines, the European Union has claimed world leadership in efforts to combat global warming and turned its greenhouse-gas emissions trading scheme - despite all its weaknesses - into a model solution:
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But, under pressure from European industry's fears of loss of competitiveness, the EU is struggling with its leadership role. Although the Commission promised unilateral emission reductions of 20% by 2020 in its recent energy-climate change package, it has difficulties finding a compromise between its climate change strategy and its economic growth and competitiveness (Lisbon Agenda) objectives, once more precise policies are on the table, as suggested by the Commission's internal fighting over CO2 emissions from passenger cars. A proposal to replace the current voluntary agreement with car producers and introduce binding legislative targets was postponed on 23 January 2007 due to heavy lobbying from industry and the Commission's Enterprise directorate.

In the meantime, US energy ideology is undergoing a climate-change shift, with only the federal government still hesitant to make a similar U-turn. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has become the champion of climate-change activists, introducing measures for a 25% reduction of emissions by 2020 and a low-carbon standard for automotive fuels.

The new Democrats majority in the US Congress has also put climate change high on its agenda. In its first 100 hours, House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the establishment of a new select committee on climate change and introduced legislation on energy security. In the US Senate, Republican senator and possible 2008 presidential candidate John McCain is inviting a group of more than 80 global legislators to Washington to discuss climate change.

The new USCAP coalition is a clear signal that big business in the US has woken up to the climate-change issue and could have a major influence on the next presidential election campaign.

More information:

European Commission, Directorate-General of the Environment: Climate Change

United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP): Press release "Major businesses and environmental leaders unite to call for swift action on global climate change" - Jan. 22, 2007

United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP): USCAP web site

L'Expansion: Climat : des multinationales font pression sur Bush, Jan. 22, 2007

BBC News: Bush 'must fight climate change' - Jan. 22, 2007

Bloomberg: Bush rejects carbon cap; will stress alternative fuel, Jan. 22, 2007

On the Globescan poll:
BBC News: View of US's global role 'worse' - Jan. 23, 2007

Globescan: World View of US Role Goes From Bad to Worse - Jan 23, 2007.

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Arab-Brazilian Chamber participates in ethanol workshop in Sudan

Eearlier we referred to a highly interesting 'triangular' relationship that is growing between Brazil, Europe and Africa. The three continents are starting to cooperate in a typical 'South-North-South' formation, to produce biofuels in Africa (earlier post).

Roughly sketched, the idea boils down to the following, simple principle: ('South') Brazil offers its immense scientific and technological expertise on biofuel production and agriculture, ('North') Europe provides funds and strategies for technology transfers and for the smooth implementation of the projects within a socio-economic framework that is embedded in its development strategy for Africa, ('South') whereas the African partner not only offers land and labor but the willingness to engage in a dialogue on development strategies, and accepts to participate in joint efforts to create infrastructures, institutional changes and local/export markets. The three partners profit from mutual benefits that exceed the benefits they would obtain were they to go it alone.

In order for such an exchange to succeed, Brazil recently established the Centro de Agronegócio (created by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, the country's leading social science foundation), which has taken up bioenergy as one of its main research areas, and which aims to transfer Brazilian expertise to the South. From the start, the Centro announced it plans to cooperate with Europe to introduce biofuels in Africa. Sudan was one of the countries mentioned to be seen as holding a large potential. The Centro also sees it as its task to assist other organisations to pave the way for such exchanges.

The Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce is one such an organisation. Two of its representatives are in Sudan to participate in the Khartoum International Fair, which kicks off on Wednesday. Their prime objective is to participate in a seminar on ethanol production. They were invited by Kenana, Sudan's largest sugar company in the country.

Despite its oil wealth, war-troubled Sudan -- Africa's largest country -- is a potential 'biofuel superpower' that could supply Europe and Asia with renewable liquid fuels, competitively. After years of war, the country's agricultural resources have been left seriously underexploited. Assessments of Sudan's biofuel production potential show that, when all the food, fiber and fodder needs of the rapidely growing population are satisfied, there remains an abundance of land for highly suitable energy crops.

The country currently produces a modest amount of sugarcane and has been looking at the ethanol option. It now wants to cooperate with Brazil (and Europe) to get the green industry off the ground:
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The International Ethanol Workshop in Khartoum is promoted by the ministries of Industry and of Energy and Mining of the Arab country and will include the participation of two representatives of the Brazilian organization, the coordinator of operations, Rodrigo Solano, and the Market Development analyst, Jean Gonçalves da Silva. The Chamber was invited to participate in the seminar by Kenana Sugar Company, the largest company in the sugar and alcohol sector in Sudan.

Kenana belongs to the governments of Sudan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and to private investors. The company also has plans to produce ethanol, a product in which Brazil dominates the technology. Representatives of Kenana have already been in the country many times to learn more about the national production of alcohol and to seek Brazilian partners to operate in the sector in Sudan. Last year, executives of the company participated in an international seminar about ethanol, in São Paulo.

At the seminar, according to the secretary general at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Michel Alaby, it will be possible to learn more about Sudanese projects in the area and to check the possibility of supplying Brazilian equipment for the production of ethanol. According to Alaby, the Sudanese are interested in Brazilian equipment and technology for alcohol production. As is the case with Brazil, Sudan is a producer of sugarcane, the raw material from which the product made.

Brazil is the largest world producer of alcohol. In the current sugarcane crop, 2006/2007, the country should produce 17.4 billion litres of alcohol, of which 3.1 billion should be exported, according to forecasts by the São Paulo Sugar Cane Agroindustry Union (Unica). This production will be the result of a harvest of 425 million tonnes of sugarcane, which will be picked in April this year. By the 2012/2013 crop, Brazil should be exporting seven billion litres of ethanol, due to investment that the sector is due to receive. This harvest alone, 12 new mills should be opened in Brazil, and in the next, another 16.

The Arab Brazilian Chamber representatives are in Khartoum to participate in Khartoum International Fair, to begin on Wednesday (24), in the capital of the Arab country, and to end on February 02.

The Arab Brazilian Chamber will have a 32 square-metre stand at the fair, in which the organization will provide information about the Brazilian production. The organization took to the fair catalogues of various companies interested in entering the Sudanese market. The country, which is in Africa, imported last year a total of US$ 7.2 billion in products.

In the period, Brazil had revenues of US$ 79.7 million with exports to Sudan. The value presented a significant increase of 15% over the US$ 69.3 million of 2005. Among the main products sold were bulk sugar, chassis and tractors. The global trade between both countries was US$ 79.85 million in 2006. Sudan exports little to Brazil: US$ 81,400 last year.

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Biogas arrives in the US: FirmGreen starts LFG biomethane plant construction for power and fuel

Biogas seen a real boom in Europe last year (earlier post) but the highly efficient and climate friendly gas hadn't crossed the Atlantic in any significant way yet. This has now changed. FirmGreen Energy (FGE) has begun construction of a landfill gas (LFG) clean-up project near Grove City, Ohio at the Franklin County landfill, operated by the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO).

When fully operational this summer, FGE’s biofuels facility will generate 250 kW of renewable electricity for use in the landfill gas cleanup process. In addition, the project will produce compressed natural gas (CNG) from the biomethane as a fuel for use by SWACO’s truck fleet.

The CNG fuel will displace up to one thousand gallons of diesel daily. FGE’s Bio-Fuels facility will significantly reduce SWACO’s energy consumption, emissions, and fleet operating costs, according to the company.

The core of the process is Acrion Technologies’ CO2 Wash; FirmGreen is a licensee of the 'Acrion process' (see picture, click to enlarge):
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Landfill gas is a natural product of the biological decomposition of organic waste. The resulting gas has a variety of chemical components, but at most sites the two principal components are methane (CH4) and CO2, with much smaller amounts of hydrogen sulfides (H2S), inerts and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

A problem with LFG projects is the presence of trace components. Typical LFG contains heavy hydrocarbons (both aliphatic and aromatics such as benzene) as well as numerous chlorinated hydrocarbons. These trace compounds are in some cases toxic or hazardous and also cause rapid failure or engine and turbine components. There are now federal statutes which cover landfill emissions.

The CO2 Wash process removes contaminants from LFG using liquid carbon dioxide obtained directly from the LFG, and produces a stream of contaminant-free methane and CO2.

The unit being installed in Ohio will clean up to 300 standard cubic feet per minute (scfm) of raw landfill gas. FirmGreen plans to market larger units by the end of 2007.

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