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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, February 07, 2007

Scientists propose cold storage of CO2

When it comes to fighting climate change, bioenergy has one major advantage over carbon 'neutral' renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal or tidal energy: it can be used as the foundation stone of a radical carbon negative energy system. Scientists call such a system 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) (earlier post) and it consists of the following 'geo-engineering' strategy: plant energy crops at strategic locations around the globe; allow the biomass to capture CO2 from the atmosphere; use the crops as a biofuel in coal or biomass power plants; and then capture and store the CO2 emissions underground. The result is a carbon-negative cycle, which can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels in a matter of decades.

The viability of this geo-engineering option depends on the development of reliable carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques. The coal industry is investing heavily in CCS and has been looking at storage sites as diverse as salt tables, depleted gas and oil fields, and warm sediments in oceans. But doubts remain over the long-term stability of this type of sequestration; the risk of CO2 leakage remains a major obstacle.

Cold storage
Researchers from the University of Leicester and the British Geological Society (BGS) have now come up with a new proposition: CO2 can be stored as a liquid or a solid in huge, cool underground geological aquifers or reservoirs and stay there harmlessly for many thousands of years. They have already identified sites in Western Europe that would be suitable. Their research is to be published in the journal Planet Earth.

PhD research student Ameena Camps, is working with Professor Mike Lovell at the University's Department of Geology and with Chris Rochelle at BGS, investigating the storage of CO2. Storing the gas in a solid form as a gas hydrate, or as a pool of liquid CO2 below a cap of hydrate cemented sediments, is believed to offer an alternative method of geological sequestration to the current practices of storage in warm, deep sediments in the North Sea.

Recently quoted in Planet Earth Ameena Camps explained: "Hydrates (also known as clathrates) are ice-like crystalline minerals that look like normal ice and form when gas and water freeze together at low temperature and high pressure. They are made of a cage of frozen water molecules with the gas molecules trapped inside."

Although gas hydrates were first discovered two centuries ago, the possible use of carbon dioxide hydrate as a means to help resolve problems of global climate change, and of naturally occurring methane hydrate as a future source of energy, have only recently been suggested:
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Laboratory experiments carried out as part of Ameena Camps' PhD project have indicated that carbon dioxide hydrate should form stable structures in sediments under oceans. By employing geophysical techniques and computer modelling, Ms Camps has identified a number of sites in Western Europe with the potential to store carbon dioxide by this method.

She is also exploring further implications of her research that may benefit geologists' understanding of the stability of deep submarine slopes and contribute to improvements in global water supplies through further understanding of desalination processes.

Professor Mike Lovell, of the University of Leicester Department of Geology commented: "Ms Camps' work is at the forefront of gas hydrate research, and has produced some very exciting results, highlighting the importance of investment in further studies of hydrates.

"Investigations of natural methane hydrates will help our understanding of their role as a natural hazard, while carbon dioxide hydrates are a potential sink for greenhouse gas emissions. This work also has application in other fields such as space research into hydrates on other planetary bodies."

A quick look at the rationale behind the research
Why should CO2 be captured and stored?
Approximately one third of all CO2 emissions due to human activity come from fossil fuels used for generating electricity, with each power plant capable of emitting several million tonnes of CO2 annually. A variety of other industrial processes also emit large amounts of CO2 from each plant, for example oil refineries, cement works, and iron and steel production. These emissions could be reduced substantially, without major changes to the basic process, by capturing and storing the CO2. Other sources of emissions, such as transport and domestic buildings, cannot be tackled in the same way because of the large number of small sources of CO2.

CO2 capture
Capturing CO2 can be applied to large point sources, such as large fossil fuel or biomass energy facilities, major CO2 emitting industries, natural gas production, synthetic fuel plants and fossil fuel-based hydrogen production plants. Broadly, three different types of technologies exist: Post-combustion, pre-combustion, and oxyfuel combustion.

In post-combustion, the CO2 is removed after combustion of the fossil fuel - this is the scheme that would be applied to conventional power plants. Here, carbon dioxide is captured from flue gases at power stations (in the case of coal, this is sometimes known as "clean coal"). The technology is well understood and is currently used in niche markets.

The technology for pre-combustion is widely applied in fertilizer, chemical, gaseous fuel (H2, CH4), and power production. In these cases, the fossil fuel is gasified and the resulting CO2 can be captured from a relatively pure exhaust stream.

An alternate method, which is under development, is chemical looping combustion. Chemical looping uses a metal oxide as a solid oxygen carrier. Metal oxide particles react with a solid, liquid or gaseous fuel in a fluidized bed combustor, producing solid metal particles and a mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapour. The water vapor is condensed, leaving pure carbon dioxide which can be sequestered. The solid metal particles are circulated to another fluidized bed where they react with air, producing heat and regenerating metal oxide particles that are recirculated to the fluidized bed combustor.

CO2 transport
After capture, the CO2 must be transported to suitable storage sites. This is done by pipeline, which is generally the cheapest form of transport, by ship or by land transport when no pipelines are available. Both methods are currently used for transporting CO2 for other applications.

Having captured the CO2 it would need to be stored securely for hundreds or even thousands of years, in order to avoid it reaching the atmosphere. Major reservoirs, suitable for storage, have been identified under the earth's surface and in the oceans. Work to develop many of these options is in progress.

Underground storage of CO2 has taken place for many years as a consequence of injecting CO2 into oil fields to enhance recovery. CO2 is being deliberately stored in a salt water reservoir under the North Sea for climate change reasons. Sleipner is located in the North Sea where Norway's Statoil strips carbon dioxide from natural gas with amine solvents and disposes of this carbon dioxide in a saline formation. The carbon dioxide is a waste product of the field's natural gas production and the gas contains more (9% CO2) than is allowed into the natural gas distribution network. Storing it underground avoids this problem and saves Statoil hundreds of millions of euro in avoided carbon taxes. Sleipner stores about one million tonnes CO2 a year. The Weyburn project started in 2000 and is located in an oil reservoir discovered in 1954 in Weyburn, Southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada. The CO2 for this project is captured at the Great Plains Coal Gasification plant in Beulah, North Dakota which has produced methane from coal for more than 30 years. At Weyburn, the CO2 will also be used for enhanced oil recovery with an injection rate of about 1.5 million tonnes per year. The third site is In Salah, which like Sleipner is a natural gas reservoir located in In Salah, Algeria. The CO2 will be separated from the natural gas and re-injected into the subsurface at a rate of about 1.2 million tonnes per year.The potential capacity for underground storage is large but not well documented. Other geological storage schemes are under development and plans to monitor them are well advanced.

CO2 storage as a liquid and hydrate is a more novel method of geologically sequestering CO2 extracted from flue gases. CO2 would be injected into depleted/exhausted reservoirs and/or aquifers using similar infrastructure used in the North Sea Sleipner gas field, but injection would take place into sub-seabed sediments below deep waters at colder temperatures, where carbon dioxide is in its liquid phase. By injecting below the hydrate stability zone in cold deep sediments, if any upward migration occurred the stored liquid would enter the hydrate stability zone, forming CO2 hydrate, and trapping the underlying liquid. Storage as a liquid and hydrate would allow greater volumes of gas to be trapped within these deep water reservoirs (when compared with supercritical storage such as at Sleipner), and could remain trapped for thousands of years.

More information:

Eurekalert: Cold storage solution for global warming? - Feb. 7, 2007.

CSC UK: What is carbon capture and storage?

Biopact: Abrupt Climate Change and geo-engineering the planet with carbon-negative bioenergy - Dec. 21, 2006.

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European Commission's compromise: CO2 emissions of 120g/km as a 'virtual' target

After a fierce debate amongst European car manufacturers and individual EU Commissioners over carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions from cars (earlier post), the European Commission has finally reached a compromise and proposed a comprehensive new strategy for new cars and vans sold in the European Union. But environmental pressure groups remain disappointed.

Instead of the initial target which was set at 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer (earlier post), the target becomes a 'virtual' one: the commissioners assured the car industry that a 130g/km average would be imposed but that it would not apply to each individual manufacturer but to the industry as a whole, and that further measures, including increased use of biofuel, would mean that cars overall emitted no more than 120g of CO2 per kilometre by 2012.

The European car industry earlier warned that the commission's plans could lead to job losses and factory closures. Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said the EU's approach must not lead to a shift of production abroad, or to European consumers being forced to buy smaller cars from non-European manufacturers. "The motor industry faces a major challenge... I would urge them to face up to it and not consider it a burden but consider it a positive challenge," he said.

Verheugen added: "We will shortly be in a position to provide not only the safest and best cars, but also the cleanest cars - that is the future of the European automobile industry."

The new strategy, together with a revision of EU fuel quality standards proposed last week (earlier post), further underline the Commission's determination to ensure the EU meets its greenhouse gas emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol and beyond.

The strategy will enable the EU to reach its long-established objective of limiting average CO2 emissions to 120 grams per km by 2012 - a reduction of around 25% from current levels (162g). This corresponds to fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 km (52.2 miles per gallon) for diesel cars and 5 l/100 km (47 miles per gallon) for petrol cars.

By improving fuel efficiency, the revised strategy will deliver substantial fuel savings for drivers. To encourage the car industry to compete on the basis of fuel efficiency instead of size and power, the Commission is also inviting manufacturers to sign an EU code of good practice on car marketing and advertising.
This strategy is the most ambitious approach ever and the most ambitious approach worldwide towards the development of a low-carbon economy - which is vital for averting climate change. It is the concrete proof of EU leadership in the field. This will require efforts from all sectors, but also open up enormous opportunities for the EU car industries. I call on the EU's car industries to preserve their long term competitiveness by taking the innovative lead, in the interest of consumers and workers alike." - European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, the staunchest advocate of mandated reductions, commented: "Cleaner, more efficient and affordable cars will help reduce carbon dioxide in the EU, enable us to achieve our Kyoto targets, save energy and encourage innovation. All Member States will need to pull their weight in implementing the measures necessary and have a major responsibility to encourage the purchase of fuel-efficient cars as well as discourage fuel-inefficiency."

CO2 emissions from cars
Road transport generates about one fifth of the EU's CO2 emissions, with passenger cars responsible for around 12%. Although there have been significant improvements over recent years in vehicle technology - particularly in fuel efficiency, which translates into lower CO2 emissions – these have not been enough to neutralise the effect of increases in traffic and car size. While the EU-25 reduced overall emissions of greenhouse gases by almost 5% between 1990 and 2004, CO2 emissions from road transport rose by 26%:
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Reinforcing the EU strategy
The current EU strategy for reducing CO2 emissions from cars is based on voluntary commitments by the car industry, consumer information (car labelling) and fiscal measures to encourage purchases of more fuel-efficient cars. Under the voluntary commitments, European manufacturers have said they will reduce average emissions from their new cars to 140g CO2/km by 2008, while the Japanese and Korean industries will do so by 2009.

However, the strategy has brought only limited progress towards achieving the target of 120g CO2/km by 2012; from 1995 to 2004 average emissions from new cars sold in the EU-15 fell from 186g CO2/km to 163g CO2/km:

The Commission's review of the strategy has concluded that the voluntary commitments have not succeeded and that the 120g target will not be met on time without further measures.

The main measures it is proposing in the revised strategy are as follows:

* A legislative framework to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars and vans will be proposed by the Commission by the end of this year or at the latest by mid 2008. This will provide the car industry with sufficient lead time and regulatory certainty.

* Average emissions from new cars sold in the EU-27 would be required to reach the 120g CO2/km target by 2012. Improvements in vehicle technology would have to reduce average emissions to no more than 130g/km, while complementary measures would contribute a further emissions cut of up to 10g/km, thus reducing overall emissions to 120g/km. These complementary measures include efficiency improvements for car components with the highest impact on fuel consumption, such as tyres and air conditioning systems, and a gradual reduction in the carbon content of road fuels, notably through greater use of biofuels. Efficiency requirements will be introduced for these car components.

* For vans, the fleet average emission targets would be 175g by 2012 and 160g by 2015, compared with 201g in 2002.

* Support for research efforts aimed at further reducing emissions from new cars to an average of 95g CO2/km by 2020.

* Measures to promote the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles, notably through improved labelling and by encouraging Member States that levy car taxes to base them on cars' CO2 emissions.

* An EU code of good practice on car marketing and advertising to promote more sustainable consumption patterns. The Commission is inviting car manufacturers to sign up to this by mid-2007.

Jos Dings of the environmental pressure group Transport and Environment (T&E) said the 130g/km limit was a disappointing response to the calls last week by a UN panel of experts for serious action on climate change. He said the retreat from Mr Dimas' preferred 120g/km fuel-efficiency target, was a "reward" to the car industry for making insufficient progress to meet a voluntary target of 140g/km by 2008.

He called for the EU to fix an 80g/km limit for 2020.

The European car industry says consumers have so far shown little interest in cars with smaller engines and lower emissions. It also says there are more cost-efficient ways of reducing transport emissions than introducing costly new technology, such as reducing traffic congestion and changing driver behaviour.

Transport is the only sector in Europe that has shown dramatic increases in CO2 emissions over the last 15 years. The car industry has made huge improvements in engine efficiency, but the power, size and weight have cars have also increased rapidly.

As a result, CO2 emissions have only fallen by 23g/km from the 1995 level of 185g/km. Mr Verheugen said a detailed impact assessment would be now carried out, and that discussions would continue with scientists, research institutes, manufacturers and other interested parties.

The proposed legislation is to be drafted later this year. It will then need to be agreed by member states and the European Parliament.

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Lula: West should stop dictating Brazil how to manage Amazon forest

We have often implicitly criticized the 'neocolonial' attitudes of NGOs, governments and environmental agencies from the West when it comes to the issue of deforestation and development in the South. Their idea that the world's rainforests and the environment is a 'universal' good and must be protected is of course entirely legitimate. But where they go wrong is to think that their decision making process and their discourse on how to manage those forests must be equally 'universal'.

Developing countries rightly perceive this approach as being slightly neocolonialist and interventionist (earlier post). They feel their sovereignty is being eroded and that they're being, once again, dictated by the West on which development paradigm to follow (earlier post). When we wrote this, at the Biopact, we have received some angry reactions from these NGOs.

But now, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, says something quite similar. In a speech in Rio de Janeiro, he has accused developed countries of failing to do enough to fight against global warming. President Lula said it was time for wealthy countries to do more to reduce gas emissions. And he called on them to stop preaching on what to do with the Amazon rainforest.

President Lula said developed nations applied a double standard in their approach to global warming. He has accused wealthy countries of not doing enough on the environment before, but he has rarely been this direct. Lula said the West and the rich countries were skilful at drafting agreements and protocols, like the Kyoto treaty, to appear as if they were doing something to reverse dangerous geenhouse gas emissions. In practice, however, he said the results proved otherwise.

Deforestation and national sovereignty
President Lula was most adamant on the issue of deforestation. Developed countries, he said, had nothing to teach Brazil on the subject, adding that his country had reduced the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by more than 50% in the last three years. This was something which should serve as a lesson to developed countries, which in his words, had already deforested everything under their control. Their deforestation allowed them to develop in the past.
"The wealthy countries are very smart, approving protocols, holding big speeches on the need to avoid deforestation but they already deforested everything." - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
President Lula's words come at a time when countries in the South are taking strategic positions in the deforestation debate, which is tightly linked to the discussions on biofuels and on how to tackle global warming. Earlier we reported on Indonesia's Environment minister, who was equally sharp when he said that if the West wants to see the country's rainforests conserved, it should not talk about it, it should pay for it (earlier post). The minister's crude but effective logic was similar to Lula's: the West has razed down its own forests long ago, which has allowed it to develop, so it should not dictate others on which development strategy to follow, unless it is willing to compensate these countries for the economic opportunities they give up by protecting their forests.

However, even on this so-called 'compensated reduction' strategy (earlier post), Lula remained critical. "No country is revolutionizing its energy matrix as we are. The so-called carbon credits they invented - so far, we haven't seen a cent of that," he said in reference this strategy aimed at preserving carbon-absorbing forests:
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On the subject of alternative fuels, President Lula described Brazil as a world leader. And indeed the South American country is the world's largest producer of ethanol made from sugar cane and it has the world's largest fleet of cars that run on alternative fuels. The Brazilian president said he would be leading an international campaign to highlight the need for wealthy countries to reduce gas emissions, and to urge them to switch to non-fossil fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel -- an area where Brazil is a pioneer.

A day before Lula's critical speech, China too blamed rich nations for greenhouse gases that fueled global warming and urged them to cut emissions. Lula's comments come a day after the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a UN conference on the environment that the world's poor, who are the least responsible for global warming, will suffer the most from the effects of climate change.

Co-opting Lula
NGOs and environmentalists from the West now face a dilemma. On many issues, they have co-opted the left-leaning President who was re-elected last year in a landslide, as one of their heros who dares to stand up against the West. Lula is seen as the leader who forged a coalition of developing countries who successfully resisted trade agreements that would have been detrimental to the South (Doha), and who fights development paradigms that are too occidentalist. But now that Lula keeps being consequential, his message is turning somewhat against them. Even well-intentioned NGOs from the West, who think to be speaking in the name of people from the South, can never undo the fact that they are caught up in the same double standards Lula now rejects.

Developing countries are tired of the being told how to develop. And now that Brazil is becoming more powerful on the world stage, their message is finally being translated to a broader audience and taken more seriously. NGOs must now rethink their ideas on the environment and on 'empowerment' of the poor in the South; they must critically assess whether the concepts and strategies they use in debates on development are not too ethnocentric. Rainforests and biodiversity may well be a 'universal' goods, but the decision making processes and the politics surrounding their protection most definitely are not.

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