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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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Thursday, February 15, 2007

EurActiv publishes Biopact's letter on biofuels

The biofuels debate is heating up in Europe. Questions about climate change, sustainability, biofuel technologies and bioenergy trade, energy efficiency and the potential to create a 'biopact' with the South have come to the fore in a lively discussion that brings governments, farmers, NGOs, scientists and biofuels advocates together.

We are pleased to announce that EurActiv, the leading independent media portal on EU affairs, has published our view on what Europe's bioenergy future might look like.

EurActiv tracks the energy debate in Europe in a very thorough manner and presents a wide variety of analyses from different actors. The multi-lingual portal's regularly updated dossiers on energy and climate change couple analyses of official EU policies to critical assessments by stakeholders. They are by far the best sources available. We especially recommend the following EurActiv dossiers to our readers:
Our letter came as a reaction to an article about the potential negative impacts of biofuels, such as rainforest depletion in Brazil and increased competition with wood and food production. Dr. Andrew Boswell of Biofuelwatch gave his organisation's view on the matter, to which we responded. Dr. Boswell's analysis correctly sketches the dangers of unplanned biofuel production in the South, but ignores the potential benefits of the development of a well-planned biofuels industry in the developing world. Both 'letters to the editor' offer a highly condensed outline of both our organisations' points of view. Our dialogue is far from over [entry ends here].
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Independent lab verifies BTX Holdings' starch separation from wheat straw

BTX Holdings, a development stage company that specializes in the development and acquisition of technologies to extract useable products from biomass, announced that an independent laboratory verified that starch was extracted from wheat straw that was processed with the 'Hypercritical Separation Technology' (HST) System.

The HST system is a mechanical dry separation system, which has the ability to separate organic biomass on a molecular level while utilizing very little energy and emitting no waste product. BTX is currently under agreement to acquire the HST system, pending successful due diligence. BTX recently began testing the HST system, which was specially calibrated to concentrate the starch and sugar fractions contained in wheat straw, to produce feedstock for so-called cellulosic ethanol production.

The analysis that was conducted by an independent national laboratory showed a total starch content of 2.82% in the original wheat straw base. The HST System breaks the original biomass feedstock further down into three separate streams:

  • The first stream (fraction A), which comprised about 15% of the original base weight, after processing in the HST system, showed a total starch content of 31.49%.
  • Fraction B, which comprised about 25% of the original base weight showed a total starch content of 25%.
  • The C fraction, which comprised about 60% of the original base weight showed a remarkable 65.39% starch content.
BTX believes that the future of the ethanol is dependent on the ability to reduce costs by unlocking the energy contained in cellulose, since cellulose is by far the most abundant organic substance found in nature:
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Scott Silverman, the President and CEO of BTX Holdings said "We are astonished by the results that have come back from the laboratory. According to the laboratory, the HST system has drastically modified and concentrated the Starch/sugar contained in the wheat straw and it appears to have broken down a portion of the fiber into complex sugar chains or starch."

Silverman went on to say "We are anxious to further analyze the C fraction for the simple sugar content and to conduct large scale fermentation testing. Our company is encouraged every time we receive results like this as we are confident that the various environmentally friendly technologies we are working with will assist in reducing the dependence on fossils fuels, and upon commercialization, bring great value to our shareholders."

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PhD thesis reveals what it takes to get bioenergy projects off the ground

During her PhD research, Dutch scientist Simona Negro discovered that seven key factors exert a major influence on the success or failure of bioenergy projects. Such projects require a context that goes far beyond mere technological innovation.

Simona Negro made a historical analysis of four sustainable energy technologies: biomass digestion, biomass gasification, biomass combustion and co-combustion of biomass in coal-fired power stations. Her research revealed that the success of these technologies not only depends on technological performance but mainly on the environment in which these technologies are developed and applied. This environment is called the 'innovation system'.

The better the innovation system functions are fulfilled, the greater the chance of technological success. How well the innovation system functions is determined by seven key factors: (1) entrepreneurial activities, (2) knowledge development, (3) knowledge diffusion, (4) guidance of the search (5) market formation, (6) resource mobilisation, and (7) advocacy coalitions formation:

The Netherlands was found to be particularly good in two of the factors, namely, knowledge development and knowledge diffusion. But stimulating conditions for entrepreneurial activities are often absent due to a poor realisation of the other factors.

A comparison with Germany has demonstrated that entrepreneurs there have it far easier due to a better-functioning innovation system:
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The Dutch government's energy policy is characterised by capriciousness, lack of a constant vision with respect to the direction of search and little enthusiasm for developing a reliable market for sustainable energy. Consequently many fantastic technologies are devised, but it remains very risky for entrepreneurs to start on a new technological venture.

The PhD study 'Dynamics of Technological Innovation Systems – The case of biomass energy' was part of the programme 'BioPUSH: integrated strategies for identifying optimal BIOenergy Production and Utilisation Systems' funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and SenterNovem, who collaborate on a research program called 'Stimulation Programme Energy'.

The programme aims to develop the natural and social sciences knowledge needed for the transition to a sustainable energy supply.

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Cogeneration and biomass becoming popular in Southeast Asia

According to Markets & Research, the multiple benefits of cogeneration boost its popularity in Southeast Asia. Combined heat and power (CHP) generation, popularly known as cogeneration, has emerged as a highly attractive alternative to traditional power and heat generating options in recent years due to its low capital investment, reduced fuel consumption and environmental pollution, as well as better fuel diversity. The technology has become especially attractive due to the abundance of low-cost biomass fuels. The cogeneration equipment market is set to grow at an annual rate of 10.7% to 2012.

Globally, countries are increasingly shifting toward energy development based mainly on biomass, coal, and gas to tackle diminishing oil reserves and skyrocketing oil prices and Southeast Asia is no exception to this rising trend. This region’s thriving manufacturing and service sectors present excellent growth opportunities for cogeneration equipment manufacturers due to the ability of this technology to provide dual output from a single source.

Growing environmental concerns and increasing global emphasis on reducing greenhouse gases are two of the biggest factors driving the use of cogeneration for bulk power generation. The main advantages of the technology are:
  • its improved efficiency in fuel conversion, allows cogeneration to reduce the amount of fuel burned for a given energy output; efficiencies of up to 80% can be achieved, compared to 35% in conventional power generation (see image, click to enlarge)
  • cogeneration enables companies to meet stringent emission standards
  • most significantly, companies can make use of abundantly available fuel resources such as biomass (both agricultural waste as well as dedicated biomass) and industrial waste for generating on-site power, thereby gaining substantial cost benefits
  • the waste heat generated can be effectively utilized for other purposes such as district heating and air conditioning applications
  • these factors lead to significant savings in energy costs that act as a major driver for cogeneration
The research looked at the market situation in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, all countries with abundant waste biomass resources, and at the following power generation technologies:
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-Cogeneration: Also known as combined heat and power (CHP), cogeneration is defined as an efficient, clean and reliable approach for generating electrical power and thermal energy simultaneously from a single fuel source. Cogeneration effectively utilizes the heat energy discarded by conventional power generation.
-Gas Turbines: Gas turbines are heat engines used for converting heat energy into mechanical energy. There are three important sections for a gas turbine. They are the compressor (to compress the incoming air to high pressure), combustion chamber (to burn the fuel to produce high pressure and high velocity gas), and turbine (to extract the energy from the high velocity gases). In a gas turbine, a pressurized gas spins the turbine. In all gas turbines, high pressure high-velocity gas is produced in the combustion chamber by burning fuels such as propane, natural gas, kerosene or jet fuel. This high-pressure and high-velocity gas is directed towards the turbine section to rotate the shaft, which is directly coupled to the electric generator to produce the electricity.
-Steam Turbines: Steam turbines are heat engines used for converting energy of high-pressure steam (produced in a boiler) into mechanical power, which can then be used to generate electricity. The high pressure steam from the boiler or heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) is directed on to the blades of steam turbine, which causes rotation of the shaft. The shaft is mechanically coupled to the generator to produce electricity.
- Boiler: A boiler is a sealed vessel where water is converted into steam by fuel firing.
- Heat Recovery Steam Generator (HRSG): A heat recovery steam generator recovers exhaust heat from a gas turbine, to produce steam.

The research found that in 2005, the Southeast Asian cogeneration equipment market earned revenues of US$814.5 million and this is expected to grow to US$1.6 billion by the end of 2012 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7 percent, largely due to vigorous industrial development in the region. While the gas turbine and steam turbine segments are developing ones, the segment for boilers is saturated. The heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) segment is currently an emerging one with limited scope.

Market trends indicate that end users are demanding highly efficient equipment to help them meet strict emission regulations. Other significant trends include the repowering of old plants and the establishment of new ones, observe the analysts. The demand for onsite power generation is expected to grow, especially in industries located in the rural areas where the fuel resources available are mainly biomass and industrial waste.

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