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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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Friday, February 16, 2007

Greening the Greys: baby boomers have highest carbon footprint but want action on climate change

Research by the Stockholm Environment Institute shows that over 50s in the UK have the highest carbon footprint, yet are most concerned over climate change and are calling for stronger leadership from the Government to combat global warming. The findings aren't that surprising and can probably be extrapolated to Western Europe's babyboomer generation as a whole. This wealthy generation travels the globe, has lots of time to spend on luxurious leisure activities and remains very active despite its older age.

The findings come in a report, Greening the Greys [*.pdf], the first analysis of the carbon footprint of the over 50s and their attitudes to climate change.

The report reveals that baby boomers, aged 50-64, have the highest carbon footprint of 13.52 tonnes per capita/year - 10-20 per cent higher than any other age group.

But the over 50s fear climate change and worry over the climate their grandchildren will inherit. They are motivated to take action but frustrated by the failure of the Government and business to provide stronger leadership to combat global warming.

The report combined a detailed carbon footprint analysis of the UK by age and household expenditure, together with an attitudinal survey of over 700 people aged 50+ together with five focus groups involving 50 people.

The carbon footprint was based upon an analysis of the products and services that over 50s use in their daily lives. The footprint analysis breaks down the UK’s 698 million tonnes of carbon dioxide associated with consumption into over 40 kinds of household expenditure categories. Using age specific expenditure data, it calculates the carbon footprint by age and spending on items such as holidays abroad, home heating and food.

The report shows that the baby boomers have a carbon footprint of 13.52 tonnes/capita per year compared with the average UK citizens of 11.81 tonnes. Carbon intensive activities, such as high car dependence, holidays abroad and eating out, are key factors contributing to the size of their footprint:
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People aged 65 to 74 have a carbon footprint of 12.10 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita/year. They also enjoy holidays abroad and car use but spend more on home heating.

Those aged 75+, have a lower carbon footprint of 11.10 tonnes but they have the highest climate impact per £ spent compared with other age groups because home heating, which is carbon intensive, represents 40 per cent of their carbon footprint.

The over 50s fear climate change and believe it is already happening. More than half the over 50s are fearful of the impacts of climate change, being particularly concerned about the impact on the UK climate, economy and weather. A high proportion (75 per cent) of the over 50s believe they are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate.

Their understanding of the full range of impacts of climate change is limited

The over 50s’ understanding of climate change impacts is limited to changes in weather patterns with less concern and understanding of the effects on human health.

The over 50s are motivated to take action but are frustrated

The majority of the over 50s (80 per cent) feel that they should personally take action to combat climate change. However, many feel frustrated (69 per cent) with the barriers that prevent them from totally engaging in a low carbon lifestyle.

Over 50s believe government and business should provide stronger leadership to combat climate change

The majority of the over 50s (90 per cent) feel that the Government should provide stronger leadership in taking action to combat climate change.

Dr Gary Haq, researcher on lifestyle and climate change and lead author of the report, said:

"The Government is essentially pushing at an open door with regard to achieving a change in behaviour in the over 50s, and a move to a low carbon lifestyle. In order to close the gap between concern for climate change and the impact of current lifestyles, Government needs to take action to make a low carbon lifestyle an easier option not just for the over 50s, but for everyone".

The over 50s consistently identified barriers related to energy, travel and waste which prevented them from following a low carbon lifestyle. To remove these barriers, the report calls for:

* investment in increasing the energy efficiency of the UK housing stock, especially for those aged 70 plus
* reversal of the current trend which is for motoring costs to go down in real terms while public transport costs got up
* investment in high quality public transport systems including reductions in the cost of public transport
* introduction of a German style packaging and packaging waste tax to encourage manufacturers to reduce the amount of packaging.

The report was undertaken as part of a one year project called "Climate Talk" funded by DEFRA’s Climate Change Challenge Fund. The project aims to raise awareness and understanding of climate change issues in the over 50s via public seminars, radio programmes and press articles and competitions.

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) is an international, independent environment and development research institute. It is a part of an international network or centres with the York centre based at the University of York.

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Is Vinod Khosla going to Brazil?

Quicknote bioenergy investments
Brazilian newspaper Valor Online recently published a note [*Portuguese, subscription; but a cache of the note can be found here] about the creation of a new biofuel investment fund that has raised a whopping US$2 billion on the international market. Supposedly, Vinod Khosla, the Indian-born venture capitalist, co-founder of Sun Microsystems turned ethanol investor, is the leading force behind the fund. But this news has not been confirmed.

According to Valor Online, the biofuel fund will be managed by Henri Phillipe Reichstul, former president of Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras. It will support ethanol and biodiesel production projects in the Center-West part of the country. To strengthen the fund's expertise, Reichstul has contracted Rogério Manso, ex-director of Petrobras' supply, refining and commercialisation division.

Vinod Khosla's risk capital fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers reportedly is the main contributor. This fund has strategic advisors like former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell onboard.

Khosla's own biofuel enterprise, Range Fuels, recently announced plans to build its first cellulose ethanol production plant in the U.S. state of Georgia (earlier post). As soon as news of the biofuel fund for Brazil emerges, we will report back [entry ends here].
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Foreign investments in Brazilian biofuels heating up

News about foreign investments in Brazil's thriving biofuels industry has almost become a weekly affair. This week was no different. A selection:

1. U.S. farmland investment group Global Ag Investments LLC is investing US$35 million in a biodiesel plant targeting the European alternative fuels markets.
  • Capacity: the facility will be capable of producing 28 million gallons of biodiesel per year
  • Feedstocks: soy and sunflower oils
  • Hectarage: Global Ag Investments manages some 4,500 hectares in the western Bahia, a state in northeast Brazil. The property they own will supply only 10% of their soybean needs. The group will have to contract with soy farmers in Bahia 70,000 hectares, required to produce the 28 million gallons of biodiesel.
  • The fund will have its own crushing capacity making it independent from buying oils from the large multinationals.
  • Investors: A Swiss-based fund is currently in talks with the group to provide upwards of $5 million in equity financing and create a strategic partnership for exporting the fuel out of northeast Brazil to Europe. The fund will turn to the U.S. private equity markets for another $4 million in financing, ultimately seeking a total of $9 million, in which more than half is presently expected to come from the E.U. fund.
  • Return on investment: According to KPMG International in Rio de Janeiro, an accounting and risk advisory firm, return on investment from the Global Ag Investment project was put at 40%.
  • The biodiesel facility will be built by two Brazilian firms.
2. Bermuda-based Infinity Bio-Energy group, already active in Brazil's ethanol industry from which it wants to export 1 billion liters per year (earlier post), announced a series of extra investments towards that goal:
  • 85 million reais (US$41 million) to raise ethanol output at its Alcana distillery in Nuanuque, Minas Gerais state, to 84 million liters in 2009.
  • it is to nearly triple its sugar cane crush capacity to 1.5 million tonnes a year, raise sugar output to 1.75 million 50-kg bags, and produce 10 MWh a year of electricity from cane waste.
  • one of the company's aims is to create a new sugar and ethanol frontier in the Mucuri valley which stretches across northern Espirito Santo into southern Bahia. For this reason, Infinity is considering the construction of two new factories in the Mucuri valley and expanding the Cridasa mill in Espirito Santo.
  • its joint partnership with the Itauna distillery results in the construction of a new factory in Montanha, Espirito Santo state, and plans to build another mill in Bahia.
At the end of 2006, Infinity announced plans to crush 15 to 20 million tonnes of cane annually within two years and invest US$300 million to US$500 million in the next 18 months.

3. Paris-based Louis Dreyfus & Cie., a closely held commodities trader, buys four sugar and ethanol mills in Brazil to become the second-biggest sugarcane processor in the country:
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The company already owns four sugar and ethanol mills in Brazil and expects the acquisition to boost its sugarcane processing to 18.5 million metric tons by 2009, from 11.8 million tons this year. Financial terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed. "There's a lot of room for growth," says Bruno Melcher, executive director at Sao Paulo-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities Bioenergia, the company's biofuels unit in Brazil. "Domestic demand for ethanol is growing rapidly every year." Melcher expects ethanol use in Brazil to double over the next four to five years from about 14 billion liters (4 billion gallons) in 2006.

Louis Dreyfus bought the four mills from closely held Grupo Tavares de Melo:
  • The mills Agroindustrial Passa Tempo and Usina Maracaju are in the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
  • The Usina Estivas mill is in Rio Grande do Norte state and Giasa is in Paraiba state, both in the northeast of Brazil.
  • The company also bought Grupo Tavares de Melo's ethanol mill project Usina Esmeralda in Mato Grosso state. Construction of the mill began recently.
In order to make biodiesel and bioethanol a globally traded commodity, Brazil's government is actively encouraging foreign direct investments into the sector by creating a beneficial investment climate. It has recently announced a large national biofuel strategy with US$ 6.2 billion of investments planned, part of which it wants to attract from local and foreign investors (earlier post).

In a broader context, the Brazilian government recently announced an ambitious agenda to invest up to US$5 billion into the biobased economy, which aims to substitute petroleum-based products with plant-based alternatives. The 'bioeconomy' plan is in essence a series of investments in biotechnology, focused on utilizing both the biodiversity of Brazil's rich eco-systems to produce novel products (from vaccines to plastics), and its large agricultural potential (earlier post).

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Ube Material Industries and Yamaguchi University develop solid calcium catalyst for biodiesel production

Japan's Ube Material Industries, Ltd. has succeeded in the development of a Calcium solid base catalyst that increases the efficiency of biodiesel production. The new catalyst was developed in collaboration with Professor Kimitoshi Fukunaga of Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Yamaguchi University.

The Ca solid base catalyst primarily consists of oxidized calcium the activity of which was optimized.

Biodiesel is made by converting plant oils with methanol using a catalyst, in a process called transesterification (see image, click to enlarge). Alkalis like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide are used most widely as catalysts. However, such catalysts require manufacturers to remove alkaline components by cleansing the processed biodiesel fuel, which calls for another treatment for wastewater generated in the cleansing process and therefore leads to higher manufacturing costs.

For these reasons, the researchers focused on the development of a solid catalyst which requires no cleansing and can be easily separated and removed from the processed fuel:
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Ube Material's Ca solid base catalyst starts transesterification between oils and methanol if only added around or below methanol's boiling point in a reaction temperature range under a normal pressure by a small amount. It allows biodiesel fuel manufacturing at a high efficiency after reacting for a short time.

Thanks to this technology, manufacturing facilities can be made smaller and simpler. The company can provide the catalyst in forms of granulated powder and granule as well as powder, so it can support a variety of biodiesel fuel manufacturing systems including lot batching and sequential systems.

Ube Material, a group company of Ube Industries, Ltd., is a leading manufacturer of calcia-related products made from limestone, which is abundantly available in Japan, as well as Japan's only manufacturer of magnesia clinker (refractory material) made from the magnesium contained in sea water. The company uses calcia and magnesia as main raw materials and markets varied products including functional materials and foods as well as cutting-edge electronic materials in each market.

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Thailand approves seven bioenergy plants as CDM projects

The Thai government has approved the first batch of seven alternative energy projects which would be eligible for carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. Five biomass and two biogas power plants were approved.

They are:
  1. a power plant in Yala that uses waste wood from rubber plantations
  2. a biomass cogeneration plant in Suphan Buri
  3. a rice-husk-fuelled biomass plant in Pichit
  4. a biomass cogeneration plant in Chaiyaphum
  5. a bagasse-fuelled power plant in Khon Kaen (bagasse is the waste generated from pressing sugar juice out of canes)
  6. a municipal waste-to-biogas project in Khon Kaen
  7. a farm based biogas project in Ratchaburi
The second batch of eight alternative projects, already approved by the national environment committee, will be submitted for cabinet approval within a month. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is designed to help industrialised countries meet the protocol's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by investing in clean technology and sustainable development projects, including afforestation, in developing countries. The system is part of an emerging global carbon market (earlier post).

The Thai government has announced that it will accept only alternative energy projects, but will ban afforestations, known as carbon sinks, for fear that they would trigger land-use conflicts in the country:
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The cabinet also set up a panel, chaired by Khunying Suthawan Sathirathai, to draft regulations regarding the implementation of the CDM projects and study the pros and cons of the scheme. The panel's findings will help the country better deal with the proposed CDM projects.

There are currently more than 400 schemes, mostly developed by Japanese and Danish firms, on the committee's list of potential CDM projects and awaiting the cabinet's approval, according to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning

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EU sets binding target of 10% biofuels by 2020, no agreement on other renewables

European Union member-states have endorsed a stricter target for biofuels in a bid to cut pollution from vehicles and dependence on imported oil. At the Council, EU energy ministers approved a binding minimum target for the share of biofuels in gasoline and diesel of 10% by 2020. The bloc's current goal for biofuels is 5.75% by 2010.

„Renewable energies, when used in a cost-efficient way, contribute simultaneously to security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability,” the ministers from the 27-nation EU said in a statement [*.pdf] released Thursday in Brussels, where they met.

The 10% biofuels target could result from varying, yet-to-be-decided levels for individual member states. The EU is seeking to reduce consumption of hydrocarbons to fight global warming and ease reliance on imports, which account for half the bloc's energy.

The commission, the EU's regulatory arm, urged a binding target for renewable energies as a whole including solar and wind power of 20% in 2020, up from a current goal of 12% in 2010. But the energy ministers failed to agree on such a binding target after some member states expressed concerns. EU heads of government and state will debate the matter at a March 8-9 summit.

The commission aims to produce draft legislation on new targets for renewable energies including biofuels after more discussions by national governments. To complement the recommended biofuels target of 10% by 2020, the commission two weeks ago proposed creating a separate gasoline blend with a higher permissible oxygenate content including up to 10% ethanol as of 2009 compared with 5% at present [entry ends here].
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Helius Energy to supply biomass power to South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland

The rising demand for reliable energy supply in South Africa and the growing requirement for industry to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases are attracting renewable energy companies to South Africa.

One of the latest companies to offer alternative energy generation options to South Africa is Helius Energy, which installs and operates biomass-fired renewable electricity generation plants. The firm, which listed on the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) of the London Stock Exchange on January 31, will initially focus on the UK and Southern Africa.

Through its Southern African subsidiary, Helius Energy Africa, the company is currently in discussions with Eskom - South Africa's state-run energy firm - to become a significant independent power producer that will concentrate on renewable energy.

Helius Energy Africa is pursuing opportunities to develop its 50MW biomass power plants and its modular 'GreenSwitch' 5MW plants in South Africa.

These modular GreenSwitch 5MW plants include biomass feedstock conditioning for moisture and critical chemical controls and are designed to be located where sustainable and renewable feedstocks are readily available, such as breweries and distilleries, avoiding the costs of transporting wet feedstocks. They will generate onsite electricity and export any surplus to the local electricity network.
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Helius will employ leading international suppliers of thermal power generation services and environmental engineering services to install and operate these plants. Helius Energy Africa MD Dr Mohammed Jahed says that governments and business worldwide are committing to greener and cleaner energy solutions.

“This, along with the growing demand for power, offers an ideal opportunity for the introduction of ‘green electricity’ to the Southern African market,” Jahed adds.

Helius Energy Africa has been approached to join the Power Commissions Working Party in Zambia and is in discussion with the government of Zambia for the establishment of new power plants, and the upgrading of existing facilities. Moreover, the company is also in discussion with the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland for a power supply agreement. Jahed says that these projects will go a long way to securing electricity in Southern Africa, which is facing an ever-growing energy crisis.

“We believe that listing on Aim offers us an opportunity to further enhance our ability to take advantage of the exciting opportunities to develop biomass as a sustainable source of renewable power,” he adds.

The company is the first of its kind in the biomass industry to list on Aim.

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