<body> -------------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fuel Cell Energy signs 10-year manufacturing & distribution agreement for its biofuel capable fuel cells in South Korea

FuelCell Energy, Inc., a leading manufacturer of highly efficient, ultra-clean, biofuel capable fuel cell power plants for commercial and industrial customers, today announced an expanded agreement with its Korean strategic distribution partner, POSCO (Korea's largest steel manufacturer) and its subsidiary POSCO Power, the country's largest independent power producer, to increase sales in burgeoning Asia-Pacific green energy market.

Under the agreement, POSCO Power will become a provider of FuelCell Energy's Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plants in Korea, and will manufacture the balance of equipment for the plants.

The Direct FuelCell gets its name from the fact that it can use both fossil and biofuels directly without the need to first create hydrogen in an external fuel processor.

Fuel Cell Energy makes components for its better known German partner firm MTU CFC Solutions, which is successfully demonstrating the use of climate neutral biogas in the fuel cells (earlier post, and here on a server farm using the cells for power and cooling). In a combined heat-and-power configuration and with the use of biofuels, this type of fuel cell is arguably the most efficient and cleanest energy system currently in existence.

Under the 10-year license and distribution agreement between Fuel Cell Energy and POSCO Power, the latter will create a fuel cell sales and service organization, and employ its expertise in power plant design and raw materials procurement to reduce power plant costs. Fuel cell stack modules will be manufactured by FuelCell Energy in Connecticut and shipped to Asian customers for installation with POSCO Power balance of plants. POSCO Power also will build a facility to manufacture the balance of plant (non-fuel cell stack portion of FuelCell Energy's DFC power plants) in Korea:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

In addition to Korea, POSCO has the right to sell DFC power plants worldwide except in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Japan. Capitalizing on POSCO's strong manufacturing capabilities and economies of scale, FuelCell Energy also has the option to purchase POSCO Power's balance of plants for sale to FuelCell Energy's customers in other parts of the world.

"Over the last three years we have forged a strong relationship with FuelCell Energy and are pleased to announce the expansion of our alliance into manufacturing and distribution for the Korean market, and key markets around the world," said Mr. Seung-Woo Lee, President and CEO of POSCO Power Corporation. "We recognize that ultra-clean fuel cell technology will be an important contribution to future environmentally friendly energy production, and we intend to move aggressively to be a leader in this industry."

The Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) has been a strong proponent of Korean energy independence. Last year, MOCIE announced a new renewable energy subsidy program, under which fuel cells powered by biogas and natural gas received subsidies in excess of the amounts allocated to wind power, biomass, and hydro, and second only to solar power. For fuel cells running on natural gas, the current subsidy is $0.28/kilowatt hour (kWh) and $0.023/kWh for those running on biogas, decreasing 3 percent annually for new installations up to a cap of 50 MW. A binding Renewable Portfolio Standards program is expected to be signed into law by 2009. With these policies in place, Korea is slated to become one of the world's leading adopters of clean energy technology.

"Over the past few years, South Korea has emerged as a global leader in the deployment of ultra-clean energy technology," said R. Daniel Brdar, Chairman and CEO of FuelCell Energy. "It is critical for FuelCell Energy to establish a leadership position in this market as a platform for growth in Asia and beyond, and we are confident that POSCO Power is the right partner."

Because the MOCIE subsidy requires that power from renewable sources first be exported to the utility grid, rather than consumed on-site, the law is expected to favor the installation of multi-megawatt power stations rather than smaller, privately-owned plants. POSCO Power, Korea's leading independent power producer (IPP), intends to focus its core marketing efforts in this sector. FuelCell Energy anticipates sales volume in South Korea of approximately 5 to 15 MW over the next several years, while POSCO Power establishes its local manufacturing facilities and continued sales growth for DFC stack modules following POSCO Power's launch of domestically produced balance of plants.

Fuel Cell Energy's ultra-clean fuel cell power plants generate electricity with twice the efficiency of other distributed generation plants of similar size and with virtually no air pollution. The DFC's range in size from 300 kilowatts (kW) to 2.4 megawatts (MW).

Article continues

Sweet super sorghum - yield data for the ICRISAT hybrid

Earlier we referred to how the India based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid tropics (ICRISAT) has been focusing on the development of a sweet sorghum hybrid for the production of ethanol (previous post).

The ICRISAT improves crops suited for cultivation by some of the world's poorest people, those who live in drought-prone regions of the globe, such as the Sahel, Norht-East Africa, or the Rajasthan desert. The institute's aim is to help raise these people's farm income, food security and environmental protection through the development of improved and diversified cultivars, eco-friendly and cost-effective pest management practices, efficient seed supply systems, and commercialization of diversified and alternative uses of crop produce.

Its plant breeding experiments with sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) resulted in a cultivar that is relatively drought tolerant, needs comparatively small amounts of water and yields high amounts of easily extractable sugar that can be used as a feedstock for ethanol production. Like sugar cane, the sugars are contained in the plant's canes. After it has been extracted, the biomass residues can be used as a solid biofuel in power (co)generation plants, or later as a feedstock for next generation biofuels. Alternatively, it makes for a good animal feed.

ICRISAT tested the new hybrid - called SSH 104 - first in Andhra Pradesh, with so much success that the plant was immediately patented. The institute then took it to the Philippines, where a vast region of land was identified as suitable. It is from these field trials, carried out in collaboration with the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Batac, Ilocos Norte, that we now have the first (comparative) data on the yields and economics of the plant. Dr. Heraldo L. Layaoen, crop scientist for the program shows they are impressive indeed:
  • Average yield: In the MMSU study, the average yield was 110 tons per hectare of sweet sorghum cane stalk for two cropping seasons in eight months (one main crop followed by one ratoon crop.) Ratoon is the outgrowth after the main stalk has been cut.
  • Sugar content: the MMSU studies have shown that sugarcane has up to 14 percent sugar content while sweet sorghum has 23 percent.
  • Cropping season: one hectare planted with sweet sorghum will yield 95-125 tons after a planting season of 100-115 days, compared to sugar cane's 65-90 tons per hectare with a longer crop season of 300-330 days.
  • Water requirements: sweet sorghum adapts well to drought and will not compete much for fresh water, needing only about 175 cubic meters per crop, which is just one-fourth of sugarcane's 700 cubic meters water need per crop.
  • Commercial viability: the study estimates the net income for two cropping seasons with sweet sorghum to range from 65,000-72,000 pesos per hectare (€1000-1150 / US$1300-1500), comparing favorably to sugarcane and most other commonly grown crops
  • Ethanol potential: at an extraction and processing rate similar to that of sugar cane and an average yield of 110 tons/hectare, using first generation bioconversion technologies, an ethanol yield of around 10,000 liters/hectare (1070 gallons/acre) can be expected
These results have prompted the Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap to recognize sweet sorghum as a strategic crop, after ICRISAT director General William D. Dar urged the country to include the plant in the government's list of priority commodities for research and development:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"The commercialization and massive planting of sorghum augurs well for our country," Dr. Dar, who is a Filipino himself, said.

Currently, sugarcane is the main crop tapped by the government for a gasoline-ethanol blend. But according to Dr. Layaoen, the trials showed that compared with sugarcane, sweet sorghum may actually be a better source of fuel.

The fact that sweet sorghum has slightly higher biomass yields than sugar cane, and that its stems have a higher sugar content, make the cost of producing a liter of ethanol from sweet sorghum lower than that from sugarcane molasses.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap said he now considers sweet sorghum to be a "plant of life", citing different reaons: for one, from its stalk can be squeezed the precious sugar-rich juice suited for ethanol production. For another, the silage after the extraction of juice is rich in micronutrients and minerals that can be used as forage for animals.

Aside from ethanol, sweet sorghum can also be made into other food products such as syrup, jaggery (a kind of molasses), "basi" wine, flour, cookies, cakes and pop sorghum kernels (like popcorn). "It has far higher protein and vitamin content than honey," Dr. Layaoen points out.

Implications for the global biofuel economy
We can only begin to imagine the potential of sweet sorghum as a crop that drives the carbohydrate economy of the future. Its high yields and its low water requirements make it suitable for production in vast zones of the globe where sugarcane would not thrive. Poor farming communities in the semi-arid areas of the tropics and the subtropics stand to benefit massively from the sorghum opportunity.

Like sugarcane, the plant can be harvested mechanically, even though production costs remain low even when grown and harvested by smallholders. The fact that the bagasse, the residues which remain after the sugar has been extracted, makes for a good forage for animals, means the crop can be integrated in farms that produce both food, fiber, fuel and feed. This flexibility in itself is important for small farmers, as it allows them to hedge risks and switch between markets relatively easily.

Most importantly, unlike oil palm, the crop explicitly does not grow in rainforest zones, making its chance to be part of a genuinely sustainable biofuel economy all the more likely.

Sorghum is one of the five top cereal crops in the world, along with wheat, oats, corn, and barley. Currently, it is grown in over 66 countries. About 90 percent of the area planted to sorghum is located in developing countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, where low-income farmers grow the grain variety generally for food. In the Philippines, the use of sorghum as a whole is very limited since rice and corn have been recognized as important human energy sources. But this will now change.

Picture: Sweet sorghum hybrid SSH 104, field trial in Andhra Pradesh. Credit: ICRISAT.

More information:
ICRISAT: Biofuel Crops: Power to the Poor - Sept. 2006.
Davao Sun Star: Sorghum another source of biofuel - Feb. 21, 2007.

Article continues

Climate change heating up China faster than rest of the world - report

Only recently has China begun to publicly recognize the serious threats it faces from global warming (earlier post). In a new report, the China Meteorological Administration now says climate change is heating up the People's Republic faster than the rest of the world, and extreme weather such as heavy rainfalls, typhoons, drought and desertification is on the rise.

The agency's report, carried on the official Xinhua News Agency, said China's surface temperature had risen 0.22 degrees every 10 years for the past 50 years, which was higher than the increases seen globally and in the Northern Hemisphere as a whole.

It also predicted that temperatures would rise at a faster rate in the future. In comparison to average temperatures recorded from 1961 to 1990, China's average temperatures would increase 1.3 to 2.1 degrees by 2020, 1.5 to 2.8 degrees by 2030, 2.3 to 3.3 degrees by 2050 and 3.9 to 6 degrees by 2100, it forecast.

The report further warned that:
  • Rising heat would cause the glaciers in north-western China to shrink 27 per cent by 2050.
  • Precipitation countrywide would increase by 2 to 3 per cent by 2020, by 5 to 7 per cent by 2050 and by 11 to 17 per cent by 2100, it added.
  • Typhoons would become larger and more powerful, the weather agency said, and the chances that eastern China would experience extreme rainfall would be four to six times higher in the next four to five years in comparison with the 1980s and '90s.
  • Sea levels would also rise by 12 to 50 centimetres by 2050, it predicted.
  • While some areas of China could suffer under heavy rainfall and storms, arid areas would grow and more land would turn to desert and increase the country's sandstorms.
Qin Dahe, director of the China Meteorological Administration, said in a recent press conference that meteorological disasters caused direct economic losses of 200 to 300 billion yuan (€20 to 30 billion/US$25 to 37.5 billion) in China annually, which was equivalent to two to five percent of China's gross domestic product:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon dioxide discharges in particular, are widely considered to be the prime factor in global warming. Unlike the United States, the Chinese government has backed the UN-brokered Kyoto treaty, and committed itself to improving its energy efficiency by setting the goal of cutting its energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of GDP in the period from 2006 to 2010, Qin noted.

However, China has failed to meet similar ambitious targets by wide margins in the past. Moreover, the country is exempt from the Kyoto Protocol's mandated greenhouse gas emission limits because it qualifies as a 'developing country'.

China did achieve reductions in emissions of some 800 million tons of coal equivalent from 1991 to 2005. The country's forests, grasslands and natural reserves have helped absorb another 3.06 billion tons, Qin added.

The warmer trend noted in the report seemed to be showing itself during the Chinese New Year, which began Sunday. This year's Lunar New Year's festival, which is being celebrated this week, is the warmest since record-keeping began. Temperatures generally at this time of year lie around the freezing point, but the weather in Beijing Tuesday was at a springlike 15 degrees.

Since 1987, China has experienced 19 warm winters, and normal cold weather returned only in 2004 and 2005.

China is not only heavily impacted by global warming but is also helping to cause it. The most populous country in the world is the world's largest coal consumer and was predicted to overtake the United States in 2009 as the globe's largest producer of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which causes global warming.

Image: Typhoon Saomai, a Super Typhoon, classed as Category Five for a while, then downgraded to a Cat 4, was the fifth large storm to hit China in 2006, and the strongest to hit the country in 50 years. With wind surges of more than 216 km (135 miles) per hour, the deadly storm caused more than a million people to move out of its path. Credit: NOAA.

Article continues