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    Covanta Holding Corp., a developer and operator of large-scale renewable energy projects, has agreed to purchase two biomass energy facilities and a biomass energy fuel management business from The AES Corp. According to the companies, the facilities are located in California's Central Valley and will add 75 MW to Covanta's portfolio of renewable energy plants. Alternative Energy Retailer - May 31, 2007.

    Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation are proposing a study designed to increase the availability of ethanol across the country. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he has introduced a bill in the U.S. House, asking for a US$2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Des Moines Register - May 30, 2007.

    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

France invites Indian talent to study bioenergy, part of Indo-French cooperation effort

According to the Bioenergy Network of Excellence, research and education in the field of bioenergy is speeding up in Europe, with major universities across the EU now offering 60 dedicated masters and PhD programs (earlier post). With this in mind, and as part of a wider Indo-French cooperation effort in bioenergy, France is encouraging Indian students and engineers to study the subject in the country and to exchange experiences with their young collegues.

Dominique Girard, the French Ambassador to India, disclosed the 'North-South' cooperation initiative at a seminar on Bio-Energy for a Secure and Sustainable Future: Prospects for an India - France Partnership organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the powerful Mouvement des Enterprises de France (MEDEF) in New Delhi. The proposal was only one of many that were presented at the meeting.

The Indian students can now have their resident visa extended for six months after successful completion of a study in the field, to look for further bioenergy and biotech research opportunities in France. In 2007, the number of scholarships for Indian students will be increased by 50%, as an effort to enhance Indo-French relationships and increased cooperation in the area of bioenergy technology, Mr Girard added.

The seminar was organised under the aegis of Indo-French forum to explore potential areas of technology and R&D collaboration bilaterally. It was attended by high-level representatives from the bioenergy industry, government and academia from both countries. The gathering deliberated on the probable areas for technology and R&D tie-ups.

Research and technology cooperation
The Government of India has announced the establishment of a National Biodiesel mission to have an enterprise driven biodiesel production in the country and to test, develop and demonstrate the viability of the program, says Ms. Sujatha Singh, Joint Secretary of India's Department of External Affairs, adding that the EU also recognises the importance of bioenergy in India. An EU panel is currently being formed to address possible cooperation efforts between the two continents, she said. The panel is headed by External Affairs Ministry of Government of India. The issue of energy security is important in relation to the fast growing Indian economy and sustaining the growth, Ms. Singh added while emphasising that fossil fuel depletion, increasing energy prices and dependence on few nations for the supply of fuel has made it important to develop biofuels for the future. India and France have common interests to develop biofuels and French technology can assist India’s initiative to build up alternate fuel resources and capabilities, added Ms. Singh.

The threat of global warming is a threat to entire humanity and the onus of developing a cure is as much with developing countries as it is with developed nations, said Mr. M Rasgotra, India's former Foreign Secretary and co-chair of the Indo-French Forum. He suggested that technical collaboration with France should increase and drawing on French expertise, methodologies for the implementation of bioenergy projects should be taken up by India:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The prospect for a true and timely Indo-French Forum is visible by the effort put by CII and MEDEF for last two years in the bioenergy and alternative fuel sector, said Mr. Dhruv M Sawhney, Coordinator, Indo-French Forum and Past President of the CII, and chairman and managing director of Triveni Engineering and Industries. The development of bioenergy is important for rural, economical and agricultural growth, while addressing the critical issue of global warming and carbon emissions which is a world-wide concern, he said. Bilateral cooperation between India and France in the area of biotechnology has many potential avenues, said Mr. Sawhney.

Specific needs
Mr. Debashish Majumdar, Managing Director, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited, stressed that India needs cost effective bioenergy technologies. He said that the country requires technology to develop engines running on 100% producer gas [wood gas, gasified biomass] and effective gas cleaning equipments. The technology to develop circulating fluidized bed boilers, producer gas based micro turbines and efficient fuel handling systems are the requirements to have effective implementation of bioenergy as alternate source, he added.

Elaborating on the Indian need for high-tech resources, Mr. Majumdar mentioned that optimum methods of fuel preparation and storage are required along with alternate applications for the agro-industry such as biomass gas vapour absorption chilling. On the long term prospects, he said that design and development of small to medium– scale fluidized bed biomass gasifiers and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technologies should be looked at. France is doing pioneering work in the development of such technologies.

Focusing on the establishment of an Indo-French R&D platform on bioenergy, Mr. Jean-Yves Dupré, Senior advisor on bioenergy at the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries mentioned that India is a huge market for French companies and can be a base from which to access the world market. India has accomplished technologies and powerful industrial strategies the production of ethanol, he added. Talking on the profitability of biodiesel, Mr. Dupré mentioned that production of jathropha seeds can be profitable depending on the yields and price and that modular biodiesel plants could be established close to plantations. It is possible to join the interests of farmers' cooperatives on the one hand, and Indian and French investors on the other, he added.

Finally, Mr. Guy De Panafieu, coordinator of the Indo-French Forum and Chairman of MEDEF International said that many of initiatives has already been taken by India and France in the bioenergy sector and that there are many similarities in the challenges faced by both countries concerning the production of biofuels. He also added that more coordination of technical assistance is a step towards establishing further relationships and that both countries will soon find common ground on a diverse range of bioenergy technologies.

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Finnish oil major is considering jatropha oil for next-generation biodiesel

Finnish oil major Neste Oil, in which the government of Finland holds a majority stake, is looking into using Jatropha curcas oil as a feedstock for its innovative second generation biodiesel. The announcement came as representatives of the company visited India.

Jatropha needs no introduction to our readers, but a quick reminder of some facts: the crop is a perennial shrub that thrives in semi-arid and poor soils, and requires relatively little water and fertiliser inputs. Yields vary but under optimal conditions may reach up to 1500kg/ha upon maturity (harvests commence after the third year). As they grow, the small trees become carbon sinks with a life of up to 30 to 50 years, after which their woody biomass can be used as a bioenergy feedstock. Many developing countries (from Senegal and Kenya to Ghana, Zambia, China, Burma and Indonesia) are studying the use of the shrub, the seeds of which contain around 35 to 40% oil, as a raw material to supply a global nascent biodiesel industry. However, jatropha is not an ideal crop, because seeds have to be harvested manually, which requires considerable inputs of labor (earlier post). Mechanisation efforts are under way though and consist of trials with and designing of equipment similar to olive harvesters (personal communication from a jatropha expert).

Neste Oil - Finland's third largest company - is looking into the crop because feedstocks from Europe (rapeseed, sunflower oil) are considerably more costly. During his visit to India, president and CEO Risto Rinne said the company is continuously looking for ways to expand its raw material base for NExBTL ["Next Generation Biomass-to-Liquid", the second-generation bio-diesel developed by Neste], and in this search the non-edible jatropha is very interesting, certainly given its potential to boost rural livelihoods since the crop will be cultivated mostly by smallholders.

Second generation biodiesel
In a first phase, Neste Oil will import jatropha oil from the developing world to feed its first full scale NExBTL plant that is slated to come on-stream next month in Porvoo, Finland. "More than 50 percent of new European Union (EU) cars are diesel cars and so we want to gear up to produce more diesel," says Osmo Kammonen, senior vice-president and chief of communications. With the NExBTL process, Neste Oil aims to emerge as the world's leading biodiesel company besides running its traditional oil refining business. Earlier this year, the company started cooperating with Stora Enso, one of Europe's largest forestry and biomass firms, to innovate towards 'third generation' biodiesel (earlier post and see below).

NExBTL is a biodiesel production process that differs from classic transesterification but also from second generation biomass-to-liquids processes used to obtain synthetic biodiesel (which is based on the gasification of biomass, with the gas being liquefied via the Fischer-Tropsch process). NExBTL is similar to the second generation biodiesel developed by Italy's ENI and Brazil's Petrobras ('H-Bio'): it consists of hydrogenating fatty acids under high-pressure. The process can use multiple plant oil feedstocks and results in a product with characteristics similar to ultra-clean synthetic biodiesel (see properties in the table, click to enlarge).

The advantage of NExBTL and the similar H-Bio technology is that it can be fully integrated in existing oil refineries. Such refineries already have hydrogenation facilities, which is why these biodiesel units can be smoothly bundled alongside them, without the need to build an entirely new, dedicated plant (earlier post).

After trials with the jatropha oil for the production of NExBTL biodiesel in Europe (there are plans to introduce the process at Neste Oil's Naantali refinery too, which, together with the facilities at Porvoo have a combined refining capacity of about 14 million tonnes a year), Neste Oil may look at establishing a presence in India:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The sub-continent, with its vast population and proactive bio-fuel targets, "is an attractive future market opportunity for Neste Oil's NExBTL renewable diesel," Kammonen told reporters. "India is a rather new thing for us but we can buy Jatropha curcas from India to begin with," he added.

"India has potential to be a market and for sourcing our raw material. I am sure that our people are looking at the Indian market. We need to find a good supplier. New diesel vehicles are better than gasoline ones. For producing bio-diesel we use animal fat and vegetable oil as feedstock and jatropha is a good option," Neste Oil's vice-president said.

On to the 'third generation'
"Neste Oil is involved in developing third generation bio-diesel technology. Though it does not significantly differ from NExBTL, the technology enables one to exploit the whole plant (biomass) and thereby widens the feedstock base since Finland is the most extensively forested country in Europe with 86 percent of its land area falling under forests," a Neste Oil official added during the delegation's visit.

In 2006, the company supplied 8.1 million tonnes of petroleum products to Finland and exported 6 million tonnes. It imports crude oil mainly from Russia (48 percent in 2006).

Neste Oil has some 900 Neste service stations, diesel fuel outlets and other sales points in Finland, and some 240 Neste stations and outlets and diesel fuel outlets in the Baltic states, Russia and Poland.

Jatropha's benefits
During the visit of the Neste Oil delegation, jatropha experts were questioned about the benefits and problems associated with jatropha cultivation in India. According to Abhishek Maharishi, CEO, Centre for Jatropha Promotion and Bio-diesel, Rajasthan, the crop can help to alleviate soil degradation, desertification and deforestation and can be used for bio-energy to replace petro-diesel besides for soap production and climatic protection.

Maharishi thinks that if the Indian government implements its policy on jatropha cultivation in right earnest the country could be a leading exporter.

"Since 2003, the policy has been adopted to promote the cultivation, yet there are hurdles. A bio-diesel board formed in Rajasthan is yet to function. We think that if at least 10 percent of the 33 million hectares of wastelands in India is made available for jatropha, it could turn the fortunes of the rural poor and work wonders," Maharishi told reporters.

More information:

Neste Oil: Overview of the NExBTL production process [*.pdf] and the qualities of the ultra-clean biodiesel, presented during the California Energy Commission's Workshop on Bioenergy, March 9, 2006.
On the problematic labor inputs currently associated with jatropha, see: Biopact: Jobs per joule: how much employment does each energy sector generate? - September 01, 2006

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A new fuel: MIT researchers develop biopropane, to be used in heating and transportation

MIT researchers say they have developed an efficient chemical process for making propane from corn or sugarcane. They are incorporating a startup this week to commercialize the biopropane process, which they hope will find a place in the existing US$21 billion U.S. market for the fuel. Propane is currently the third most widely used transportation fuel in the country. When sold as a liquid, it is commonly known as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). In the US, the fuel is used mostly for residential heating and some industrial processes, and to a limited extent as a liquid transportation fuel.

But it is in the developing world that this news may be welcomed in particular. There, propane is the fastest growing household fuel. Its use frees up the huge rural populations from time-consuming ancient chores such as wood gathering and allows them more time to pursue other activities, such as increased farming or educational opportunities. The fuel is sometimes referred to as "cooking gas", sold in bottles. As a clean burning source of energy, it is a major tool in the fight against indoor air pollution, which, according to the World Health Organisation, kills an estimated 2 million women and children in the South each year.

While much of the attention on biofuels has focused on ethanol, the process developed by the MIT researchers produces clean, renewable propane, says Andrew Peterson, one of the graduate students who demonstrated the reactions. "We're making a demonstrated fuel" for which a market and an infrastructure already exist, says Peterson, who works in the lab of chemical-engineering professor Jefferson Tester and has founded the startup C3 BioEnergy, based in Cambridge, MA, to commercialize the technology.

Propane, which is currently made from petroleum, has a higher energy density than ethanol, and although it is often used in its gaseous form, it is a cleaner burning liquid fuel.

The process
The C3 BioEnergy process depends on supercritical water - water at a very high temperature and pressure - which facilitates the reactions that turn a biological compound into propane. Peterson wouldn't reveal the starting compound, but he says that it is a product of the fermentation of the sugars found in corn or sugarcane.

The reaction is driven by heat, requiring no catalysts. At supercritical temperature and pressure, Peterson says, "water does bizarre things. It becomes like a nonpolar solvent" and mixes with the organic compounds. Once the reaction has taken place, the solution is kept under high pressure and cooled to room temperature so that the propane comes out of the solution and floats to the top. "We've demonstrated that we can make propane," says Peterson. "Now we're trying to optimize the reaction rate and get it to a scalable stage."

Peterson says the biopropane conversion has a good energy balance: not much fossil fuel needs to be burned during production. The reaction does not require the input of a large amount of energy because the heat that's key to the biopropane conversion is recoverable using a heat exchanger, a device that transfers heat in and out of a fluid:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"All biofuel reactions involve removing oxygen from the starting compound," says George Huber, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst. There are a number of strategies for doing this, including reactions that rely on biological catalysts. But, says Huber, "supercritical fluids are a very promising way to make biofuels. You can do it in a very small reactor in a very short time, so you can do it very economically."

Other academic labs are developing processes that use high-temperature, high-pressure fluids to make biofuels. Douglas Elliott, at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland, WA, is using near-supercritical conditions in combination with a catalyst to treat wastewater and unprocessed biomass. Under these conditions, organic compounds can be made into a mixture of methane (the main component in natural gas) and carbon dioxide. "We've gone all the way from small-batch reactors to treating a few gallons of wastewater per hour," says Elliott, who is working with a company on commercializing the technology for water treatment. "We're still in the lab with biomass."

Huber and Elliott say the MIT biopropane process is novel. "I've never seen anyone make propane with supercritical fluids," says Huber.

In some countries, including Australia, propane is more widely used as a transportation fuel. In the United States, "you would have to modify engines to use it," says Huber. "Biopropane could be used where we already use propane."

Image: cart of an Indian propane salesman; in the third world, the fuel is increasingly used by households for cooking, especially in China, India and Africa.

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Euro-Indian joint venture to enter Brazilian biofuels industry

India's Praj Industries, an engineering and agriprocessing equipment provider and the Norwegian Aker Kvaerner Group, an engineering and construction services company with expertise in the oil and gas sector, are creating a joint venture to enter the biofuels industry in Brazil. While Praj will hold 60%, Aker Kvaerner will hold 40% of the shareholding in the new company.

The proposed joint venture will combine Aker Kvaerner's execution capabilities and extensive European market knowledge with the technological expertise of Praj. The cooperation will offer European customers access to the complete scope of services required for license, plant design and construction of biofuel facilities. In 2006, Praj and Aker Kvaerner entered into an alliance for strategic cooperation on bioethanol projects in Europe. Based on market interest in the alliance and the fact that Europe will follow a binding guideline of 10 per cent biofuels blending by 2020, thereby expanding the market opportunity for biofuel plants, the two companies commenced discussions to extend their association by forming a joint-venture.

Focus on biodiesel
With nearly 60% of the incremental growth in world transport fuels being diesel based and with almost all countries round the world being major diesel consumers, on and off the road, the Praj's management felt its was the right time to address the biodiesel technology market. With its engineering expertise and its understanding of agri-based processing, Praj is focusing on offering its multi-feedstock biodiesel plants. Praj will thus offer turnkey solutions including technology, engineering, plant & equipment and project management services for biodiesel projects.

The company is currently examining acquisition proposals to enter the Brazilian biofuels market, where both new biodiesel and bioethanol projects will be launched as well:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"The board has given in-principle approval for an initial investment up to 40 crore to establish the JV in Europe, and commence operations in Brazil," the release said. The Company is currently examining certain acquisition proposals with a view to enter Brazilian biofuels technology, plant & equipment market and establish an operational base in the country.

Ethanol production in Brazil is poised to double by 2010. Today, Brazil is at a major turning point in terms of technology and plant designs, which is why Praj sees an opportunity to serve these changing requirements.

Praj Industries is becoming an important engineering firm in the biofuels sector. Earlier this year, it snapped up a major contract to design and equip a bioethanol plant as part of a €200 million biofuels project in Belgium (earlier post), and it is currently building five more such plants in Colombia. Three of those plants have a capacity of 250,000 liters/day, the others have a capacity of 100,000 and 300,000 liters per day, respectively - or a total annual production capacity of 420 million liters (111 million gallons).

Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and serial green entrepreneur, is holding a stake in the Indian company and acts as a facilitator.

Brazil's new biodiesel program aims to supply 2% of the biofuel to be mixed in all diesel fuel by 2010. A special 'Social Fuel Seal' policy that seems to be attractive to investors has been implemented. It ties small-scale feedstock producers, some of who belong to Brazil's poorest rural classes, to the projects, which results in increased food, energy and income security (earlier post).

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A closer look at China's biomass power plants

China is building a new coal-fired power plant each week. The country knows that, at this pace, it will become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, surpassing the US earlier than expected (by 2010-2015). For this reason, the People's Republic tries to diversify away from fossil fuels and into renewables, even though energy demand is so high that the green initiatives do not seem to make much difference yet. Eighty percent of the country's electricity is currently generated from coal. Demand for the climate destructive fuel increases by around 4.2% per annum.

One of China's strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and industrial sectors is to utilize the country's massive stream of agricultural and forestry residues as a source of renewable and sustainable biomass for energy. As part of a comprehensive bioenergy policy outlined under the '11th Five-year Period', the objective is to build up a biomass power generation capacity of 5.5 GW. Agricultural residues are either to be co-fired with coal (see earlier post on an EU-China biomass co-firing project), or used as a single energy source in dedicated biomass power plants.

As forecast by China's (bio)energy research centers, the country's coal demand is set to total over 2.5 billion tons of standard coal this year. Some estimate that if all the waste biomass resources generated in China were to be used efficiently, they can replace an equivalent of 100 million tons of standard coal (earlier post), whereas dedicated energy crops can replace another 400 million tons per annum. In short, around 20 percent of China's current energy consumption could be met with biomass. But to tap into this potential, several hurdles must be taken: collecting, storing and distributing the biomass streams from fields to power plants is a major logistical challenge, adapting coal-fired plants or building new dedicated biomass plants will require huge investments, and policies and financing mechanisms must be crafted.

However, utilising waste biomass streams also has major advantages: resources can be used locally and power plants can be built close to supply zones; the sector provides additional incomes to farmers who supply the biomass. Each rural household is now seen as an energy producer. This perspective is part of China's push to build what it calls a 'new socialist countryside', based on bioenergy. Finally, establishing a biomass power generation capacity today may be the first step towards a radical carbon negative energy system in the future (so-called Bio-energy with Carbon Storage).

China has meanwhile brought the first series of dedicated biomass plants online. We focus only on projects implemented by the National Bio Energy company, a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China, which has so far connected five plants to the national grid, with another 9 under construction (interactive map). A total of 22 of the company's direct-biomass fired power plants have been approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (in total, more than 30 have been approved). Implementation occurs swiftly, with the average time to get the projects up and running being under 8 months. Some of the plants have been registered as Clean Development Mechanism projects, which allow producers from industrialised countries to receive certified emission reductions by investing in such projects. The capacity of the biomass plants ranges between 25 and 50MW.

We focus in on some of the basics of these projects, by looking at the parameters of some plants:

The Shanxian biomass power plant (Shandong Province):
  • fuel: 100% biomass - 160,000 to 200,000 tons of agricultural residues (straw and stalks) per year, sourced from local farming communities
  • capacity: 1 x 25MW generator, annual electricity output is around 137Gwh
  • coal replacement: the plant saves around 70,000 tons of standard coal per year
  • CO2 emission reductions: 10 million tons per year
  • biomass logistics: eight straw collecting, storing and buying stations have been set up to secure waste biomass resources from farmers
  • incomes for farmers: the project brings about 50 million yuan (€4.8/US$6.5 million) per year to the rural households who supply the biomass
  • direct jobs generated: 500
The other four biomass plants have a similar set of mechanisms to secure biomass supplies, and generate an equal amount of jobs and incomes to farmers:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Kenli biomass power plant (Shandong Province)
  • total investment: 270 million yuan
  • fuel: chopped cotton straw and coppice
  • capacity: one single-stage extraction condensing turbine power generator with an installed capacity of 1×25MW, together with one high-temperature and high-pressure special biomass boiler with capacity of 130T/h

Cheng’an biomass power plant
  • fuel: predominantly chopped cotton straw
  • capacity: 1×24MW single stage extraction steam turbine generator, which is equipped with a 130t/h water-cooled vibrating grate, high-temperature & high-pressure biomass boiler.
  • implementation time: work started on May 28, 2006 and was connected to the grid in January 2007.

Chifeng biomass power plant (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region)
  • total investment: 490 million yuan
  • co-generation: the plant will deliver both heat and power
  • fuel: 327,000 tons of agricultural and forestry waste per annum
  • capacity: two 25MW extraction condensing heat supply units associated with two 130t/h vibrating grate high-temperature high-pressure boilers.

Writing for China Economic Net, Sun Benyao outlines the advantages and the context behind these projects.

It can be seen from such a case that biomass energy plays a vital role in improving China's sustainable development capacity. Industrial and agricultural wastes including straws and stalks are main raw materials for biomass power generation, in which biomass energy is made use of to act as a source of energy. As the society and the economy develop day by day, biomass power plant as a new pattern of power generation has presented its prominent advantages especially in China.

Firstly, a new source of energy will be provided for the sustainable development of China. Currently, fossil energy resources account for 90 percent of the annual total energy consumption all over the world. With the current level of energy consumption, major fossil energy resources can be hardly left by the mid-22nd Century. But biomass energy has become the most widely used renewable energy for the moment due to such characteristics as a wide distribution as a kind of energy resource, having little influence on the environment, and that it can be utilized in a sustainable manner.

Secondly, the environment can be protected and the greenhouse effect can be eased. Large-scale exploitation and use of fossil fuels have caused serious environmental problems such as ecological damage etc. and are posing direct threats to the sustainable development of the humankind, but biomass power generation is attracting attention in the world as it discharges no carbon dioxide. Considering the properties of biomass fuels per se like a low ash content and a low sulfur content and the zero discharge mechanism in the growth process and the combustion process of biomass, biomass power generation is an effective measure to cool the earth.

Thirdly, it could be conducive to the establishment of a resource-saving society and what the country calls a 'circular economy' (zero waste; the waste streams from one sector become inputs for other industrial processes). China is abundant in biomass energy resources. The annual output of crop straws and stalks alone is about 700 million tons. Except for the small part of crop straws and stalks used for cooking and heating purposes in rural areas, all the remaining crop straws and stalks can be provided as fuel for biomass power generation. It is understood that the total biomass energy resources that can be exploited in the near future in China may be equivalent to about 500 million tons of standard coal, it may be equivalent to 10 million tons of standard coal at a specified future date. If considering the situation comprehensively and planting various kinds of energy forest on barren hills and barren slopes, the biomass energy resources may be equivalent to over 1.5 billion tons of standard coal in the long-term.

Fourthly, the construction of a 'new socialist countryside' can be accelerated and promoted. One of the important measures for the construction of a new socialist countryside is to make efforts to develop a circular agriculture. As the economic revenues of farmers increase in China, the proportion of straws and stalks used as a kind of energy resource in daily life is gradually decreasing. The abandoned straws and stalks have become a major source of environmental pollution in rural areas that will affect the view of villages seriously. Biomass power generation does not only provide a new source of energy for the construction in China and protect the environment but also turns straws and stalks from wastes into a treasure, thus bringing forth an increment to farmers' incomes and creating job opportunities for them.

For the biomass power generation industry, the Chinese government has given its great supports. It has been pointed out clearly in the No. 1 Document of the CPC Central Committee issued this year that the biomass industry, which takes biomass energy resources, bio-based products and biomass raw materials as the main contents, is a sunrise industry expanding the functions of the agriculture and promoting the highly effective use of resources. In the 11th Five-Year Period Plan, it is also made clear an objective to build up an installation capacity of 5.5 million kilowatt for the development of biomass power generation. It is noteworthy that in case of a new industry, interdisciplinary, cross-sectional and cross-industry combination and cooperation and the reconciliation of contradictions between demands for fuels and the behind-lagging production patterns in rural areas are both problems to be urgently solved. With all those difficulties overcome, biomass power generation will play a more important role in the modernization construction.

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