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    The government of the Indian state of Haryana approves three small-scale (1MW) biomass gasification projects, while the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA) identifies seven industrial sectors it will help to adopt the biomass gasification technology to meet their captive thermal and electrical requirements. Economic Times - April 21, 2007.

    The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is planning to build a coconut oil biodiesel plant in Ivisan, Capiz (a province in the Western Visayas region) by the middle of this year in response to the growing demand for biodiesel. News Today (Iloilo City) - April 20, 2007.

    Scientists working for Royal Nedalco (involved in cellulosic ethanol production), the Delft University of Technology and a firm called Bird Engineering have found a fungus in elephant dung that helped them produce a yeast strain which can efficiently ferment xylose into ethanol. The researchers consider this to be a breakthrough and see widespread application of the yeast within 5 years. More info to follow as details emerge. Scientific American - April 19, 2007.

    As part of its 'Le dessous des cartes' magazine, Europe's culture TV channel ARTE airs a documentary about the geopolitics of sustainable transport tonight, at 10.20 pm CET. Readers outside of Europe can catch it here. ARTE - April 18, 2007.

    Spain's diversified company the Ferry Group is investing €50 million into a biomass plantation in new EU-memberstate Bulgaria. The project will see the establishment of a 8000ha plantation of hybrid paulownia trees that will be used for the production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik, Bulgaria - April 18, 2007.

    Bioprocess Control signs agreement with Svensk Biogas and forms closer ties with Swedish Biogas International. Bioprocess Control develops high-tech applications that optimise the commercial production of biogas. It won Sweden's prestigious national clean-tech innovations competition MiljöInnovation 2007 for its 'Biogas Optimizer' that accelerates the biogas production process and ensures greater process stability. NewsDesk Sweden - April 17, 2007.

    A joint Bioenergy project of Purdue University and Archer Daniels Midland Company has been selected to receive funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to further the commercialization of highly-efficient yeast which converts cellulosic materials into ethanol through fermentation. ADM - April 17, 2007.

    Researchers at Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Services (ARS) have found that glycerin, a biodiesel by-product, is as effective as conventional corn-soymeal diets for pigs. AllAboutFeed - April 16, 2007.

    U.S. demand for uranium may surge by a third amid a revival in atomic power projects, increasing concern that imports will increase and that limited supplies may push prices higher, the Nuclear Energy Institute says. Prices touched all time highs of US$113 a pound in an auction last week by a U.S producer amid plans by China and India to expand their nuclear power capacity. International Herald Tribune - April 16, 2007.

    Taiwan mandates a 1% biodiesel and ethanol blend for all diesel and gasoline sold in the country, to become effective next year. By 2010, the ratio will be increased to 2%. WisconsinAg Connection - April 16, 2007.

    Vietnam has won the prestigious EU-sponsored Energy Globe award for 2006 for a community biogas program, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced. ThanhNien News - April 13, 2007.

    Given unstable fossil fuel prices and their negative effects on the economy, Tanzania envisages large-scale agriculture of energy crops Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza has said. A 600 hectare jatropha seed production effort is underway, with the seeds expected to be distributed to farmers during the 2009/2010 growing season. Daily News (Dar es Salaam) - April 12, 2007.

    Renault has announced it will launch a flex-fuel version of its Logan in Brazil in July. Brazilian autosales rose 28% to 1,834,581 in 2006 from 2004. GreenCarCongress - April 12, 2007.

    Chevron and Weyerhouser, one of the largest forest products companies, are joining forces to research next generation biofuels. The companies will focus on developing technology that can transform wood fiber and other nonfood sources of cellulose into economical, clean-burning biofuels for cars and trucks. PRNewswire - April 12, 2007.

    BioConversion Blog's C. Scott Miller discusses the publication of 'The BioTown Source Book', which offers a very accessible introduction to the many different bioconversion technologies currently driving the bioenergy sector. BioConversion Blog - April 11, 2007.

    China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import & Export Corp., Ltd. (COFCO) have signed a framework agreement over plans to cooperatively develop forest bioenergy resources, COFCO announced on its web site. Interfax China - April 11, 2007.

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of El Salvador is speeding up writing the country's biofuels law in order to take advantage of the US-Brazil cooperation agreement which identified the country as one where projects can be launched fairly quickly. The bill is expected to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks. El Porvenir - April 11, 2007.

    ConocoPhillips will establish an eight-year, $22.5 million research program at Iowa State University dedicated to developing technologies that produce biofuels. The grant is part of ConocoPhillips' plan to create joint research programs with major universities to produce viable solutions to diversify America's energy sources. Iowa State University - April 11, 2007.

    Interstate Power and Light has decided to utilize super-critical pulverized coal boiler technology at its large (600MW) new generation facility planned for Marshalltown, Iowa. The plant is designed to co-fire biomass and has a cogeneration component. The investment tops US$1billion. PRNewswire - April 10, 2007.

    One of India's largest sugar companies, the Birla group will invest 8 billion rupees (US$187 million) to expand sugar and biofuel ethanol output and produce renewable electricity from bagasse, to generate more revenue streams from its sugar business. Reuters India - April 9, 2007.

    An Iranian firm, Mashal Khazar Darya, is to build a cellulosic ethanol plant that will utilise switchgrass as its feedstock at a site it owns in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The investment is estimated to be worth €112/US$150 million. The plant's capacity will be 378 million liters (100 million gallons), supplied by switchgrass grown on 4400 hectares of land. PressTv (Iran) - April 9, 2007.

    The Africa Power & Electricity Congress and Exhibition, to take place from 16 - 20 April 2007, in the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa, will focus on bioenergy and biofuels. The Statesman - April 7, 2007.

    Petrobras and Petroecuador have signed a joint performance MOU for a technical, economic and legal viability study to develop joint projects in biofuel production and distribution in Ecuador. The project includes possible joint Petroecuador and Petrobras investments, in addition to qualifying the Ecuadorian staff that is directly involved in biofuel-related activities with the exchange of professionals and technical training. PetroBras - April 5, 2007.

    The Société de Transport de Montréal is to buy 8 biodiesel-electric hybrid buses that will use 20% less fuel and cut 330 tons of GHG emissions per annum. Courrier Ahuntsic - April 3, 2007.

    Thailand mandates B2, a mixture of 2% biodiesel and 98% diesel. According to Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand, the mandate comes into effect by April next year. Bangkok Post - April 3, 2007.

    In what is described as a defeat for the Bush administration, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled [*.pdf] today that environmental officials have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming. By a 5-4 vote, the nation's highest court told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change. Reuters - April 2, 2007.

    Goldman Sachs estimates that, in the absence of current trade barriers, Latin America could supply all the ethanol required in the US and Europe at a cost of $45 per barrel – just over half the cost of US-made ethanol. EuroToday - April 2, 2007.

    The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative signed a long-term purchase power agreement last week with Green Energy Team, LLC. The 20-year agreement enables KIUC to purchase power from Green Energy's proposed 6.4 megawatt biomass-to-energy facility, which will use agricultural waste to generate power. Honolulu Advertiser - April 2, 2007.

    The market trend to heavier, more powerful hybrids is eroding the fuel consumption advantage of hybrid technology, according to a study done by researchers at the University of British Columbia. GreenCarCongress - March 30, 2007.

    Hungarian privately-owned bio-ethanol project firm Mabio is planning to complete an €80-85 million ethanol plant in Southeast Hungary's Csabacsud by end-2008. Onet/Interfax - March 29, 2007.

    Energy and engineering group Abengoa announces it has applied for planning permission to build a bioethanol plant in north-east England with a capacity of about 400,000 tonnes a year. Reuters - March 29, 2007.

    The second European Summer School on Renewable Motor Fuels will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from 29 to 31 August 2007. The goal of the event is to disseminate the knowledge generated within the EU-funded RENEW (Renewable Fuels for Advanced Powertrains) project and present it to the European academic audience and stakeholders. Topics on the agenda include generation of synthetic gas from biomass and gas cleaning; transport fuel synthesis from synthetic gas; biofuel use in different motors; biomass potentials, supply and logistics, and technology, cost and life-cycle assessment of BtL pathways. Cordis News - March 27, 2007.

    Green Swedes want even more renewables, according to a study from Gothenburg University. Support for hydroelectricity and biofuels has increased, whereas three-quarters of people want Sweden to concentrate more on wind and solar too. Swedes still back the nuclear phase-out plans. The country is Europe's largest ethanol user. It imports 75% of the biofuel from Brazil. Sveriges Radio International - March 27, 2007.

    Fiat will launch its Brazilian-built flex-fuel Uno in South Africa later this year. The flex-fuel Uno, which can run on gasoline, ethanol or any combination of the two fuels, was displayed at the Durban Auto Show, and is set to become popular as South Africa enters the ethanol era. Automotive World - March 27, 2007.

    Siemens Power Generation (PG) is to supply two steam turbine gensets to a biomass-fired plant in Três Lagoas, 600 kilometers northwest of São Paulo. The order, valued at €22 million, was placed by the Brazilian company Pöyry Empreendimentos, part of VCP (Votorantim Celulose e Papel), one of the biggest cellulose producers in the Americas. PRDomain - March 25, 2007.

    Asia’s demand for oil will nearly double over the next 25 years and will account for 85% of the increased demand in 2007, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) officials forecast yesterday at a Bangkok-hosted energy conference. Daily Times - March 24, 2007.

    Portugal's government expects total investment in biomass energy will reach €500 million in 2012, when its target of 250MW capacity is reached. By that date, biomass will reduce 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. By 2010, biomass will represent 5% of the country's energy production. Forbes - March 22, 2007.

    The Scottish Executive has announced a biomass action plan for Scotland, through which dozens of green energy projects across the region are set to benefit from an additional £3 million of funding. The plan includes greater use of the forestry and agriculture sectors, together with grant support to encourage greater use of biomass products. Energy Business Review Online - March 21, 2007.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shell and Powerfuel sign agreement for coal gasification and carbon capture

Coal company Powerfuel announced that it has signed a licence agreement with Shell which entitles it to use Shell’s proprietary gasification technology in its proposed 900MW IGCC coal fired power station at Hatfield, South Yorkshire. The purpose of this approach is to enable carbon capture and storage (CCS) to take place at the lowest cost using pre-combustion capture techniques applied to gasified coal.

We report on this development, because it confirms our finding that of call carbon capture methods, pre-combustion carbon capture from gas is the most feasible and low-cost technology currently available. This technology can not only be applied to fossil fuels (gasified coal, natural gas) but just as well to gasified biomass or, even more interestingly, to biogas.

CCS applied to bioenergy results in a the world's only carbon negative energy system - so-called 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS). Scientists think that if BECS were to be applied on a massive scale, the concept can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels within a few decades only. BECS effectively negates our 'historic' CO2 emissions; no other energy concept is carbon negative - renewables like solar or wind are carbon-neutral at best, whereas CCS applied to fossil fuels is slightly carbon-positive. BECS however is radically carbon-negative. Moreover, the concept is also far safer and cost-effective than risky and costly geo-engineering concepts aimed at mitigating global warming (like seeding the oceans with iron to cause artificial algae blooms, pumping sulphur into the atmosphere to create a cooling blanket, or launching millions of mirrors into space to reflect sunlight).

Finally of all CCS routes, those based on using carbon-neutral biomass are the safest; there are still considerable risks involved in storing CO2 under ground, leakage being the most problematic one. Now if the CO2 that is sequestered were to come from carbon-neutral biomass and it were to leak, there would be no net increase in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. If sequestered CO2 derived from fossil fuels would begin to leak, the contrary would be true.

In short, for all these reasons, developments in CCS technologies are of interest to bioenergy advocates who understand the major advantages of BECS. In an earlier piece, we looked at applying carbon capture options to biomass and concluded that pre-combustion capture of CO2 from biogas is probably the most feasible path. The agreement between Shell UK and Powerfuel Plc roughly confirms this finding:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

From the press release:

"Coal gasification [read 'biomass gasification'] is the cleanest method for converting coal’s [biomass's] energy potential into electricity. The process takes coal and turns it into a hydrogen-rich synthesis gas, which, in this case, will facilitate the separation of the carbon dioxide pre-combustion in the turbine generators. It is this factor which offers a lower cost approach to carbon capture. The hydrogen rich stream could also potentially be used in clean transportation and in substitution of natural gas, as well as electricity production on site."

Other, more costly carbon capture techniques are either based on trapping CO2 after combusiton of the fuel, or during the combustion.

Richard Budge, Chief Executive of Powerfuel Plc, said “We are delighted to be working with Shell in our vision to be the first commercial-scale coal fired power generator with carbon capture in the world. Success in this project would be enormously significant for UK and EU energy policy as it offers the benefits of a local, inexpensive fuel, improved security of electricity supply and very low carbon emissions. This agreement maintains our leading position in the development of carbon capture from coal fired electricity generation in the UK.”

Peter de Wit, Shell Gas & Power Executive Vice President, Global Businesses, said: “Shell is at the forefront of developments in clean coal and our leading-edge technology is clean, efficient and reliable. Today’s agreement with Powerfuel is the second we have signed in Europe in less than a year and is the first in this region for a project incorporating carbon capture and storage from the outset. The deal signals a further expansion of our clean coal business outside of China, where we have sold 15 gasification licences over the past five years.”

Powerfuel Plc has already received section 36 government consent for a part of this project. Engineering work will now proceed to the conclusion of a full FEED (front end engineering design) package, following which construction is expected to take 3 – 4 years. Discussions are continuing with third parties with a view to the construction of a pipeline to transport CO2 from Humberside, an area with very large carbon dioxide emitters, to secure storage sites in the North Sea.

Mr Budge further commented “We await the design and publication of the government’s competition to support one or more CCS projects because we believe that our project represents the lowest cost approach to the important challenges that face the electricity industry in this country and overseas.”

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UN environment chief backs EU's biofuels plan, urges environmentalists to drop 'simplistic' views

The UN’s top environment official has backed an ambitious European Union plan to require the blending of plant-based biofuels into road fuels despite what he calls "simplistic" critiques by some environmentalists that this will automatically lead to increased deforestation in south-east Asia and Brazil.

Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Prog­ramme (UNEP), said on Thursday that biofuels were needed to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels. Increased consumer awareness, he said, would eventually force producers of palm oil and soya used in biofuels to adopt more sustainable production methods, while other biofuel feedstocks with a far lower environmental footprint [sorghum, cassava, jatropha, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and second generation biofuels] will be adopted more widely in the future.

The top expert said curbing greenhouse gas emissions by using biofuels is one of the most effective means to fight climate change and to reduce poverty in the South. Not investing in green fuels may result in far bigger ecological damages than some of the environmentalists think. Dependence on fossil fuels is detrimental to the economy of poor countries and fuels poverty, which results in increased pressures on the environment. Biofuels can turn this situation around.

The top environment chief of the UN, who attended a meeting on business and the environment in Singapore on Thursday, suggested these environmentalists' efforts to curb biofuel development reflected a “sledgehammer” approach and were based on “simplistic” views:
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One of the returning points of critique made by some environmentalist groups is that the production of some biofuel feedstocks (palm oil, soya) leads to deforestation. But Mr Steiner said there were multiple causes for the burning of forest land, including clearing space for agriculture, and that biofuels should not be solely blamed for the problem.

Plant-based biofuels have been promoted to help fight global warming, and south-east Asian countries, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia, are expanding production of palm oil as a main ingredient in their production.

Palm oil plantation companies have been blamed for burning down forests in Indonesian Sumatra and Borneo and so contributing to a growing annual smog problem in the region. A recent UK-funded report found Indonesia was the world’s third-largest carbon emitter behind the US and China, largely because of the forest fires.

Even though these findings are scientifically incorrect, because they do not take into account the carbon sequestered in palm oil plantations which neutralise the carbon emitted by forest clearance, Mr Steiner acknowledged Indonesia could do more to protect forests and promote sustainable development. But he said biofuel consumers in Europe and elsewhere were becoming aware of the problem and would demand that biofuel producers be certified as engaging in sustainable production.

The UN Environment Chief predicted that biofuel producers and governments would co-operate in establishing international standards to certify sustainable production. A group of palm oil producers recently formed the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to set up a certification process, while palm oil producers in south-east Asia and soya producers in Brazil have established partnerships with environmental groups to develop sustainable criteria.

More information:
Financial Times: UN backs biofuel despite fears of deforestation - April 20, 2007.

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Air liquide acquires Lurgi to speed up biofuels and hydrogen production

French group Air Liquide, the leading producer of industrial gas technologies, has announced [*French] the acquisition of German engineering company Lurgi, owned by the Global Engineering Alliance (GEA Group AG). The acquisition is worth around €550/US$749 million. The operation is currently being screened by the European and American competition authorities.

With nearly 1,300 employees and total sales of around €850 million in 2006, Lurgi has a particularly large portfolio of technologies, from producing hydrogen and synthesis gas to first generation (bioethanol, biodiesel) and second generation biofuels based on biomass-to-liquids (BtL) and gas-to-liquids (GtL) conversion technologies. Lurgi is one of the world leaders in these fields, processes which consume large quantities of oxygen, one of Air Liquide's areas of expertise. Lurgi's main engineering centers are situated in Germany, Poland, the United States, India and South Africa.

According to Air Liquide this acquisition is an important step to achieve the new objectives recently announced by the group. Notably, it will enable the acceleration of growth in the Large Industries World Business Line, strengthening the company's resources in hydrogen markets and giving it access to the Coal-to-Liquids (CtL) and Coal-to-Chemicals (CtC) sectors, besides developing biomass based liquid fuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Air Liquide today has a great depth of expertise with five engineering and construction centers in the major markets around the world (France, United States, Japan, China and India) with a total of 1,500 employees. With these resources, Air Liquide designs, develops and builds its own gas production units. Gas production units are also designed and manufactured for external customers, generating total third party sales in 2006 of €380 million. In this regard, Air Liquide has been a regular partner with Lurgi for many years, with the most recent jointly-developed projects undertaken in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

The acquisition of Lurgi is going to boost the group's capacity to grow and enlarge its technological competences. Because of the complementarity of the locations where both companies are present and their technology portfolios, their engineers will be able to streamline the design of ultra-large production plants, which is needed in order to compete on new and rapidly developing markets. By doubling its number of leading experts, Air Liquide considerably strengthens its capacity to innovate.

More information:
Air Liquide: Acquisition de la société Lurgi - April 17, 2007.
GEA Group AG: GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft sells Lurgi Group - April 17, 2007.
Caradisiac: Air Liquide achète Lurgi : un coup d'accélérateur pour les biocarburants et l'hydrogène - April 19, 2007.

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