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    C-Tran, the public transportation system serving Southwest Washington and parts of Portland, has converted its 97-bus fleet and other diesel vehicles to run on a blend of 20% biodiesel beginning 1 May from its current fleet-wide use of B5. Automotive World - May 3, 2007.

    The Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) and France's largest research organisation, the CNRS, have signed a framework-agreement to cooperate on the development of new energy technologies, including research into biomass based fuels and products, as well as carbon capture and storage technologies. CNRS - April 30, 2007.

    One of India's largest state-owned bus companies, the Andra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation is to use biodiesel in one depot of each of the 23 districts of the state. The company operates some 22,000 buses that use 330 million liters of diesel per year. Times of India - April 30, 2007.

    Indian sugar producers face surpluses after a bumper harvest and low prices. Diverting excess sugar into the ethanol industry now becomes more attractive. India is the world's second largest sugar producer. NDTVProfit - April 30, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet on Thursday signed a biofuel cooperation agreement designed to share Brazil's experience in ethanol production and help Chile develop biofuels and fuel which Lula seeks to promote in other countries. More info to follow. People's Daily Online - April 27, 2007.

    Italy's Benetton plans to build a €61 million wood processing and biomass pellet production factory Nagyatád (southwest Hungary). The plant will be powered by biogas. Budapest Sun - April 27, 2007.

    Cargill is to build an ethanol plant in the Magdeburger Börde, located on the river Elbe, Germany. The facility, which will be integrated into existing starch processing plant, will have an annual capacity of 100,000 cubic meters and use grain as its feedstock. FIF - April 26, 2007.

    Wärtsilä Corporation was awarded a contract by the Belgian independent power producer Renogen S.A. to supply a second biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plant in the municipality of Amel in the Ardennes, Belgium. The new plant will have a net electrical power output of 3.29 MWe, and a thermal output of up to 10 MWth for district heating. The electrical output in condensing operation is 5.3 MWe. Kauppalehti - April 25, 2007.

    A Scania OmniCity double-decker bus to be deployed by Transport for London (TfL) will be powered by ethanol made from Brazilian sugar cane, TfL Coordinator Helen Woolston told a bioethanol conference in London. The bus will join a fleet of seven hybrid diesel-electric buses currently running in London, where TfL plans to introduce 50 more hybrid buses by the end of 2008. EEMS Online - April 24, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic plans to fly a 747 jumbojet on a mix of 60% biofuel and 40% kerosene in 2008. Sir Richard Branson is collaborating with Boeing to achieve this milestone in aviation history. He already hinted at the fact that the biofuels "it was possible the crops could be grown in Africa, thereby helping to alleviate poverty on the continent at the same time as safeguarding the environment." More details to be announced soon. Telegraph - April 24, 2007.

    A top executive of General Motors, vice-chairman Bob Lutz, says the US should launch a 'Manhattan Project' for biofuels to make a 'wholesale switch' within five years. Kentucky.com - April 24, 2007.

    Canada's new government launches a C$200 million 'Ecoagriculture Biofuels Capital Initiative' aimed at helping agricultural producers construct or expand transportation biofuel production facilities. Government of Canada - April 24, 2007.

    Russian oil company Lukoil reportedly installed production facilities for obtaining biofuels in its refinery Neftochim in the coastal city of Bourgas. Lukoil has over 2500 oil stations in Europe, the largest number of which are located in Bulgaria, which joined the EU this year. Sofia Echo - April 22, 2007.

    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.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

World's first carbon-negative energy system planned in Netherlands: biomass with carbon capture

Dutch media report [*Dutch] that diversified energy firm Nuon is in the final stages of creating the world's first large-scale carbon-negative energy system in Eemshaven, the Netherlands.

The system comes close to what scientists describe as 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS), thought to be one of the most effective technology routes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a radical way. Nuon is building a large (1200MW) coal gasification plant that will co-fire increasing amounts of biomass, capture the carbon dioxide released and bury it in depleted natural gas fields (of which there are more and more in the Netherlands). The result is a carbon-negative energy system.

According to scientists who studied BECS-models in the context of 'Abrupt Climate Change' (a catastrophic scenario that would require rapid and planetary geo-engineering interventions), the global implementation of such carbon-negative energy systems can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels by mid-century. Such systems are seen as one of the few realistic geo-engineering options available to us: a system that radically takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, while at the same time delivering energy with which we can continue to power our societies. No other (renewable) energy technology (wind, nuclear, solar) makes this possible, since they are all slightly carbon positive.

BECS is carbon-negative because it relies on (almost) carbon-neutral biomass. As biomass feedstocks grow (preferrably in the tropics, where there is a huge potential and where their production is highly efficient, provides jobs to the poor and results in an albedo effect that cools the planet), they take CO2 out of the atmosphere. When the feedstock is then burned (co-fired with small amounts of coal or 100% biomass), and the carbon captured and stored, the system effectively takes more CO2 out of the atmosphere than it releases. In short, BECS clean up our emissions from the past.

Since carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies still pose several risks, the safest route to testing them is immediately to start with biomass. The reason is obvious: in a worst-case scenario – the failure of storage and CO2 leakage – the carbon dioxide that would be released would not result in a net increase in emissions (since the CO2 was part of the carbon-neutral biomass in the first place). If leakage were to occur with carbon dioxide originating from fossil fuels, the contrary would be the case. In short, starting CCS trials with biomass is the safest way forward (see EurActiv).

The Nuon project is the first concrete and large-scale BECS-system. On April 26, Secretary-General of the VROM (Dutch Environment Ministry) Van der Vlist, Nuon director Ludo van Halderen and Hans Alders, representative of the Queen of the Netherlands in the Province of Groningen (where the plant is located), signed a memorandum of understanding [*Dutch/*.pdf] which basically contains the go-ahead for the project and national and provincial funding. Costs for capturing the carbon dioxide in the large plant will be in the tens of millions of Euros, but carbon-credits off-set these:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Dutch government will cover most of the costs for the carbon capture and storage component. The project is expected to come online next year, with full-scale CCS operations starting in 2013. The co-firing of biomass has the added advantage of reducing emissions of SOx and NOx.

BECS-systems can be implemented with all types of biofuels - liquid, gaseous or solid - but some have particular advantages over others. Capturing carbon dioxide is the most expensive step of CCS technologies, with several new techniques under development. One of them however stands out: pre-combustion CO2 capture of biogas. This technique is the least costly, because the amount of CO2 in biogas is large compared to that of natural gas, whereas the gaseous nature of the fuel allows for CO2 separation before the gas is combusted (earlier post).

Several CCS-projects and tests are underway in different parts of the world (particularly in France, Germany, the UK and Australia), but the Dutch project, explicitly aimed at co-firing biomass and possibly evolving to a 100% biomass fuelled plant, is the first genuine BECS-system.

Another approach to designing carbon-negative energy systems relies on utilising biomass for energy, while storing part of the waste-biomass as biochar (obtained from pyrolysis or by charcoal production techniques) in soils, which act as sequestration bodies. The advantage of such a system is that it improves the fertility of agricultural land (earlier post).

More information:
Rembrandt Koppelaar, Dutch Peak Oil Association: "Vergevorderde plannen voor Nederlandse CO2 opslag" [*Dutch] - April 29, 2007.
AgriHolland: "Groningen tekent intentieverklaring grootschalige afvang en opslag CO2" [*Dutch]- May 2, 2007.
Province of Groningen: "Intentieverklaring CO2 afvang, transport en opslag" [*Dutch/*.pdf] - April 27, 2007.

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Gender and energy: why biofuels can benefit rural women

Late last year, the "Citizens United for Renewable Energies and Sustainability" (CURES) network participated in a conference on "Women and the Environment" held in South Africa. During the event, Annie Sugrue of CURES, one of the leading NGO-networks in the sector, spoke about gender, energy poverty and biofuels. Her presentation, entitled "Why the development of biofuels can benefit the rural poor - Biofuels as a future source of energy for women in rural settlements in South Africa" [*.pdf] is now online. We have a summary look at it.

Focusing on the situation in South Africa, Sugrue shows why high oil prices have a dramatic impact on the poor, and on women in particular. High oil prices make food more expensive and agriculture less profitable. A lack of modern fuels keeps agriculture a burdensome and inefficient activity. In most developing countries, women are responsible for both securing energy at the household level and doing most of the productive work in the field. For these reasons, biofuels, if implemented well can make a real difference and free women from backbreaking burdens and make their work more efficient. In combination with other development goals, biofuels can 'empower' women: they themselves can grow the fuels that make their own work more efficient, which allows them to spend more valuable time on other activities.

The author presents a sustainable biofuel production model, tailored to the needs of rural women, based on an integrated pro-poor "food-and-fuel" system in which perennial crops take center stage. The system allows to cover local energy needs, and provides opportunities for income generation by selling biofuels and byproducts to broader markets. Sugrue illustrates the viability of the concept with three case-studies from Mali, South Africa, and Zambia.

Referring to Energia, an international network on gender and sustainable energy, Sugrue offers a quick overview of gender perspectives on energy in the developing world:
  • Women and men have different roles in the energy system: women bear the main burden of providing and using fuels (dung, raw biomass) for cooking. A situation made worse by fuel scarcity and negative health and safety impacts (such as indoor air pollution, which kills an estimated 1.5 million women and children in the developing world each year - see the recent WHO warning).
  • Women bear the invisible burden of the human energy crisis – their time and effort in water pumping, agricultural processing and transport. They need modern and more efficient energy sources to improve their work and quality of life both within and outside the home.
  • Women have less access than men to the credit, extension, land and training, necessary for improving energy access to support their livelihoods and income generation from micro enterprises.
  • Women and men have different kinds of knowledge and experience of energy, either through their traditional roles, their new traditional roles or increasingly as professionals in the energy sector.
  • Since women experience poverty differently to men, they may need different energy policies to help them escape energy poverty: new energy technologies can even have unintended negative consequences for women, as has happened in the past with other technologies.
  • Poor households in South Africa spend about 15-28% of their income on energy, which creates massive opportunity losses in the lives of these poor people as money they could use for education, especially for girls, and improving the quality of their lives goes on providing for a basic need.
Gender and the classic energy system
Energy provision, during the era of industrialization, focused on large scale, centralised, high power energy production from fossil fuels, mostly coal in the case of South Africa. It was top down and 'patriarchal' in its approach and women have been, and continue to be, excluded from this sector. This is the core of the 'first economy', one based on production which mostly uses the grid and mass electrification as its energy source, although some sectors use coal directly.

It has doubtless been successful as an economic growth process and there is much evidence to show that large scale energy production and first economy economic growth are tightly linked. Large numbers of people, both women and men are excluded from energy services that are provided through this top down system, but it is undoubtedly women, and in particular rural women who are most excluded:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The first economy tends to ignore the second economy, the one dominated by women and run out of homes and in the streets where the energy component is small but critical. Of the 1.3 billion of the poorest people in the world, 70% of these are women. These people are energy poor, in that they have an absence of choice in the energy they access or use in their daily lives. Biomass plays an enormously important role in the lives of the rural poor in developing countries, in the form of wood for cooking and heating. But it is not just the poor in the rural areas that struggle. Centralised energy production is expensive and most poor urban households cannot afford to pay for electricity for most of their needs. A recent study by AFREPREN ( Mapoko and Dube) confirmed this for other parts of Africa also, that energy services have been priced out of the reach of the poor.

An alarming statistic is that poor households spend about 15-28% of their income on energy, which creates massive opportunity losses in the lives of these poor people as money they could use for education or improving the quality of their lives goes on providing for a basic need. But more importantly, the first economy is the beneficiary of this expenditure, the distributors of paraffin, coal and electricity, which is mostly owned by large energy providers with small gains for the small scale supplier. It is essentially a drain on the local economy; money spent on fossil fuel energy does not remain within the local community to contribute to the multiplier effect. It also means that in order to continue purchasing this energy, the poor must be able to secure income from this first economy in order to be able to purchase from it, and this is often not the case; most people in the second economy rely on social grants and many live below the bread line.

Gender and energy in development
Gender issues related to energy have largely been ignored for much of the industrialized era, when energy production became centralized and a big business in recent times. But gender issues are starting to make an appearance in policy debates in more recent times. Up to this point, the concept of gender neutrality was applied to energy service planning, assuming that women and men had the same needs for energy services. Such gender blind planning is now becoming exposed as unsustainable and attempts are being made to redress these issues.

The poor as producers
It would be a mistake to think of the poor, or of women, as passive players in the top down, energy intensive development paradigm, or as inactive and economically
unproductive (see our earlier article on "the poor as producers", in which we try to go beyond an often used notion in development thinking that the poor in the developing world are basically passive receptacles of aid and parternalist interventions). A recent survey done in South Africa showed that the informal sector in South Africa contributes 10% to the total retail sales with approximately 1.8 million people inputting at this level, or 12% of the labour force.

Other reports indicate that the majority of informal sector enterprises are owned and operated by women and are usually survivalist and extensions of the households. But this is only a small fraction of the real value that women play in an economy, women are central in other reproductive, productive and welfare activities for example: keeping the population alive, providing nurturing and caring for the young, elderly and sick, but this input is largely unpaid for and so is never factored into an economy. This means that we need to redefine what we mean by ”household energy needs” and start to unpack the various roles that women are playing in the economy, their potential as human resources in assisting governments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the enormous opportunity that is being lost by essentially denying billions of women access to energy services that meet their actual needs, above and beyond the home. This paper looks at one source of energy, that from biofuels and how it could positively impact on the rural household economy and by extension, the livelihoods of women.

Effect of high energy prices on food and the poor
The poor in South Africa will be most affected by the price increases. Paraffin prices have already gone up and recently the SA Sunday newspapers reported that the poor are struggling to deal with increases in food prices as a result of increased fossil fuel prices. A recent report notes that every one cent increase in the fuel prices costs agriculture about 10 million rand and this rise has to passed onto the consumer. Where a 5% increase in food prices will mean the wealthy do without a new TV, it might mean that a poor family goes hungry. A report earlier this year showed that farmers are struggling to be profitable in the production of maize, the stable diet of almost 80% of all our population.

South Africa is very dependent on oil imports as seen from the text box attached. Agriculture is one of the most dependent sectors as it uses liquid fuels in many direct onfarm processes and in its marketing activities and gas is needed for the production of fertilizers.

For these reasons, many countries are looking to the possibility of replacing imported liquid fossil fuels with biofuels. Brazil has led the way and is now almost self-sufficient with bioethanol providing most of its motorised vehicle fuel needs. South Africa is new to this game and a task team is busy preparing a strategy document for cabinet on the role of the ASGISA driven biofuels programme.

Liquid biofuels: a solution to manifold problems?
Sugrue's paper concentrates on the production of liquid biofuels, but this does not imply that th other renewable energy solutions are not equally as important to the rural poor and it is likely that a mix of energy supply will provide the appropriate energy solutions over the next few decades, both for the poor and for the wealthy. If a biofuels production programme is developed carefully, with sustainable development indicators being used as markers all along the way, it has the potential to create employment and reduce rural poverty as well as helping with the looming liquid fossil fuel crisis. However, if SA make the mistake of using fossil energy intensive industrial agricultural processes to produce biofuels, it will not only fail to solve the energy crisis but add to the social and economic hardship in SA.

What could biofuels do for the rural poor?
Renewable energy production could transform and speed up energy provision if it were chosen over fossil fuel driven solutions by developing governments. Although it is worrying that oil prices are increasing, it also presents an opportunity to develop our renewable energy resources and make SA a more self reliant economy, not dependent on import of liquid fossil fuels.

Renewable energy is a dispersed resource. You don’t find it in wells in one country and absent in another. All countries, all places, have a renewable resource that can be utilized for making energy. Biofuels is a particularly interesting resource as the feedstock is produced in rural areas where poverty is the greatest. It is also produced in rural areas where the energy poverty is the greatest and if biofuels were produced sustainably they could provide the energy that is so desperately needed in these areas.

In the final section of this paper, Sugrue provides examples of how biofuels have been used to reduce poverty in Africa. The choice of energy crop is critical as some crops grow more easily and with less risk than others. Most rural households have access to about 1-3 hectares of land which they have a “permission to occupy ( PTO) ” type of land use agreement that allows them to grow and use the land for their own purposes. Using simple affordable apparatus, that can be used by uneducated people, the local women can extract and use the energy resource, in the first instance for themselves, their families, their homes, their businesses and in the second instance for sale to their local co-operative.

The proposed system
The assumptions mentioned above have enabled Sugrue to develop a pro-poor biodiesel production process that contains the following components:

• Rural small scale farming communities are encouraged to grow perennial crops on marginal land, in association with other crops that will satisfy their own more direct household food needs. Monocropping is discouraged due its potential for disease proliferation and its limitation for the household livelihood.

• Small biodiesel facilities are strategically located close to the areas of biodiesel feedstock production, these service a number of different energy crop feedstock providers (the small scale farmers).

• The small scale farmers form themselves into co-operatives which purchase diesel generators that can run on crude vegetable oil. They use this apparatus for pressing the oil for the feedstock. The co-products are used both by the household as well as developed by the co-operatives to generate small businesses that add value to the co-products and sell them on to other markets.

• The local biodiesel manufacturer collects the vegetable oil directly from the cooperative.

• Many of these co-operatives have majority shares in companies that have outside investors that provide the necessary finance for the seeds, initial growing and the inputs for the first few years of the crop growing process.

• The co-operatives also have shares in the biodiesel manufacturing plant.

Benefits to the local communities
A recent independent research report by the sustainable energy and climate change partnership (SECCP) indicates that if SA were to replace 15% of its liquid fossil fuels with biodiesel and bioethanol that this would create 350,000 direct jobs in the industry and another 350,000 jobs indirectlyix. As these jobs are primarily located in rural areas the initiative would target the poorest areas and people. Bearing in mind that the majority of the farmers are women, this has a gender bias benefit in the right direction. These jobs are low skilled and the co-products provide an exciting additional source of job and livelihood development within the same communities.

Because there is likely to be a big squeeze in fossil fuels in the near future, rural areas are likely to be targeted for biofuel production. If the SA government puts in places strict criteria and processes for how this production is carried out, this could bring welcome development to the rural areas that have suffered from poor infrastructure and service delivery in the past. However, this will only happen if we guard against the ruthless overtaking of land and its potential by unscrupulous investors that sideline the land owners.

Assuming that monocropping is discouraged, the development upsurge in these areas will have other knock-on effects like assisting small-scale farmers to produce higher yields of other crops from their small plots of land. Polycropping has been show to increase yields in any event. This, coupled with access to energy and to other local economic development opportunities could result in a significant improvement in food security.

Three case studies
Biofuels are a new field in South Africa and thus case studies that have proven success are few. However, here are some examples within Africa that are clear winners.

Case study 1- A rural electrification scheme of D1 oils
D1 Oil Plc is listed in the UK stock exchange and has successfully developed Jatropha curcas plantations in Zambia and Swaziland. A 3000ha D1 community project will grow enough feedstock to supply a D1 20 (the name of the operational facility of a D1 Oils biodiesel refinery). In the process, over 3000 jobs would be created. The energy resulting from the project would be equal to 6MW of electricity from the biodiesel, and 4 MW from the biomass.

There is a substantial amount of glycerol as a co-product from the processing side which could also be converted to electricity and yield a further 1MW. Therefore the total electricity generated from the project could be about 11 MW of renewable energy. And this is all available in the local area for local people.

The D1 project is composed of a number of activities as follows:
o Growing
o Managing
o Harvesting
o Oil expelling
o Processing charcoal
o Processing Biodiesel
o Processing glycerol
o Processing Co-products

In Southern Africa, the approximate costs of developing a community out-growers program with sufficient trees planted to deliver enough seeds to support such a project (managed up to the stage of processing) would cost approximately US$1,500,000. The next stage of costs are the harvesting labour and capital costs, working capital, processing the seed into oil and seedcake, processing oil to biodiesel and seedcake into the various products such as organic fertilizer, charcoal briquettes. All of these activities are income generating and create jobs. Such projects have been successfully achieved in Southern Africa.

Case study 2 – Biodiesel production by the Mali Folke Centre
The Mali Folke Centre - funded by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and a legendary project for renewable fuel afficionados because of its success - has been working with local rural communities in developing plantations of Jatropha curcas.

They have worked hand in hand with the GTZ and have been utilizing a UNDP led technology, a multifunctional apparatus called the Mali platform which can run on crude jatropha oil. The platform can not only generates electricity for the whole community but powers water pumps, crushes the oilseeds and provides energy for a welding and carpentry shop. The waste heat from engine, supplemented by solar panels, could go to a small cold store, a milk pasteurisation unit, a crop drier, a communal laundry and, possibly, a bath house.

If we were to adapt this model from Mali, an energy cooperative could be set up to run the Platform and would buy the oilseed from the farmers and sell the oilcake for fertiliser if it is Jatropha being grown and animal feedstock if it uses other sources of oil. In the Mali Folke Centre they have converted their Toyota pick up to run on Jatropha oil.

Women are the main beneficiaries of the project and they have cited the additional co-products of soap making as more of an economic benefit even then the energy.

Case study 3 - Mafikeng biodiesel model
Mafikeng Biodiesel is attempting to consolidate 60,000 ha of communally owned land in Mafikeng in the North West province. It is a company owned 25% by government (20% through Northwest Invest, an arm of the provincial government and 5% through the Mafikeng Industrial Development Zone), 45% by the tribe as landowners and 30% by the private sector. A considerable effort has already gone into convincing the rights-holders of the soundness of the project and the absence of risk to them.

The 20% owned by Northwest Invest will be sold to an investor after the development stage. Money obtained through the Clean Development Mechanism set up under the Kyoto Protocol will be used to pay for seeds and for planting. Meanwhile, the government has funded the nursery which will be used to develop Moringa, Jatropha, Papia Capensis, and Ximenia caffra.

About 13,000 part-time jobs will be in place when the project has been fully developed.

More information:
Sugrue, Annie: "Why the development of biofuels can benefit the rural poor - Biofuels as a future source of energy for women in rural settlements in South Africa" [*.pdf], Women in Environment Conference – Empowering Women for Environmental Action - Water, Energy and Agriculture Projects, August 8, 2006, CURES Southern Africa/EcoCity.

The CURES network.

The Mali Folke Center.

Biodiesel producer D1 Oils.

Article continues

US DOE announces up to US$200 million in funding for small biorefineries

DOE Announces up to $200 Million in Funding for Biorefineries
Small- and full-scale projects total up to $585 million to advance President Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman yesterday announced that DOE will provide up to US$200 million, over five years (2007-11) to support the development of small-scale cellulosic biorefineries (illustration, click to enlarge) in the United States. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) seeks projects to develop biorefineries at ten percent of commercial scale that produce liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol, as well as bio-based chemicals and bioproducts used in industrial applications. This research aims to advance President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012, and assist in reducing America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years by expanding the availability of alternative and renewable transportation fuels.
“This research will provide the next necessary step toward developing cellulosic biorefineries that can transform our transportation sector in a clean and cost-effective manner. As world demand for energy continues to grow, so too must our supply of clean, domestic sources of energy – and cellulosic biofuels provide a promising way to meet President Bush’s goal of displacing twenty percent of gasoline usage within the decade.” - U.S. Dept. of Energy Secretary Samual Bodman
Today’s announcement advances DOE’s long-term strategy to reduce dependence on imported oil by encouraging development of clean, domestic and renewable sources of energy, including biofuels. This strategy includes small-scale research projects to inform long-term development of full-scale facilities.

Small-scale projects will use novel approaches and a variety of cellulosic feedstocks to test new refining processes. These projects complement DOE’s announcement earlier this year, which makes available up to $385 million over four years for the development of six full-scale biorefineries (earlier post). The full-scale biorefineries focus on near-term commercial processes, while the small-scale facilities will experiment with new feedstocks and processing technologies. Combined, these small- and full-scale projects will receive up to $585 million in federal investment:
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The FOA will support demonstration projects that test key refining processes and provide operational data needed to lower the technical hurdles sometimes associated with financing a full-size commercial plant. These projects are expected to be operational within three to four years and will speed the adoption of new technologies to produce ethanol and other biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks. Commercial-scale demonstrations would follow thereafter.

DOE requests applicants to design, construct and operate an integrated biorefinery demonstration facility, employing lignocellulosic feedstocks for the production of some combination of liquid transportation fuel(s), biobased chemicals, and substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and products. DOE seeks projects that can rapidly move to commercial-scale, supported by a sound business strategy and; encourages applications that demonstrate breakthrough technologies and collaboration between industry, universities, and DOE’s national laboratories.

Up to $15 million is expected to be available in FY’07, with the remaining $185 million expected to be available in FY’08-’11, subject to appropriation from Congress. DOE anticipates selecting 5-10 awards under this announcement. These projects require a minimum of 50 percent cost share from applicants.

More information:

U.S. Dept. of Energy: DOE Announces up to $200 Million in Funding for Biorefineries - May 1, 2007.

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