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    A group of British organisations launches the National Forum on Bio-Methane as a Road Transport Fuel. Bio-methane or biogas is widely regarded as the cleanest of all transport fuels, even cleaner than hydrogen or electric vehicles. Several EU projects across the Union have shown its viability. The UK forum was lauched at the Naturally Gas conference on 1st May 2007 in Loughborough, which was hosted by Cenex in partnership with the NSCA and the Natural Gas Vehicle Association. NSCA - May 11, 2007.

    We reported earlier on Dynamotive and Tecna SA's initiative to build 6 bio-oil plants in the Argentinian province of Corrientes (here). Dynamotive has now officially confirmed this news. Dynamotive - May 11, 2007.

    Nigeria launches a national biofuels feasibility study that will look at the potential to link the agricultural sector to the automotive fuels sector. Tim Gbugu, project leader, said "if we are able to link agriculture, we will have large employment opportunity for the sustenance of this country, we have vast land that can be utilised". This Day Onlin (Lagos) - May 9, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva meets with the CEO of Portuguese energy company Galp Energia, which will sign a biofuel cooperation agreement with Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras. GP1 (*Portuguese) - May 9, 2007.

    The BBC has an interesting story on how biodiesel made from coconut oil is taking the pacific island of Bougainville by storm. Small refineries turn the oil into an affordable fuel that replaces costly imported petroleum products. BBC - May 8, 2007.

    Indian car manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra is set to launch its first B100-powered vehicles for commercial use by this year-end. The company is confident of fitting the new engines in all its existing models. Sify - May 8, 2007.

    The Biofuels Act of the Philippines has come into effect today. The law requires all oil firms in the country to blend 2% biodiesel (most often coconut-methyl ester) in their diesel products. AHN - May 7, 2007.

    Successful tests based on EU-criteria result in approval of 5 new maize hybrids that were developed as dedicated biogas crops [*German]. Veredlungsproduktion - May 6, 2007.

    With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED), Michigan State University intends to open a training facility dedicated to students and workers who want to start a career in the State's growing bioeconomy. Michigan State University - May 4, 2007.

    Researchers from the Texas A&M University have presented a "giant" sorghum variety for the production of ethanol. The crop is drought-tolerant and yields high amounts of ethanol. Texas A & M - May 3, 2007.

    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.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Metabolix to develop bioplastics from sugarcane

Quicknote bioplastics
According to the Boston Globe, Metabolix announced a collaboration today with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology, an alliance of Australia's sugarcane biotechnology research organizations, to develop natural plastics from sugarcane.

Metabolix is a Cambridge developer of biodegradable plastics whose stock jumped last month after it said it would join Archer Daniels Midland Co. to make the first fully biodegradable plastics from corn.

The company is now looking at the tropical grass crop as an alternative feedstock: "Sugarcane is currently the premier biomass crop for biofuels, and we believe it can be developed to produce an advanced biorefinery feedstock for the production of natural plastics, fuels, and chemicals, significantly expanding Metabolix's global reach," Metabolix chief scientific officer Oliver Peoples said in a statement.

Many scientists, including researchers in small developing countries have recognized the potential of sugarcane as a leading crop for the development of 'green chemistry'. The tiny island state of Réunion, for example, recently launched an ambitious research program aimed at building a biorefinery in the next four years, that will produce bioplastics, detergents, tinctures, drugs, glues, gels, and biopolymers resembling nylon, from molecules and chemical building blocks derived from sugar cane (earlier post) [entry ends here].
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Biogas to power fuel cell power plant in city of Rialto

Chevron Energy Solutions, a Chevron subsidiary, today announced that it has begun engineering and construction of an innovative and ultra-clean energy system at the Californian city of Rialto's wastewater treatment facility that will transform wastewater sludge and kitchen grease from local restaurants into biogas.

The environmentally friendly system will increase municipal revenues, reduce landfill wastes and lower greenhouse emissions by nearly 5.5 million tons annually, while decreasing the city's energy costs by about $800,000 a year.

The system includes a 900-kilowatt fuel cell power plant, manufactured by FuelCell Energy, that will generate electricity without combustion using methane, a biogas produced naturally on site by the organic materials contained in wastewater.

The same company earlier delivered the technology for the first large biogas powered fuel cell system in Germany, where dedicated energy crops are used for the production of the methane (earlier post).

"Through energy efficiency, renewable power and innovation, this system solves a messy problem for cities," said Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions. "By looking at wastewater treatment operations holistically, we're helping Rialto and other cities transform an urban waste into an asset."

The new system will provide a beneficial use for the thousands of gallons of fats, oils and grease (FOG) that are washed daily from restaurant grills and pans. The watery liquid is collected by grease hauling companies and often disposed of in landfills, where it releases methane - a potent greenhouse gas - as it decomposes, sometimes directly into the atmosphere:
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At the Rialto facility, a FOG-receiving station will provide an effective disposal alternative, reducing the amount of FOG sent to landfills. It also will provide a revenue stream to the city through "tipping fees" paid by grease haulers for each disposal. Meanwhile, the fuel cell plant and other energy-efficient improvements will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to removing 1,080 cars from the road each year.

In Rialto, a Los Angeles suburb of about 100,000 residents, forecasted population growth necessitated the expansion and upgrade of the city's aging wastewater treatment facility. The project, which costs $15.1 million, is eligible for a $4.05 million rebate on the fuel cell plant cost from California's Self-Generation Incentive Program, administered by Southern California Gas. The remaining cost will be self-funded through energy cost savings and FOG station revenues, without any impact on local taxpayers.

"Our city council and I are delighted to have found a solution with so many benefits all around," said Grace Vargas, Rialto's mayor. "It's a 'win' for multiple stakeholders -- our city taxpayers, restaurants, grease haulers, and the environment."

Chevron Energy Solutions will proceed with engineering and construction of the project over the next few months. Project highlights include installation of the FOG-receiving station; repairs to the current digester equipment, where methane is naturally produced from organic matter; a new automation system and controls; a high-efficiency boiler; and three 300-kilowatt Direct FuelCell(R) units that will convert methane into hydrogen and then use the hydrogen to generate power electrochemically, without combustion. In addition, the residual waste heat from the fuel cells will be put to work to warm the digesters to human body temperature, to stimulate further methane production.

Fuelcell Energy sold its fuel cell plant to Rialto through Chevron Energy Solutions and will maintain the plant after it is installed. Because of its ultra-clean emission profile, the plant meets California's stringent air quality standards and is expected to be sited easily. It will also provide baseload power around the clock.

"Rialto can make use of existing resources and generate high efficiency power that is environmentally friendly while saving money on its energy costs," said William Karambelas, vice president of business development of FuelCell Energy. "This is a consistent and compelling story from both economic and environmental standpoints."

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Brazilian legislation to offer incentives for conversion of degraded pastures into biofuel plantations

Quicknote bioenergy policies
Federal member of parliament Eliene Lima (Progressive Party) is to present [*Portuguese] a proposal for legislation today that aims to offer incentives to cattle farmers and ranchers to help produce biofuels in Brazil.

According to the proposal, pasture and land owners (many of whom do not use their land to rear livestock at all) will be encouraged to plant jatropha, sugar cane and other biomass energy crops. The incentive consists of special credit and financing means that can be obtained from the Sudam (Superintendência de Desenvolvimento da Amazônia) and the BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social).

Brazilian researchers say some 200 million hectares of pastures in the country are currently not used for productive purposes because they are degraded. This massive expanse of land can be restored by planting biofuel crops (earlier post). Eliene Lima says "On a global scale, both in Brazil as elsewhere, ethanol and biodiesel are the focus of attention. In order to manage and expand the 'boom' in biofuels and to share profits amongst key stakeholders, banks, industrial ethanol producers, manufacturers and farmers are collaborating intensively. This interest shows the market is very promising and expanding rapidly. We must now give incentives to rural producers so they can participate more in this market."

Lima adds that in 2007, Brazil will achieve its largest sugar cane harvest in its history. Estimates put it at 491 million tons. "The world is beginning to understand the importance of this potential. Brazil can supply the market and will become the global leader in biofuels."

With the incentives put forward in the legislation, all farmers including smallholders in the country are given an opportunity to help strengthen Brazil's agro-industrial base. Lima thinks the law, which guarantees access to capital, will boost the number of jobs in the sector and keep Brazil becoming more energy independent.

In order to encourage the production of biofuels that benefit small farmers, Brazil earlier introduced a policy called "Social Fuel", that offers incentives to producers who invest in and involve poor rural families in feedstock production (see our in-depth analysis of the "Social Fuel Seal" policy) [entry ends here].
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India launches biofuels mission, focuses on Karanj and Jatropha

Karanj (Pongamia pinnata) and Jatropha are the two plants India is focusing on for promoting the production of biodiesel, as the country launches a nationwide biofuel mission. Meanwhile, India has started blending 5% ethanol in its gasoline supply, starting in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

A committee of experts was set up by the Federal Planning Commission, which will study and suggest measures for the promotion of biofuels development. In a recent report submitted by the committee before the commission, the committee has recommended the government to launch a countrywide biofuels mission focusing on encouraging the cultivation of the two seed-baring, drought-tolerant perennial tree-crops.

India’s spending on oil imports is currently somewhere around 1600 billion rupiah (€28.8/US$39 billion) per year. Nearly 70% of oil demands are met by imports in the country. Considering the global spike in oil prices, India urgently wants to reduce these imports, partly by investing in biofuels.

Chandra Shekar Sahu, Jr. minister for rural development said, that the national mission would shortly be launched in two phases with one goal:
  • the objective of the mission is to attain the goal of 20% blending of biofuels with diesel and gasoline nationwide.
  • under a first demonstration phase Jatropha and Karanj plantations would be established on 400,000 hectares of government-owned land.
  • in the second phase of the mission, Jatropha will be cultivated on not less than 11.2 million hectares of government-owned as well as private land for increasing biodiesel production.
If India wants to replace 5% of its liquid fossil fuels with biodiesel it must produce some 2.6 million tons per year.

A number of private players in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have already commenced the plantation of Jatropha under a contract farming system.

A report by industry research organisation RNCOS on the Indian Biofuel Industry notes that "The biofuels market in India is largely based on ethanol - derived from the molasses of sugarcane - and biodiesel obtained through non edible oil seeds, for example pongamia and jatropha. The primary objectives of the government for encouraging the biofuels industry include environmental factors, plus security and diversity of energy supply. This is also working as the key driver for the growth of biofuel industry in India."

Meanwhile, Dr.YSR Reddy, Chief Minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh, formally proclaimed the countrywide launch of the "5% EBP" (Ethanol Blended Petrol) Program in Hyderabad:
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As part of its commitment to set up policies for enhancing energy security in the country, the government has taken up this initiative. Launch of the EBP program is viewed as a remarkable step towards the use of alternative renewable, eco-friendly energy sources such as ethanol so that hydrocarbon resources can be supplemented in the country.

The interest of India in ethanol was manifested when the country embarked on three pilot projects. Of which one was launched during June 2001 in Uttar Pradesh and the other two were in Maharashtra during April same year. During 2002 a policy for ethanol was announced, which envisaged blending 5% ethanol (obtained through sugarcane) with petrol.

There are various proportions in which ethanol can be blended with petrol. Often, 5-10% of ethanol is mixed with petrol and this blend can drive most cars, without requiring any modification in their engines. In fact, percentage of ethanol can be augmented up to 24%.

The EPB program is managed by the Petroleum & Natural Gas Ministry and is primarily anchored in domestically produced ethanol - obtained through sugarcane molasses. The project will augment availability of fuel in the country and help sugarcane-growing farmers get better returns. It will also help in saving some foreign exchange as well as ease up the impact of tensions in oil-producing regions on oil suppliers in India.

Image: Pongamia pinnata seeds.

More information:

PRMinds: India Launches 5% EBP Program in Hyderabad - May 7, 2007.

Newswire: Karanj and Jatropha - Key Elements of New Biofuel Mission in India - May 7, 2007.

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