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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2008.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2008.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2008.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Little Green Data Book 2007 focuses on emissions and energy

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – the principal man-made cause of global warming – continue to rise, with the world producing today 16 percent more CO2 than in 1990, according to the Little Green Data Book 2007, launched today on the occasion of the 15th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-15), which is focusing its deliberations on issues of energy and climate change.

In its eighth annual edition, the World Bank’s Little Green Data Book 2007 [*.pdf] is a pocket-sized quick reference on key environmental and development data for over 200 countries, based on the World Development Indicators 2007. Country, regional, and income group profiles provide a baseline for comparison on the state of the environment and its linkages with the economy and people.

Emission growing world wide, EU efforts work
According to this year’s edition of this annual World Bank publication, emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacturing today are originated in equal shares from the industrialized and the developing worlds. In 1960, low and middle income countries only accounted for one third of world emissions (graph, click to enlarge).

Emissions have been growing faster in the poorer countries, the report says, especially in East and South Asia. But the upward trend is also a feature of high income countries. The United States and Japan show very high increases in CO2 emissions: 20 and 15 percent respectively between 1990 and 2003. The European Monetary Union countries grew only 3 percent in large part because of successful efforts to reduce emissions (graph, click to enlarge).

As a group, rich countries are largely off-track with respect to the Kyoto commitments, which established an average reduction of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. The only exception is constituted by the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where emissions have gone down owing to the recession of the 1990s.

China and India becoming major contributors
According to the report, among the group of developing countries, China and India stand out as major emitters. Carbon dioxide emissions in China have increased by 1,700 million tons between 1990 and 2003 (73 percent more), and in India by 700 million tons (88 percent more). While contributing heavily to the world’s total, emissions from China and India are very low in per-capita terms. The average Chinese still emits 16 percent of the average citizen from the United States, and the average Indian emits 6 percent of the United States average (graph, click to enlarge).

Energy system must change
Carbon dioxide emissions stem mainly from the combustion of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. The Little Green Data Book 2007 shows that this is true especially for industrialized countries and a group of fast growing developing economies, such as China and India. The report says that fossil fuels (i.e. oil, natural gas, or coal) are used to generate 66 percent of electricity worldwide. In the Middle East, the share of fossil fuels in electricity generation is 93 percent, and in East Asia and the Pacific and in South Asia it is 82 percent. At the other end of the spectrum is Latin America and the Caribbean, with 38 percent of its electricity produced from fossil fuels:
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“Energy policy will play a crucial role in determining future emissions,” said Warren Evans, Director of Environment, World Bank. “Technologies are already available to minimize emissions in the energy sector. They include the use of ultra-efficient coal-fired plants, the use of natural gas and advanced renewable energies”.

In the developing world, greenhouse gases emissions are mainly originated from agriculture and land use changes such as deforestation. For example, a recent report titled “Indonesia and Climate Change” and published by the World Bank and the British government, shows that deforestation puts Indonesia as the world’s third largest emitter after the United States and China. (DFID and World Bank, “Indonesia and Climate Change”, Working Paper on Current Status and Policies, March 2007)

“On average, land use change, forestry, and agriculture account for more than half of the emissions of greenhouse gases in developing countries, compared to 10 percent in industrialized countries,” added Evans. “In order for a post-Kyoto climate change agreement to work, developed and developing nations should take into account the benefits of avoided deforestation and create the necessary financial mechanisms to transfer resources to countries that effectively protect their forests.”

Speaking at the publication launch, Mark Radka, Chief, Energy branch, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said, “The Little Green Data Book highlights the need to reverse the alarming trend of continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately we seem to be witnessing a growing recognition of the problem and an increasing willingness to take action. By providing such a wealth of information, the Little Green Data Book can only help stimulate such interest.”

Jacqueline Cote, Senior Advisor Advocacy & Partnerships, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) said at the launch that, “The Little Green Data Book 2007 confirms the need for rapid and radical changes in the global energy system. Such data not only promotes mutual understanding between business and non-business stakeholders, but supports progressive business’ commitment to partner with governments in developing and implementing energy-related measures that are benchmarked against the threefold objectives of competitiveness, energy security, and environment.”

Poverty, deforestation and land use change driving forces in the developing world
The Little Green Data Book 2007 shows that deforestation has essentially been a feature of the poorer countries. Between 1990 and 2005, nearly 45,000 square kilometers of forest were lost in low income countries (corresponding to an annual deforestation rate of 0.5 percent) and 38,000 square kilometers in lower middle income countries (annual deforestation: 0.16 percent).

“Deforestation is not only a cause of increased carbon dioxide emissions,” according to Kirk Hamilton, Lead Environmental Economist, World Bank, and lead author of the report, “but it is in itself a consequence of poverty. Tropical rain forests are diminishing at an alarming rate because of the human need for food and demands for timber, energy, minerals, and other resources. Forests host at least half of all life forms on earth, and as deforestation continues, the biodiversity of the planet is being seriously affected.”

Hamilton concluded that, “There is growing recognition that wise forest management is critical to sustainable development, particularly where the local or national economy is based directly on the use of forest resources. In addition, forest ecosystems have major impacts on soil, water, and coastal marine productivity over very large areas. They also have a significant influence on the global carbon cycle, which plays a crucial role in local and global climate regulation.”

Reducing deforestation partly entails providing access to electricity to local communities. In Sub-Saharan Africa, electric power consumption per capita is 550 kWh, which is seven times smaller than the average for high income countries, where electricity consumption per capita is 3,454 kWh. Better access to electricity, in turn, will also mean lower reliance on traditional fuels. Currently, wood fuels are still the primary source of energy for approximately 2 billion people in poor countries. Solid biomass is associated with respiratory problems caused by indoor smoke. Most of the victims are infants, children, and women from poor rural families. Acute respiratory infections in children and chronic pulmonary disease in women are a common feature.

According to the report, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 56 percent of total energy use comes from traditional biomass. If one ranks countries of the World, the top 20 are all African countries, with the exception of Nepal (fourth in the list), Haiti (eleventh) and Myanmar (twelfth).

More information:
World Bank: The Little Green Data Book 2007 [*.pdf] - May, 2007.

World Bank: country data in *.excel format.

World Bank: “Little Green Data Book 2007”: Carbon Dioxide Emissions on the Rise, Warns World Bank Publication - May, 2007.

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Wärtsilä to build six biomass power plants in Germany

Finnish engineering company Wärtsilä has announced it received an order for six turnkey biomass-fuelled power plants in April. The total value of the order is approximately €100/US$135 million. The customer is the German-based company Bayernfonds BestEnergy GmbH & Co, which will utilize forestry residues to fuel the plants.

Construction is planned to start in July 2007, depending on the construction and operational permits being issued by the local authorities. It is anticipated that all six biomass power plants will have been completed towards the end of 2008.

Wärtsilä has so far installed more than 100 of its 'Biograte' burners in plants in the EU, Russia and Canada. The plants based on this technology have a set of properties [*.pdf] that make them one of the most successful products in the sector (diagram, click to enlarge):
  • Optimised energy production for different needs: plants can be used for electricity generation only (condense plant) or for co-generation solutions designed for optimized heat recovery.
  • High reliability through proven technology and extensive operational experience
  • A patented rotating BioGrate combustion technology that has taken the universal grate technology into a new level of operational performance in terms of:
  • Low emissions, on Nox and CO emissions it can be reached the strictest limits demanded at the market place
  • High combustion efficiency with low unburned content in the ashes
  • No supplementary firing required. The BioGrate is ignited and kept running purely with biofuels only up to 65% fuel moisture
  • Modern automation allows unmanned operation with daily attendance.
  • The standard plant design is based on modern architecture which allows the plant to be installed into urban surroundings. This combined with a low noise option makes it possible to locate the plant even next to a living area with housing close by.
At the heart of the biofuel power plants is an innovative combustion system that was developed over the course of 15 years. This patented BioGrate (image, click to enlarge) is a new-generation moving grate technique. The fuel input ranges from 3 to 25 MW. BioGrate is a rotating grate with a conical primary combustion chamber. The fresh biomass fuel - wood chips, bark, pellets - is fed from underneath to the centre of the grate. Since the heat radiates from the refractory lining bricks and the flames, the fuel dries in the middle of the grate without disturbing the burning fuel bed in the combustion zone. After the complete combustion of the residual carbon the ash falls from the edge of the grate to the ash space filled with quenching water.

BioGrate combustion results in a significantly lower levels of emissions compared to conventional grate technologies:
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The wide grate area and the optimized grate construction ensure complete combustion with low unburned carbon content in the ash and low CO emissions in the flue gases. Precise division of combustion air in the grate enables very low NOX emissions. Even lower NOX emissions can be reached by applying SNCR technology to the system. Particle emission limits vary from country to country. Efficient and reliable electrostatic precipitators are used to remove dust from the flue gases.

All six plants to be build in Germany have an identical configuration based on the BioGrate, with an electrical power output of 5.6 MWe. The plants will burn wood residues from local forests, and the electricity that they generate will be fed to the main grid.

Bayernfonds BestEnergy GmbH & Co. KG is a unit trust company of Real I.S. AG, one of Germany’s biggest bank-related fund initiators and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayerische Landesbank.

The commercial viability of the plants is supported by the German EEG law that was specifically created to promote investments in renewable energy.

“Wärtsilä Biomass-fuelled plants are clean and efficient. They are practical solutions for meeting need for renewable energy supplies with minimum environmental impact”, says Andreas Heibrock, member of the executive board of Real I.S. AG, enthusiastically. The plants incorporate patented Wärtsilä BioGrate combustion technology to burn biomass fuels with high combustion efficiency and low NOx and CO emissions. The moisture content of the fuel can be as high as 55%.

BioPower plants are highly modular, being based on well-proven standardised components with a reliable design approach. The plants can thus be delivered and installed quickly. Their proven technology results in a reliable, durable plant.

“With this product, Real I.S. demonstrates again in 2007 that it stands for innovative and trend-setting investment offers for private investors”, according to Andreas Heibrock.

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Biofuels becoming a headache for OPEC

Quicknote biofuels economics
A few years ago, energy experts would have laughed if you said biofuels were going to attract massive investments and even impact OPEC decisions. Today, there is no longer a doubt that this is happening.

Fuad Siala, alternative energy sources analyst at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said at the World Refining & Fuels Conference organised by Hart energy conferences in Brussels yesterday that increased use of biofuels and other measures that steer consumers away from oil could prompt OPEC to rethink its investment plans.

The European Union and nations around the world are looking at biofuels, made from plant biomass, to boost energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and open new markets for farmers.
"We have great concerns about this ... about policies which discriminate against oil," the official from the crude producer group said. "We have legitimate concerns to revisit our investment plans."
Though Siala said biofuels are not necessarily a big competitor for crude oil today, OPEC is worried they could replace a significant portion of its projected output in coming years.
"In 2030 our projections say that OPEC will be called upon to produce about 49 million barrels (of oil) per day. By that time if biofuels are able to supply 5 million barrels per day, that's 10 per cent of the quota on OPEC oil. That is significant."
The EU, the world's largest economy, imports 45% of its oil from OPEC countries but has set a binding target for biofuels to make up 10 per cent of all vehicle fuels by 2020. The US has introduced equally ambitious targets. Siala said there are more "downside risks" than "upside potential" for oil demand despite rapid industrialization in emerging countries such as India and China:
"Security of supply and security of demand are two sides of the same coin. Without the confidence that demand will emerge, the incentive to undertake upstream investments can be reduced."
OPEC produces about one-third of the world's oil [entry ends here].
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Australia's CSIRO receives A$59 million for research into low-carbon fuels, energy security

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are 43 per cent above the International Energy Agency's average for developed countries per unit of GDP. 68 percent of this amount is related to stationary energy and transport.

The country's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has now been allocated A$59.6 million (€36.6/US$49.6 million) over four years to increase research into renewable and non-renewable natural resources which can produce low emission transport fuels.

Under the 'Energy Transformed National Research Flagship', work will be expanded to include research related to the conversion of coal to liquids, gas to liquids, solar gas to liquids, bio-fuels and storage of high density natural gas for transport.

The work is designed to help secure Australia’s transport fuel future, which is coming under increasing pressure. It is predicted that by 2030 our self-sufficiency in oil supplies will drop from 78 per cent to 49 per cent.
“The opportunity for Australia, and CSIRO, is to reduce the likelihood of an economic and social shock of a major disruption to oil supplies and to minimise the cost of implementing change in the transport sector.” - CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Geoff Garrett
CSIRO’s National Research Flagships were launched in 2003 to address major national challenges in areas such as energy, water and health and also opportunities for industry development and job creation:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

A new 'Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship' was also formed in collaboration with partners such as the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Greenhouse Office and will receive A$43.6 over the next four years.

The fuels research is part of an A$2.8 billion (€1.7/US$2.3 billion), four-year funding package awarded to CSIRO. Other transportation-related research projects include a focus on lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors (see map, click to enlarge).

CSIRO researchers have earlier developed a large simulation of biofuels potentials in the country and concluded Australia has around 12 to 30 million hectares of land available for the production of energy crops.

More information:
CSIRO: Fuelling research into cutting greenhouse emissions - May 8, 2007.
CSIRO: Could alcohol fuels be cropped? April, 2004

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