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    According to Salvador Rivas, the director for Non-Conventional Energy at the Dominican Republic's Industry and Commerce Ministry, a group of companies from Brazil wants to invest more than 100 million dollars to produce ethanol in the country, both for local consumption and export to the United States. Dominican Today - May 16, 2007.

    EWE AG, a German multi-service energy company, has started construction on a plant aimed at purifying biogas so that it can be fed into the natural gas grid. Before the end of the year, EWE AG will be selling the biogas to end users via its subsidiary EWE Naturwatt. Solarthemen [*German] - May 16, 2007.

    Scania will introduce an ethanol-fueled hybrid bus concept at the UITP public transport congress in Helsinki 21-24 May 2007. The full-size low-floor city bus is designed to cut fossil CO2 emissions by up to 90% when running on the ethanol blend and reduce fuel consumption by at least 25%. GreenCarCongress - May 16, 2007.

    A report by the NGO Christian Aid predicts there may be 1 billion climate refugees and migrants by 2050. It shows the effects of conflicts on populations in poor countries and draws parallels with the situation as it could develop because of climate change. Christian Aid - May 14, 2007.

    Dutch multinational oil group Rompetrol, also known as TRG, has entered the biofuel market in France in conjunction with its French subsidiary Dyneff. It hopes to equip approximately 30 filling stations to provide superethanol E85 distribution to French consumers by the end of 2007. Energy Business Review - May 13, 2007.

    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.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Survey: oil execs serious about Peak Oil, but mass-produced biofuels years away

A poll by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG questioning 553 financial executives from oil and gas companies on the future of oil and biofuels, was recently released. The survey gives a snapshot of oil execs' attitudes to global warming, Peak Oil and the potential of renewable fuels. The fact that a majority of them considers climate change to be a 'natural weather cycle' is highly significant: it shows the oil industry will go against the scientific consensus in order to maintain its power position in the energy matrix of our world.

Peak Oil is real
Twenty-five percent of the respondents said that at least 75 percent of government funding into energy should be directed at the renewable fuels sector, and a further 44 percent said that at least 50 percent of funding should be allocated in the same way. These feelings stem from the overwhelming majority, or 82 percent, citing declining oil reserves as a concern.
"These executives are deeply concerned about declining oil reserves, a situation they see as irreversible and worsening. Oil and gas companies are sending a clear signal to the government that intervention is needed." - Bill Kimble, National Line of Business Leader, Industrial Markets for KPMG LLP.
Sixty percent of the executives said they believe the trend of declining oil reserves is irreversible. And, when asked about the impact of emerging markets, such as China, will have on declining oil reserves, almost 70 percent of the executives said that it would lead the situation to worsen.

Biofuels: 'not yet'
However, more than half of the five hundred plus oil and gas executives said they didn't think 'mass production' of renewable fuels would happen in the near future.

While the petroleum company leaders said they're keen to see renewable energy sources becoming a mass produced reality, 60 percent said it will not be possible by 2010. Of those that believe it will, 18 percent identified ethanol is the most viable for mass production by then, 13 percent said biodiesel and only 3 percent said cellulosic ethanol.

Bill Kimble stressed the survey was not qualitative, only quantitative, so survey leaders didn't have a chance to probe responses in detail. But he speculated the findings reflected two big big issues regarding alternative fuels.

"What is the definition of mass production? Ethanol is a very small, small percentage of fuel production today. And secondly, what's embedded in here is the economics. Without incentives from the government, I don't think people are that positive on it until we get it right," he said. On the other hand, the Brazilian case shows that within a single country where conditions are favorable (climate, crops, land), 'mass production' of biofuels is not unfeasible.

Climate change
An amazing majority of 65 percent of the respondents said that they believe global warming is occurring, but they called it a 'natural weather cycle'. Eleven percent said that they do not believe it is occurring. Just under a quarter said they believed global warming was CO2-induced:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Managing declining oil reserves
When asked about their upstream capital spending, the majority indicated that investment will be a factor in helping them manage declining oil reserves. Sixty-nine percent said that it would increase by more than 10 percent, a jump of 49 percent over 2005.

"The reserve opportunities are tougher, so what are you going to do? You could invest in technology, or start playing more in the alternative energy space," said Kimble.

Mergers and acquisitions continue to be a trend, with 24 percent of the executives saying that they expect their company to be involved in one in the next year. Sixty eight percent of respondents expect private equity to play a larger role over the next year than it has in previous years.

Risks in the industry
Responding to perceived risks facing their companies, KPMG's Kimble told Inside Greentech it was a "jaw-dropper" that forty-four percent identified their biggest risks as financial, specifically issues like satisfying regulatory requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley, shareholder demands and corporate social responsibility requirements.

"We put in things like access to access to drilling rigs, political unrest in foreign countries, like the west coast of Africa, environmental damage, plants having problems, access to equipment," said Kimble. "None of those emerged as big factors."

"Corporate social responsibility seemed important. They've got to get that right. That could have an impact on the market value of a company."

Image: Peak Oil scenario by the Association for the study of Peak Oil and Gas.

More information:

Inside Greentech: Oil and gas execs say biofuel mass production years away - May 11, 2007.

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Integrated biorefinery to produce biofuels and dairy products

Process integration can considerably strengthen the energy balance of biofuels (earlier post). By using by-products and residues from the production process in a 'cascading' way so they become inputs for new products or energy is a concept that will drive the design of integrated biorefineries.

Arizona-based XL Dairy Group, Inc. is building such a self-contained biorefinery designed to produce a range of products: high-grade ethanol, biodiesel, milk and dairy products, and animal feed - while all the energy used to power the refinery is derived from residues (glycerol, manure, corn bran, thin silage). The diagram (click to enlarge) offers an overview of this integration.

The US$260 million biorefinery, to be based in Vicksburg, will use proprietary technology to generate ethanol with an energy efficiency ratio of 10:1. The ratio means that for every unit of fossil fuel energy needed to produce ethanol and biodiesel, XL Dairy Group will produce 10 units

It is important to stress that this is the 'internal' energy balance of the system, which does not take into account the energy needed to grow the main input, corn, nor the feed for the cows that deliver manure from which biogas will be obtained. To compare the final energy balance of the biofuels with the energy balance of, for example sugar cane ethanol (which is between 8 to 1 and 10 to 1), one must factor in the energy inputs needed to plant, fertilise and harvest the corn as well as for the animal feed. We estimate that the final energy balance of fuels derived from the concept will then be around 3 to 1. This is twice the efficiency of a traditional dry-grind ethanol plant.

To achieve that efficiency, and generate cost savings of $0.30 to $0.35 per gallon in ethanol production and $0.50 cents per hundred weight of milk, the company will convert waste streams from the 7,500 dairy cows as well as from the fractionation, biodiesel and ethanol processes into energy to power the entire project with recycled, renewable energy.

Fractionation separates corn, the primary element in producing ethanol and biodiesel fuels, into three parts: germ, corn starch and corn bran.
"Environmentally, the project has significant advantages because of low emission of greenhouse gases through the conversion of waste streams to energy and a high energy efficiency ratio. Simply put: as the only biodiesel refinery in the nation with this level of energy efficiency, we will not be energy dependent on fossil fuels and volatile energy markets." - XL Dairy Group Chairman and CEO Dennis Corderman.
According to Corderman, the output from the integrated operation will consist of the following products:
  • 54 million gallons of ethanol per year
  • 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year
  • 11 MW of power and 155,000 pounds of steam per hour
  • 525,000 pounds of milk per day
  • 110,000 tons of animal feeds per year
Located 100 miles west of Phoenix in La Paz County, construction on the first phase of the Vicksburg BioRefinery dairy farm is complete:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Phase II Dairy will be constructed during 2007, and final engineering is now underway on the biofuels facility which includes the fractionation mill. The project, said Corderman, will process over 576,000 tons of corn into 54 million gallons of ethanol, five million gallons of biodiesel and 110,000 tons of animal feeds annually.

Carbon dioxide produced during the process will be captured and stored on site for sale in various applications including beverage carbonation, cooling and the production of dry ice. Carbon dioxide, one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases and global warming, also can be "scrubbed" on site and converted into oxygen to be released into the atmosphere.

XL Dairy Group also is waiting for patent approval on a proprietary, low-cost algae production system, which will then be incorporated into the XL BioRefinery to lower operating costs and expand the production of motor fuels and animal feeds. "Because algae has a higher oil content than corn, and needs much less acreage to produce much higher volumes, which we will do at the site, we expect to expand to 100 million gallons of ethanol and 25-30 million gallons of biodiesel over the next five years," added Corderman.

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