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    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

    The Cypriot parliament has rejected an amendment by President Papadopoulos on the law regarding the use of biofuels that contain genetically modified substances. The amendment called for an alteration in the law that currently did not allow the import or use of biofuels that had been produced using GM substances, something that goes against a recent EU Directive on GMOs. Cyprus Mail - May 18, 2007.

    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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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Report: clean coal and CCS 'feasible' in the UK - towards carbon negative energy?

New technology means coal can be both a clean and secure source of energy, according to a UK think-tank report. High in carbon emissions - a key factor causing climate change - coal has typically been seen as a dirty fuel. But the environmental damage can be reduced, says the report, and unlike wind and solar power it can also be stored and provided on demand.

CCS progress opens carbon negative energy future

More importantly to us, the technologies for clean coal can be applied to biomass, resulting in so-called 'Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) systems. BECS is the only radical carbon negative energy concept that can provide a reliable supply of power and take our historic carbon emissions out of the atmosphere. As biomass grows, it becomes a carbon-neutral biofuel. But when the fuel is burned and its carbon emissions then captured and stored, the system's greenhouse gas balance becomes negative. All other energy systems, including renewables like solar and wind power are carbon positive and in the case of the latter must be backed up by other baseload sources.

Scientists have pointed out that if BECS - now recognized by the IPCC as an important technology to fight climate change - were to be implemented on a large scale (taking on aspects of a 'geo-engineering' effort by planting large energy forests across the globe), it can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels in a few decades time. The concept was designed as an answer to socalled 'abrupt climate change' scenarios. Meanwhile many scientists think we are already facing such a scenario.

We refer to the report on clean coal because it indicates carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are becoming technically and commercially feasible in the UK. Since biomass can be co-fired easily with coal, BECS may become a reality faster than expected. In fact, in the Netherlands, a first power plant co-firing coal and biomass, and storing the CO2 in depleted gas fields is already under construction. This will effectively become the first low carbon coal plant, and, depending on the amount of biomass that is co-combusted, may even become carbon negative (previous post). On a more general level, CCS still poses some risks (like CO2 leakage), which is why testing such technologies from the start with biomass is the safest way forward.

The reported titled Clean Coal: A Clean, Secure and Affordable Alternative [*.pdf] was produced by the Center for Policy Studies and comes in advance of the UK energy white paper, expected in May:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Advantages of coal and biomass
The analysis first indicates that in the UK, more energy generation is urgently needed. The country has an installed electricity capacity of 77 gigawatts (GW) but it is expected that by 2016, it will face a shortfall of 32 GW as older coal, nuclear and oil plants go offline, while demand keeps increasing.

The author, Tony Lodge, argues that coal has many advantages over intermittent renewables like solar or wind power. The argumentation for coal is equally valid for biomass:
Coal has a number of advantages for electricity production. The raw material is in plentiful supply. It can be (and is) stockpiled at power stations and, in generating terms, it is a fairly flexible fuel, providing baseload but also some capability of being turned up and down to meet peaks in demand.
Like coal, biomass can also be transported safely and efficiently, and traded. Research by the IEA Bioenergy Task 40 has indicated that intercontinental trade and transport of biomass (densified into a liquid fuel or as pellets), that is, shipping it in tankers over long distances, is feasible and only slightly reduces the greenhouse gas balance of the fuel upon arrival in the importing port.

'Clean coal' is a generic term for a range of technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They include flue gas desulphurisation, supercritical coal-firing and underground coal gasification, all discussed in the report. However, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is by far the most important of the new concepts and techniques, because they reduce carbon dioxide emissions radically.

CCS potential in the UK
The idea of carbon sequestration is simple and powerful: segregate the CO2 from the fossil fuel combustion products, and then deposit it in a place where it will remain.

The emission of CO2 from such a plant could be reduced to virtually zero [and to a negative number] if the clean coal [biomass] plant was designed to sequester carbon, the CO2 could be disposed of in, for example, the emptying oil fields of the North Sea which consequently can extend the lives of oil fields through pressure being applied on old and difficult to extract reserves, thereby prolonging production.

CCS is a three step process, which includes capturing the CO2 from power plants, transporting it, usually via pipelines, and finally storing it. The British Minister for Science told the House of Commons on 27 February 2007:
CCS could help reduce emissions from the new coal-fired power stations that are planned over the next decades, especially in India and China, that is why the proposal is so attractive... We have strongly encouraged the market to proceed with bringing the technology forward, and UK industry is well placed to undertake future CCS projects.
The British Geological Survey estimates that potential carbon dioxide storage capacity in the UK sector of the North Sea is 755 gigatonnes, which is a considerable amount, given that worldwide CO2 output is 8 gigatonnes annually. This means that almost a century’s worth of the CO2 produced in the world could theoretically at least, be stored in the North Sea alone.

CCS Costs
The report sketches an overview of the costs of CCS, which are crucial to its long term viability. Snow relies on an analysis by PÖYRY Energy Consulting for the Department of Trade and Industry (Analysis of Carbon Capture and Storage Cost-Supply Curves for the UK [*.pdf]). It concluded that CCS costs in a coal-fired plant would be just above £20/tonne CO2 while for a gas fired plant, it is £30/tonne CO2. A key reason for this difference is that the volume of CO2 emitted from a coalfired plant is far greater than that from a gas fired plant, so the volume abated will also be far higher, therefore reducing the cost of abatement.
  • The PÖYRY report also sets out other ways the costs of CCS can fall:
  • Using CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR can generate revenue which offsets the other costs of CCS (before any taxation issues are considered).
  • The cost of storing CO2 in aquifers is close to £1/tonne.
  • The cost of storing CO2 in oil and gas fields plant ranges from £1/tonne to £20/ tonne. The low unit costs of using aquifers is due to them being in shallow water, minimising the platform costs, being in shallow rock formations thereby minimising drilling costs and their large reservoir nature, reducing the unit cost of storage.
  • Overall, the PÖYRY report states that there is clear potential for abatement of around prices below £30/tonne.
Current CCS projects in the UK
Across the world, CCS trials and concrete projects are underway (in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia). In the UK too, some projects are worth noting:

Centrica Teesside 800 MW IGCC
Centrica, owner of British Gas, and Progressive Energy Ltd announced in November 2006 plans to build an £1bn 800MW IGCC (Integrated Gas Combined Cycle) in Teesside, North East England. The plant would be equipped with carbon capture and storage.

Importantly, this plant will be located on the coast, therefore in close proximity to disused wells for CCS and therefore requiring less transportation infrastructure and build. Centrica stated that the station would be fuelled by coal from the UK and would generate enough electricity for one million homes. Provided the company gets Government approval and planning permission, construction would start in 2009, enabling the station to open in 2012 or 2013.

Scottish and Southern Energy Ferrybridge (Yorkshire) 500MW Supercritical Plant and CCS

Scottish and Southern Energy have teamed up with Doosan Babcock Energy, UK Coal and Siemens to look into the prospect of building a £350m 500MW clean coal plant at Ferrybridge power station with a supercritical plant and carbon capture and storage. This technology at Ferrybridge Power Station, in Yorkshire, would save around 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, compared with the current plant. The plant would receive coal from the neighbouring Kellingley Colliery.

Powergen Kingsnorth (Kent) New power station featuring two 800MW Supercritical plants with potential CCS

Powergen, owned by E.ON of Germany, is planning to invest £1 billion in two supercritical plants expected at 800MW each. They will be located at the same site. This plant, according to E.ON will use a mix of British and imported coal. The power stations will be suitable for carbon capture and storage. If approved these would be the UK’s first supercritical coal-fired units, and they would produce enough electricity to supply around 1.5 million homes. On December 11th 2006 E.ON submitted a Section 36 planning application to the Government.

Powergen Lincolnshire 450MW CCS
Powergen has also announced a feasibility study into building a clean coal power station at Killingholme on the Lincolnshire coast. This station will act as a test facility for carbon capture and storage.

Political support
According to the report, developing clean coal in the UK would not only be good for the domestic market. It would also be an effective way of setting an example for developing economies, including China and India, so they could "take advantage of their own coal reserves" in an environmentally acceptable way.

But in order to make best use of coal, there needs to be clear political support to encourage investors and systematic planning rules for coal sites, said the think-tank.

The government should also provide the same degree of subsidy as it does for renewable energy, it adds. It argued that ultimately, if coal were developed using new technologies, it could mean a more reliable energy source and cheaper electricity for the consumer. "Such a combination ought to be attractive to all policy-makers".

Disadvantages of wind and solar
Solar energy is quickly dismissed as a feasible option for large scale energy production in the UK, because it is far too costly, intermittent and not very efficient there. Wind receives large investments, but the think tank asks whether these funds wouldn't be better invested in clean coal. It does so because wind power has several major disadvantages.

Lodge quotes Michael Laughton, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Queen Mary University of London who has highlighted three key points on wind energy:
  • With or without wind generation in the electricity system, security of power supply is governed by the probability of the available plant being able to meet power demand at all times, especially at or near peak periods.
  • Wind generation on its own cannot provide a reliable supply of power. It must be backed up by other baseload sources.
  • By way of illustration if 25 GW of wind capacity were to be added to the electricity supply system only 5 GW of conventional plant capacity could be retired. This is because of existing security of supply standards (loss of load probability or LOLP) where in general the capacity credit is of the order of the square root of the GW of wind installed. With a 30% annual load factor this 25 GW of wind capacity would generate annually the same energy on average as 5 GW.

Wind power is also relatively expensive, according to Lodge, who provides the following table below (click to enlarge):


The think tank says barriers to clean coal technology being embraced and pursued are not technical. The technology exists and has existed for some time. If the British overnment wishes to genuinely embrace a competitive, market-orientated energy policy which reduces CO2 and maintains crucial baseload energy provision then it must support clean coal, alongside new nuclear stations.

Note that the Biopact neither backs clean coal as such, let alone nuclear power. We do think though, that progress in reliable carbon capture and storage technologies offers a unique opportunity to build genuinely carbon negative energy systems based on biomass. These systems can mitigate climate change like no other technology. Biomass can be grown sustainably in very large quantities, most notably in the subtropics, from where it can be exported efficiently to BECS-plants in the industrialised world. Such a 'pact' would provide opportunities for farmers in the South, and a radical way to reduce the past emissions from the highly developed countries.

More information:
DTI: Analysis of Carbon Capture and Storage Cost-Supply Curves for the UK [*.pdf] - Pöyry for the UK government's Department of Trade and Industry, January 2007.

Center for Policy Studies: Clean Coal: A Clean, Secure and Affordable Alternative [*.pdf], May, 2007.

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward?, March 31, 2007.

Biopact: Abrupt Climate Change and geo-engineering the planet with carbon-negative bioenergy - December 21, 2006.

Biopact: UN expert group demands carbon capture - report, March 05, 2007.

Euractiv: 'Carbon-capture trials safest way forward' - April 3.

Article continues

Researchers attach genes to minichromosomes in maize - may yield drought and disease resistant crops, better biofuels

A team of scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia has discovered a way to create engineered minichromosomes in maize and attach genes to those minichromosomes. This discovery opens new possibilities for the development of crops that are multiply resistant to viruses, insects, fungi, bacteria and herbicides, for the development of proteins and metabolites that can be used to treat human illnesses, and for third generation biofuels (made from energy crops engineered in such a way that their properties are matched to the specificities of a given bioconversion process). The technique used to create engineered minichromosomes should be transferable to other plant species.

In a paper published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Weichang Yu, Fangpu Han, Zhi Gao, Juan M. Vega and James A. Birchler built on a previous MU discovery about the creation of minichromosomes to demonstrate that genes could be stacked on the minichromosomes.
“This has been sought for a long time in the plant world, and it should open many new avenues. If we can do this in plants, many advances could be done in agriculture that would not otherwise be possible, from improved crops to inexpensive pharmaceutical production to other applications in biotechnology.” - James A. Birchler, professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.
A minichromosome is an extremely small version of a chromosome, the threadlike linear strand of DNA and associated proteins that carry genes and functions in the transmission of hereditary information. Whereas a chromosome is made of both centromeres and telomeres with much intervening DNA, a minichromosome contains only centromeres and telomeres, the end section of a chromosome, with little else. However, minichromosomes have the ability to accept the addition of new genes in subsequent experiments.

Birchler said there have been unsuccessful efforts to create artificial chromosomes in plants but this is the first time engineered minichromosomes have been made:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Minichromosomes are able to function in many of the same ways as chromosomes but allow for genes to be stacked on them. Although other forms of genetic modification in plants are currently utilized, the new minichromosomes are particularly useful because they allow scientists to add numerous genes onto one minichromosome and manipulate those genes easily because they are all in one place, Birchler said. Genetic modification with traditional methods is more complicated because scientists have little control over where the genes are located in the chromosomes and cannot stack multiple genes on a separate chromosome independent of the others.

Resilient crops
By stacking genes on minichromosomes, scientists could create crops that have multiple beneficial traits, such as resistance to drought, certain viruses and insects, or other stresses. In addition, minichromosomes could be used for the inexpensive production of multiple foreign proteins and metabolites useful for medical purposes. Because of their protein-rich composition, a part of the maize kernels (called an endosperm) can be used to grow animal proteins and human antibodies that treat diseases and disease symptoms. Minichromosomes could enable new and better production of these foreign proteins and antibodies. In addition, scientists also may be able to use them to develop plants better suited for biofuel production.

“The technique used to create our engineered minichromosomes should be transferable to other plant species,” Birchler said.

He said he hopes that he and other scientists can use the technique to create minichromosomes in other plant varieties and produce more resistant plant strains, develop more medically useful proteins and metabolites, and study how chromosomes function.

More information:
Weichang Yu, Fangpu Han, Zhi Gao, Juan M. Vega *, and James A. Birchler, "Construction and behavior of engineered minichromosomes in maize" [*abstract], Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. May 14, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0700932104

Eurekalert: Researchers attach genes to minichromosomes in maize - May 14, 2007.

Article continues

Offenburg students test world's first ethanol powered fuel cell vehicle

Finding the most efficient and climate-friendly propulsion technology for vehicles is not easy. The calculus requires a full life cycle assessment that looks at the 'well-to-tank' and 'tank-to-wheel' efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions for different fuels or energy carriers (hydrogen, electricity, biofuels, fossil fuels, synthetic fuels, biogas, natural gas...) and propulsion concepts (electric motors powered by fuel cells, direct battery-electric motors, internal combustion engines either using gaseous or liquid fuels.)

Many experts would agree that, as such, (solid) biofuels are most efficient when burned or gasified in power plants for electricity generation, and not in their liquid form as transport fuels. The electricity from this biomass could then possibly be used to power electric vehicles. Hydrogen for its part is often associated with highly efficient fuel cells (even though the gas can be burned in ICE's). On the other hand, the clean gas is merely an energy carrier and so a primary energy source must be used to convert water or hydrogen-rich gases into H2. If fossil fuels are used for the generation of the gas, then hydrogen loses its 'clean' credentials.

Now suppose you could join the best aspects of both the biofuels and the hydrogen economy: use a liquid biofuel like ethanol in combination with a highly efficient fuel cell that powers an efficient motor. This would make for a very intersting concept, but would require a dedicated fuel cell that can handle biofuels. Luckily, a handful of researchers are working on this kind of 'direct-alcohol fuel cells' (DAFC).

Earlier we referred to Acta Nanotech, an Italian catalyst developer, which developed such a fuel cell and demonstrated its reliability when used by a range of fuels, from hydrogen and methanol, to more complex hydrocarbons including ethanol and ethylene glycol (previous post). The Acta fuel cell relies on the company's Hypermec catalysts which are highly active because of their very small particle size and exceptional controlled dispersion. They are active below freezing (with ethylene glycol fuel) and are stable to over 800°C.

Most importantly, the catalyst is platinum free, which offers the potential for low cost mass production, but does generate comparable power to conventional platinum/ruthenium catalysts. The catalysts are selective and so they are not affected by fuel crossover and can work with novel stack designs. They are also unaffected by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Acta Nanotech supplied fuel cell components to power the world's first fuel cell demonstrator vehicle that was fuelled directly by bio-ethanol. The components were delivered to a team from the German Hochschule Offenburg (University of Applied Sciences) which demonstrated the direct ethanol fuel cell vehicle at the Shell Eco-Marathon race, held in France on 13 May 2007.

The vehicle was originally designed to work on a hydrogen fuel cell and came in second out of eight in the fuel cell category under this configuration, achieving a mileage of 2716 kilometres(6,491 miles per gallon). After the event, the team used the same vehicle to test the DAFC with ethanol (see picture, click to enlarge). Since the Eco-Marathon does not have a category for this new concept yet, the vehicle demonstrated the technology as a side-event to the official race:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The team from Offenburg chose to use Hypermec catalysts and electrodes to allow their demonstrator vehicle to run directly on ethanol fuel. In so doing, they also built the first 50W ethanol fuel cell stack to use Hypermec and anion exchange membranes.

At the 2007 European Shell Eco-marathon, 65 vehicles used alternative energy sources during the event – an increase of 36% over 2006. These included 31 teams using biofuels, 26 using hydrogen cells and 7 teams that relied solar power. The most significant increase was in the use of hydrogen fuel cells, up by 50% over last year.

Last year, an ethanol vehicle made by students from the French Lycee La Joliverie won the competition and beat the fuel cell cars running on hydrogen, as well as ICE-powered cars running on other fuels.

Image: the team from the Hochschule Offenburg after the test-drive with the DAFC. Courtesy: Boris Kubrak.

EDIT: this article was edited on May 20, 2007.

More information:
Shell Eco-Marathon competition: The 2007 European Shell Eco-marathon – efficiency at its best [*.pdf] - May 13, 2007.

Acta Nanotech: Practical fuel options for new fuel cell applications.

On last year's ethanol victory: Environment News Service: Ethanol Car Beats Fuel Cells to Win European Eco-marathon - May 22, 2006.

Fuel Cell Today: Bioethanol fuel cell vehicle in Eco-marathon - May 15, 2007.

Hochschule Offenberg: FH-News Januar/Februar 2007 - Schluckspecht soll Ethanol schlucken [*German], February 2007.

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President Bush orders development of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles - boost to biofuels

Last month, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must take action under the Clean Air Act regarding greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The ruling forced President George Bush to issue an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Transportation to work together to begin developing regulations that will reduce gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, using the President’s '20-in-10' plan (earlier post) as a starting point.

The rules are to be implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency before Bush leaves office in January 2009, a relatively ambitious schedule by government standards.
Developing these regulations will require coordination across many different areas of expertise. Today, I signed an executive order directing all our agencies represented here today to work together on this proposal. I've also asked them to listen to public input, to carefully consider safety, science, and available technologies, and evaluate the benefits and costs before they put forth the new regulation.

This is a complicated legal and technical matter, and it's going to take time to fully resolve. Yet it is important to move forward, so I have directed members of my administration to complete the process by the end of 2008. The steps I announced today are not a substitute for effective legislation. So my -- members of my Cabinet, as they begin the process toward new regulations, will work with the White House, to work with Congress, to pass the 20-in-10 bill. - President George W. Bush.
The '20 in 10' proposal calls for a boost in the use of biofuels. The planned 20% reduction in gasoline usage over the next 10 years includes provisions to ensure that 15% of the reduction to comes from the use of renewable and alternative fuels, and 5% from mandated increases in fuel efficiency:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

During a briefing, Secretary Of Transportation Mary Peters, Secretary Of Agriculture Michael Johanns and EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson reacted to the order:
On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Massachusetts versus EPA that the Clean Air Act provided EPA the statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles if I determine in my judgment whether such emissions endanger public health and welfare under the Clean Air Act. Today the President has responded to the Supreme Court's landmark decision by calling on EPA and our federal partners to move forward and take the first regulatory step to craft a proposal to control greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles.

This rule-making will be complex and will require a sustained commitment from the administration to complete it in a timely fashion. While the President's 20-in-10 plan, which would increase the supply of renewable and alternative fuel and reform the CAFE standards, will serve as a guide, we have not reached any conclusions about what the final regulation will look like. In most instances, by federal law, the Environmental Protection Agency must follow a specific process and take several steps before issuing a final regulation. This is a complex issue and EPA will ensure that any possible rule-making impacting emissions from all new mobile sources through the entire United States will adhere to the federal law.

We will solicit comments on a proposed rule from a broad array of stakeholders and other interested members of the public. Our ultimate decision must reflect a thorough consideration of public comments and an evaluation of how it fits within the scope of the Clean Air Act. Only after EPA has issued a proposal and considered public comments can it finalize a regulation. Today's announcement reflects our commitment to move forward expeditiously and responsibly. - EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson

We have wide-ranging experience and significant technical knowledge at the Department of Transportation when it comes to setting fuel economic standards that require automakers to install fuel savings technology on every type of pickup truck, SUV, and minivan, regardless of their size or weight.

As a result, our repeated increases in the fuel economy standards for the light truck category of vehicles have set tough new mileage targets while encouraging consumer choice, maintaining vehicle safety, and of course, protecting jobs and the American economy. -EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson
Secretary Of Agriculture Michael Johanns stresses that, since the order is set to strengthen the case to pass the '20 in 10' bill timely, it is an important development for American agriculture:
For the United States Department of Agriculture, renewable energy is a top priority. The President's goal to achieve 20-in-10 has ignited what I would describe as a transformational period, nothing short of that, in American agriculture. He's articulated a definite vision and he has followed up on that in our case, in Agriculture's case, with a very aggressive Farm Bill proposal that will fit perfectly with what he talked about this afternoon.

We've already put forth a Farm Bill proposal that would increase funding for renewable energy by $1.6 billion. Without question, the President's proposals represent the most significant commitment to renewable energy that's ever been proposed in farm legislation. It's focused on cellulosic ethanol, which is where we believe the next step is in terms of ethanol development. And it's also one of the building blocks that will help us achieve 20-in-10.

The Farm Bill proposals would expand research into cellulosic ethanol, to improve biotechnology, and create a better crop for conversion to renewable energy and to improve that conversion process, making it more efficient and, therefore, more commercially viable.

These proposals also fit well with the President's announcement because they provide funding to support more than a billion dollars in guaranteed loans, to encourage the construction of the commercial-scale cellulosic plants. - Secretary Of Agriculture Michael Johanns
More information:
White House: Executive Order: Cooperation Among Agencies in Protecting the Environment with Respect to Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Motor Vehicles, Nonroad Vehicles, and Nonroad Engines -May 14, 2007.

White House: President Bush Discusses CAFE and Alternative Fuel Standards - May 14.

White House: Briefing by Conference Call on the President's Announcement on CAFE and Alternative Fuel Standards - May 14, 2007.

White House: Fact Sheet: Twenty in Ten: Strengthening Energy Security and Addressing Climate Change - May 14, 2007

Des Moines Register: Bush orders steps to boost biofuels - May 14.

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Pure Biofuels to acquire Peru's largest biodiesel producer

Pure Biofuels today announced the execution of a binding letter of intent to acquire Interpacific Oil SAC’s biodiesel production business, Peru’s largest and longest running biodiesel processor.

Interpacific currently produces 7.2 million gallons (27.25 million liters) per year of biodiesel and has been producing commercial quantities since 2002 when the company became the first commercial level producer of biodiesel in Peru. The move positions Pure Biofuels to become the largest producer of biodiesel in Peru, and will further complement the company’s position when it completes construction on its primary biodiesel facility in Callao, Peru, expected in the fourth quarter of 2007 (earlier post).

The purchase price for Interpacific is US$6.3 million, payable US$0.7 million in cash and US$5.6 million in Pure Biofuels common stock, and a warrant to purchase 2,925,000 shares of Pure Biofuels common stock. The closing of the acquisition is subject to customary conditions including the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements and, if the acquisition is structured as a merger, the registration of the merger process in Peru.

According to a large continent-wide study by the Inter-American Development Bank, Peru is one of Latin America's countries with a clear biofuel export potential (earlier post):
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“We are very excited to announce the acquisition of Interpacific Oil’s biodiesel business in a transaction that means so much to our company,” stated Pure Biofuels CEO, Luis Goyzueta. “This is the company that I know well – it’s where I come from. Running Interpacific’s biodiesel facility for the last five years prepared me for the launch of Pure Biofuels. Now, bringing these two operations under our umbrella and operating at its current stage of profitability is a great privilege. It strengthens Pure’s position in the marketplace – and ultimately, it provides an earlier opportunity to fill the demand from our customers.”

Pure Biofuels plans to expand the facility to a capacity of 10 million gallons per year, over two to three months following the closing. Production of biodiesel will then continue while construction takes place on Pure’s main facility on land adjacent to the Port of Callao. A decision will be made at a later date on whether to relocate the Interpacific equipment onto the Callao Port property once construction is completed or to simply continue to operate it at its present location. Along with the acquisition of Interpacific Oil, the operations and management personnel for the biodiesel facility will also be transferred with the transaction, further ensuring that there will be no interruption in operations and/or distribution.

Pure Biofuels aims to become a leader in Latin America's rapidly emerging biofuels industry. Pure Biofuels' flagship project, the Callao Port biodiesel refinery near Lima, Peru, is scheduled to commence production during the fourth quarter of 2007. The Callao Port refinery will process biodiesel from crude palm oil feedstock. Pure Biofuels has secured memorandums of understanding with local fuel distributors for all of Callao Port's annual biodiesel production.

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