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    Italian refining group Saras is building one of Spain's largest flexible biodiesel plants. The 200,000 ton per year factory in Cartagena can handle a variety of vegetable oils. The plant is due to start up in 2008 and will rely on European as well as imported feedstocks such as palm oil. Reuters - June 7, 2007.

    The University of New Hampshire's Biodiesel Group is to test a fully automated process to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. It has partnered with MPB Bioenergy, whose small-scale processor will be used in the trials. UNH Biodiesel Group - June 7, 2007.

    According to the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), the Caribbean island state has a large enough potential to meet both its domestic ethanol needs (E10) and to export to international markets. BAMC is working with state actors to develop an entirely green biofuel production process based on bagasse and biomass. The Barbados Advocate - June 6, 2007.

    Energea, BioDiesel International and the Christof Group - three biodiesel producers from Austria - are negotiating with a number of Indonesian agribusiness companies to cooperate on biodiesel production, Austrian Commercial Counselor Raymund Gradt says. The three Austrian companies are leading technology solution providers for biodiesel production and currently produce a total of 440,000 tons of biodiesel per annum in Austria, more than half of their country’s annual demand of around 700,000-800,000 tons. In order to meet EU targets, they want to produce biodiesel abroad, where feedstocks and production is more competitive. BBJ - June 6, 2007.

    China will develop 200 million mu (13.3 million hectares) of forests by 2020 in order to supply the raw materials necessary for producing 6 million tons of biodiesel and biomass per year, state media reported today. InterFax China - June 6, 2007.

    British Petroleum is planning a biofuel production project in Indonesia. The plan is at an early stage, but will involve the establishment of an ethanol or biodiesel plant based on sugarcane or jatropha. The company is currently in talks with state-owned plantation and trading firm Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) as its potential local partner for the project. Antara - June 6, 2007.

    A pilot project to produce biodiesel from used domestic vegetable oil is underway at the Canary Technological Institute in Gran Canaria. Marta Rodrigo, the woman heading up the team, said the project is part of the EU-wide Eramac scheme to encourage energy saving and the use of renewable energy. Tenerife News - June 6, 2007.

    Royal Dutch Shell Plc is expanding its fuel distribution infrastructure in Thailand by buying local petrol stations. The company will continue to provide premium petrol until market demand for gasohol (an petrol-ethanol mixture) climbs to 70-90%, which will prove customers are willing to switch to the biofuel. "What we focus on now is proving that our biofuel production technology is very friendly to engines", a company spokesman said. Bangkok Post - June 5, 2007.

    Abraaj, a Dubai-based firm, has bought the company Egyptian Fertilizers in order to benefit from rising demand for crops used to make biofuels. The Abraaj acquisition of all the shares of Egyptian Fertilizers values the company based in Suez at US$1.41 billion. Egyptian Fertilizers produces about 1.25 million tons a year of urea, a nitrogen-rich crystal used to enrich soils. The company plans to expand its production capacity by as much as 20 percent in the next two years on the expected global growth in biofuel production. International Herald Tribune - June 4, 2007.

    China and the US will soon sign a biofuel cooperation agreement involving second-generation fuels, a senior government official said. Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a media briefing that vice premier Wu Yi discussed the pact with US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and other US officials during the strategic economic dialogue last month. Forbes - June 4, 2007.

    German biogas company Schmack Biogas AG reports a 372% increase in revenue for the first quarter of the year, demonstrating its fast growth. Part of it is derived from takeovers. Solarserver [*German] - June 3, 2007.

    Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC has suspended the export of 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil because of community unrest in southern Nigeria, a company spokesman said. Villagers from K-Dere in the restive Ogoniland had stormed the facility that feeds the Bonny export terminal, disrupting supply of crude. It was the second seizure in two weeks. Shell reported on May 15 that protesters occupied the same facility, causing a daily output loss of 170,000 barrels. Rigzone - June 2, 2007.

    Heathrow Airport has won approval to plan for the construction of a new 'green terminal', the buildings of which will be powered, heated and cooled by biomass. The new terminal, Heathrow East, should be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics. The new buildings form part of operator BAA's £6.2bn 10-year investment programme to upgrade Heathrow. Transport Briefing - June 1, 2007.

    A new algae-biofuel company called LiveFuels Inc. secures US$10 million in series A financing. LiveFuels is a privately-backed company working towards the goal of creating commercially competitive biocrude oil from algae by 2010. PRNewswire - June 1, 2007.

    Covanta Holding Corp., a developer and operator of large-scale renewable energy projects, has agreed to purchase two biomass energy facilities and a biomass energy fuel management business from The AES Corp. According to the companies, the facilities are located in California's Central Valley and will add 75 MW to Covanta's portfolio of renewable energy plants. Alternative Energy Retailer - May 31, 2007.

    Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation are proposing a study designed to increase the availability of ethanol across the country. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he has introduced a bill in the U.S. House, asking for a US$2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Des Moines Register - May 30, 2007.

    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    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.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Case-study reveals template for successful biofuel production

A consortium of eleven companies involved in the biodiesel industry in the North-East of England have developed a template for successful future biofuels production. The Value Chain Analysis (VCA) project, which was undertaken as part of the Cereals Industry Forum (CIF), could prove very valuable in driving future developments in this relatively new sector.

The study titled Meeting the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation - A Biofuels Case Study from Seed to Forecourt [*.pdf], identified areas as critical to the chain, including standardising farming practice, breeding specific varieties for biofuels, ensuring continuity of supply, and providing carbon reporting throughout the chain. The study looked at three biofuels for transport: biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas.

Value Chain Analysis
brings together a team representing all aspects of a supply chain in order to ‘map’ the chain. By ‘walking through’ the chain together, the team is able to identify processes that add value and those that don’t (map, click to enlarge). It is also able to identify problems and areas, and, therefore, to suggest ways in which the chain might be improved. This activity is organised by the Cereals Industry Forum, and was facilitated by Cardiff Business School.

Because of the complexity of the supply chain in this case it was split into two groups – upstream and downstream. The detailed mapping of the upstream chain showed that the total lead-time from basic seed to crusher is about 920 days, out of which 365 days is in multiplication of basic seed, 365 growing on the farm and 180 days on average in central silo. The total mileage from fertiliser manufacturing plant through the distributive chain to the farm and then as crop to the crusher is about 250 miles.

For the downstream chain it showed that the total lead-time from the crusher to the vehicle tank is more than 60 days (excluding time in the tank-farm due to data not available). The total transport in the downstream is about 60 miles (excluding miles traveled in pipelines).

The critical factors for success identified by the team were:
  • The need to standardise and transfer best farming practices more widely: it was shown that improved choice of varieties, reduced fertiliser loss, and reduced harvest loss could make a significant difference to improving the quality of output and the profitability for growers.
  • Breeding specific varieties for biofuels: currently, there are no oilseed varieties specifically for biofuels production. High yield and oil content are key to the success of the whole sector and have a big impact on profitability of biofuels crop production as well as the whole supply chain.
  • Continuity of supply into the crusher with crop storage adjacent to the crusher: key to sustainability of this chain is the continuity of supply of high quality locally-grown crops into the crusher. The crusher connects the upstream and downstream chains and efficiency of the upstream supply is crucial in terms of competitiveness of the whole industry.
  • Carbon reporting from seed to tank: the carbon footprint and the environmental impact of the end-to-end supply chain (seed to tank) must be constantly monitored to ensure that the promised carbon reduction is met.
The upstream group involved fertiliser producer Terra; seed breeder Monsanto; agri-chemicals supplier Agrovista; buying group Farmway; grower John Hutchinson, grain trader GrainCo; and crusher, North East Biofuels. The downstream group included Simon Storage, which provides tank farms for the rape oil and the biodiesel; the Biofuels Corporation, which processed the rape oil to produce biodiesel; PetroPlus, which blends the biodiesel; and JET, which sells the biodiesel:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

John Reynolds, Chairman of North East Biofuels said: “The VCA project was a very valuable exercise and I firmly believe it is a great help as a pointer and a base against which our supply chain members can measure improvements in the coming years. These improvements will be very necessary in a competitive world, where the consumer will demand cost competitiveness at the pump and a product which helps to combat Global Warming.”

Iain Grime, Business Development Manager from PetroPlus said: “The VCA is a valuable project which helps supply chain stakeholders to build better and longer-term relationships. The VCA project looked at opportunities for improving operations and also the logistics in the supply chain. This sector is very mature and the logistical opportunities are limited. However, one of the key findings was the need for transparent and rigorous carbon reporting along the life-cycle of biofuels. This includes all aspects of delivery from grain to fully blended biofuels to the retail outlet.”

More information:

Biofuel Review: Template for successful biofuels production developed - June 7, 2007.

Home Grown Cereals Authority / North East Biofuels: Reducing carbon in a biofuel supply chain A biodiesel case study - 2007, s.d. (June 2007).

Cereals Industry Forum: Meeting the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation: A Biofuels Case Study from Seed to Forecourt - April 2007.

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U.S. Energy and Agriculture Depts. provide $8.3 million for energy crops research

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman today announced that the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy have jointly selected 11 projects for awards totaling US$8.3 million for biobased fuels research that will accelerate the development of alternative fuel resources. The research aims to take the U.S. beyond its reliance on corn as a biofuel feedstock.

The awards continue a commitment begun in 2006 to conduct fundamental research in biomass genomics that will provide the scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuels (earlier post). The program was announced at last year's Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, a conference jointly hosted by the two agencies in St. Louis, MO. The awards are part of a greater research portfolio that will help meet President Bush's goal to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years (amongst this is a DOE fund of US$200 million for biorefineries).

The awards will be made through the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER) in DOE's Office of Science (SC), and USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) National Research Initiative (NRI). In this second year of the program, new research projects on cordgrass, rice, switchgrass, sorghum, poplar, and perennial grasses join the portfolio of research on poplar, alfalfa, sorghum, and wheat.

Starting in 2007, DOE will provide US$5.5 million in funding for seven projects, while USDA will award more than US$1.5 million to fund three projects; one project will receive US$1.3 million in joint funding from both agencies. Initial funding will support research projects for up to three years.

Awards have been selected for bioenergy projects of the following universities and research centers:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  • University of Minnesota, $715,000
  • South Dakota State University, $420,000
  • Mississippi State University, $1,300,000
  • University of Georgia, $400,000
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, $1,200,000
  • University of Florida, $750,000
  • University of Delaware, $600,000
  • USDA-ARS Western Regional Research Center (Albany, CA), $600,000
  • USDA-ARS Western Regional Research Center (Albany, CA), $600,000
  • USDA-ARS (Cornell University), $700,000
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory, $1,040,000
"To help meet President Bush's goal to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years, research and alternative fuel production needs to expand beyond corn ethanol," Johanns said. "These grants diversify the portfolio of research by looking into new ways to develop cordgrass, rice and switchgrass in renewable energy sources."

"These research projects build upon DOE's strategic investments in genomics and biotechnology and strengthen our commitment to developing a robust bioenergy future vital to America's energy and economic security," Bodman said.

More information on the awared projects can be found here.

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Declaration of Panama: OAS to boost biofuels for development in Americas

Biofuels and renewable energy were top of the agenda at the 37th General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS), where leaders of the Americas stressed the need to implement plans on alternatives to oil. Amongst the representatives was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who represented the United States and its pact with Brazil aimed at promoting ethanol production in the Western Hemisphere (earlier post).

The General Assembly convened in Panama City and approved the Declaration of Panama on Energy for Sustainable Development [*Spanish/*.doc], which contains the following points, indicating the fundamental importance of secure and cost-effective energy supplies for sustainable social and economic development and the crucial role of biofuels in this respect:
  • The recognition of the fundamental importance to the member states of the availability of energy resources for the promotion of their economic and social development in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  • The recognition of the need to obtain and use all forms of energy that are in harmony with life and nature, preserving air, water, and land which provide indispensable food and habitat for all living beings, and to foster access for the more vulnerable populations, consistent with social and environmental sensitivity.
  • The resolve to underscore that democratic governance, strong democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are essential elements in advancing the energy and sustainable development goals of member states and the region, combating social exclusion, and advancing the public good.
  • The recognition of the importance of transparency in energy related government and private sector activities, as well as underscoring the importance of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption to the states of the Hemisphere and its follow-up mechanism (MESICIC).
  • The recognition also that the region must endeavor to reduce its vulnerability to fluctuations in the price and supply of energy and seek to increase its energy independence through measures such as, the diversification of the energy matrix, favoring the increase of the sustainable use of renewable and cleaner energy or other modalities, as appropriate, in accordance with each country’s legislation, improving energy efficiency in general in all sectors of the economy, and to increase their coverage of energy services for social development purposes.
  • The need to recognize the potential of biofuels for diversifying the energy matrix of the Hemisphere. Accordingly, they will join efforts to share experiences gained in the region, with a view to achieving maximum efficiency in the sustainable use of those sources to promote social, technological, agricultural, and productive development.
"The words in the document should be translated into action," said Grenada's ambassador to the OAS, Denis Antoine, ahead of closed door talks to finalize the assembly's energy plan.

Four poor nations, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti and St. Kitts, would be the first beneficiaries of the recently signed U.S.-Brazil alternative-energy agreement, which aims to increase ethanol production in the region.

"This declaration realizes that biofuels will be critical to diversifying the use of our energy in our hemisphere," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"We seek to promote the democratization of energy in the Americas, increasing the number of energy suppliers, expanding the market and reducing supply disruption," she added.

Rounding out the three-day talks in the Panamanian capital, leaders yesterday put the finishing touches on an OAS resolution that focuses heavily on the environmental and need to reduce the hemisphere's dependence on fossil fuels.

Some observers, however, expressed concern about investing time, money and resources into a country like Haiti, where political upheaval is not uncommon, violence requires the assistance of international peacekeepers to control, and corruption is endemic.

"It's the chicken and the egg problem," noted Peter Hakim, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. "If you never do anything in [Haiti] to address the problem of stability, then you won?t have stability ... and you?ll never get it without taking a risk."

Alternative-energy programs alone won't help the poor rise out of poverty, said Uruguayan Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano.

"Energy is important for production and improving quality of life, but eliminating poverty depends on other factors as well, like the better distribution of wealth," he said.

Other nations have been downright critical of the alternative-energy initiatives put forward by the OAS and spearheaded by the United States and Brazil, the world's largest producers of ethanol.

Leaders from Venezuela and Cuba - which does not have an official representative at the meetings because the communist island is not a member of the OAS - have criticized the further expansion of ethanol production in Latin America and the Caribbean, claiming it would deplete food supplies in the region, where a scarcity of sustenance is not uncommon. Analysts however note that Chavez's resistance is mainly driven by his fears that the large-scale introduction of ethanol in the Hemisphere may erode the power he derives from his position as an oil exporter. Moreover, Cuba and Venezuela are building a considerable number of biofuel plants themselves.

The Declaration of Panama contained further notes of interest on sustainable (bio)energy, such as:
  • The emphasis on the long-term sustainability of energy supply in the member states depends on the efficient management and development and sustainable use of natural resources for conversion into innovative and environmentally sound energy applications.
  • The recognition of the importance of ensuring compatibility among the production of all energy sources, agricultural production, preservation of the environment, and the promotion and defense of decent social and labor conditions, ensuring the role of the Americas as an efficient energy producer.
  • The resolve to develop and invest in national, subregional, and regional energy infrastructures to facilitate the availability of and access to energy, as well as to protect them and to move toward subregional and regional energy integration. To these ends, we emphasize the advisability, in accordance with national law of public-private partnerships and/or agreements, giving priority to those favoring our sustainable development.
  • The support for the efforts toward the sustainable development of the member states, through use of energy strategies and services recommended in this Declaration that can promote the generation of productive activities and the introduction of new environmentally sound technologies in matters that concern energy.
  • The recognition of the need to strengthen economic and technical cooperation at the regional and international levels in the energy sector.
  • The resolve to joining forces in the implementation of energy policies in the Hemisphere to develop projects and initiatives based on solidarity, transparency, cooperation, and complementarity, to promote more prosperous, just, equitable and inclusive societies.
  • The support for energy integration efforts, including existing experiences, and continued progress in the integration of energy systems and networks, and in the study of the possibility of harmonizing regulations among member states, in order to promote sustainable development and the more efficient and rational use of energy resources and increased marketing of energy products and services among such states.
  • The determination to increase access by citizens of the member states to efficient energy services; and to emphasize that the use of energy for household purposes and for small scale productive activities contributes to improving living conditions and fighting poverty.
  • The recognition of the need for member states to draw upon their experiences and those of multilateral organizations, inter alia, to promote synergy among specific programs on the use of energy for sustainable development and to study possible innovative funding and cooperation mechanisms.
  • The recognition of the importance of multilateral lending and cooperation agencies for promoting new and innovative financing mechanisms and advisory services aimed at fostering renewable energy and access to new cleaner technologies as well as the more efficient use of existing programs and the use of special funds created with voluntary contributions from donor.
  • The recognition also of the efforts of those countries that, based on the implementation of new financing modalities, promote sustainable development, the use of renewable energy, cleaner energy, and environmental protection, in particular, for those areas that are rich in biodiversity.
  • The recognition also of the contribution of private-sector participation, in accordance with national laws and policies, in the development of traditional and new energy sources and in the installation of national and international distribution systems and networks.
  • The recognition of the urgent need to take measures, mostly in the transportation and industry sectors, for the use of more efficient and cleaner technologies, the better use of existing technologies, and the use of less polluting fuels, bearing in mind also the need to promote the participation of micro-, and medium-sized enterprises, including cooperatives and other production units to contribute to this effort.
  • The recognition of the importance of promoting the development of cleaner and more efficient technologies conducive to the greater use of renewable and less polluting energy in public and private transportation, as well as to promote an expanded use of public transportation with said technology, both to increase the efficient use of energy and to reduce its environmental impact.
  • The commitment to encourage the input of financial resources, including those of the private sector, with the aim of promoting the dissemination and transfer of environmentally sustainable technologies, and capacity-building.
  • The encouragement of an efficient energy resource management that reflects what is required for achieving sustainable development in all the member states, taking into consideration national circumstances.
  • The request to the General Secretariat, in coordination with other institutions and experts, to: continue to promote instructional and training programs for relevant actors in the public and private energy sectors and taking into account the possibilities offered by the Scholarships and Training Program of the OAS and other possible funding sources; maintain, update, and distribute a registry of specialists of the member states who, at the request of the countries of the region, can offer cooperation on energy matters; and support regional dialogue for the creation and strengthening of markets and the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation for sustainable development.
  • The request to the Permanent Council and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) to convene an inter-American meeting of national authorities and experts, with the participation of other relevant institutions before the General Assembly in 2008, for the discussion of experiences, best practices, and other information relating to the subject of this Declaration that will contribute to the sustainable development of all countries in the Hemisphere, and to create a Joint Working Group of the Permanent Council and CIDI to define the meeting’s agenda.
  • The request to the General Secretariat of the OAS, to promote the support and synergy of States, international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and the academic community, to promote the contents of this Declaration of Panama, and to report on a regular basis to the Permanent Council and to the Inter-American Council for Integral Development.
  • The appreciation to the people and Government of the Republic of Panama for their warm hospitability during the thirty-seventh regular session of the OAS General Assembly.
Latin America has an enormous potential for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biofuels, as was recently shown in a comprehensive study written for the Inter-American Development Bank. The document titled - A Blueprint for Green Energy in the Americas - was discussed earlier and we included a handy video-presentation for those who lack time to read the document (earlier post). The Inter-American Development Bank will be one of the main instruments implementing the biofuel revolution. It has recently launched a US$3 billion investment plan for biofuels.

Other scientists, amongst them those working for the IEA's Bioenergy Task 40, earlier established that in a most optimal scenario, the Western Hemisphere can deliver around 450 Exajoules of sustainably produced bioenergy for exports by 2050. That amount is larger than the world's total current energy consumption from all sources (oil, gas, coal, nuclear). The projection takes sustainability into account, explicitly. That is: after the food, fuel, fiber and fodder needs of rapidly growing local populations and livestock are met, some 450 EJ of energy can be produced (previous post).

More information:
OAS: The OAS approves by acclamation the Declaration of Panama on Energy for Sustainable Development - June 5, 2007.

OAS General Assembly: Declaracion de Panama sobre energia para el desarrollo sostenible [*.doc], Thirty-Seventh Regular Session, June 3 - 5, Panama City, Panama

Washington Times: OAS urges biofuels as alternatives to oil - June 6, 2007.

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Virgin launches first biodiesel train in Europe

Virgin Trains' Sir Richard Branson launched Europe’s first biodiesel blend train in scheduled passenger service – the 11:27 from London Euston to Llandudno, North Wales. The train is the first regularly scheduled train in Europe to use a practicable blended fuel which can significantly reduce CO2 emissions. The Virgin Trains trial is seen as a major step in a national biodiesel programme, conducted by Virgin Trains, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB), to pioneer a sustainable fuel breakthrough for the rail industry.

As part of a national trial, Virgin Trains will run one of its Voyagers on a 20 percent biodiesel blend.
"This is a pioneering step we’re taking. If the trial is a success – and we believe it will be – and we can convert our Voyager fleet to run on B20 biodiesel we could cut our CO2 emissions by up to 14 percent. This means 34,500 tonnes less CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere each year, and is equivalent to taking 23,000 cars off the road. Government wants to see a reduction in transport’s carbon dioxide emissions, and Virgin and the rail industry are at the forefront. We’re starting with 20 percent biodiesel and hope to increase this amount to 100 percent in the future which would potentially see 100,000 cars off the road." - Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Trains
Virgin CrossCountry Managing Director Chris Gibb said: “Sir Richard set out a vision that Virgin should be at the forefront of developing sustainable energy. I am really proud that it is the people at Virgin Trains who are the first to have risen to the challenge.”

As part of the investment in biodiesel special fuelling points have been installed at Bombardier Transportation’s depots in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire and Crofton, West Yorkshire and modifications have been made to the Cummins’ engines. During the trial the biodiesel train will run across much of Britain, from Birmingham to Scotland, in South Wales, North East England, the North West, Lake District, West Country, the South West and South Coast.

If the trial is a success the current higher duty on biodiesel would mean changes to duty levels would be required for a viable conversion of the fleet to biodiesel operation. The Treasury has made an important concession for this trial, but beyond this the duty rate would be 54.68p per litre – considerably more than the 7.69p per litre duty paid by the rail industry for diesel - and would require legislation to change:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

In addition to the environmental benefits of the Voyager trial, Virgin’s Pendolino electric trains return 17 percent of the power they use to the national grid every time they brake, making the Pendolino fleet one of the most efficient in the world. Over the course of a year this is enough to power 11,825 homes. These trains emit 76 percent less CO2 than cars or domestic flights.

The trial also forms part of Virgin Group’s vision to use clean-fuel technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Virgin Atlantic has ordered 15 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which are 27 percent more fuel efficient than its current fleet, and will begin testing biofuel in 2008 (earlier post). Overall the Virgin Group has already contributed US$200 million of its pledged US$3 billion to developing sustainable energy. Virgin Fuels has already constructed three ethanol plants which are cheaper and greener than standard corn–to–ethanol plants, as they substantially reduce the need for fossil fuels in ethanol production.

Over ten years Virgin Trains has developed the West Coast and CrossCountry franchises into high quality networks, offering a green alternative to air and car travel. Passenger numbers are now at 43 million a year and punctuality is currently running at well over 85 percent on both routes. But it doesn’t stop there. In December 2008 there will be faster journeys on London services, with almost one third more trains running. Virgin Trains also hopes to be able to run trains at 135mph and add two more coaches to Pendolino trains, encouraging millions more people out of their cars and off domestic flights.

One hundred percent of any profits made by Virgin Group through its train and plane companies for the next 10 years will be invested into developing clean fuels.

Earlier in Europe, the French national railways SNCF tested a very high blend (B80) of biodiesel in several of its trains. Abroad too, interest in the biofuel as a replacement for diesel is growing: Brazil's mining group CVRD, the world's largest iron producer, announced it is going to use biodiesel in its trains (earlier post), whereas in India, the country with the largest rail network, the national railways have started testing jatropha-based biodiesel and is establishing vast plantations for the crop (earlier post). Finally, in Sweden, a world premiere was delivered when a regularly scheduled train was made to run on biogas (see here).

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