<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    The first conference of the European Biomass Co-firing Network will be held in Budapest, Hungary, from 2 to 4 July 2007. The purpose of the conference is to bring together scientists, engineers and members of public institutions to present the current state-of-the-art on biomass co-firing. Participants will also discuss future trends and directions in order to promote awareness of this technology as a sustainable energy supply, which could decrease the dependency on fossil fuels and guarantee a decentralised source of energy in Europe. The conference is supported by the EU-funded NETBIOCOF (Integrated European Network for Biomass Co-firing) project. NetBioCof - June 19, 2007.

    Green Energy Resources predicts US$50 per ton biomass woodchip prices within the next twelve months. The current US price level is between $25-32 per ton. Demand caused by the 25-30 new power plants planned in New England by 2010 does not include industry, institutions, universities, hospitals or conversions from natural gas, or cellulostic ethanol. Procurement of woodchips will be based on the delivery capacity of suppliers not local prices for the first time in history. Green Energy has been positioning in New England with rail and port locations to meet the anticipated sector expansion. MarketWire - June 19, 2007.

    In the first major initiative in the US to build a grassroots communications network for the advancement of biofuels adoption, a new national association called The American Biofuels Council (ABC) has been formed. American Biofuels Council - June 19, 2007.

    The Novi Sad-based Jerković Group, in partnership with the Austrian Christof Group, are to invest about €48 million (US$64.3m) in a biodiesel plant in Serbia. Property Xpress - June 19, 2007.

    Biodiesel producer D1 Oils, known for its vast jatropha plantations in Africa and Asia, is to invest CNY 500 to 700 million (€48.9-68.4 / US$65.5-91.7) to build a refinery in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in what is expected to be the first biodiesel plant in the country using jatropha oil as a feedstock. South China Morning Post - June 18, 2007.

    After Brazil announced a record sugar crop for this year, with a decline in both ethanol and sugar prices as a result, India too is now preparing for a bumper harvest, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization said. Raw sugar prices could fall further towards 8 cents per lb in coming months, after their 30% drop so far this year. Converting the global surplus, estimated to be 4 million tonnes, into ethanol may offer a way out of the downward trend. Economic Times India - June 18, 2007.

    After Brazil announced a record sugar crop for this year, with a decline in both ethanol and sugar prices as a result, India too is now preparing for a bumper harvest, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization said. Raw sugar prices could fall further towards 8 cents per lb in coming months, after their 30% drop so far this year. Converting the global surplus, estimated to be 4 million tonnes, into ethanol may offer a way out of the downward trend. Economic Times India - June 18, 2007.

    A report from the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA FAS) estimates that the production of ethanol in China will reach 1.45 million tonnes (484 million gallons US) in 2007, up 12% from 1.3 million tonnes in 2006. Plans are to increase ethanol feedstocks from non-arable lands making the use of tuber crops such as cassava and sweet sorghum. USDA-FAS - June 17, 2007.

    The Iowa State University's Extension Bioeconomy Task Force carried out a round of discussions on the bioeconomy with citizens of the state. Results indicate most people see a bright future for the new economy, others are cautious and take on a distanced, more objective view. The potential for jobs and economic development were the most important opportunities identified by the panels. Iowa is the leading producer of corn based ethanol in the US. Iowa State University - June 16, 2007.

    Biofuel producer D1 Oils Plc, known for establishing large jatropha plantations on (degraded land) in Africa and Asia, said it was in advanced talks with an unnamed party regarding a strategic collaboration, sending its shares up 7 percent, after press reports linking it with BP. Firms like BP and other large petroleum companies are keen to secure a supply of biofuel to meet UK government regulations that 5 percent of automotive fuel must be made up of biofuels by 2010. Reuters UK - June 15, 2007.

    Jean Ziegler, a U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, told a news briefing held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council that "there is a great danger for the right to food by the development of biofuels". His comments contradict a report published earlier by a consortium of UN agencies, which said biofuels could boost the food security of the poor. Reuters - June 15, 2007.

    The county of Chicheng in China's Hebei Province recently signed a cooperative contract with the Australian investment and advisory firm Babcock & Brown to invest RMB480 million (€47.2/US$62.9 million) in a biomass power project, state media reported today. Interfax China - June 14, 2007.

    A new two-stroke ICE engine developed by NEVIS Engine Company Ltd. may nearly double fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Moreover, the engine's versatile design means it can be configured to be fuelled not only by gasoline but also by diesel, hydrogen and biofuels. PRWeb - June 14, 2007.

    Houston-based Gulf Ethanol Corp., announced it will develop sorghum as an alternative feedstock for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Scientists have developed drought tolerant, high-yield varieties of the crop that would grow well in the drier parts of the U.S. and reduce reliance on corn. Business Wire - June 14, 2007.

    Bulgaria's Rompetrol Rafinare is to start delivering Euro 4 grade diesel fuel with a 2% biodiesel content to its domestic market starting June 25, 2007. The same company recently started to distributing Super Ethanol E85 from its own brand and Dyneff brand filling stations in France. It is building a 2500 ton/month, €13.5/US$18 million biodiesel facility at its Petromidia refinery. BBJ - June 13, 2007.

    San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a utility serving 3.4 million customers, announced it has signed a supply contract with Envirepel Energy, Inc. for renewable biomass energy that will be online by October 2007. Bioenergy is part of a 300MW fraction of SDG&E's portfolio of renewable resources. San Diego Gas & Electric - June 13, 2007.

    Cycleenergy, an Austrian bioenergy group, closed €6.7 million in equity financing for expansion of its biomass and biogas power plant activities in Central and Eastern Europe. The company is currently completing construction of a 5.5 MW (nominal) woodchip fired biomass facility in northern Austria and has a total of over 150 MW of biomass and biogas combined heat and power (CHP) projects across Central Europe in the pipeline. Cycleenergy Biopower [*.pdf] - June 12, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan unveils its plan to promote green energy, with all government vehicles in Taipei switching to E3 ethanol gasoline by September and biofuel expected to be available at all gas stations nationwide by 2011. Taipei Times - June 12, 2007.

    A large-scale biogas production project is on scheme in Vienna. 17,000 tonnes of organic municipal waste will be converted into biogas that will save up to 3000 tonnes of CO2. 1.7 million cubic meters of biogas will be generated that will be converted into 11.200 MWh of electricity per year in a CHP plant, the heat of which will be used by 600 Viennese households. The €13 million project will come online later this year. Wien Magazine [*German] - June 11, 2007.

    The annual biodiesel market in Bulgaria may grow to 400 000 tons in two to three years, a report by the Oxford Business Group says. The figure would represent a 300-per cent increase compared to 2006 when 140 000 tons of biodiesel were produced in Bulgaria. This also means that biofuel usage in Bulgaria will account for 5.75 per cent of all fuel consumption by 2010, as required by the European Commission. A total of 25 biofuel producing plants operate in Bulgaria at present. Sofia Echo - June 11, 2007.

    The Jordan Biogas Company in Ruseifa is currently conducting negotiations with the government of Finland to sell CER's under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism obtained from biogas generated at the Ruseifa landfill. Mena FN - June 11, 2007.

    Major European bank BNP Paribas will launch an investment company called Agrinvest this month to tap into the increased global demand for biofuels and rising consumption in Asia and emerging Europe. CityWire - June 8, 2007.

    Malaysian particleboard maker HeveaBoard Bhd expects to save some 12 million ringgit (€2.6/US$3.4 million) a year on fuel as its second plant is set to utilise biomass energy instead of fossil fuel. This would help improve operating margins, group managing director Tenson Yoong Tein Seng said. HeveaBoard, which commissioned the second plant last October, expects capacity utilisation to reach 70% by end of this year. The Star - June 8, 2007.

    Japan's Itochu Corp will team up with Brazilian state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA to produce sugar cane-based bioethanol for biofuels, with plans to start exporting the biofuel to Japan around 2010. Itochu and Petrobras will grow sugarcane as well as build five to seven refineries in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. The two aim to produce 270 million liters (71.3 million gallons) of bioethanol a year, and target sales of around 130 billion yen (€800million / US$1billion) from exports of the products to Japan. Forbes - June 8, 2007.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tanzania to become first African member of the UN's Global Bio-Energy Partnership

Quicknote bioenergy policy
Tanzania is set to become the first African country to join the Global Bio-Energy Partnership (GBEP).

The partnership is a multilateral body with a mandate to facilitate a global political forum to promote bioenergy and to encourage the production, marketing and use of green fuels, with particular focus on developing countries.

Currently the GBEP includes 10 national member-states (Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the United States) and leading international institutions such as the FAO, IEA, UNCTAD, UN/DESA, UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO, UN Foundation, World Council for Renewable Energy and the European Biomass Industry Association.

Tanzania would be allowed to join as a national member-state. "Tanzania has principally been accepted to join the GBEP with the condition that it agrees to adhere to the terms of reference of the global body," says Arcado Ntagazwa, executive director of Kitomondo Plantations Ltd.

The executive director was quoted by Dar-Es-Salaam based This Day newspaper as saying that bio-energy farming in Tanzania currently involves plantations of oil-producting perennial crops such as jatropha, neem, moringa and pongamia pinata. He said that the seeds of these plants would not only provide efficient biofuels like biodiesel but also environmental-friendly and sustainably produced fuels.

Next month (30-31 July 2007), the GBEP will launch a dialogue with African Countries in Addis Ababa [entry ends here].
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Article continues

The 'Canal of the Savannah': colossal biofuel project in Brazil's semi-arid northeast

Earlier we mentioned a public-private partnership between the Japanese trading company Itochu and Brazil's state-owned oil firm Petrobras, aimed at producing biofuels in Brazil's poorest and most arid region, the so-called Nordeste. More details have now emerged and the dimensions of the project are being described as 'truly colossal'. It is part of the old dream of developing the 'Canal do Sertão' ('Canal of the Savannah') that brings water for irrigation to the dry interior. The global transition to biofuels makes the visionary project a reality.

'Canal of the Savannah'
Because of its arid climate, Brazil's Nordeste has traditionally been the poorest zone of the vast country. Millions of mainly black rural families have steadily migrated away from the region over the past decades to settle in the rapidly growing mega-cities to the North and the South, where they often end up in slums. For a long time, promises to build the so-called Canal of the Savannah - a vast irrigation project aimed at tackling deep-rooted rural poverty - kept the 'Nordestinos' dreaming of a better future. Even though several projects have been underway, progress has been slow (see the overview of the Projeto Canal do Sertão Alagoano at the Ministry of National Integration).

The agreement signed between Itochu and Petrobras is now seen as leap towards making the vision finally a reality. The 500 kilometer irrigation network will connect 16 municipalities in the State of Pernambuco, cross the state of Alagoas and link up with Lake Sobradinho, in Bahia (map, click to enlarge). Not less than 150,000 hectares of energy plantations will be established alongside the canal, with sugarcane for ethanol and oleaginous plants such as castor beans and jatropha for biodiesel as the main crops. It will be the largest irrigation work ever undertaken in northeastern Brazil. The vast project will offer direct employment opportunities to 50,000 of the region's rural poor. Over the long-term it will boost agriculture in the region that was long seen as 'lost'.

According to Pernambuco's Minister of Regional Development, Geddel Vieira Lima, the total cost for the construction of the Canal of the Savannah is estimated to be around US$ 1.2 billion:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The memorandum of understanding for the Canal, signed in Tokyo (June 8), shows an initial series of investments of 56 million Brazilian reais (US$ 29.3 million), that break down as follows: Itochu and Petrobras, of 20 million reais (US$ 10.4 million). The public-private partnership also counts on the participation of the São Francisco and Parnaíba Valley Development Company (Codevasf), which contributes 16 million reais (US$ 8.3 million), and from the state and federal governments, who will contribute another 20 million reais from the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) of the Brazilian government.

According to the president of the Union of the Sugar and Alcohol Industry of the Pernambuco State (Sindaçúcar-PE), Renato Cunha, after the implementation of the irrigation project, the state will have an additional production of 10 million tonnes of cane. Presently, all of the 16 million tonnes produced come only from coastal areas.

To Cunha, bioenergy is a highly promising sector and with the Canal, the state is now entering a new phase. "Being able to use cane bagasse to produce ethanol and biodiesel is a great opportunity, because this way we are managing to attract foreign capital,” he said. According to him, Itochu is interested in the project because Japan intends to increase the share of clean fuels in its energy matrix and it wants to import the biofuels from countries where they can be grown sustainably.

Economic and social devlopment
To the engineering director at the Codevasf, Clementino Coelho, the aim of the project is to make families of small farmers benefit. 50,000 direct jobs will be created, and later on, the canal will boost agriculture further. "We will map the appropriate areas for each type of specific culture. There is lots of fertile land in conditions of serving the agricultural sector, but it is not explored due to lack of water,” he explains.

Under Brazil's President Inácio Lula da Silva, the country launched a new Pro-Biodiesel plan, analogous to the Pro-Alcool programme that was introduced in the 1970s. The difference is that this time accompanying legislation has been adopted that makes social inclusion of small farmers and poor rural families a reality. The so-called 'Social Fuel' legislation is explicitly aimed at providing poverty alleviation in the Nordeste. It contains a range of incentives that make it feasible for biofuel producers to source their biomass from small producers.

Applying the legislation in practise, and to set an example, Petrobras has been experimenting with the production of biodiesel feedstock by such cooperatives of small farmers - with success. The farmers not only enjoy a boost in income security, their food security is enhanced as well, because food and fuel production are integrated.

The Social Fuel policy will form the basis for the projects alongside the Canal. According to Cunha, finally the interior of the state of Pernambuco - long seen as lost for development - will become viable for agriculture and capable of attracting investment from the public and private sector, while boosting social development.

Exports to Japan
The project provides that the 150,000 hectares will be turned to the planting of sugarcane for production of alcohol fuel, and of other cultures for production of biodiesel. Of this hectarage, 115,000 will be found in the state of Pernambuco, and the remainder in the north of the state of Bahia. The production of ethanol and biodiesel will cater to the expanding Japanese market.

Annually, Japan consumes 400 million litres of alcohol, with a 3% rate of addition of the fuel to gasoline. The Japanese law forecasts that the rate should increase up to 15%, due to international commitments for reducing emission of pollutant gases into the atmosphere. Thus, alcohol consumption will rise to 1.5 billion litres. Itochu, also in the field of fuel supply, currently operates 2,200 stations in Japan.

More information:
ANBA: Agreement ensures alcohol and biodiesel production in northeastern Brazil - June 19, 2007

IPCDigital: Japoneses e Petrobras serão sócios no “Canal do Sertão” - June 13, 2007.

Programa Parcerias Publico-Privadas de Pernambuco: Petrobras investe no Canal do Sertão - Estatal aplicará R$ 20 mi em estudos atenta à exportação de biocombustíveis - January 16, 2007.

Biopact: An in-depth look at Brazil's "Social Fuel Seal" - March 23, 2007

Article continues

China's oil majors launch new biodiesel projects, energy plantations

All of China's oil giants are currently vying for a leading position in the development of biofuels, which are considered the most viable alternative to fossil fuels, according to industry insiders who attended an industry forum over the weekend, Chinese state media reported. China has set an ambitious biofuel target of 12 million tons by 2020 (earlier post).
An official recently said China may consider reducing the use of food crops to achieve that goal in a sustainable way (previous post). Even though this is not yet an official policy, China's oil majors have understood the message and are investing in several biodiesel projects based on non-food feedstocks for which they are establishing energy plantations. Meanwhile, four new non-grain based ethanol plants have been approved by the state.

The projects were announced in a report released at the China-ASEAN Forum on Developing Petrochemicals and Biomass Energy Resources. An overview of the new initiatives.

China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), the country's third largest oil company:
  • location: a biodiesel refining facility in southern China's island province of Hainan will be established by the end of the year; the new facility will be located in Hainan's Dongfang City
  • capacity: 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons) of biodiesel annually in its first phase
  • feedstock: initially to be fed with palm oil sourced from Southeast Asia
  • energy plantation: 6,666 hectares (16,470 acres) of Jatropha curcas in Hainan Province; once large scale production of the nut is achieved, it is likely to replace palm oil as the raw material for the Hainan facility
China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), the country's largest oil company plans to construct two sets of experimental, next-generation biodiesel production facilities:
  • location: one set of facilities in the city of Nanchong in Sichuan Province, another set with a in Shandong Province.
  • capacity: the Shandong plant will have an annual capacity of 100 million liters (26.4 million gallons); the Nanchong project will initially produce 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons) of biodiesel a year, with production expected to grow 10 fold to 100 million liters annually by 2010
  • feedstock: for the Nanchong project initially locally sourced Jatropha curcas oil, later on vegetable oils from other regions in Sichuan, notably Panzhihua; for the Shandong plant, CNPC signed an agreement with the provincial government to develop bioenergy feedstocks
  • energy plantation: CNPC's Southwest Oil and Gas Field Branch has signed an agreement with the municipal government of Panzhihua to earmark RMB 2 billion (US$262.5 million) for the plantation of 120,000 hectares (296,500 acres) of Jatropha curcas near the city by 2015.
China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), the country's second largest oil company, is not far behind in the race to secure a share of the biofuel market:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  • location: one plant in Sichuan province's Panzhihua region, anothe in northern Hebei Province
  • capacity: the Panzhihua plant will have a capacity of100 million liters of next generation, synthetic biodiesel annually; the Hebei plant wil have an output of 2000 tons per year
  • feedstock: woody biomass
  • energy plantation: 26,700 to 33,300 hectares (65,980 - 82,290 acres) of energy forests intended for use as raw material

In another development, UK biodiesel producer D1 Oils plans to invest up to 700 million yuan (€68.5/US$91.2 million) to construct a biodiesel refinery in southwestern China's Guangxi region with Jatropha curcas oil as its feedstock.

The plant will be set up in a new petrochemical industry park in Baise city in northwestern Guangxi. Scheduled to be completed by the end of next year or early 2009, it will have an initial processing capacity of 10,000 tons, rising to 100,000 over five years.

At present, China has around 3 million tons of annual biodiesel production capacity under construction or in various stages of planning, according to the report. The country aims to have biofuels account for 15 percent of its total transportation fuel consumption by 2020. By comparison, the European Union has set itself a target of 20 percent for the same period.

Meanwhile, four new ethanol plants that use non-food feedstocks have been approved by the State. The combined capacity is an impressive annual production of around 7.5 million tons by 2015, according to an expert from a State food watchdog.

The projects are located in the autonomous regions of Inner Mogolia and Guangxi Zhuang and the provinces of Hebei and Shandong.

They boast an ample supply of cassava and other biomaterials, which can be manufactured into ethanol with less cost and little environmental impact, according to experts at a food seminar held in Kunming in April.

China National Cereals, Oils & Foodstuffs Corp (COFCO), is building the four new plants. It also has a stake in three of existing grain-based ethanol plants. "COFCO will hopefully get 70 percent market share of ethanol production within three years," Yang Hong, manager with the department of wheat under COFCO, said. According to Cao, with the operation of the new plants, the proportion of corn in ethanol-production will drop from the present 90 percent to 70 percent after 2009.

More information:
China Securities Journal: Overseas food not China's staple - April 26, 2007.
Interfax China: China's oil giants vying for bio-diesel market - June 18, 2007.
Forbes: UK's D1 plans 700 mln yuan China biodiesel investment - report - June 17, 2007.

Article continues

Report: biofuel distribution remains a bottleneck in the U.S.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released [*.pdf] an small report on its experience with utilizing biofuels in its fleet. The document shows some of the bottlenecks that must still be removed before the green fuels can penetrate the market on a large scale. It also provides some policy recommendations.

The GAO was asked to describe the status of and impediments to expanding biofuel production, distribution infrastructure, and compatible vehicles as well as federal policy options to overcome the impediments. The organisation was also asked to assess the extent to which the US Department of Energy (DOE) has developed a strategic approach to coordinate the expansion of biofuel production, infrastructure, and vehicles and has evaluated the effectiveness of biofuel tax credits. GAO interviewed representatives and reviewed studies and data from DOE, states, industry, and other sources. It also did some tests with its own fleet.

Especially the logistics and distribution of finished biofuel products remains a problem:
Existing biofuel distribution infrastructure has limited capacity to transport the fuels and deliver them to consumers. Biofuels are transported largely by rail, and the ability of that industry to meet growing demand is uncertain. In addition, in early 2007, about 1 percent of fueling stations in the United States offered E85—a blend of about 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline—or high blends of biodiesel, such as B20 or higher.
Increasing the availability of E85 at fueling stations is impeded largely by the limited availability of ethanol for use in high blends. Several policy options, such as mandating their installation, could increase the number of biofuel dispensers in stations. However, until more biofuel is available at a lower cost, it is unlikely that more fueling stations would lead to significantly greater biofuels use.

When it comes to the end user and his car, the hurdles are high but can be taken because of a commitment by major car manufacturers to offer biofuel capable vehicles:
In 2006, an estimated 4.5 million flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) capable of operating on ethanol blends up to E85 were in use — an estimated 1.8 percent of the nearly 244 million U.S. vehicles. The number of FFVs may increase substantially because of a recent commitment by DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors to increase FFV production to compose about 50 percent of their annual production by 2012.
Several policy options, such as a tax credit for FFV production, could increase the number of FFVs, the GAO says, but this would likely have little impact on biofuel use until E85 is less expensive and more widely available:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The GAO thinks the US Department of Energy has not yet developed a comprehensive approach to coordinate its strategy for expanding biofuels production with the development of biofuel infrastructure and production of vehicles:
Such an approach could assist in determining which blend of ethanol — E10, E85, or something in between — would most effectively and efficiently increase the use of the fuel and what infrastructure development or vehicle production is needed to support that blend level.
In addition, DOE has not evaluated the performance of biofuel-related tax credits, the largest of which cost the Treasury US$2.7billion in 2006. As a result, it is not known if these expenditures produced the desired outcomes or if similar benefits might have been achieved at a lower cost.

The GAO recommended that:
  1. the Secretary of Energy collaborate with public and private sector stakeholders to develop a strategic approach that coordinates expected biofuel production with distribution infrastructure and vehicle production, and
  2. the Secretary of Energy collaborate with the Secretary of the Treasury to evaluate and report on the extent to which biofuel-related tax expenditures are achieving their goals.
The US DOE reviewed a draft of this report and generally agreed with the findings and recommendations.

More information:
U.S. Government Accountability Office: Biofuels: DOE Lacks a Strategic Approach to Coordinate Increasing Production with Infrastructure Development and Vehicle Needs - June 2007.

Article continues

CFM successfully tests 30% biofuel in jet engine

Another major milestone for aviation biofuels has been announced by CFM International. The company has successfully carried out an initial test of a CFM56-7B engine using an ester-type biofuel at Snecma's Villaroche facility near Paris.

The CFM56-7B turbofan is the exclusive engine for the Boeing Next-Generation Single-aisle airliner. Over 4000 of them are already in service in airplanes such as the Boeing 737-600/700/800, the 737-900, the P-8A, the Boeing Business Jet and numerous other (military) aircraft. Boeing is very active in developing biofuels for aviation, and recently announced it aims for a target of blending 50% biofuel with jet fuels (earlier post). CFM56 engines are produced by CFM International (CFM), a 50/50 joint company of Snecma (Safran Group) and General Electric Company.

The biofuel used for this test is 30 percent vegetable oil methyl ester blended with 70 percent conventional Jet-A1 fuel. This test was designed to check the operation of a jet engine using a fuel made from biomass, without making any technical changes to the engine. With this type of biofuel, the target is a net reduction of 20 percent in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared with current fuels.
Our goal is to support the industry in identifying replacements for traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels, including synthetic fuels that use a mixture of biofuels and jet fuel. - Pierre Thouraud, Snecma Vice-president engineering.
CFM is running engine tests to develop solutions based on mixtures of jet fuel and second-generation biofuels. For instance, it is currently focusing on the evaluation of alternative fuels made using biomass (offering properties closer to those of jet fuel), which also offer better environmental performance. Along with its parent companies, CFM International is participating in a number of emissions-focused initiatives, including the U.S. CAP (Climate Action Partnership), French Calin, and European Alpha-Bird programs.

For alternative fuels to be used in the aviation industry, there are a number of major technology challenges that must be met, including energy density, thermal stability (avoiding coking at high temperature), use at very low temperatures (freezing) or high temperatures, lubricating effect with materials used, and the availability of mass production facilities worldwide:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"CFM International is satisfied with this first CFM56 engine test using a biofuel, another major step towards an ecologically friendly Jet engine delete economy," said Eric Bachelet, president and CEO of CFM.

The engine
The CFM56-7B is the exclusive engine for the Boeing Next-Generation Single-aisle airliner: 737-600/-700/-800/-900. Thrust ranges from 18,500 to 27,300 lbs.

Over 4,000 CFM56-7B engines are in service as part of the most popular engine/aircraft team in commercial aviation. The -7, with it's swept fan and advanced compressor is among the most modern, efficient and reliable turbofans ever. More than 500 airlines fly CFM56-7B-powered 737s and, since entering service in the mid-90s, they have accumlated over 50 Million flight hours. All CFM56-7B engines delivered beginning in mid 2007 will be compliant with future CAEP/6 environmental requirements.

The CFM56-7B also powers the Boeing/GE BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) and 737 military variants including transports special mission aircraft.
CFM has long been a leader in working to reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gases, polluting emissions and noise and pioneered new technologies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons and visible smoke.

Article continues