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    Rompetrol Downstream, the retail division of the Rompetrol Group, begins distributing a new type of diesel containing two percent biodiesel in its gas stations network and warehouses. This is the second company of the group supplying biofuels, after the green fuel Super Ethanol E85 was included in the filing stations operated in France (Rompetrol and Dyneff). New Europe - July 09, 2007.

    Water for Asian Cities (WAC), part of UN-Habitat, is extending partial financial support for the construction of several biogas plants across the Kathmandu valley and develop them as models for municipal waste management. The first biogas plants will be built in Khokna, Godavari, Kalimati, Patan, Tribhuvan University premises, Amrit Science College premises and Thimi. The Himalayan Times - July 09, 2007.

    EnviTec Biogas's planned initial public offering has roused 'enormous' interest among investors and the shares have been oversubscribed, according to sources. EnviTec has set the IPO price range at €42-52 a share, with the subscription period running until Wednesday. EnviTec last year generated sales of €100.7 million, with earnings before interest and tax of €18.5 million. Forbes - July 09, 2007.

    AthenaWeb, the EU's science media portal, is online with new functionalities and expanded video libraries. Check it out for video summaries of the latest European research activities in the fields of energy, the environment, renewables, biotech and much more. AthenaWeb - July 04, 2007.

    Biopact was invited to attend a European Union high-level meeting on international biofuels trade, to take place on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Leaders from China, India, Africa and Brazil will discuss the opportunities and challenges arising in the emerging global biofuels sector. EU Commissioners for external relations, trade, energy, development & humanitarian aid as well as the directors of international organisations like the IEA, the FAO and the IFPRI will be present. Civil society and environmental NGOs complete the panorama of participants. Check back for exclusive stories from Friday onwards. Biopact - July 04, 2007.

    China's state-owned grain group COFCO says Beijing has stopped approving new fuel ethanol projects regardless of the raw materials, which has put a brake on its plan to build a sweet potato-based plant in Hebei. The Standard (Hong Kong) - July 03, 2007.

    Blue Diamond Ventures and the University of Texas A&M have formed a biofuels research alliance. The University will assist Blue Diamond with the production and conversion of non-food crops for manufacturing second-generation biofuels. MarketWire - July 03, 2007.

    African Union leaders are to discuss the idea of a single pan-African government, on the second day of their summit in Accra, Ghana. Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is championing the idea, but many African leaders are wary of the proposal. BBC - July 02, 2007.

    Triple Point Technology, a supplier of cross-industry software platforms for the supply, trading, marketing and movement of commodities, announced today the release and general availability of Commodity XL for Biofuels™. The software platform is engineered to address the rapidly escalating global market for renewable energy fuels and their feedstocks. Business Wire - July 02, 2007.

    Latin America's largest construction and engineering firm, Constructora Norberto Odebrecht SA, announced plans to invest some US$2.6 billion (€1.9 billion) to get into Brazil's booming ethanol business. It aims to reach a crushing capacity of 30 million to 40 million metric tons (33 million to 44 million tons) of cane per harvest over the next eight years. More soon. International Herald Tribune - June 30, 2007.

    QuestAir Technologies announces it has received an order valued at US$2.85 million for an M-3100 system to upgrade biogas created from organic waste to pipeline quality methane. QuestAir's multi-unit M-3100 system was purchased by Phase 3 Developments & Investments, LLC of Ohio, a developer of renewable energy projects in the agricultural sector. The plant is expected to be fully operational in the spring of 2008. Market Wire - June 30, 2007.

    Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. and the U.S. National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) today announced a partnership to speed the growth of alternative fuel technology. The 10-year agreement between the center and Siemens represents transfers of equipment, software and on-site simulation training. The NCERC facilitates the commercialization of new technologies for producing ethanol more effectively and plays a key role in the Bio-Fuels Industry for Workforce Training to assist in the growing need for qualified personnel to operate and manage bio-fuel refineries across the country. Business Wire - June 29, 2007.

    A paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society proposes a new method of producing hydrogen for portable fuel cells that can work steadily for 10-20 times the length of equivalently sized Lithium-ion batteries. Zhen-Yan Deng, lead author, found that modified aluminum powder can be used to react with water to produce hydrogen at room temperature and under normal atmospheric pressure. The result is a cost-efficient method for powering fuel cells that can be used in portable applications and hybrid vehicles. More soon. Blackwell Publishing - June 29, 2007.

    An NGO called Grains publishes a report that highlights some of the potentially negative effects associated with the global biofuels sector. The findings are a bit one-sided because based uniquely on negative news stories. Moreover, the report does not show much of a long-term vision on the world's energy crisis, climate change, North-South relations, and the unique role biofuels can play in addressing these issues. Grain - June 29, 2007.

    Researchers at the Universidad de Tarapacá in Arica plan to grow Jatropha curcas in the arid north of Chile. The trial in the desert, is carried out to test the drought-tolerance of the biodiesel crop, and to see whether it can utilize the desert's scarce water resources which contain high amounts of salt minerals and boron, lethal to other crops. Santiago Times - June 28, 2007.

    India and Thailand sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that envisages cooperation through joint research and development and exchange of information in areas of renewable sources of energy like, biogas, solar-thermal, small hydro, wind and biomass energy. Daily India - June 28, 2007.

    Portucel - Empresa Produtora de Pasta e Papel SA said it plans to install biomass plants with an expected production capacity of 200,000 megawatt hours per year at its paper factories in Setubal and Cacia. The European Commission gave the green light for state aid totaling €46.5 million, contributing to Portucel's plans to extend and modernise its plants. Forbes - June 28, 2007.

    Petro-Canada and GreenField Ethanol have inked a long-term deal that makes Petro-Canada the exclusive purchaser of all ethanol produced at GreenField Ethanol's new facility in Varennes, Quebec. The ethanol will be blended with gasoline destined for Petro-Canada retail sites in the Greater Montreal Area. Petro-Canada - June 27, 2007.

    According to a study by the Korean Energy Economics Institute, biodiesel produced in Korea will become cheaper than light crude oil from 2011 onwards (678 won/liter versus 717.2 won/liter). The study "Prospects on the Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel and Improving the Support System", advises to keep biodiesel tax-free until 2010, after which it can compete with oil. Dong-A Ilbo - June 27, 2007.

    Kreido Biofuels announced today that it has entered into a marketing and distribution agreement with Eco-Energy, an energy and chemical marketing and trading company. Eco-Energy will purchase Kreido Biofuels’ biodiesel output from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Argo, Illinois, for a minimum of 3 years at current commercial market prices, as well as provide Kreido transportation and logistics services. Business Wire - June 27, 2007.

    Beijing Tiandi Riyue Biomass Technology Corp. Ltd. has started construction on its new fuel ethanol project in the county of Naiman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's Chifeng City, the company's president told Interfax today. Interfax China - June 26, 2007.

    W2 Energy Inc. announces it will begin development of biobutanol from biomass. The biofuel will be manufactured from syngas derived from non-food biomass and waste products using the company's plasma reactor system. Market Wire - June 26, 2007.

    Finland based Metso Corporation, a global engineering firm has received an order worth €60 million to supply two biomass-fired power boilers to Portugal's EDP Producao - Bioeléctrica, S.A. The first boiler (83 MWth) will be installed at Celbi’s Figueira da Foz pulp mill and the second boiler (35 MWth) at Caima’s pulp mill near the city of Constância. Both power plants will mainly use biomass, like eucalyptus bark and forest residues, as fuel to produce together approximately 40 MWe electricity to the national grid. Both boilers utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology. Metso Corporation - June 26, 2007.

    Canada's New Government is investing more than $416,000 in three southern Alberta projects to help the emerging biofuels industry. The communities of Lethbridge, Drumheller and Coalhurst will benefit from the projects. Through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), the three firms will receive funding to prepare feasibility studies and business plans to study the suitability of biofuels production according to location and needs in the industry. MarketWire - June 26, 2007.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce today that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants. More info soon. Detroit Free Press - June 26, 2007.

    A Kerala based NGO has won an Ashden Award for installing biogas plants in the state to convert organic waste into a clean and renewable source of energy at the household level. Former US vice president Al Gore gave away the award - cash prize of 30,000 pounds - to Biotech chief A. Saji at a ceremony in London on Friday. New Kerala - June 25, 2007.

    AltraBiofuels, a California-based producer of renewable biofuels, announced that it has secured an additional US$165.5 million of debt financing for the construction and completion of two plants located in Coshocton, Ohio and Cloverdale, Indiana. The Coshocton plant's capacity is anticipated to reach 60million gallons/year while the Cloverdale plant is expected to reach 100 million gallons/year. Business Wire - June 23, 2007.

    Brazil and the Dominican Republic have inked a biofuel cooperation agreement aimed at alleviating poverty and creating economic opportunity. The agreement initially focuses on the production of biodiesel in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Today - June 21, 2007.

    Malaysian company Ecofuture Bhd makes renewable products from palm oil residues such as empty fruit bunches and fibers (more here). It expects the revenue contribution of these products to grow by 10% this year, due to growing overseas demand, says executive chairman Jang Lim Kuang. 95% of the group's export earnings come from these products which include natural oil palm fibre strands and biodegradable mulching and soil erosion geotextile mats. Bernama - June 20, 2007.

    Argent Energy, a British producer of waste-oil based biodiesel, announced its intention to seek a listing on London's AIM via a placing of new and existing ordinary shares with institutional investors. Argent plans to use the proceeds to construct the first phase of its proposed 150,000 tonnes (170 million litres) plant at Ellesmere Port, near Chester, and to develop further plans for a 75,000 tonnes (85 million litres) plant in New Zealand. Argent Energy - June 20, 2007.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Syntroleum to deliver bio-based synthetic jet fuel to U.S. Department of Defense

Syntroleum Corporation announced today that it has signed a contract to provide synthetic jet fuel made from a renewable bio-based feedstock to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Syntroleum will provide a first-of-its-kind renewable fuel for evaluation by the DOD as part of a larger program aimed at long-term prospects for the domestic manufacture and supply of synthetic aviation fuels.

Under terms of the contract, Syntroleum will provide 500 gallons of ultra-clean renewable synthetic jet fuel produced entirely from fats supplied by Tyson Foods, using the company's recently announced Biofining technology (earlier post). The fuel will be used for research development and performance testing in military turbine applications as part of the DOD's Assured Fuels Program, aimed at evaluating the possibility of utilizing renewable alternative jet fuel made from bio-feedstocks. The U.S. Air Force has expressed its desire to source 50 percent of its fuel needs from domestic alternative sources by 2016, and plans to certify its entire fleet of aircraft for alternative fuel use by 2010.

Synthetic biofuels ('Biomass-to-Liquids') are obtained from gasifying biomass into a hydrogen and carbon monoxide rich gas ('syngas'), which is then transformed into ultra-clean fuels by the Fischer-Tropsch process (schematic, click to enlarge). More on synthetic biofuels, here.

In 2006, Syntroleum supplied 100,000 gallons of synthetic Fischer-Tropsch (FT) jet fuel to the DOD, which used the fuel in a 50/50 blend with conventional jet fuel in several test flights of a B-52 bomber (earlier post). The synthetic fuel blend was used to successfully power all eight engines of the aircraft in a final test flight on December 15, 2006. Research and testing by the military on Syntroleum's FT fuels have shown superior performance characteristics compared to aviation fuels produced by refining crude oil. Particulate matter (soot) emissions have shown a reduction of up to 90 percent depending upon the turbine engine type and operating mode. The reduced soot and sulfur emissions (FT fuel is nearly sulfur-free) significantly improve overall air quality. Syntroleum believes renewable synthetic jet fuel made from its Biofining(TM) technology and renewable feedstocks will exhibit similar qualities:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"This contract with the U.S. Department of Defense is another significant milestone for Syntroleum," said Jack Holmes, CEO of Syntroleum. "When the contract is completed, we would be the first company to provide both renewable synthetic aviation fuel and FT aviation fuel to the Department of Defense for its certification and weapon system testing program. This acceptance of our alternative synthetic fuels once again validates the quality and integrity of our product, and the successful completion of this program will provide Syntroleum with an opportunity for other long-term supply contracts with the Department of Defense.

"Additionally, the potential to produce commercial quantities of these fuels using our Biofining(TM) technology in our recently announced Dynamic Fuels, LLC venture, initially utilizing fats and vegetable oils and eventually accessing the vast domestic biomass resources via Syntroleum's FT technology, provides a mechanism for diversifying our nation's energy supply and increasing domestic job growth."

Holmes added, "This announcement, directly on the heels of our agreement with Tyson Foods, Inc. to begin design and construction of Dynamic Fuels' first commercial renewable synthetic fuels plant, further strengthens and validates Syntroleum's business model. Our technology and products have been extensively tested and accepted by the U.S. government, private and academic research institutions and auto manufacturers."

Syntroleum: Syntroleum Signs Contract to Deliver Renewable Alternative Jet Fuel to U.S. Department of Defense - July 9, 2007.

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Satellite survey links tropical park fires with poverty and corruption

We often argue that deforestation and rainforest fragmentation in the Global South is primarily driven by poverty. Lack of income, market access and modern agricultural techniques force small farmers to keep relying on destructive agricultural practises that yield low amounts of wealth, such as slash-and-burn subsistence farming. If they were to find new products and markets on which to sell highly valuable products, they could switch to modern farming techniques that require far less land and that are considerably more sustainable. One of Biopact's main arguments is that biofuels and biomaterials offer such a market and opportunities for substantially increased incomes, certainly now that oil prices remain high and will only keep rising in the future.

Forest-rich nations could decide to find sources of income in other sectors, but would then have to redistribute these to the poor farmers who are directly involved in destructive agricultural practises. We know most of these 'trickle-down' schemes will not work, though. Biofuels on the contrary can be produced by the farmers themselves, and allow them at least to retain some form of control over the incomes they generate.

One thing is clear though, poverty remains the key driver of deforestation. Scientists who undertook the first global assessment of forest fire control effectiveness in tropical parks have found the correlation again, by looking at which countries succeed best in conserving their tropical forest. Their results show that both poverty and corruption correlate closely with lack of fire protection in tropical moist forests. A better understanding of these links between corruption, poverty and park management will help conservationists and policy makers create sophisticated strategies to conserve tropical ecosystems. Helping local farmers gaining more income will be one of the more important drivers of such strategies.

The survey will be published in the July issue of Ecological Applications, reported by lead author S. Joseph Wright, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa and Carlos Portillo-Quintero from the University of Alberta; and Diane Davies from the University of Maryland.

Satellite data on fire frequency provides a measure of park effectiveness across countries. It is strikingly clear from our study that poverty and corruption limit the effectiveness of parks set up to protect tropical forests. - Joseph Wright, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

The survey indicates that parks were most effective at reducing fire incidence in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Malaysia and Taiwan; whereas parks failed to prevent fires in much poorer countries like Cambodia, Guatemala and Sierra Leone. Current integration of state-of-the-art remote sensing databases with Geographic Information Systems is allowed the scientists to better evaluate the effectiveness of conservation efforts in tropical environments.

While nearly all tropical countries have established parks to protect rainforests, not all have the political and economic means to enforce park boundaries and prevent illegal extraction of park resources. To better distinguish functional parks from 'paper' parks and to characterize the relationship between social factors and park protection worldwide, the team created an index comparing fire frequency inside and outside of 823 tropical and subtropical parks.

Low fire frequency within parks was chosen as an indicator of park effectiveness because the background level of fire in tropical moist forests is low, so the presence of fire often indicates that humans are engaged in timber extraction, clearing land for agriculture or other land-use conversion:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The frequency was based on fire detection data from NASA�s satellite-based Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). "The MODIS fire products enable us to monitor global fires and see how fire regimes are changing", says Chris Justice of the NASA MODIS fire team. He noted that information from the NASA Fire Information for Resource Management Information System Project provides a prototype to provide future long-term fire information from space tailored to the needs of resource managers.

Wright added that satellite data has limitations: "The satellite data must be carefully screened. Perhaps the clearest examples of this system's limitations were a park in Costa Rica and two parks in Indonesia where active volcanoes triggered the MODIS fire detection algorithm".

With fire frequency data in hand, researchers developed a set of social and economic indicators reflecting the level of poverty and corruption in each country. The Corruption Protection Index was provided by Transparency International; other information came from United Nations files and the CIA-World Fact Book.

As part of this publication, fire frequency data from 3,964 tropical reserves will be posted online. The authors hope that other investigators more familiar with reserves in particular countries or regions will use these data to better understand the causes of fires in parks and their management implications.

Picture: Fire near Soberania National Park, Panama. March, 2007. Credit: Christian Ziegler, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.


Eurekalert: Satellite survey links tropical park fires with poverty and corruption - July 9, 2007.

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Eurobarometer: Europeans support Millennium Development Goals

As the world's largest donor of development assistance, the EU has made serious commitments to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). On the eve of the symbolic mid-term date for these MDGs that have to be reached by 2015, a European Commission survey shows broad public support for the European Union's priorities in development co-operation. According to the Eurobarometer on Europeans and Development Aid, most EU citizens (66%) consider reducing extreme poverty and hunger in developing countries as a priority. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases is the second goal (46%), followed by access to education and ensuring sustainable development (graph, click to enlarge).

Across the EU, Sub-Saharan Africa stands out in most people's minds as being in greatest need of aid (64%). And interestingly, Europeans think the EU institutions should lead in decision making on development co-operation, more than the governments of the Union's member states or than NGOs.
This is clearly an issue on which Europeans are engaged, and so is the Commission. Last year, over €100 for every EU citizen went in official development assistance. Giving more aid, making it more effective, increasing the coordination among us and ensuring the coherence with other policies such as trade and environment: that is the way we can contribute to achieving the MDGs by 2015. - Louis Michel, Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner.
Commissioner Michel recently spoke at the International Conference on Biofuels in Brussels, where he identified green fuel production as an opportunity for development in poor countries. He pledged to spend part of a €220 million fund on aid to African countries to grow energy crops.

The new Eurobarometer on development co-operation shows that, overall, EU citizens appear to have rather well-defined ideas about the priorities of development aid. Reflecting the first objective of the MDGs, adopted by the UN in the year 2000, "reducing extreme poverty and hunger" is universally named as a top priority of development aid: 66% of EU citizens mention it as a top-three priority.

Linked to this, the majority of EU citizens (64%) consider that Sub-Saharan Africa is the area in greatest need of development aid. That's twice as much as the Indian sub-continent, which ranks second with 34%. This opinion is held by the largest segment of the poll in each Member State (graph, click to enlarge).

Regarding development aid for Africa, European citizens consider the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases as the most important field for EU development aid (46%), before peace and security (43%) and human rights (37%). Bioenergy projects come at the crossroads of investments in rural development, energy infrastructures and the environment. When it comes to these fields, 30% of EU citizens sees rural development as a priority. A quarter think infrastructures for energy and water should be focused on. While only 12% see protection of the environment as a goal of major importance for aid to Africa (graph, click to enlarge):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

When it comes to the main motivation for richer countries to provide help to poorer countries, Europeans think pragmatically. 28% of EU citizens name global stability as the main motivation for development aid; another 28% name self-interest in terms of gaining economic advantages from increased trade between donor and recipient countries.

Moving on from opinions to knowledge, however, this study shows a considerable lack of knowledge of international development aid policy initiatives, such as the Millennium Development Goals (graph, click to enlarge) and the European Consensus on Development, a set of principles agreed by all EU institutions in December 2005 to improve the coherence and harmonization of European development aid. Even if a fifth and a quarter of EU citizens respectively have heard of these policies, only a very slight minority (4% and 6% respectively) is familiar with their content.

Interestingly, the largest proportions of Europeans think that the two EU bodies, the Commission and the Parliament, should have the most influence on the priorities for development aid to ACP countries, followed closely by the Member States’ governments (graph, click to enlarge). Since the EU was mentioned in the question asked, it can partly explain the relatively high figures for EU institutions. The remaining five actors – NGOs and other civil society organisations both in donor and recipient countries, governments of the recipient countries, citizens of the recipient countries, and European citizens - receive a fairly similar share of mentions.

In other words, EU citizens appear to think that the EU and its Member States are the legitimate actors to decide on the priorities of EU development aid while citizens and civil society as well as any actors in the recipient countries should have less influence.

The EU is the world's largest aid donor. In 2006, European official development aid amounted €48 billion, which represents 0.42% of GNI (exceeding the intermediate Monterrey target of 0.39% for 2006). In 2005, the European Council committed to raise aid spending by at least €20 billion per year by 2010 and to reach the 0.7% target by 2015.

The survey was carried out between in February and March 2007 in the 27 Member Sates of the European Union. Nearly 27,000 respondents were interviewed face-to-face at their homes in their national languages.

European Commission: Europeans support the Millennium Development Goals - July 7, 2007.

Eurobarometer: Europeans and Development Aid [*.pdf] - Fieldwork: February – March 2007, Publication: June 2007.

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Taiwan targets 25-fold increase in biofuel use by 2010

Taipei Times. Taiwan is targeting a 25-fold increase in biodiesel use in the next three years to cut reliance on energy imports and reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, a government official says.

Biodiesel use may rise to 100 million liters or 630,000 barrels in 2010, from an estimated 4 million liters this year, Yeh Huey-ching, head of the Bureau of Energy, said in an interview. Diesel sold at filling stations will have to contain 1 percent biofuel starting next year from zero now, he said. Requiring all filling stations to sell biodiesel will mark a 'revolutionary step' for Taiwan, Yeh said.

Energy from the nation's own resources, mostly hydropower and natural gas, accounts for just 1.8 percent of supplies. Taiwan will use soybeans, sunflower seeds and recycled cooking oil to make biodiesel and turn sweet potatoes and corn into ethanol, Yeh said.

The biofuels plan may contribute to Taiwan eventually meeting as much as 8 percent of its own energy needs, he said, without giving a timeframe. Lawmakers must approve the proposal, which requires a change to the country's Petroleum Management Law.

Biodiesel use last year was restricted to 'a few hundred kiloliters' consumed mostly by garbage removal trucks. Consumption of ethanol for transportation may rise to 100 million in 2011, from zero now.

The project needs the support of state-run CPC Corp and of Taiwan and Formosa Petrochemical Corp, the nation's two oil refiners. CPC will start selling diesel with 1 percent biofuel content at 82 gasoline stations later this month:
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Starting September, eight CPC-run service stations will sell gasoline containing 3 percent ethanol and government departments will be encouraged to use the fuel, Yeh said.

Buses in Kaohsiung have been running on fuel that contains 2 percent biodiesel since January. And 35 lines and 79 buses in Chiayi County have started using fuel that contains 5 percent biodiesel since this month, Yeh added. Starting July 27, gas stations in Taoyuan and Chiayi counties will provide fuel containing 1 percent biodiesel to consumers.

Taiwan had 2,615 gasoline stations as of last month, according to the energy bureau. Diesel demand totaled 6.3 billion liters last year, while 10.3 billion liters of gasoline was used.

Biodiesel made in Taiwan currently costs NT$53 (€1.18/US$1.6) a liter, according to the energy bureau. That's more than double the NT$25.8 CPC charges for its premium diesel at filling stations.

The country might also be looking at imports, but Yeh did not expand on this.

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Fuel for Life: University of Copenhagen launches major bioenergy research program

The University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Natural Sciences have launched a major bioenergy and biofuel research and education program called 'Fuel for Life'.

The political focus on bioenergy has recently increased, and both the Danish government’s Globalisation Fund [*.pdf] and the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme have earmarked large sums for research on the conversion of biomass to energy, bioproducts and biofuels. It is the ambition of the Faculty of Life Sciences to become a powerhouse within this field, also internationally.

To achieve this aim, the University of Copenhagen has made available large resources: almost 50 new research and PhD. positions, two new academic curricula on bioenergy starting on the 1st of September and a wide range of cooperation agreements with industrial players already active in the bioenergy sector, such as Statoil, Dong Energy and Novozymes.
We have spent 10,000 years on optimizing growth of crops for food and animal feed, but now we can start using the part that we don’t eat for energy. Denmark has the potential to produce two to four times more bioenergy than the EU requires. - professor Claus Felby from the Faculty of Life Sciences, Copenhagen University.
The EU's binding target is to have 20% of all its energy coming from renewables, including bioenergy, by 2020. In the transport sector, 10% of all fuels must be biofuels, by 2020. Denmark thinks it can easily meet and surpass these targets and the 'Fuel for Life' program will contribute to achieving these goals.

The 'Fuel for Life' project was presented in Tåstrup, west of Copenhagen, where Europe’s first sustainable fields for the integrated production of biofuels, animal feed and biomaterials are located:
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The faculty of Life Sciences possesses a unique combination of competences within farming, forestry, plant breeding, production systems, planning, development aid, environmental economy and organics, all competences that are supplemented by teams of scientists from other faculties at the University of Copenhagen as well as other institutions in Denmark. The interdisciplinary focus area 'Fuel for Life' brings together these research environments of the University of Copenhagen in a joint effort to develop sustainable production of bioenergy.

The project will organise monthly scientific seminars on bioenergy. These bioenergy seminars are a forum in which to present an inter-disciplinary audience with an overview of bioenergy topics as well as debate new ideas. Presentations will be in English and will be published at the project website. So check back often. Topics of recent seminars included 'New crops for bioenergy', 'Production systems' and 'Bioenergy and landuse'.

The academic interest and education in biofuels and bioenergy has skyrocketed over the past years. According to a recent study by the Bioenergy Network of Excellence (NoE), a European group of eight leading bioenergy institutes sponsored by the EU, Masters and PhD courses in bioenergy have been introduced at a lightning pace at European universities over the last five years: 55 out of the 60 Masters courses surveyed began between 2000 and 2005 (earlier post).

University of Copenhagen: Fuel for Life project website.

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EDF Trading enters international biomass market

EDF Trading (EDFT), the subsidiary of utility Electricité de France (EDF) responsible for wholesale market activity, has acquired biomass company Renewable Fuel Supply Limited (RFSL). EDFT is one of the largest pan-European, multi commodity wholesale traders of electricity, oil, gas and coal.

RFSL provides a biomass procurement service and logistical and technical support to coal-fired power generation companies that wish to co-fire biomass with coal. It has supplied over 400,000 tonnes of biomass since 2004, according to EDF.

Staff from RFSL who have moved to EDF Trading’s London office include Hank Jones, who will lead the biomass business. Jones was a co-founder and director at RFSL and has a wide range of experience in the energy sector, including posts at American Electric Power in London and Duke Energy Resource Corporation in Houston. Other team members include Nick Tsirigotis, Chris Matthews, and Scott Dooley.
EDF Trading has significant electricity, emissions, coal and freight trading businesses in the physical and financial markets so biomass is complementary to our existing activities. RFSL’s business also has synergies with the EDF Group who are committed to sustainable development and the production of electricity from renewable energy sources. - John Rittenhouse, managing director of EDF Trading.
RFSL researches and adopts many sources of biomass and new uses for these fuels. To date, the following are its most commonly traded biofuels for co-firing:
  • wood pellets (from the UK, Scandinavia, North America...)
  • shea meal and pellets (Mali, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda...)
  • energy crops (anywhere)
  • olive cake and pellets (Southern Europe)
  • palm kernel expeller (Malaysia, Indonesia, South East Asia, Africa)
  • palm kernel shells (South East Asia)
  • grape seed expeller (Europe, any wine-growing region)
  • copra meal and pellets (South East Asia, Caribbean)
  • liquid biofuels (crude palm oil, rapeseed oil...)
As can be seen, many of these biomass sources are agricultural residues for which farmers now receive a price, whereas before they would have had to pay to dispose of the residues. Especially for small farmers in the South, this new international biomass market opens interesting perspectives. Many more field and processing based residues than the ones listed here, could become viable and internationally tradeable biomass resources (a short overview of residues in the developing world). In theory, millions of farmers are now potential energy producers, whereas during the fossil fuel era, only a few countries, companies and sites were suppliers of energy. Bioenergy thus implies a kind of 'democratisation' of energy supplies.

A look at the supply chain

But in order for a coal plant to co-fire renewable biomass, a relatively complex supply chain [*.pdf] must be followed that depends on diffent transport modes and options (schematic, click to enlarge), the type of biomass and its origin, the continuously changing price of coal and the type of coal plant. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass is a natural product: its availability follows cyclical patterns and its chemical composition as well as its mechanical and combustion properties differ from one source to another:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The first, critical step is careful selection of biomass to provide the user with a low cost biomass offering low plant risk and minimal capital investment. Biomass should avoid degradation of boiler steam raising capacity, and therefore the grindabilty and CV of the biomass are important parameters. These parameters show some seasonal variabilty.

Development of a just-in-time biofuel pipeline is then applied to an identified biomass source. This is not only the lowest working capital solution but also offers unparalleled flexibility to change fuel characteristics in response to changes in the power and coal markets.

The supplier then has to modify biomass at the procurement stage on behalf of the customer in order to obtain desirable mechanical and chemical properties. For example, pelletising of biomass (like olive residues) might be needed in order to reduce dust and odour whilst increasing furnace throughput. Biomass material must also be free from trace element contamination and aflatoxins.

Biomass offers many mechanical handling challenges, not just during the unloading of trucks but at every stage of the fuel handling route to the coal bunker. Careful selection of biomass products according to size distribution and minimum moisture content must ensure that a heathly working environment is maintained.

Commercially successful co-firing requires the biomass supplier and the power station to work closely together to develop a storage and logistics solution that offers the following (mutually competing) characteristics:
  • Low capital cost
  • Low working capital
  • Fast to implement
  • High reliability of fuel delivery
Onsite selection of storage solutions as part of the development of an optimum logistics chain is crucial.

RFSL works with accredited dust explosion research centers and major boiler manufacturers to establish comparative explosive characteristics for biomasses. Biomass tends to be highly volatile compared to traditional UK coals and milling plant often operates at temperatures close to the onset of thermal decomposition of biomass. RFSL supports the selection and testing of biomass in recognised industrial explosion testing research laboratories.

The high alkalinity of biomass ash together with the presence of fluxing agents can lead to increased fouling and slagging. This can be avoided with careful selection of biomass and coal, coupled with adoption of a biomass dosing system which has been designed for close control of biomass dose rates, thereby avoiding overdosing and the ensuing risk of fouling or slagging.

After the biomass has been co-fired, the ash must be utilised or disposed of. Biomass ash tends to be high in alkaline oxides compared to coal ash, and these oxides can increase the ash pH. This can result in low pH runoff from hydraulic disposal systems. Highly fertilised biomass, such as wastes from foodstuff crops, can also present highly soluble phosphate compounds in ash. Hence, it is very important that co-firing stations select biomass carefully.

In short, biomass supply chains are quite complex and dependent on continuously changing parameters. This complexity partly stems from the fact that the carbon neutral resource interacts with another fuel (coal), which alters parameters both at the beginning and the end of the chain.

Schematic: taken from IEA, "Sustainable International Bioenergy Trade: securing an international supply and demand", introductory leaflet [*.pdf].

Energy Risk: EDF Trading moves into biomass market - July 2, 2007.

Renewable Fuel Supply Limited: overview of technologies for biomass supply chain management.

Energidata AS, Transportøkonomisk institutt (TØI), KEMA Consulting, "Bioenergy logistics chain cost structure and development potential" [*.pdf], IEA Bioenergy Task 40, November 2005

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