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    AlgoDyne Ethanol Energy Inc. confirms that its retail partner, Canadian Green Fuels, has entered into an agreement with Cansource BioFuels to open a new biodiesel production facility in Mayerthorpe Alberta. The deal will see the construction and development of a community based, integrated crushing and biodiesel facility to process 10 million litres of ASTM certified canola based biodiesel which will be scaled up to produce 40million litres by 2010. BusinessWire - July 23, 2007.

    The Center for Management Technology announces the second Biomass-to-Liquids Technology conference will take place in Vienna this year, from 12 to 13 September. The current state of BTL-technologies will be presented and discussed. Biomass-to-Liquids conversion pathways are seen by many as promising avenues into the world of second generation biofuels that relies on the use of a broad variety of possible biomass feedstocks. CMT - July 23, 2007.

    Gulf Ethanol Corporation, a Houston-based energy company, announced today that it has initiated negotiations with representatives of government and industry in Uruguay. Discussions, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, centered on the synergy between Gulf Ethanol's interest in exploiting the potential of sorghum as a non-food fuel stock for ethanol production and the ideal conditions for growing the crop in Uruguay. The company criticizes the use of food crops like corn for ethanol in the U.S. and is seeking alternatives. Yahoo Press Release - July 20, 2007.

    Dutch company Capella Capital N.V. announces its investment in BiogasPark N.V. and acquires a 20 % stake upon the foundation of the company. The remaining shares are held by the management and strategic investors. BiogasPark N.V. will invest in the field of renewable energy and primarily focuses on financing, purchasing and the maintenance of biogas plant facilities. Ad Hoc News - July 20, 2007.

    Bioenergy company Mascoma Corp. is to build the world's first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Michigan where it will collaborate with Michigan State University. The $100 million plant will rely on the biochemical, enzymatic process that breaks down biomass to convert it to sugars. One of the factors that attracted Mascoma to Michigan was the recent $50 million federal grant MSU received to study biofuels in June. MSU will help in areas such as pretreatment technology for cellulosic ethanol production and energy crops that can be utilized by the plant. The State News - July 20, 2007.

    PetroChina, one of China's biggest oil companies, aims to invest RMB 300 million (€28.7/US$39.6m) in biofuel production development plans. A special fund is also going to be jointly set up by PetroChina and the Ministry of Forestry to reduce carbon emissions. Two thirds of the total investment will be channeled into forestry and biofuel projects in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Hebei, the remainder goes to creating a China Green Carbon Foundation, jointly managed by PetroChina and the State Forestry Administration. China Knowledge - July 19, 2007.

    Netherlands-based oil, gas, power and chemical industries service group Bateman Litwin N.V. announces it has signed an agreement to acquire Delta-T Corporation, a leading US-based bioethanol technology provider, with a fast growing engineering, procurement and construction division for a total consideration of US$45 million in cash and 11.8 million new ordinary shares in Bateman Litwin. Bateman Litwin - July 18, 2007.

    TexCom, Inc. announced today that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire Biodiesel International Corp. (BIC), and is developing a plan to build an integrated oilseed crushing and biodiesel production facility in Paraguay. The facility, as it is currently contemplated, would process 2,000 metric tons of oil seeds per day, yielding approximately 136,000 metric tons (approximately 39 Million Gallons) of biodiesel and 560,000 metric tons of soy meal pellets per year. Initial feedstock will consist mainly of soybeans that are grown in the immediate area of the proposed production plant in the Provinces of Itapua and Alto Parana. MarketWire - July 18, 2007.

    Spanish power company Elecnor announced that it will build Spain's biggest biodiesel production plant for €70 million (US$96.48 million). The plant, in the port of Gijon in northern Spain, will be ready in 22 months and will produce up to 500,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year from vegetable oil. The plant will be one of the world's biggest. Spain has decided to impose mandatory blending of biofuels with conventional fossil fuels as part of European Union efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Elecnor [*Spanish] - July 18, 2007.

    The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) conducted a feasibility study to determine the most economical solutions to provide biomass energy to the isolated Chugachmiut Tribal Community in the village of Port Graham, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage. The village is only accessible by air or water, making traditional fossil fuel sources expensive to deliver and alternative forms of energy difficult to implement. The case study based on decentralised bioenergy offers interesting parallels to what would be needed to provide energy to the developing world's huge population that lives in similarly isolated conditions. EERC - July 18, 2007.

    According to a basic market report by Global Industries Inc., world biodiesel sales are expected to exceed 4.7 billion gallons (17.8 billion liters) by 2010. Though Europe, with a share estimated at 84.16% in 2006, constitutes the largest market, and will continue to do so for the coming years, major growth is expected to emanate from the United States. The automobile applications market for biodiesel, with an estimated share of 55.73% in 2006 constitutes the largest as well as the fastest growing end use application. Other applications independently analyzed include the Mining Applications market and the Marine Applications market. PRWeb - July 18, 2007.

    O2Diesel Corporation announced that it has received the regulatory approvals necessary to start delivering its proprietary diesel ethanol blended fuel, O2Diesel, in the French market. The approvals pave the way for O2Diesel to move forward into the next stage of its European market development strategy by commencing deliveries to a number of targeted fleets in France. MarketWire - July 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service is hosting a series of programmes on the global obesity pandemic. Over the coming two weeks a range of documentaries and discussions will be held on the obesity time-bomb that is growing all over the West, but also in the developing world. In North America, a quarter of people are now morbidly obese, 60% is overweight, and one in three children will become obese. The epidemic is spreading rapidly to China and India. BBC World Service - July 16, 2007.

    A new report from Oregon State University shows the biofuels industry is on track to be a $2.5 billion chunk of the state's economy within 20 years. The study identifies 80 potential biodiesel, ethanol and biomass facilities which could produce a combined 400 million gallons (1.5 billion liters) per year of ethanol and another 315 million gallons (1.2 billion liters) of biodiesel. On an oil equivalent basis, this comes down to around 38,000 barrels per day. Oregon State University - July 16, 2007.

    Jatropha biodiesel manufacturer D1 Oils has appointed a leading plant scientist to its board of directors. Professor Christopher Leaver, Sibthorpian professor of plant science and head of the plant sciences department at Oxford University, has joined the Teesside company as a non-executive director. Professor Leaver, who was awarded a CBE in 2000, is a leading expert in the molecular and biochemical basis of plant growth and differentiation. D1Oils Plc - July 16, 2007.

    Panama and South Africa are set to cooperate on biofuels. A delegation consisting of vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Azis Pahad, of Finance, Jubulai Moreketi and of Finance, met with Panama's vice-chancellor Ricardo Durán to discuss joint biodiesel and ethanol production and distribution. Panama's goal is to become a hub for internationally traded bioenergy, making use of the strategic position of the Canal. La Prensa Gráfica [*Spanish] - July 14, 2007.

    Spanish investors are studying the opportunity to invest in agro-industrial projects in Morocco aimed at producing biofuel from the Jatropha plant. Morocco’s Minister for Energy and Mines, Mohammed Boutaleb, said Moroccan authorities are willing to provide the necessary land available to them, provided that the land is not agricultural, is located in semi-arid regions, and that the investors agree to use water-saving agricultural techniques, such as drip-feed irrigation. Magharebia - July 14, 2007.

    Philippine Basic Petroleum Corp. plans to raise as much as 2.8 billion pesos (€44.4/US$61.2 million) through a follow-on offering and loans to finance a 200,000 liter per day bio-ethanol plant in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. The move into biofuels comes in anticipation of the implementation of RA 9367 or the Philippines biofuels law. RA 9367 mandates five percent bioethanol blending into gasoline by 2009, and 10 percent by 2011. Manila Bulletin - July 14, 2007.

    The Michigan Economic Development Corporation last week awarded a $3.4 million grant to redevelop the former Pfizer research facility in Holland into a bioeconomy research and commercialization center. Michigan State University will use the facility to develop technologies that derive alternative energy from agri-based renewable resources. Michigan.org - July 13, 2007.

    Fuel prices increased three times in Mozambique this year due to high import costs. For this reason, the country is looking into biofuels as an alternative. Mozambique's ministries of agriculture and energy presented a study showing that more than five million hectares of land can be used sustainably in the production of crops that would produce biodiesel fuels. The first phase of a biofuel implementation plan was also presented, identifying the provinces of Inhambane, Zambezia, Nampula and Cabo Delgado as the first to benefit. News24 (Capetown) - July 12, 2007.

    The Malaysian Oleochemical Manufacturers Group (MOMG) has urged the government for incentives and grants to companies to encourage the development of new uses and applications for glycerine, the most important byproduct of biodiesel. Global production of glycerine is currently about one million tonnes. For every 10 tonnes of oil processed into biodiesel, one tonne of glycerine emerges as a by-product. Bernama - July 12, 2007.

    BioDiesel International AG has acquired 70 per cent of the shares in Lignosol, a Salzburg based company that is making promising progress in Biomass-to-Liquids conversion techniques. The purchase price is in the single-digit million Euro range. ACN - July 10, 2007.

    Gay & Robinson Inc. and Pacific West Energy LLC announced today a partnership to develop an ethanol plant in Hawaii based on sugarcane feedstocks. The plant's capacity is around 12 million gallons (45 million liters) per year. The partnership called Gay & Robinson Ag-Energy LLC, will also ensure the continuation of the Gay & Robinson agricultural enterprise, one of the oldest in Hawaii. Approximately 230 jobs will be preserved, and a large area of West Kauai will be maintained in sustainable agriculture. Business Wire - July 10, 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.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Nanoparticle additive makes PLA based bioplastics stronger

Bioplastics and biopolymers come in many forms: some are extremely strong and easily outperform their petroleum-based counterparts, while others are beginning to find many everyday applications but could use some added strength. An example of the former would be Rilsan, made from castor oil, the latter include polymers based on polylactic acid (PLA) obtained from sugars or starch (schematic, click to enlarge). PLA is used in bioplastic bags, bottles and packaging, which tend to tear more easily than sturdy polyethylene based variants.

Rohm and Haas, a specialty chemicals company, now announces it has developed a new additive based on nanoparticles that improves the performance of such PLA-based forms of packaging. PARALOID BPM-500 is an impact modifier that broadens the usability of bioplastics by making them stronger.

The packaging industry’s move toward PLA resin has been hampered by unmodified PLA being somewhat weaker and more brittle than traditional materials. Previous attempts to strengthen PLA packaging have sacrificed transparency in their efforts. Rohm and Haas’ new PLA additive toughens PLA packaging while maintaining clarity, thereby fulfilling a key industry need.

Using dispersible nanoparticles that do not scatter light, PARALOID BPM-500 allows for the production of PLA packaging material that exhibits less than 10% haze at 5% loading, a significant advantage compared to other additives on the market. Combining this visual transparency with the stronger impact and tear-resistance achieved with PARALOID BPM-500 creates an improved consumer experience and an eco-friendly product. In addition, PARALOID BPM-500 complies with food contact requirements in Europe and with room temperature food contact requirements in the United States:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Suzanne Carroll, Rohm and Haas Packaging Marketing Manager, says that it is important for additive technology to be in-step with bioplastic material development so that necessary performance criteria will be achieved. Rohm and Haas is committed to environmentally enhanced technology and PARALOID BPM-500 provides the needed solution to allow broader use of PLA packaging.

The announcement comes at a time when new bioplastics are being developed regularly. Recently, both Dow with Brazilian partner Crystalsev, and Braskem started working on creating polyethylene from sugarcane ethanol. We now have bio-based alternatives for all major petroleum-based plastics.

Nanotechnology promises to bring major progress into the biomaterials industry, with additives that enhance the properties of the product playing a key role. Examples of this are nano-particle enhanced biofuels and plant based industrial oils (earlier post) as well as processes that utilize biomass waste-streams more efficiently (more here).

The EU's SustainPack project is aimed at developing the next generation of 'interactive' and sustainable plastics and packaging, based on the integration of bio- and nano-materials (previous post).

Scientists are also developing soft nanomaterials such as new surfactants, molecular gels, liquid crystals, self-assembled organic nanotubes, twisted fibers and helices from bio-based raw materials (more here).

Schematic: polylactide production process: lactic acid can be produced from starch or sugar containing crops. But the most common raw material is glucose which is widely available in large amounts at competitive prices. Glucose is converted to sodium lactate by fermentation. After purification, lactic acid is recovered as a diluted solution which is concentrated up to 90%. PLA is then produced by ring opening polymerisation of the dilactide. The monomer is available from lactic acid by polycondensation up to a limited molecular weight followed by depolymerization. Credit: Uhde Inventa-Fischer.

Rohm and Haas: Rohm and Haas Launches the "Clear Solution" In Impact Modifiers for Strengthening Sustainable Packaging - July 17, 2007.

Article continues

African Union, Brazil and UNIDO organise first High-Level Conference on Biofuels in Africa

The idea of a 'biopact' based on Africa's vast biofuels potential has penetrated the circles of African decision-makers. The African Union (AU), the Government of Brazil and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) announce they will jointly organise the First High-Level Conference on Biofuels in Africa, to take place from July 30 to August 1 at the seat of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

There has been growing interest in liquid biofuels in Africa, mainly as a response to the significant rise and volatility of oil prices. Energy being so vital to development, so far, a number of countries in Africa, the majority of whom are net oil importers, have taken various steps to develop biofuels so as to ensure stable, secure and environmentally friendly energy supplies. In parallel to these developments on liquid biofuels, experiences in other developing country regions also shows that other biofuels technologies like gasification and biogas are increasingly becoming reliable, cost effective and ready for the market. As such, biofuels are fast becoming one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing sectors of the African and global energy economy.

Africa's energy needs are enormous and largely go unmet. Given the continent’s conducive climates, vast unused land resources, the availability of labour and the urgent need for rural development, there is no doubt that biofuels have the potential to provide the much-needed energy for industrialisation and poverty reduction efforts. Other potential benefits of developing biofuels in Africa include: reducing the cost of importing oil, increasing access to modern energy services, revitalizing rural economies and creating jobs.

According to researchers working for IEA Bioenergy, Africa could produce more than 400 Exajoules of exportable and sustainably produced biofuels by 2050, without impacting the food, fuel and fiber needs of its rapidly growing populations. This is roughly the amount of energy currently used by the entire world from all sources (oil, gas, nuclear, renewables) (earlier post). But to materialize this technical potential, and to analyse and minimize the potential social and environmental impacts of a large biofuels industry, the continent needs international, technical and normative support.

For this reason, the AU, the Brazilian Government and the UNIDO hold their conference under the title "Sustainable Biofuels Development in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges" [programme, *.pdf], as part of the global framework of the Strategic Plan 2004-2007 drawn up by the Commission of the African Union, which foresees, amongst other things, the creation of continent-wide strategies and policies on renewable energy.

More specifically, the seminar has the following key objectives:
  • brief policy makers, the private sector, regional institutions and other key stakeholders on the potential and risks and trade-offs of developing biofuels in Africa;
  • facilitate sharing of experiences in developing biofuels among countries in Africa and between Africa and Brazil and other countries and regions;
  • explore the potential and challenges to the dissemination of priority biofuels technologies; and
  • consult key stakeholders in developing a program of action for sustainable biofuels development
The 8th Assembly of the African Union Commission meeting in Addis Ababa in January 2007, endorsing the measures adopted by the African Ministers in charge of Hydrocarbons (oil and gas) at their 1st Conference held in Cairo on 14 December 2006, requested the African Union Commission to elaborate policies and strategies for the development of clean, new and renewable energies, particularly biofuels, as an alternative solution to hydrocarbons, in response to the rise in oil prices which has extremely adverse effects on the economies of African countries (some of them are now spending twice as much on importing oil, than on health care). Biofuels can mitigate these disastrous impacts:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The High-Level Seminar will now focus on making sure that all stakeholders - policy makers, government, the private sector and civil society - will be capable to make informed decisions to kickstart a large-scale biofuels industry in Africa.

The Seminar will also serve as a forum for the exchange of knowledge on the potential of biofuels on the continent and on the social, environmental and technological complexities that go with the establishment of a biofuels sector. It will look at the barriers that must be removed to ensure smooth technology transfers.

The Brazilian government will share its experience and knowledge on strategies to implement large scale biofuel production. Its presence at the Seminar is in line with its commitment to establish powerful South-South relations based on an entirely new, sustainable and post-oil energy paradigm that promises to help eradicate poverty and brings unprecedented chances for development in the poorest countries. Likewise, and Indian delegation will do the same and share knowledge on its rapidly evolving biofuels sector with African governments.

Finally, the High-Level Seminar will create a framework for African decision makers, where biofuel policies and strategies can be discussed.

The challenges of kickstarting a viable biofuels industry are high, but the potential rewards are unprecedented. If African decision makers succeed in developing smart policies, biofuels promise to lift millions of the world's poorest out of poverty, develop rural areas, boost energy security, reduce food insecurity and cut reliance on expensive oil imports which are so detrimental to Africa's development.

Translated by Jonas Van Den Berg and Laurens Rademakers, Biopact, cc, 2007.

Médiaterre Afrique: Premier Séminaire de Haut Niveau sur les Biocarburants en Afrique - July 25, 2007.

African Union: First High-Level Biofuels Seminar in Africa - July 23, 2007.

UNIDO: Conference programme [*.pdf].

UNIDO: Biofuels Strategy: Sustainable Industrial Conversion and Productive Uses of Biofuels - Preliminary Draft [*.pdf].

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Hawaii crop scientists test jatropha, oil palm

Soil and crop scientists are undertaking a range of research projects in Hawaii aimed at testing the viability of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops like Jatropha curcas and the African oil palm. The University of Hawaii's Poamoho Experimental Farm is test-growing the jatropha tree for a basic set of agronomic studies. University of Hawaii researchers planted a first crop of jatropha in January and they are already starting to bear fruit. A similar plot at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in Kunia has also flowered and borne fruit.

Jatropha trees and their oil-rich seeds are seen as a promising biofuel feedstock that could be grown by rural communities for the production of biodiesel, bio-power and organic fertilizer.

Jatropha curcas quick facts:
  • Shrub native to Latin America, Caribbean, subtropical and tropical zones
  • Starts yielding after second year, matures at year 5, lives for up to 50 years
  • Seeds used to produce biodiesel in India, Myanmar, across Africa
  • Oil content of seeds: 40-60 percent; non-edible oil
  • Potential oil production: 1200 liters per hectare/300 gallons per acre
  • Agronomists & plant biologists working on breeding improved varieties
  • Grows in a variety of conditions and soils, can withstand high temperatures and drought
  • Can help combat erosion, soil degradation, nutrient depletion
  • Generates stream of useful byproducts: seedcake (organic fertilizer, potential for animal feed), glycerin, pharmaceuticals, latex
  • No mechanised harvest yet, intensive manual labor
Mike Poteet, a crop scientist with the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, believes the crop has the potential to be part of a new type of 'energy agriculture' in Hawaii that could revitalize the agricultural sector across the state. Poteet wrote a report last year that suggested Hawaii could grow enough biodiesel crops to reduce imported diesel by 20 percent - perhaps 150 million gallons (567 million liters) a year, or around 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. But he says the effort is still in its infancy.

Plans are underway to build two large biodiesel plants in Hawaii. A Seattle-based company, Imperium Renewables Inc., wants to build a $90 million processing plant at Barbers Point to produce 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of biodiesel a year, whereas Maui Electric Co. and BlueEarth Maui Biodiesel have also proposed a $61 million refinery on the Valley Isle to produce up to 120 million gallons (454 million liters) a year of biodiesel to produce electricity. Both companies would start operations using imported vegetable oil. But both also have said they would eventually like to use local crops:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

According to Richard Ogoshi, a crop researcher at the College of Tropical Agriculture at UH-Manoa, the market is there but agricultural efforts are needed to meet the demand. But as long as farmers don't know whether a crop like jatropha is commercially viable, they won't risk growing it.

It's hoped the research going on now will determine what crops might work best in different growing conditions in Hawaii and what plants will give farmers the best return.

Oil palm
Bill Steiner, dean of UH-Hilo's College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources, is leading a UH-Hilo effort to begin research in growing different types of oil palm on 120 acres of land in Pauuilo on the Hamakua coast.

The oil palm is an extremely profitable crop in South-East Asia, but in Hawaii it has never been planted on a large scale. For this reason, Steiner says that until somebody shows it's feasible, it's going to be difficult for a landowner to put his money into it.

So far, Steiner has about $45,000 and is seeking more funding. UH-Manoa and the
Hawaii Agriculture Research Center are sharing a $150,000 state Department of Agriculture grant. UH-Manoa also received another $250,000 from the Legislature this year, said Goro Uehara, a soil scientist with the College of Tropical Agriculture.

Marginal land
UH-Manoa is starting with jatropha because it has already been grown successfully elsewhere. It also can be grown on marginal agricultural land, Uehara said. "We have to find crops that will grow in underutilized areas. We don't want to compete with prime agriculture," Uehara said.

UH has identified plots of land on different islands with varying conditions to plant jatropha and other potential fuel test crops including kukui, castor bean, soy bean, sugar, sugar beet and sweet potato. Scientists are also looking at haole koa and some varieties of grass that could be used with cellulose-technology to make fuel.

Another part of the research is looking at byproducts from fuel plants into other salable products, such as animal feed or pharmaceutical products, Poteet said. The sap of the jatropha is similar to latex and that may also have some value, he added. "It could mean new jobs and new businesses," Steiner said. "It could be very interesting for Hawaii besides leading us down a path towards more energy independence."

The researchers emphasized that they are three to six years away from being able to determine the economic viability of fuel crops in Hawaii and the best ways to grow them. "We are in the infant stages," Poteet said. "There's a very great potential for this industry but we've got to have the support to get things off the ground."

Large picture: Richard Ogoshi, systems agronomist at the University of Hawaii's Poamoho Experimental Farm, looks over a test plot of jatropha trees. Credit: Richard Walker.

Honolulu Star Bulletin: Tree holds promise for future of biofuel - July 23, 2007.

Checkbiotech: Tree holds promise for future of biofuel - July 32, 2007.

University of Hawaii system.

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Indian group builds biomass power plants, lists on BSE, sells carbon credits

Shares of Hyderabad-based power, infrastructure and biofuels company Suryachakra Power Corporation Limited (Suryachakra), were listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) today. The company came out with an IPO of 34 million equity shares of 10 rupiah each at a price of 20 rupiah per share aggregating 680 million rupiah (€12.2/US$16.9m). Shares ended the first day of trade at 22.35 rupiah, a premium of 13% to the issue price.

Suryachakra at present operates a 20MW power plant in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and has several large-scale liquid biofuel projects underway in India and Indonesia.

Biomass power
Its three wholly-owned subsidiaries are setting up two biomass-based power plants of 9.8MW each in Chhatisgarh and two other biomass power plants of 10MW each in the state of Maharashtra.

All the biomass-based power plants, being set up by its subsidiaries, are eligible for carbon credits under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism. The subsidiaries have entered into a CDM emission reductions purchase agreement with Ecoinvest Carbon SA, a Geneva-based subsidiary of Bunge, on July 13, 2007, for the sale of the carbon credits.

The company's two subsidiaries - Lahari Power and Steels Limited and South Asian Agro Industries Limited - have also signed two memoranda on July 17, with Tata Power Trading Company Limited for a supply of 9.8MW power for a period of five years effective October 2007:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Liquid biofuels
Via its subsidiary Aasrit Agro Products Private Limited, the group currently establishes a biodiesel Project in the Visakhapatnam Special Economic Zone, in Andhra Pradesh, India. The project involves a 200,000 tonnes per annum biodiesel processing plant. The biodiesel project is being established in the VSEZ with assured supplies of palm oil from leading international players, technology collaboration from global leader in biofuels processing technology and assured products offtake agreements. In the future, a Jatropha plantation is proposed to be developed to ensure sustained supply of feedstock economically.

Via PT Suryachakra Biofuels, it is aslo setting up an integrated biofuels project at Dumai Special Economic Zone in Riau Province of Indonesia. The proposed biodiesel processing capacity is 250,000 tonnes per annum and will be backward integrated with 250,000 tonnes per annum processing capacity of Crude Palm Oil.

Further supplies to the Crude Palm Oil mill will be sourced from captive plantation of oil palm to be developed in about 40,000 hectares in phases. The integrated biofuels project is strategically being located in the Dumai port city.

The project is being established with assured supplies of palm oil from leading international players, technology collaboration from global leader in biofuels processing technology and assured products offtake agreements with globally leading trading firms.

Economic Times: Suryachakra Power shares up 13% - July 23, 2007.

The Hindu: Suryachakra Power lists at Rs 30 - July 23, 2007.

Suryachakra Power: overview of biofuels activities.

Article continues

VeraSun Energy to acquire 330 million gallons of new capacity

VeraSun Energy Corporation, one of America's largest ethanol producers, today announced plans to acquire three ethanol plants with a combined annual production capacity of 330 million gallons per year (MMGY) from ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC for US$725/€525 million. The acquisition will boost the company's total capacity to one billion gallons (3.785 billion liters) by the end of next year. This comes down to an output of around 45,600 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

The three facilities are each expected to operate at 110 MMGY and are located in Albion, Nebraska, Bloomingburg, Ohio, and Linden, Indiana. The acquisition should become final in 30 to 45 days and is subject to customary closing conditions.

The facilities will provide VeraSun with immediate production capacity and revenue. The Linden facility will begin startup operations this month, followed by Albion in the fourth quarter and Bloomingburg by the end of first quarter 2008.
Reaching one billion gallons of annual production will be a benchmark for VeraSun and represents a maturing of the renewable fuels industry. We believe scale and efficiency are important as we continue to focus on reducing production and distribution costs and increasing value for our shareholders, customers and plant communities. - Don Endres, VeraSun Chairman and CEO
VeraSun currently has 340MMGY of production capacity through its operating facilities in Aurora, South Dakota and Fort Dodge and Charles City, Iowa. The company has another 330MMGY of production presently under construction and development in Hartley, Iowa, Welcome, Minnesota, and Reynolds, Indiana. The facilities being acquired are sister facilities to VeraSun’s current fleet as they are all designed by ICM and built by Fagen, Inc.

The company is funding the acquisition through $200 million of equity, $250 million of cash and $275 million in project financing. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to earnings and free cash flow within the first 12 months without accounting for potential synergies:
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Current ASAlliances plant employees will become VeraSun employees at the conclusion of the sale. Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated is serving as the financial adviser, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is acting as legal counsel for VeraSun on this transaction.

VeraSun's portfolio of biofuel plants currently looks as follows:

Operating Facilities
VeraSun Aurora (SD) – 120MMGY (2003 Startup)
VeraSun Fort Dodge (IA) – 110MMGY (2005 Startup)
VeraSun Charles City (IA) – 110MMGY (2007 Startup)
Current Operating Capacity – 340MMGY

Facilities Under Construction or Development
VeraSun Hartley (IA) – 110MMGY (Q1 2008 Startup)
VeraSun Welcome (MN) – 110MMGY (Q1 2008 Startup)
VeraSun Reynolds (IN) – 110MMGY (Q4 2008 Startup)
Capacity Under Construction and Development – 330MMGY

Facilities From Acquisition
Linden (IN) – 110MMGY (Q3 2007 Startup)
Albion (NE) – 110MMGY (Q4 2007 Startup)
Bloomingburg (OH) – 110MMGY (Q1 2008 Startup)
Capacity Under Acquisition – 330MMGY

5 Plants, 560MMGY by end of 2007
8 Plants, 890MMGY by end of Q1 2008
9 Plants, One Billion Gallons of Annual Production Capacity by end of 2008

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