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    Greenline Industries, which designs and builds biodiesel production facilities, and ULEROM, one of Romania's largest agri-business corporations, today announced the formal opening of their largest facility in Vaslui, Romania. The plant will produce some 26.5 million liters (7 mio gallons) per year. The Romanian facility is the 17th example of Greenline's technology featuring waterless wash, computerized, continuous flow and modular construction. PRNewswire - August 1, 2007.

    US Renewables Holdings announced today that it has successfully closed on $475 million of third party capital commitments in its most recent private equity fund, USRG Power & Biofuels Fund II, LP and related vehicles (collectively, "Fund II"), ahead of the fund's original target of $250 million. PRNewswire - August 1, 2007.

    Malaysian palm oil company Kim Loong Resources Bhd has secured European energy trading group Vitol as buyer for all its carbon credits from its planned biogas plant in Kota Tinggi. The biogas facility generates methane from palm oil mill effluent, a waste product. The project is expected to generate over RM2 million (€423,000/US$579,000) of earnings annually. The methane capture and power generation project was registered and approved by the Clean Development Mechanism. The Edge Daily - July 31, 2007.

    GreenHunter Energy, Inc. announces that its wholly-owned subsidiary, GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., located in Houston, Texas has successfully acquired Air Emission Permits from TCEQ (Texas Commission of Environmental Quality) under TCEQ's Permit by Rule (PBR) programs. These permits open the way for construction of a 105 million gallon per year (mgy) biodiesel facility including a separate but related methanol distillation facility. PRNewswire - July 30, 2007.

    Together with Chemical & Engineering News' Stephen K. Ritter, the journal Environmental Science & Technology sent Erika D. Engelhaupt to Brazil from where she wrote daily dispatches of news and observations about biofuels research. In particular she focuses on a bioenerrgy research partnership between the American Chemical Society, the Brazilian Chemical Society, and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Check out her blog. Dipatches from Brazil - July 28, 2007.

    Consultation is under way on a £50 million (€74/US$101million) renewable energy plant planned for the South Wales Valleys. Anglo-Dutch company Express Power plans to build a wood-fuelled biomass plant on Rassau Industrial Estate in Blaenau Gwent. The plant will generate an annual 160,000 MWh (Mega Watt hours) of green electricity for Wales from forestry, recycled wood and wood derivatives. ICWales - July 27, 2007.

    The price of New York crude leapt to 77.24 dollar a barrel on Thursday, marking the highest level since August 9, 2006, as keen global demand and tight supplies fuelled speculative buying, traders said. On Wednesday, the US government had revealed that inventories of American crude fell by 1.1 million barrels last week. France24 - July 26, 2007.

    Arriva, one of Europe's largest transport groups is trialling B20 biodiesel for the first time on 75 of its buses. The company is aiming to reduce total carbon emissions by around 14 per cent by using biodiesel as a 20 per cent blend (predominantly be a mixture of sustainable soya products, along with used cooking oil and tallow). The 75 buses in the innovative trial will carry around 130,000 passengers every week. Minimal engineering changes will be required to the fleet as part of the scheme. Arriva - July 26, 2007.

    Marathon Oil Corporation announces that it has completed two more projects adding biodiesel blended fuel at its Robinson and Champaign terminals in Illinois. The terminals now feature in-line ratio blending in order to provide soy-based B-2 (two percent biodiesel) and B-11 (eleven percent biodiesel). Marathon Oil - July 25, 2007.

    Norway-based renewable energy firm Global Green One has agreed to set up a € 101.6 million bioethanol plant in Békéscsaba (southeast Hungary), with more facilities planned for Kalocsa, Szombathely and Kõszeg, the latter of which was already a target for a €25 million plant in May this year. The Békéscsaba plant would process 200,000 tonnes of maize per year, employing around 100 people. The logistics part of the facility would also create 100 jobs. The company expects the factory to generate €65 million in revenues each year. Portfolio - July 25, 2007.

    A Canadian firm, Buchanan Renewable Energies, is to begin an investment into Liberia's biomass industry that will grow to US$20 million in October and offer 300 jobs by end of the year. The company will start shipping 90 major pieces of equipment to Liberia by the end of August. Daily Observer (Monrovia) - July 24, 2007.

    KNM Process Systems Sdn Bhd, has secured a RM122 million (€26/$36m) order to build a biodiesel plant in Pahang, Malaysia, for Mission Biofuels Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Australian biofuels company Mission Biofuels Ltd. The plant will have a biodiesel output of 750 tonnes per day and glycerine output of 82 tonnes per day. Malaysia Business Times - July 24, 2007.

    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.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

EU emission trading scheme faces revolt in Eastern Europe

The EU's Emission Trading Scheme is facing a revolt by Eastern European countries who claim their carbon allowances, set by the Commission, are too low. Six member states are considering taking legal action against the executive branch of the Union. If they win, the European carbon market and the scheme to make it work would end up in ruins.

The European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is a unique instrument aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from industry. Put in simple terms, the system works on the basis of national allocation plans, which set the amount of carbon dioxide a country's industry is allowed to emit and which determines the basis of the market price for carbon. Some 12,000 large industrial plants in the EU are then able to buy and sell permits to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The EU ETS enables companies exceeding individual CO2 emissions targets to buy allowances from 'greener' ones and thus help reach the EU targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The national cap is calculated by the member state, but the Commission makes its own assessment of the proposal and if necessary corrects it, downwards.

Even though analysts see the ETS as a model scheme for tackling climate change (previous post), the first trading phase, which ran from 2005 to 2007, completely failed because allocations were set way too high. Some say these over-allocations were the result of governments succumbing to industrial lobbies. In any case, the excess led to a crash of the price of carbon and with it the incentive for industry to invest in cleaner technologies.

Revolt in Eastern Europe
A repeat of that scenario during the second phase (2008-2012) is now looming. Latvia is the latest country to join Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Estonia in challenging the trading scheme, after the Commission ordered [*.pdf] it to lower its proposed cap to 3.43 million tonnes annually rather than the 6.25 million it had asked for.

The Eastern European countries are arguing that the strict limits imposed by the EU executive are too low and will hurt their economies at a time when they are still playing catch-up to the rest of the Union. Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis announced his government's decision to take the Commission to the European Court of Justice to fight the cap:
:: :: :: :: :: :: ::

But the Commission appeared undaunted. "We are confident that our decisions that have been challenged will stand up in court", said environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich, insisting that the Commission had "applied the rules fairly" and had not "discriminated in any way".

Decisions in the six cases could take up to two years, but if the Commission does lose and has to increase member states' CO2 allowances, experts predict it would throw the entire carbon market out of balance.

The first phase of the EU's ETS, from 2005 to 2007, was already seriously undermined because governments grossly over-estimated the amount of pollution credits required by their industries. This vast over-allocation sent carbon prices crashing, and a repeat scenario is feared if the countries win their case.

The legal battle highlights growing tension in the EU over the sacrifices needed to fight climate change ahead of a tough debate between governments, due this autumn, over how the 27 member states should share out the burden of cutting CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 – a target agreed by EU leaders at the March European Council.

European Commission: EU ETS website.

European Commission: Webpage on national allocation plans.

EU ETS: Questions & Answers on Emissions Trading and National Allocation Plans.

European Commission: Emissions trading: Commission adopts decisions on amendments to five national allocation plans for 2008-2012 - July 13, 2007.

Euractiv: EU Emission Trading Scheme, link dossier (permanently updated).

Biopact: Review of EU Emissions Trading Scheme finds it to be successful, key to climate change policy - June 01, 2007

Biopact: European utilities fail to reduce emissions - report - November 24, 2006

Biopact: The 'obscenity' of carbon trading - November 11, 2006

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Scientists discover key mechanism with which plants cope with stress

Crops are facing a growing number of problems: too much water, too little sunlight, droughts, a changing atmosphere... In short, they are suffering from all kinds of stress. Climate change may make things worse by transforming certain regions into becoming high stress environments, whereas in others conditions will change in a more beneficial way, but requiring plants to adapt just as dramatically. In order to develop climate-resilient plants and to create robust energy crops, more insight is needed into how plants cope with stress.

Scientists from the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), associated with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven, Belgium), have revealed a new mechanism demonstrating the intricate ways in which plants do just that. They found a crucial metabolic process which regulates the fine line between life and death. They publish their results in the advance online publication of Nature. The newly discovered control system has a remarkable way of orchestrating the activity of hundreds of genes, forcing plants into 'safety mode'; the consumption of energy is contained while the organism is stimulated to mobilize reserves. This may have a negative impact on growth, but it allows the plant to temporarily safeguard itself against pernicious stress conditions.

Photosynthetic plants are the principal solar energy converter sustaining life on Earth. But despite its fundamental importance, little is known about how plants sense and adapt to darkness in the daily light–dark cycle, or how they adapt to unpredictable environmental stresses that compromise photosynthesis and respiration and deplete energy supplies. With that most intricate of biochemical processes, called photosynthesis, plants catch sunlight and use it as an energy source to produce sugars from CO2 and water. In doing so, they are at the very basis of the food and energy chain of the planet. Without plants, life as we know it today would simply not be possible. So what if things go wrong when there is too little sunlight, for example? And what with other stressful conditions for plants, such as droughts or floods? Environmental changes can compromise the crucial engine of photosynthesis and exhaust energy supplies, simply leading to death.

Plants manage their own energy balance
Fortunately, plants have developed different mechanisms to detect and cope with these multiple forms of stress. Together with his American colleagues at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA), VIB scientist Filip Rolland, associated with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is uncovering a new system of detection and control.

It is driven by kinases 'KIN10' and 'KIN11'. These kinases, which are also found in human beings, react to energy shortages, when, for example, there is too little sunlight or too little sugar production. They control the activity of a broad network of genes, promoting the release of energy (catabolism) from alternative sources and blocking its assimilation (anabolism). In this way, the plant protects itself against stress conditions:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The key players: KIN10 & KIN11
The model organism for this study was Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress. For decades, this small weed has been used as a model in molecular and genetic plant research. The scientists have tested numerous stress conditions that affect photosynthesis and energy production, such as darkness, herbicide treatment and flooding (lack of oxygen). By overexpressing the KIN10 gene, causing the plant to produce more of this protein, stress tolerance is increased and plants survive longer. By switching off these genes, their control function is eliminated.

With this research, the Flemish and American scientists have succeeded for the first time in attributing KIN10 and KIN11 a key role in the control of the plant energy budget and metabolism and thus the fragile balance between growth and survival; in short, the choice between life and death.

Interestingly the new insights gained by this study are not limited to the functioning of plants; they may also be important for human beings. KIN10 and KIN11, as 'fuel gauges' controlling the expression of a whole set of genes, are also found in mammals. The results with plants, therefore, may play a pioneering role in discovering new functions of these proteins in disorders such as diabetes, cancer, obesitas, and aging.

VIB, the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, is a non-profit scientific research institute. Using advanced gene technology, VIB studies the functioning of the human body, plants and microorganisms.

Image: Arabidopsis thaliana, a model crop frequently used in plant biology research, with a growing part of its genome being sequenced and made available to the science community. Credit: The Scientist.


Elena Baena-González, Filip Rolland, Johan M. Thevelein, & Jen Sheen, "A central integrator of transcription networks in plant stress and energy signalling", Nature advance online publication, doi:10.1038/nature06069; 1 August 2007

Eurekalert: Plants and stress -- key players on the thin line between life and death revealed - August 1, 2007.

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Automotive X Prize gathers steam: 30 teams ready to compete

The Automotive X PRIZE (AXP), a competition designed to inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles to help break America's addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change, announced today that over 30 teams have signed a letter of intent to compete once the prize is officially funded and launched.

The international competition, in which qualified teams will compete head to head, aims to dramatically increase consumer access to ultra-efficient, clean, affordable and desirable vehicles. The 30 plus teams include diverse groups from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland. More than 300 additional teams have inquired about joining and are actively considering entry.

The independent and technology-neutral AXP competition is open to teams from around the world to prove they can design, build and bring to market 100 miles per gallon (2.35liter/100km) or equivalent fuel economy vehicles that people want to buy. Industry experts will scrutinize team plans. Those that qualify will race their vehicles in rigorous cross-country stages that combine speed, distance, urban driving and overall performance. The winners will be the vehicles that exceed 100 mpg equivalent, fall under strict emissions caps and finish in the fastest time.
In just a short time, we have seen a tremendous enthusiasm for the Automotive X PRIZE. We believe this enthusiasm reflects the strong interest among the car-driving public for new options of super-efficient vehicles. It is clear energy legislation in Congress will fall far short of encouraging the type of breakthroughs that are needed to provide a new generation of ultra-efficient vehicles. We have designed AXP to be a technology-neutral competition to help provide this new generation of vehicles, and we are pleased that the fairness of our competition guidelines has been ratified by the interest among a wide variety of teams and technologies. - Donald J. Foley, executive director of the AXP.
The competition is expected to travel through multiple cities while broadcast to a global audience in 2009 and 2010, building consumer demand for vehicles in the competition and demonstrating many practical, clean and affordable vehicle options. Cities involved in the competition route have not yet been chosen:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Reflecting the nature of the non-partisan effort, two leading members of Congress on energy issues, Senators Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), have expressed their support for the AXP.

The AXP has also received support and encouragement from several government agencies that will help the privately-funded organization conduct the competition and test vehicle compliance, including the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Laboratory; the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway, Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHA); the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ); and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

In addition, non-governmental organizations supporting the AXP include the National Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, the Apollo Alliance, the Consumer Federation of America, Global Green USA, CALSTART and Greenpeace among others.

The AXP has recently finalized a supporting sponsorship from Adobe. Other early AXP sponsors and donors include Idealab, Ray Sidney of Big George Ventures, the Elbaz Foundation, and the Jack D. Hidary Foundation.

Once fundraising for the prize purse and administration is complete, the AXP will officially launch. "We are seeking assistance from major foundations, corporations and philanthropic individuals to help bring about this revolution in transportation," Diamandis said. "Visionary individuals and organizations have risen to this type of challenge before by backing the Ansari X PRIZE for personal spaceflight, and the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics. We're confident we can build a financial base for this competition as well, and expect one or more heroes to rise to this challenge."

The following 30 teams have signed a letter of intent signaling their intent to apply for the AXP competition:
It will be interesting to see how different propulsion technologies (combustion engines, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, fuel cells, battery-electric systems) will be coupled to different fuels and their production paths (e.g. over 70 possible combinations have been identified and studied for their well-to-wheel efficiency in a recent EU-report). Radically new designs and materials will be used and all this with saleabilty and commercial viability in mind. A tall, but exciting order.

Volkswagen's 264 mpg concept
Many who have followed the creation of the Automotive X Prize have pointed to Volkswagen's 1 liter concept, developed back in 2002. So we will do here too, because it remains a classic example of what is possible in principle: 264 miles per gallon!

Some specifications of this ultra-efficient car: an unusually narrow and very flat body form, a necessity for a small frontal area. The body was developed in a wind tunnel, is 3.47 metres long, but just 1.25 metres wide and just over a metre in height, and is made completely of carbon fibre composites. To save weight, it is of course not painted. The carbon-fibre-reinforced outer skin is tensioned over a spaceframe that is not made of aluminium, but rather of magnesium, which is even lighter.

The 1-litre car is powered by a one-cylinder diesel engine, centrally positioned in front of the rear axle and combined with an automated direct shift gearbox. The crankcase and cylinder head of the 0.3-litre engine are of an aluminium monobloc construction. The naturally aspirated, direct-injection diesel engine employs advanced high-pressure unit injection technology to generate 6.3 kW (8.5 bhp) at 4,000 rpm. This gives the vehicle, which weights just 290 kg, an astonishingly lively temperament.

Fuel consumption is a mere 0.99 litre per 100 kilometres. With a 6.5-litre tank, this gives a range of some 650 kilometres (404 miles) without refuelling.

Picture: Volkswagen hyper-efficient 1-litre (264mpg) car, developed in 2002.


Automotive X PRIZE: Automotive X PRIZE Announces First 30 Teams in Multimillion Dollar Competition for 100 MPGe Vehicles - August 1, 2007.

Serious Wheels: Volkswagen 1-Liter Car - s.d. 2002.

Biopact: EU study looks at pros and cons of 20 most promising alternative fuels - July 25, 2007

The study showing the WTW efficiency of 70 fuels and propulsion technologies can be found here: Biopact: Hydrogen out, compressed biogas in - October 01, 2006

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Agricultural Research Service scientists study peanuts as energy crop

At the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his revolutionary engine by using pure peanut oil as fuel. The most efficient combustion engine was even explicitly designed to run on plant oil and not on petroleum. Back then, the German genius made the visionary remark that one day, when petroleum resources run out, all cars would use plant oils grown by farmers in a decentralised manner and to their great benefit (earlier post). To some, we may be closing in on that day. Will the humble peanut make Diesel's prediction a reality? If it is up to researchers in the US, the answer is yes.

Land-suitability for rainfed cropping of groundnut under high inputs. Source: FAO, Land and Water Development Division; land suitability database for 30 crops.
Groundnuts or peanuts (Arachis hypogaea L.), a nitrogen-fixing legume, are cultivated in over 100 countries in the global south (overview at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics). A look at a world map showing the most suitable areas for growing the crop reveals that there are vast stretches of land on the globe where groundnuts can be grown in optimal conditions. Interestingly, these suitable areas are situated in countries that currently belong to the poorest of the world - most notably in the Sahel (map, click to enlarge). Earlier, we had an in-depth look into this potential (here). To summarize that overview, we list a quick scan of the available hectarage per country. Let us take America, where peanut-oil biodiesel is gradually getting off the ground (previous post), as a reference case: United States: 23.8 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average potential yield of 1.57 tons/ha.

Compare this with a few selected poor countries of the Sahel (in fact countries in Eastern Africa have an even larger potential):
  • Sudan: 65.2 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average yield of 2.1 tons/ha.
  • Central African Republic: 28.2 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average yield of 2 tons/ha.
  • Benin: 9.2 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average yield of 2.7 tons/ha.
  • Burkina Faso: 14.6 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average yield of 2 tons/ha.
  • Chad: 24.6 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average yield of 2.1 tons/ha.
  • Mali: 17.5 million hectares of 'very suitable' to 'moderately suitable' land, with an average yield of 1.8 tons/ha.
In short, there is enough non-forest land and technical potential to expand the cultivation of this biofuel feedstock which has many benefits over other energy crops grown in semi-arid regions (see below). Optimitistically, we foresee a day when poor countries in the developing world will supply specially designed groundnuts that do not compete with food, to local biorefineries and biofuel world markets. Scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are contributing to this future by researching economically feasible peanut varieties for that very purpose.

Agronomist Wilson Faircloth at the ARS National Peanut Research Laboratory at Dawson, Ga., and Daniel Geller, a collaborative engineer at the University of Georgia, are testing a peanut called Georganic. It's not suited to current commercial edible standards for peanuts, but is high in oil and has low production input costs:
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Georganic — or similar varieties — will likely be the future of peanut biodiesel because it can be planted and grown with just one herbicide application for weed control, compared to the three to four applications typically sprayed during a growing season for edible peanuts. Additionally, these fuel peanuts are grown without fungicides, which are the greatest input cost in traditional peanut production.

To further reduce production costs and increase yield, the research team is also studying technology such as conservation tillage and selection of varieties with high tolerance to multiple diseases. Currently, there are 24 peanut varieties being scrutinized in this biodiesel screening project, including Georganic, which was developed by ARS breeders in Tifton, Ga. Promising varieties also include DP-1 and Georgia-04S, a new high-oleic-acid, Spanish-type peanut.

Many old and new peanut varieties are being tested for field performance, and their oils are being analyzed for diesel performance characteristics. It has been found that high-oleic-acid peanuts—a quality desired for extended shelf life of food products—also make the best biodiesel fuel.

Today, soybean oil is the primary oil used in the United States for biodiesel fuel production. Soybeans produce approximately 50 gallons of fuel per acre, while traditionally grown peanuts can produce approximately 120 to 130 gallons of biodiesel fuel per acre.

Groundnut is an interesting energy crop for several reasons:
  • it grows well in semi-arid regions and requires limited fertilizer and water inputs
  • therefor it does not cause any pressures on rainforest ecologies, a critique often raised against other tropical energy crops (most notably palm oil)
  • the regions where groundnut thrives are populated by the world's poorest people (especially Sahelian countries, like Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan -- who all rank at the bottom of the scale of, for example, the Human Development Index)
  • many non-commercial and non-edible varieties with high yields can be developed and improved
  • in contrast to other energy crops which thrive well in semi-arid regions, such as the perennial shrubs jatropha curcas and pongamia pinnata, groundnut can be harvested mechanically
All of the crop's parts can be used as bioenergy feedstocks:
  • the nuts themselves have a high oil content (around 50%) and one hectare of groundnut yields around 1000 litres of oil; the oil has a relatively low melting point, a medium iodine value and a high flash-point - characteristics which make it a suitable oil for biodiesel production
  • the groundnut has a residue-to-product ratio of around 0.5-1.2 for pods and 2.2-2.9 for straw; this means that for every ton of nuts produced, 500 to 1200kg of shells become available and 2.2 to 2.9 tons of straw residue are harvested; in total groundnut yields between 3.7 and 5.1 tons of biomass per hectare
  • these residues offer an interesting solid biofuel, with a relatively high energy content of 16Mj/kg for shells and 18Mj/kg for straw - with advanced bioconversion technologies (cellulosic ethanol or pyrolisis) this 'waste' biomass can be turned into liquid fuels and bioproducts; alternatively, it could be densified and used in biomass (co-firing) power plants
USDA ARS: Peanuts Studied as Source of Biodiesel Fuel - July 30, 2007

Biopact: US firm Perihelion to use peanuts for biodiesel - January 30, 2007

Biopact: The spirit of Rudolf Diesel: peanuts and socialism - September 19, 2006

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics: Groundnut (peanut), profile.

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The bioeconomy at work: green chemistry manufacturers buying biodiesel by-products

The idea of an integrated 'bioeconomy' is becoming ever more tangible. With oil prices at new records and climate change requiring stronger mitigation efforts, virtually all industrial sectors are searching for alternatives to petroleum. Manufacturers are gradually making the transition towards relying on bio-based resources to make everyday products such as bioplastics or clean solvents. Even though the sector of 'green chemistry' is in its infancy, some interesting developments are underway.

International Oil & Gas Holdings Corporation (IOGH), for example, announced today that chemical industry manufacturers have begun purchasing biodiesel production by-products from its Oklahoma plant, which recently announced it has achieved a 6,000 gallon-per-day biodiesel production milestone.

The company reports that bio-chemical manufacturers plan to market green specialty products such as cleaning solvents, surfactants, additives for two-cycle engine oils, and marine fuel replacements. IOGH biochemical by-products, such as glycerin (glycerol) will replace the petroleum-based chemicals commonly used for these products, creating new categories of green and renewable products for consumers.
The chemical industry has been under increasing pressure to find bio-chemical raw materials for their end-product production. We are opening a new supply line for green industry equivalents that manufactures have traditionally drawn from feedstock supply lines. - Rick Graves, President of IOGH.
In the future, green chemistry and biofuel production will be integrated in biorefineries which are based on complex cascading strategies designed to obtain an optimal use of biomass resources, residues and conversion processes (an in-depth look at this concept):
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“We feel that our proprietary process for producing biodiesel and green energy by-products comes at a key time when America’s committed to achieving energy independence,” said Mr. Graves. “With sales underway for our biodiesel and now our biodiesel production by-products, IOGH is moving in the right direction at the right time for America’s future.”

International Oil & Gas Holdings Corporation is a diversified holding company, managing assets in the energy, biofuel, bio-chemicals and renewable technologies markets. IOGHC focuses on high-growth potential early-stage companies and existing profitable companies to build value from synergies and new market opportunities.

IOGHC leverages its know-how, relationships and technology to build energy-efficient production plants to produce competitive fuels, chemicals and energy from renewable resources as well as help remediate problematic environments.

IOGHC technology and production processes aim to have positive economic and environmental impact by relying on renewable non-food feed stocks instead of petroleum, while producing only clean chemicals and electricity as by-products.

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New Zealand launches commercial ethanol, made from milk by-product

Gull New Zealand announced [*.pdf] today the launch of 'Gull Force 10' which is the first time a biofuel for everyday transport use has been made commercially available to Kiwi motorists. The biofuel is a blend of premium gasoline as a base fuel and 10 percent bioethanol. The ethanol is supplied by leading dairy producer Fonterra, a cooperative which makes the fuel from whey, a natural by-product of milk processing (earlier post).

Gull will introduce the blend to three of its New Zealand sites and is looking to extend the product offering to most of its 30 sites over time. The Gull Force 10 blend will be included in Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworth’s grocery fuel discount programme.

In February New Zealand's government set a national target of 3.4 per cent for the biofuel component of petrol and diesel in 2012. Oil companies will have to start offering biofuels from April 1 next year, and the government has said there will be no excise tax charged on the ethanol. Prime Minister Helen Clark – who has previously announced that New Zealand has the potential to lead the world in renewable energy – formally launched the Gull product today at North Harbour stadium. The official first fill-up occured at Gull's Greville Road petrol station in Albany.

Fonterra's Edgecumbe dairy factory in the Bay of Plenty successfully tested petrol mixed with 10 per cent ethanol in a 1.8-litre car, in a blend approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority. The Edgecumbe plant produces 30,000 litres of ethanol a day and over five million litres in a dairy season. Fonterra also produces ethanol at other plants, including Reporoa and Tirau, for use in industrial cleansers, vodka and gin:
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Gull – a family-owned operation with 30 petrol stations in the North Island – signed on Fonterra in 2004 to produce ethanol to be added to "premium" petrol. Blending of petrol and ethanol will take place at Mt Maunganui. The small player has outwitted large oil companies by entering the market first, giving a major boost to its brand recognition.

The General Manager of Gull New Zealand Dave Bodger sees the bioethanol launch as an example of Gull setting the pace for the market in New Zealand and showing its commitment to Kiwi motorists, sustainability and a cleaner environment.
The launch of Gull Force 10 comes significantly ahead of the mandatory biofuel sales targets set by the Government for April 2008. Once again Gull is at the forefront of innovation and change in the motoring and petroleum industry, and today’s announcement is continuing the industry leadership that we’ve always demonstrated. - General Manager of Gull New Zealand Dave Bodger
Wayne Ferrell, Gull Petroleum’s CEO explains the reasons why Kiwi motorists should switch to the more eco-friendly Gull Force 10 bioethanol: not only is the blend cleaner for the environment by ensuring lower emissions and overall cleaner burning, but it will also give Kiwi motorists more power and a higher performance whilst actually cleaning their car’s fuel system.

Four of New Zealand’s major vehicle manufacturers, Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and General Motors / Holden all offered their congratulations and support to Gull for building a sustainable environment for motorists with the introduction of Gull Force 10 by supplying their cars for the official ‘first pour’.

Gull started operations in New Zealand with the building of a state of the art terminal in Mount Maunganui in 1998. Tanks were relocated from Marsden Point by barge, a feat the opposition said was “impossible”. Gull made the first retail sales of petrol in 1999 and has grown the network to 30 branded sites. Gull was the first company to introduce low sulphur diesel to the New Zealand market bringing environmental benefits well ahead of the opposition. Gull is the only independent oil company operating in New Zealand and is credited with keeping the fuel market competitive and giving savings to the Kiwi motorist

Fonterra is the world’s largest dairy exporter and the fifth largest dairy company in the world, with annual turnover in excess of NZ$13 billion. As New Zealand’s largest and truly multinational business, Fonterra trades in 140 countries. Its portfolio includes dairy ingredients, liquid and powdered milks, cultured foods and yoghurts, butter, cheese, specialty foodservices products and ethanol, now also as a biofuel.

: Prime Minister Helen Clark filled up with Gull's Force 10 Bio ethanol fuel at an Auckland Gull station at the launch of the new milk-derived ethanol-petrol blend. Credit: John Selkirk / Fairfax Media

Gull: Gull first to launch biofuel to Kiwi motorists [*.pdf] - August 11, 2007.

Stuff NZ: Kiwi-made milk-based biofuel on the way - August 1, 2007.

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