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    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

    Timber products company China Grand Forestry Resources Group announced that it would acquire Yunnan Shenyu New Energy, a biofuels research group, for €560/$822 million. Yunnan Shenyu New Energy has developed an entire industrial biofuel production chain, from a fully active energy crop seedling nursery to a biorefinery. Cleantech - November 16, 2007.

    Northern European countries launch the Nordic Bioenergy Project - "Opportunities and consequences of an expanding bio energy market in the Nordic countries" - with the aim to help coordinate bioenergy activities in the Nordic countries and improve the visibility of existing and future Nordic solutions in the complex field of bioenergy, energy security, competing uses of resources and land, regional development and environmental impacts. A wealth of data, analyses and cases will be presented on a new website - Nordic Energy - along with announcements of workshops during the duration of project. Nordic Energy - November 14, 2007.

    Global Partners has announced that it is planning to increase its refined products and biofuels storage capacity in Providence, Rhode Island by 474,000 barrels. The partnership has entered into agreements with New England Petroleum Terminal, at a deepwater marine terminal located at the Port of Providence. PRInside - November 14, 2007.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Berkeley Lab tests ultraclean combustion technology with hydrogen

Biohydrogen, biomethane and biomass based syngas may soon be burned in an experimental gas turbine simulator equipped with an ultralow-emissions combustion technology to yield extremely clean renewable electricity. Called LSI, the technique has been tested successfully using pure hydrogen as a fuel – a milestone that indicates a potential to help eliminate millions of tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of tons of NOx from power plants each year.

The LSI - low-swirl injector - technology (more here and here) was developed by Robert Cheng of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is seen as one of the most promising combustion technologies around.

The LSI holds great promise for its near-zero emissions of nitrogen oxides gases that are emitted during the combustion of fuels such as natural gas during the production of electricity. Nitrogen oxides, or NOx, are greenhouse gases as well as components of smog.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability initially funded the development of the LSI for use in industrial gas turbines for on-site (i.e. distributed) electricity production. The purpose of this research was to develop a natural gas-burning turbine using the LSI’s ability to substantially reduce NOx emissions.

Cheng, Berkeley Lab colleague David Littlejohn, and Kenneth Smith and Wazeem Nazeer from Solar Turbines Inc. of San Diego adapted the low-swirl injector technology to the Taurus 70 gas turbine that produces about seven megawatts of electricity. The team’s effort garnered them won them a 2007 R&D 100 award from R&D magazine.

Right: A prototype of the low-swirl injector. Fuel flows through the openings of the center channel. This simple design creates the low-swirl flow, with lower emissions of NOx the result. Left: A cutaway view of Solar Turbines' Taurus 70 engine. The research team has adapted the low swirl injector for use in this technology, which is similar to a jet engine, but is used to generate electricity in power plants on the ground (click to enlarge).
The team is continuing the LSI development for use with carbon-neutral renewable fuels such as biomethane, biogas, biohydrogen or (bio-based) syngas, and other industrial processes such as petroleum refining and waste treatments.

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy is funding another project in which the LSI is being tested for its ability to burn syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide) and hydrogen fuels in an advanced IGCC plant (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) called FutureGen, which is planned to be the world’s first near-zero-emissions coal power plant. The intention of the FutureGen plant is to produce hydrogen from gasification of coal and sequester the carbon dioxide generated by the process. The LSI is one of several combustion technologies being evaluated for use in the 200+- megawatt utility-size hydrogen turbine that is a key component of the FutureGen plant.

The collaboration between Berkeley Lab and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Morgantown, WV, recently achieved the milestone of successfully test-firing an LSI unit using pure hydrogen as its fuel.

Ultra-clean gas combustion
Because the LSI is a simple and cost-effective technology that can burn a variety of fuels, it has the potential to help eliminate millions of tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of tons of NOx from power plants each year:
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In a letter of support to the R&D 100 selection committee, Leonard Angello, manager of Combustion Turbine Technology for the Electric Power Research Institute, wrote: “I am impressed by the potential of this device as a critical enabling technology for the next generation coal-based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plants with CO2 capture…This application holds promise for the gas turbines in IGCC power plants that operate on high-hydrogen-content syngas fuels or pure hydrogen.”

How the technology works
The low swirl injector is a mechanically simple device with no moving parts that imparts a mild spin to the gaseous fuel and air mixture that causes the mixture to spread out. The flame is stabilized within the spreading flow just beyond the exit of the burner. Not only is the flame stable, but it also burns at a lower temperature than that of conventional burners. The production of nitrogen oxides is highly temperature-dependent, and the lower temperature of the flame reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides to very low levels.

“The LSI principle defies conventional approaches,” says Cheng. “Combustion experts worldwide are just beginning to embrace this counter-intuitive idea. Principles from turbulent fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and flame chemistry are all required to explain the science underlying this combustion phenomenon.”

Natural gas-burning turbines with the low-swirl injector emit an order of magnitude lower levels of NOx than conventional turbines. Tests at Berkeley Lab and Solar Turbines showed that the burners with the LSI emit 2 parts per million of NOx (corrected to 15% oxygen), more than five times times less than conventional burners.

A more significant benefit of the LSI technology is its ability to burn a variety of different fuels from natural gas to hydrogen - all fuels that can be made from renewable biomass - and the relative ease to incorporate it into current gas turbine design. Extensive redesign of the turbine is not needed. The LSI is being designed as a drop-in component for gas-burning turbine power plants.

Top image: Robert Cheng views an LSI flame. He is touching the burner, demonstrating that it stays cool because the flame is completely lifted from its body.

Berkely Lab: Berkeley Lab’s Ultraclean Combustion Technology For Electricity Generation Fires Up in Hydrogen Tests - August 1, 2007.

Berkely Lab Technology Transfer: Ultraclean Low Swirl Combustion.

Berkely Lab: Low-swirl combustion information page.

The U.S. DOE’s FutureGen initiative.

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European heat waves double in length since 1880

The most accurate measures of European daily temperatures ever indicate that the length of heat waves on the continent has doubled and the frequency of extremely hot days has nearly tripled in the past century. The new data show that many previous assessments of daily summer temperature change underestimated heat wave events in western Europe by approximately 30 percent.

Paul Della-Marta and a team of researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland compiled evidence from 54 high-quality recording locations from Sweden to Croatia and report that heat waves last an average of 3 days now—with some lasting up to 4.5 days—compared to an average of around 1.5 days in 1880. The results are published 3 August in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. The researchers suggest that their conclusions contribute to growing evidence that western Europe's climate has become more extreme and confirm a previously hypothesized increase in the variance of daily summer temperatures since the 19th century.

The study adds evidence that heat waves, such as the devastating 2003 event in western Europe (map, click to enlarge) and the current heat wave in Southern Europe, are a likely sign of global warming; one that perhaps began as early as the 1950s, when their study showed some of the highest trends in summer mean temperature and summer temperature variance.
These results add more evidence to the belief among climate scientists that western Europe will experience some of the highest environmental and social impacts of climate change and continue to experience devastating hot summers like the summer of 2003 more frequently in the future. - Paul Della-Marta, lead author, Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland.
The authors note that temperature records were likely overestimated in the past, when thermometers were not kept in modern Stevenson screens, which are instrument shelters used to protect temperature sensors from outside influences that could alter its readings:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The researchers corrected for this warm bias and other biases in the variability of daily summer temperatures and show that nearly 40 percent of the changes in the frequency of hot days are likely to be caused by increases in summer temperatures’ variability. This finding demonstrates that even a small change in the variance of daily summer temperatures can radically enhance the number of extremely hot days.

"These findings provide observational support to climate modeling studies showing that European summer temperatures are particularly sensitive to global warming," Della-Marta said. "Due to complex reactions between the summer atmosphere and the land, the variability of summer temperatures is expected to [continue to] increase substantially by 2100."

The research was supported by the European Environment and Sustainable Development Program, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the National Center for Excellence in Climate Research (NCCR Climate).

: temperature anomalies occuring in July 2003 over Europe, a heat wave that persisted for weeks during July and August, and claimed possibly as many as 35,000 lives. Credit: Nasa Earth Observatory.

Della-Marta, P. M.; Haylock, M. R.; Luterbacher, J.; Wanner, H. "Doubled length of western European summer heat waves since 1880", J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 112, No. D15, D15103, 10.1029/2007JD008510, August 3, 2007.

Eurekalert: European heat waves double in length since 1880 - August 3, 2007.

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Agrivida and Codon Devices to partner on third-generation biofuels

Biotech company Agrivida, founded in 2002 by researchers from MIT, has announced that it has entered into an agreement with Codon Devices, a synthetic biology company, for the discovery, development, and commercialization of engineered proteins for use in so-called 'third generation' biofuel applications. Under the terms of this agreement, Codon Devices will deliver to Agrivida optimized enzymes to be embedded in crops for biofuels production.

Biofuel production techniques can be loosely divided into three generations: the 'first generation' consists of utilizing easily obtainable sugar, starch and oil resources (seeds, grains, roots) from crops to convert them into biofuels like biodiesel and ethanol; a 'second generation' relies on the conversion of entire crops via biochemical and thermochemical pathways (biomass-to-liquids, pyrolysis, enzymatic conversion of cellulose). This allows for the use of a broader variety of biomass feedstocks. The 'third generation' would consist of engineering crops in such a way that their very properties are tailored to particular conversion processes to yield fuels and bioproducts. Examples of this are engineered trees with a low lignin content (see here and here).

Agrivida, an agricultural biotechnology company, is developing such third generation biofuels by creating corn varieties optimized for producing ethanol. First generation methods for manufacturing ethanol make use of the corn grain only, leaving the remaining plant material, such as the corn leaves, stalks, and husks in the field. Central to Agrivida’s ethanol-optimized corn technology are engineered cellulase enzymes that are incorporated into the corn plants themselves (more here). These enzymes will efficiently degrade the entire mass of plant material into small sugars that can then be readily converted to ethanol (schematic, click to enlarge).

Under the agreement with Codon Devices, the latter company will utilize its BioLOGICTM Engineering Platform to develop enzymes optimized for use in Agrivida’s proprietary ethanol production technology. The optimized enzymes that Codon Devices will develop will incorporate Agrivida’s GreenGenesTM technology, allowing Agrivida to dramatically enhance cellulose degradation.
This collaboration underscores the value of our BioLOGICTM Engineering Platform for the rapid development of superior proteins with desired properties, such as enzymes with highly specialized functions. With traditional approaches to developing such enzymes, this would be a one to two year project with no certainty of the outcome. In contrast, using our BioLOGICTM Engineering Platform, we expect to be able to deliver these optimized enzymes to Agrivida in six to nine months. - Brian M. Baynes, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Codon Devices
The agreement further represents the unveiling of Codon Devices’ BioLOGIC Engineering Partnering Program under which partners can gain strategic access to the Company’s proprietary development technologies. The BioLOGIC Engineering Platform combines sophisticated design algorithms with advanced assay and protein engineering capabilities to result in a revolutionary system for the rapid design, discovery and optimization of proteins for specific applications.

An integral component of the BioLOGIC Engineering Platform is Codon Devices’ BioFAB Production Platform which produces high quality synthetic genes at a lower cost and quicker turn-around time than ever before available:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

If successful, Agrivida and Codon's collaboration will usher in a new era for efficient biofuel production that may be transferred to other crops and processing technologies.

The new age of biotechnology has witnessed rapid increases in both the efficiency with which crop genomes can be sequenced, in the speed with which genetic manipulation can be achieved as well as in the preciseness with which new rapid breeding technologies can be implemented. Added to this come rapid advances in the field of protein and enzyme development, partly driven by the search for enzymes to be used in bioconversion processes for biofuels. Finally, the era of synthetic biology has arrived, which promises to create an entirely new universe of highly efficient bioconversion in which crops, micro-organisms and biocatalysts are designed from scratch to yield a whole range of bioproducts driving a true 'bioeconomy'.
We have been working with Codon Devices over the past several months and we are thrilled with this new opportunity to partner with Codon and leverage its BioLOGICTM Platform in our own research and development. Codon Devices’ development of these enzymes will help advance our development and commercialization of technologies that will dramatically improve ethanol production. - Michael Raab, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Agrivida.
Codon Devices, Inc., based in Cambridge, MA, is a privately-held biotechnology company focused on enabling commercial applications of synthetic biology. Codon Devices' proprietary synthesis and design technologies improve the productivity of its industrial, pharmaceutical and academic customers in a paradigm shift to what the Company calls Constructive Biology. The Company's focus is on developing and delivering high-value products and design services in a variety of application areas, including engineered gene libraries, engineered cells that produce novel pharmaceuticals, improved vaccines, agricultural products, and biorefineries for the production of industrial chemicals and energy. Codon Devices' BioFAB platform uses sophisticated informatics, robotics and sequencing technologies to accurately synthesize genetic codes orders of magnitude more rapidly and cost-effectively than other currently available technology.

Agrivida is an agricultural biotechnology company focused on creating renewable, biomass-based alternative fuels and raw materials. We are developing corn varieties that are optimized for producing ethanol from corn stover, otherwise known as "cellulosic" ethanol. Corn stover is, collectively, the leaves, stalks, and husks of corn and it is an inexpensive route to increase yields of ethanol per bushel of corn.

Bibliography of scientific articles from Codon Devices' researchers and on findings used by the company for the development of its proprietary protein design platforms, here.

Biopact: Third generation biofuels: scientists patent corn variety with embedded cellulase enzymes - May 05, 2007

Biopact: Scientists take major step towards 'synthetic life': first bacterial genome transplantation changing one species to another - June 29, 2007

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Lula: Global South to unite and cooperate on biofuels

Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva is the president not only of Brazil, but of the largest black community living outside the African continent. The Latin American nation has profound cultural and social links with the continent at the other side of the Atlantic that go back centuries. President Lula is undoubtedly the first Brazilian leader to revive these relations and to see them as a great opportunity for cooperation. Under his time in office, Brazil for the first time became a net donor of development assistance to Africa.

Recently, Brazil was invited as the sole non-African government at the first high-level conference on biofuels in Africa, organised by the African Union. The country has also established a center for agricultural and technological outreach to African countries in Accra, Ghana, from where EMBRAPA helps transfer Brazil's biofuel technologies. Clearly, Brazil is very much present in Africa and succeeds in giving the continent hope for a brighter future, fueled by green energy sources that bring wealth, energy security and rural development.

In a recent letter to the media, entitled Biofuels Can Allow All Humanity to Prosper, Lula expressed his views on how biofuels may help 'humanity as a whole', but Africa in particular. As he often does, he urges people to look at the issue from the point of view of 'world citizens', - with history, solidarity, economic justice, and sustainability in mind. If it is up to the Brazilian leader, Africa stands to play a key role in our biofueled future.

It was clear from the discussions during the recent G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, that issues like climate change, sustainable development, new and renewable sources of energy, and development financing are global matters that the countries of the South must have a say in, Lula writes.

Ultimately, it is our populations that are directly affected. Moreover, our countries are generating innovative and creative proposals to resolve the problems. The contributions of leaders from South Africa, Brazil, China, India, and Mexico during the Broader G8 Summit made the importance of real North-South dialogue clearer than ever.

Africa has a central role to play in this debate. The continent is undergoing profound transformations that are laying the groundwork for a new cycle of political stability and economic dynamism. With 53 countries, vast natural resources, and a young population, it is anxious to realise its full potential for development and prosperity. This Africa, which I have visited five times during my first term and will certainly return to, is strengthening its economic, trade, and political ties with Brazil.

In the Africa-South American Summit in 2005, and in the two sessions of the Brazil-Africa Forum, we explored in depth the great potential of this alliance, which can be further strengthened and improved by biofuels.

Brazil has over 30 years of success in its production of fuels that combine energy security and broad economic, social, and environmental benefits. The one-quarter ethanol and three-quarter gasoline mix used by regular cars and the use of alcohol by flex-fuel cars, made it possible for Brazil to cut the consumption and imports of fossil fuels by 40 per cent. Since 2003, we have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by over 120 million tonnes, thus helping slow global warming:
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But the potential uses of biofuels go far beyond providing a new source of clean and renewable energy. The ethanol industry has created 1.5 million jobs directly and 4.5 million indirectly in Brazil. In its first phase, the biodiesel programme created more than 250,000 jobs, especially for small-scale farmers in semi-arid areas, generating income and helping to settle people on the land.

It is also important to point out that biofuel production does not threaten food security, because it affects only 2 per cent of our agricultural land. Moreover, by generating new income that can be used to buy food, it helps combat hunger.

These programmes also put a damper on chaotic migration, staunching the exodus from rural to urban areas, reducing the pressure on major cities, and providing a disincentive to small-scale miners and farmers to raze forests.

In addition, the expansion of sugar cane production has helped restore overgrazed pasture land that had little or no potential for agriculture.

Developing countries thus stand to benefit significantly from biofuels.

Given their enormous potential for creating jobs and generating income, they offer a real option of sustainable development, especially in countries that depend on the export of scarce natural resources. At the same time, ethanol and biodiesel open up new paths of development, especially in the bio-chemical industries, in the form of social, economic, and technological alternatives for countries that are economically poor but rich in sun and arable land.

FOR A world facing environmental degradation and the increase of energy prices, biofuel offers real promise. It can help poor countries combine economic growth with social inclusion, and environmental conservation. In short, it is a valiant ally in the fight against social and political instability, violence, and migratory chaos.

However, this revolution can only occur if the rich countries open their markets to the poorest and eliminate agro-subsidies and barriers to the import of biofuels.

It is a win-win situation. Developing countries will generate jobs for marginalised populations and funds to energise their economies, while developed countries can tap into a source of competitively-priced clean energy instead of investing in massively expensive innovations to make conventional fuels more green.

Biofuels offer us a way to allow all humanity to prosper without mortgaging the future of generations to come. This is the message I will carry to the World Conference on Biofuels that Brazil is organising for 2008. Together Brazil and Africa can help forge a global solution to the challenges of the 21st century.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva: Biofuels Can Allow All Humanity to Prosper, The East African (Nairobi) (via AllAfrica), - July 31, 2007.

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University of Leicester team develop way of purifying biodiesel made from vegetable oils

A group of Chemists from the University of Leicester have developed a way of purifying biodiesel made from vegetable oils, which is cheap, simple and low in toxicity.

The team, led by Professor Andrew Abbott is able to remove glycerol, the main by-product of vegetable oil-based biodiesel, using ionic liquids made in part by vitamin B4 (choline chloride).

If left in biodiesel, glycerol (a syrupy sugar alcohol) would damage engines but this technique simply washes it out of the fuel. The ionic liquid developed by Professor Abbott uses a complex of choline chloride with glycerol to extract more glycerol out of the biodiesel.

The Leicester process is greener than the traditional process, which involves as many as 8 successive water washings of the raw biodiesel. This transfers water soluble impurities soap, catalyst, glycerol, methanol, and some biodiesel to the water. The result is a large amount of organic and catalyst contaminated wastewater:
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The Leicester process lets the biodiesel flow through a tank of a special ion exchange resin. The resin readily removes the glycerol, soap, and catalyst, all corrosive to diesel engine components, and water from the raw biodiesel. It can take the glycerin from 500 ppm down to less than 10 ppm. This is significantly below the standard of 200 ppm. This potentially allows for higher concentration of biodiesel in blends with petroleum diesel.

Professor Abbott's team hopes that further research will optimise the ionic liquid recycling and recovery of the glycerol. We are hoping to collaborate with a biodiesel producer to test this technology further.

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