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    Irish start-up Eirzyme has secured a €10m investment from Canadian company Micromill System. The new company will produce low-cost enzymes to convert biological materials such as brewers' grains into bioethanol and biogas. RTE - August 6, 2007.

    Imperium Renewables says it has a deal to provide Royal Caribbean Cruises with biodiesel. The Seattle-based biodiesel maker, which is scheduled to inaugurate its Grays Harbor plant this month, will sell the cruise line 15 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007 and 18 million gallons annually for four years after that. The Miami-based cruise line has four vessels that call in Seattle. It is believed to be the single-largest long-term biodiesel sales contract to an end user in the U.S. Seattle Times - August 5, 2007.

    The J. Craig Venter Institute, leading the synthetic biology revolution, is expanding its Bio-Energy Program, seeking a senior scientist to head the new dedicated department. With ongoing research in biohydrogen, cellulosic ethanol, microbial fuel cells, and bacterial nanowires, the Environmental Genomics and Plant Genomics groups within JCVI are working on active components related to bio-energy. NatureJobs - August 5, 2007.

    Polish power and heat firm Praterm has decided to invest 50 to 100 mln zloty (€13.2-26.4 /US$18.1-36.4 mln) by 2013 in biomass production. The company has already bought Bio-Energia, an operator of four biomass heating plants with a total capacity of 14 MW. Wirtualna Polska - August 5, 2007.

    Brazil and Mexico will sign a cooperation agreement to collaborate on the production of ethanol from sugarcane, Gonzalo Mourão of the Brazilian chancellory's Departamento do México, América Central e Caribe said. Brazil's President Lula is on a tour of Central America and is currently in Mexico, after which he will visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Panama. He is set to sign several bilateral agreements on energy and biofuels with these countries. Reuters Brasil - August 4, 2007.

    Evergreen Pulp Inc. announced that it and Diversified Energy Corp. have been selected by the state of California for a $500,000, 36-month renewable energy project that aims to dramatically reduce natural-gas-use residue and natural gas at its Samoa mill. The Public Interest Energy Research Natural Gas Program, a part of the California Energy Commission, awarded four contracts for research, development and demonstration of technologies to replace natural gas with renewable resources, to four applicants from among a pool of 25. The state’s focus for the contracts was for biomass-to-gas and/or hybrid projects specifically addressing industrial and commercial process heating or combined heat and power needs. Eureka Reporter - August 4, 2007.

    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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Monday, August 06, 2007

Scientists develop more efficient biorefining process to make ethanol from wheat

In a finding that could help put wheat alongside corn on the menu of biofuel sources, researchers in Greece and the United Kingdom report the development of a new method for producing ethanol from wheat. The technology - potentially cheaper and more efficient than conventional methods for producing wheat-based biofuel - has been published as an open-access article in Biotechnology Progress.

As oil prices soar, demand for bioethanol to stretch out supplies of gasoline has increased dramatically, along with frenzied research efforts to find the best raw materials and conversion processes for its economical production.

Cereals and sugar crops are currently the preferred raw materials for bioethanol production due to availability and low processing cost. In the EU, wheat is more widely cultivated and could be regarded as the preferred cereal grain for bioethanol production. The predominant process for wheat conversion into a fermentation feedstock begins with a simple dry milling stage leading to the production of whole wheat flour. The starch content in whole wheat flour is then hydrolyzed into glucose by commercial enzymes. The resulting glucose solution is fermented into ethanol after the addition of nutrient supplements. This process finally leads to the production of only one coproduct (Dried Distiller's Grain), which has a low market value as animal feed.

In the new study, Apostolis Koutinas and colleagues describe a simplified biorefining method that uses fewer steps and less energy and generates fewer waste products but more valuable byproducts (schematic, click to enlarge). The economics and efficiency of bioethanol production from wheat could thus be improved by fractionating the grain into the fermentable fraction and several nonfermentable fractions, including bran, germ and protein, that have a wide spectrum of end-uses.

The main differences between the proposed and the traditional dry milling of wheat are:
  • Wheat components that are not fermentable during Saccharomyces cerevisiae cultivations for bioethanol production are separated prior to fermentation. In this way, two coproducts are produced (bran-rich pearling and gluten) with current and potential market outlets that could improve process economics. In addition, the removal of non-fermentable solids from yeast fermentation leads to the production of pure yeast cells that have a much higher market value and diversified market outlets as compared to Dry Distillers Grains (with solubles) produced by traditional wheat dry milling.
  • Hydrolysis of starch or any remaining protein and phytic acid is achieved by consortia of enzymes that are produced by Aspergillus awamori fermentation on wheat flour. Simultaneous gelatinization, liquefaction, and saccharification is achieved at temperatures less than 70 C because the crude filtrate used from fungal fermentations contains all of the enzymes required to hydrolyze wheat components. Fungal cells were grown on exactly the same medium to produce enzymes that led to complete hydrolysis of wheat starch and protein during fermentation. Depending on plant capacity, this processing scheme leads to lower energy requirements and capital investment as compared to traditional processing that uses separate liquefaction and saccharification stages.
  • Wheat is the sole raw material used throughout this process. A minimum amount of waste is produced by regenerating nutrients consumed during A. awamori fermentation via fungal autolysis. Fungal autolysates are used to supply additional nutrients for yeast fermentation.
In the process presented by the scientists, starch hydrolysis and fungal autolysis are carried out in separate reactions. However, the operating conditions employed for starch hydrolysis (60 C and uncontrolled pH) and fungal autolysis (55 C and uncontrolled pH) are very similar. This creates the opportunity to integrate these two unit operations in a single batch unit operation leading to lower capital investment and processing costs:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The study then presents experimental results that justify the feasibility of integrating starch hydrolysis and fungal autolysis in the same unit operation for the production of a nutrient-complete medium for bioethanol production.

The feedstock production process including continuous operation for fungal fermentation and combined hydrolytic/autolytic reaction has been cost-optimized by the scientists by nonlinear programming. A continuous scheme for starch hydrolysis is proposed where initial gelatinization and liquefaction is carried out at significantly lower temperature (68 C) and faster reaction rate (up to 10 min residence time) as compared to the conventional process due to the utilization of the enzyme consortium produced from fungal fermentation. Subsequently, starch saccharification is carried out together with fungal autolysis at 55 C in the same unit operation.

Depending on the selected combination of physical and biological treatment, the optimized process yields various fractions enriched in bran, wheat germ and proteins that could be sold or utilized for the extraction or production of value-added products, boosting income of biorefineries, the scientists say.

This process could substitute for the conventional wheat dry milling process that is currently employed in industry. The most important unit operations of the proposed continuous scheme are a fungal fermentation producing enzymes and fungal cells and a combined hydrolytic/autolytic reaction producing a nutrient-complete medium.

Najmul Arifeen, Ruohang Wang, Ioannis Kookos, Colin Webb, and Apostolis A. Koutinas, "Optimization and Cost Estimation of novel Wheat Biorefining for Continuous Production of Fermentation Feedstock", Biotechnol. Prog., 23 (4), 872 -880, 2007. DOI: 10.1021/bp0700408 S8756-7938(07)00040-9

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Scientists look at preventing 'tipping points' in agriculture

Growing food, fuel and fiber entails the use of fertilizer and irrigation systems and results in land-use changes. These ‘side effects’ of agriculture can lead to regime shifts or ‘tipping points’ which include desertification, salinisation, water degradation, and changes in climate due to altered water flows from land to atmosphere. But paradoxically, these very ecosystem services also hold the keys to ecosystem restoration.

So say researchers who will participate in a symposium titled “Tipping points in the biosphere: Agriculture, water, and resilience” during the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting. The theme of the meeting is “Ecology-based restoration in a changing world” and some 4,000 scientists are expected to attend.

As human populations shift to more meat-heavy diets, trade of agricultural products increases, and as demand for biofuels grows the pressure on some agricultural systems is mounting. The challenge is to figure out how to meet these demands while at the same time keep the ecosystem functions that underpin productivity working.

Tipping points occur when an ecosystem is overwhelmed by the demands placed on it and can no longer function the way it did before. In other words, it loses its resiliency which ultimately can lead to land that is rendered useless for growing crops.

Elena Bennett (McGill University), organizer of the symposium, says that we need to better understand large scale regime shifts in order to develop policies that sustain, rather than degrade, the very systems upon which humanity depends.

One of the reasons current agricultural landscapes are so prone to regime shifts is that prevailing management of them has tended to focus exclusively on improving one type of ecosystem service (e.g. food production, fiber production, biofuels production) at the cost of others, explains Bennett:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

She notes that agriculture is now one of the main driving forces of global environmental change. Bennett and other presenters in this session have identified potential tipping points related to water and agriculture that could have major global consequences.

No human activity has so large an impact on water systems as does agriculture, according to Johan Rockstrom (Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden). He notes that the future will bring an even greater demand on fresh water for food production — by 2050 global water use for food production alone will need to double.

Line Gordon (Stockholm University, Sweden) will examine the redistribution of vapor flows brought about by irrigation. Gordon notes that the pattern of change varies and identifies the mid-United States, the Amazon, the Sahel, India, and Northern China as the most likely areas to undergo climate change, driven by these altered continental vapor flows.

Ellen Marie Douglas (University of Massachusetts) will focus on potential impacts on India’s Monsoon Belt, home to a large part of the globe’s population. India has the largest irrigated agricultural area in the world, with more than 90 percent of the country’s water supporting irrigated agriculture. Vapor fluxes in India’s wet season are up by 7 percent and are up 55 percent in the dry season. Douglas and her colleagues attribute two-thirds of this change to irrigated agriculture.

Drawing from research examples in the Mississippi River, Simon Donner (Princeton University), will discuss the role of nitrogen fertilizer in the health of downstream ecosystems, in particular their potential sensitivity to climate change.

Navin Ramankutty (McGill University) likens land use changes to fuel emissions in their potential to drive climatic changes. According to Ramankutty, local land cover changes may very likely generate changes elsewhere by altering the general circulation of the atmosphere. He points to Canada, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Mexico, and Central America as places where land clearing for cultivation may have inadvertently decreased suitability for growing crops.

Brandon Bestelmeyer (USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range) will examine tipping points in rangelands and will explore various socio-economic factors contributing to rangeland degradation.

Others presenting at the session are Garry Peterson (McGill University), Lance Gunderson (Emory University), and Max Rietkerk (Utrecht University, The Netherlands).

“Our hope is that if we can identify potential regime shifts, we can alter our management to avoid them,” says session organizer Bennett.

Picture: 'terra preta' or 'dark earth' soils offer an example of an agricultural system that withstands the test of time. The technique is based on sequestring biochar (agrichar) in soils to make them more fertile, to improve their water retention capacities and to boost agricultural output in a genuinely sustainable way. Left: a nutrient poor oxisol, right: a biochar-enriched, fertile oxisol. These soils are now being looked at in the context of carbon-negative biofuels, which could help restore degraded soils. Courtesy: Bruno Glaser.

Eurekalert: Tipping points - August 6, 2007.

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Shell and Virent to cooperate on production of hydrogen from biomass

Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems announced (*.pdf) a while ago a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for hydrogen production.

Virent’s technology enables the economic production of hydrogen, among other fuels and chemicals, from renewable glycerol and sugar-based feedstocks. The vast majority of hydrogen today is produced using fossil fuels, including natural gas and coal, making it a dirty fuel that contributes to climate change. One of the most promising paths for clean hydrogen production relies on biomass and carbohydrates instead. Other production techniques based on the electrolysis of water by electricity obtained from renewables like solar or wind remain far more costly.

The collaboration is based on Virent’s BioForming process, which is the first commercial application of Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR), an innovative pathway to biofuel and bioproduct production (top image, click to enlarge). This catalytic, low-temperature thermochemical route to biofuel production is superior to the well-known fermentation and high-temperature thermochemical routes such as pyrolysis. It is scalable, cost-effective, and produces more net energy than existing methods.

The BioForming process can economically utilize many types of carbohydrates from cellulosic and biomass-derived feedstocks. These include:
  • Glycerol (by-product of biodiesel production)
  • Glucose and Sucrose (from sugar crops)
  • Starches (glucose containing polysaccharides)
  • Long-chained glucose contained in cellulose (plant cell walls)
  • C5 and C6 sugars such as xylose, arabinose, and glucose contained in hemicellulose (part of the protective covering around cellulose)
Since the process is feedstock flexible, it enables the use of the lowest cost biomass sources available in each location.

The versatile technology platform converts the carbohydrates in biomass into liquid fuels, fuel gases, and many chemicals, all products most commonly made from fossil fuels. The end products can be used as transportation fuels, in industrial applications, or as components of goods currently made using non-renewable resources. Current research efforts are focused on developing production capabilities for biogasoline, sugar-based biodiesel, hydrogen, and propylene glycol (image, click to enlarge).

Virent and Shell will collaborate on the development and testing of hydrogen systems targeted for fueling station applications at Virent's facilities in Madison and the Shell Westhollow Technology Center in Houston. If research and development goes to plan, initial deployment of the new technology at a Shell hydrogen fueling station could follow within several years:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The worldwide market for distributed and centralized hydrogen is estimated at approximately 45 million tons each year. In addition to its use as an energy carrier in transportation applications, hydrogen is a key chemical building block used in many chemical processes, predominately ammonia fertilizer production and, in oil refineries, to upgrade lower quality oil fractions into gasoline and diesel and to remove sulphur contaminants. Other applications include the manufacture of glass, vitamins, personal care products, lubricants, refined metals, and food products.

Virent: Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems, Inc. Announce Agreement to Manufacture Hydrogen Using Biomass [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

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Worldwatch Institute: biofuels may bring major benefits to world's rural poor

The increase in world agriculture prices caused by the global boom in biofuels could bring major benefits to the world’s rural poor who have been suffering under low prices for decades, according to the Worldwatch Institute. This is a conclusion of a major study titled Biofuels for Transport: Global Potential and Implications for Energy and Agriculture, co-ordinated by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation and published by Earthscan this week.

If implemented in smart ways on the basis of strong policies, hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people, the majority of whom live in rural areas, stand to benefit massively from the global biofuel transition, which will result in reduced food insecurity and increased incomes. The report confirms many previous scientific assessments on the poverty alleviating potential of bio-based energy and products, and strengthens the Biopact's case further.
Decades of declining agricultural prices have been reversed thanks to the growing use of biofuels. Rural farmers in some of the poorest nations have been decimated by U.S. and European subsidies to crops such as corn, cotton, and sugar. But today’s higher prices may allow them to sell their crops at a decent price. However, major agriculture reforms and infrastructure development will be needed to ensure that the increased benefits go to the world’s 800 million undernourished people, most of whom live in rural areas. - Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute
Biofuels for Transport, undertaken with support from the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection, assesses the range of 'sustainability' issues the biofuels industry will present in the years ahead, ranging from implications for the global climate and water resources to biological diversity and the world’s poor. The report finds that rising food prices are a hardship for some urban poor, who will need increased assistance from the World Food Program and other relief efforts.

But, as many experts have stressed, a far larger group of poor people stands to benefit from biofuels, namely those who live in rural areas (previous post). The researchers stress that the central cause of food scarcity is poverty, and seeking food security by driving agricultural prices ever lower will hurt more people than it helps.

In fact, rising agricultural prices may have major economic benefits, especially to the vast mass of the rural poor. Biofuels can, for the first time, bring increased incomes and boost the food security of these people. In Sub-Saharan Africa more than 60 per cent of people make a living off the land (map, click to enlarge) and low agricultural prices as well as trade barriers and subsidies in the wealthy West have kept them in dire poverty. Biofuels offer a unique opportunity to break this lethal status quo, according to the report.

Moreover, the tripling in oil prices since 2002 has been an economic disaster for poor nations which in the future may be able to purchase fuel from their own farmers rather than spending scarce foreign exchange on imported oil. Of the 47 poorest countries, 38 are net importers of oil and 25 import all of their oil. The result of this disastrously costly dependence is a potential collapse of poverty alleviation, health, education, hunger and development efforts that are felt by all the weakest segments of society. The UN recently found that some of the poorest countries are already forced to spend twice as much on oil imports, than on health care. Biofuels can overcome this catastrophic situation:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Since the Biofuels for Transport study was researched, biofuels growth has skyrocketed. According to the latest estimates, world biofuels production rose 28 percent in 2006 to 44 billion liters, with fuel ethanol increasing 22 percent and biodiesel rising 80 percent. Although biofuels comprise less than 1 percent of the global liquid fuel supply, the surge in production of biofuels in 2006 met 17 percent of the increase in supply of all liquid fuels worldwide last year.

This rapid growth is having unintended impacts. Large-scale biofuels production can threaten biodiversity, as seen recently with palm oil plantations in Indonesia that are encroaching on forests and edging out the endangered orangutan population—worrying European consumers who have begun importing palm oil from Southeast Asia.
It is critical to the stability of the climate that we prevent biofuels from expanding at the expense of rainforests and other valuable ecosystems that store carbon and provide other ecological services. Energy crops should instead be established on the millions of hectares of degraded land that can be found around the world. - Suzanne Hunt, directed the team of 15 researchers from four countries
“Current biofuels production methods place a heavy burden on land and water resources, due in part to the fossil fuel and chemical intensive corn that is used to produce over half the world’s ethanol,” says Hunt. “Farming practices need to be reexamined if agriculture is to provide energy as well as food for a rapidly growing global population that is hungry for both.”

The book concludes that the long-term potential of biofuels is in the use of non-food feedstocks, including agricultural and forestry wastes, as well as fast-growing, cellulose-rich energy crops such as perennial grasses and trees. Following the model of Brazil’s sugar cane-based biofuels industry, cellulosic ethanol could dramatically reduce the carbon dioxide and nitrogen pollution that results from today’s biofuel crops.

“The question is not if biofuels will play a major part in the global transportation fuel market, but when and at what price,” says Flavin. “The first priority should be to ensure that the industry develops sustainably—so that the problems of an oil-based economy are not replaced by another socially and ecologically bankrupt industry.”

The book recommends policies that protect natural resources, support a speedy transition to cellulosic technologies, and facilitate a sustainable international biofuels trade. Freer trade in biofuels should be coupled with social and environmental standards and a credible system to certify compliance.

“Biofuels alone will not solve the world’s transportation-related energy problems,” concludes the report. “Development of these fuels must occur within the context of a transition to a more efficient, less polluting and more diversified global transport sector. They must be part of a portfolio of options that includes dramatic improvements in vehicle fuel economy, investment in public transportation, and better urban planning.”

Biofuel Review: Agricultural price hike could benefit rural poor - August 3, 2007.

Worldwatch Institute: Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century.

EarthScan: Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture and Energy in the 21st Century, Publication Date: July 2007

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U.S. House passes Energy Bill: boost to biofuels, CCS and renewables

Declaring a new direction in energy policy, the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday passed the Energy Bill titled 'The New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act'. In it, the American legislators approve US$16 billion in taxes on oil companies, while providing billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy, biofuels and conservation efforts.

The bill establishes a renewable power standard requiring all electric utilities to produce 15% of their power from biomass, wind, solar or other renewable sources by 2020. It also contains strong support for research and development of biofuels, including new approaches such as the use of biogas in transport. A range of studies and research programs on biofuels infrastructure, biorefineries, the effects of biofuels on engines and new bioprocessing technologies will be carried out.

The development of technical biofuel standards is mandated, as is a study of the effect of oil prices on the feasibility of the renewable fuels, as well as feasibility studies on ethanol pipelines, the adequacy of railroad transportation of biomass and biofuels, and other logistical and infrastructural challenges.

The legislation further releases vast funds for the study of carbon capture and storage systems (CCS), which can in principle be used with biofuels to yield carbon-negative energy. So-called 'Bioenergy with Carbon Storage' (BECS), seen by scientists as one of the only feasible and effective systems to tackle climate change in drastic way, are the only radically carbon-negative energy systems - all other renewables as well as nuclear are all carbon-positive and thus contribute to climate change (previous post). For this reason, we track CCS developments.

Finally, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 is amended to contain a large section on energy, tying the development of bioenergy strongly to agricultural policy and legislation. New loan guarantees are established and inter-agency cooperation is enhanced. The section no longer speaks of 'commodities' used in the production of bioproducts and biofuels, but broadens the scope to 'feedstocks', in order to include all sources of biomass which can be converted into bioproducts by new technologies. It launches new research programs on biomass and forestry-based bioenergy.

Some highlights of the bill include the following:

Assistance to developing countries [Title II, Subtitle B, Sec. 2202]
The bill notes that more than $16 trillion needs to be invested in energy-supply infrastructure worldwide by 2030 to meet energy demand, and almost half of total energy investment will take place in developing countries, where production and demand are expected to increase the most.

The United States Agency for International Development will therefor support policies and programs in developing countries that promote clean and efficient energy technologies:
  1. to produce the necessary market conditions for the private sector delivery of energy and environmental management services;
  2. to create an environment that is conducive to accepting clean and efficient energy technologies that support the overall purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including: (a) improving policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks; (b) increasing institutional abilities to provide energy and environmental management services; and (c) increasing public awareness and participation in the decision-making of delivering energy and environmental management services; and
  3. to promote the use of American-made clean and efficient energy technologies, products, and energy and environmental management services.
To carry out this section, the United States Agency for International Development is authorized to spen $200 million for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012.

Biofuels [Title IV, Subtitle E, Sec. 4402 - 4416]
Biofuels and biorefinery information center
The Secretary of Energy, in cooperation with the Secretary of Agriculture, shall establish a technology transfer center to make available information on research, development, and commercial application of technologies related to biofuels and biorefineries, including:
  1. biochemical and thermochemical conversion technologies capable of making fuels from lignocellulosic feedstocks;
  2. biotechnology processes capable of making biofuels with an emphasis on development of biorefinery technologies using enzyme-based processing systems;
  3. biogas collection and production technologies suitable for vehicular use;
  4. cost-effective reforming technologies that produce hydrogen fuel from biogas sources;
  5. biogas production from cellulosic and recycled organic waste sources and advancement of gaseous storage systems and advancement of gaseous storage systems; and
  6. other advanced processes and technologies that will enable the development of biofuels.
Biofuels and advanced biofuels infrastructure
A program of research, development, and demonstration will be carried out as it relates to existing transportation fuel distribution infrastructure and new alternative distribution infrastructure for biofuels. The program shall focus on the physical and chemical properties of biofuels and efforts to prevent or mitigate against adverse impacts of those properties.

Biodiesel: 2.5%
Biodiesel Study: a report on any research and development challenges inherent in increasing to 2.5% the proportion of diesel fuel sold in the United States that is biodiesel.
Materials for the Establishment of Standards: physical property data and characterization of biodiesel will be made publicly available in order to encourage the establishment of standards that will promote their utilization in the transportation and fuel delivery system.

Biogas for transport: 5%
A report will be produced on any research and development challenges inherent in increasing to 5% of the transportation fuels sold in the United States fuel with biogas or a blend of biogas and natural gas.

Bioresearch centers for systems biology
At least 5 bioresearch centers of varying sizes will be established that focus on biofuels development on the basis of fundamental biological research, of which at least 1 center shall be located in each of the 5 Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts, which shall be established for a period of 5 years, after which the grantee may reapply for selection on a competitive basis:
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Grants for biofuel production R&D
Grants worth a total $25 million for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2010 will be given to eligible entities for research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of biofuel production technologies in States with low rates of ethanol production, including low rates of production of cellulosic biomass ethanol.

Biorefinery energy efficiency
A program of research, development, demonstration, and commercial application will be lauunched for increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption in the operation of biorefinery facilities; another research program will be aimed at developnig the application of technologies and processes to enable biorefineries that exclusively use corn grain or corn starch as a feedstock to produce ethanol to be retrofitted to accept a range of biomass, including lignocellulosic feedstocks.

Study of increased ethanol consumption
The Energy Secretary, in cooperation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Secretary of Transportation, shall conduct a study of the methods of increasing consumption in the United States of ethanol-blended gasoline with levels of ethanol that are not less than 10 percent and not more than 40 percent. This study will include:
  1. a review of production and infrastructure constraints on increasing consumption of ethanol;
  2. an evaluation of the environmental consequences of the ethanol blends on evaporative and exhaust emissions from on-road, off-road, and marine vehicle engines;
  3. an evaluation of the consequences of the ethanol blends on the operation, durability, and performance of on-road, off-road, and marine vehicle engines; and
  4. an evaluation of the life cycle impact of the use of the ethanol blends on carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.
Study of optimization of flex-fuel vehicles
A study will be carried out on whether optimizing flexible fueled vehicles to operate using E-85 fuel would increase the fuel efficiency of flexible fueled vehicles.

Study of engine performance with biodiesel
a study will be initiated on the effects of the use of biodiesel on the performance and durability of engines and engine systems, with tests using 5% to 100% biodiesel.

Study of optimization of biogas in natural gas vehicles
a study of methods of increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles using biogas by optimizing natural gas vehicle systems that can operate on biogas, including the advancement of vehicle fuel systems and the combination of hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid electric drive platforms with natural gas vehicle systems using biogas.

Algal biomass
a report on the progress of the research and development that is being conducted on the use of algae as a feedstock for the production of biofuels. This report shall identify continuing research and development challenges and any regulatory or other barriers found by the Secretary that hinder the use of this resource, as well as recommendations on how to encourage and further its development as a viable transportation fuel.

Carbon capture and storage [Title IV, Subtitle F, Sec. 4501 - 4416]
We track developments on carbon capture and storage (CCS), because they can be applied to liquid, solid and gaseous biofuels, in which case they result in carbon-negative energy systems that are seen by scientists as the most feasible and effective large-scale approach to mitigate global warming in case we would be facing an "abrupt climate change" scenario. So-called 'Bio-energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) systems are the only carbon-negative energy systems in existence. All other renewables and nuclear are all carbon positive and contribute to climate change.

CCS R&D and demonstration program
An existing CCS program will be expanded with efforts to expedite and carry out large-scale testing of carbon sequestration systems in a range of geological formations that will provide information on the cost and feasibility of deployment of sequestration technologies.

Fundamental science and engineering R&D
Science and engineering research will be carried out (including laboratory-scale experiments, numeric modeling, and simulations) to develop and document the performance of new approaches to capture and store carbon dioxide, or to learn how to use carbon dioxide in products to lead to an overall reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

This program will be integrated: to include (1) development of new or advanced technologies for the capture of carbon dioxide; (2) development of new or advanced technologies that reduce the cost and increase the efficacy of the compression of carbon dioxide required for the storage of carbon dioxide; (3) modeling and simulation of geological sequestration field demonstrations; (4) quantitative assessment of risks relating to specific field sites for testing of sequestration technologies; and (5) research and development of new and advanced technologies for carbon use, including recycling and reuse of carbon dioxide.

Field validation and testing: in order to promote, to the maximum extent practicable, regional carbon sequestration partnerships to conduct geologic sequestration tests involving carbon dioxide injection and monitoring, mitigation, and verification operations in a variety of candidate geological settings, including: (1) operating oil and gas fields;(2) depleted oil and gas fields; (3) unmineable coal seams; (4) deep saline formations; (5) deep geologic systems that may be used as engineered reservoirs to extract economical quantities of heat from geothermal resources of low permeability or porosity; (6) deep geologic systems containing basalt formations; and (7) high altitude terrain oil and gas fields.

The objectives of tests conducted under this program are:
  1. to develop and validate geophysical tools, analysis, and modeling to monitor, predict, and verify carbon dioxide containment;
  2. to validate modeling of geological formations;
  3. to refine storage capacity estimated for particular geological formations;
  4. to determine the fate of carbon dioxide concurrent with and following injection into geological formations;
  5. to develop and implement best practices for operations relating to, and monitoring of, injection and storage of carbon dioxide in geologic formations;
  6. to assess and ensure the safety of operations related to geological storage of carbon dioxide;
  7. to allow the Secretary to promulgate policies, procedures, requirements, and guidance to ensure that the objectives of this subparagraph are met in large-scale testing and deployment activities for carbon capture and storage that are funded by the Department of Energy; and
  8. `(viii) to support Environmental Protection Agency efforts, in consultation with other agencies, to develop a scientifically sound regulatory framework to enable commercial-scale sequestration operations while safeguarding human health and underground sources of drinking water.
Large-scale sequestration testing
Not less than 7 initial large-volume sequestration tests will be carried out, not including the FutureGen project, for geological containment of carbon dioxide (at least 1 of which shall be international in scope) to validate information on the cost and feasibility of commercial deployment of technologies for geological containment of carbon dioxide.

A variety of geological formations across the United States will be studied, and require characterization and modeling of candidate formations.

Large-scale sequestration demonstration
In the process of any acquisition of carbon dioxide for sequestration demonstrations preference will be given to to purchases of carbon dioxide from industrial and coal-fired electric generation facilities. To the extent feasible, test projects from industrial and coal-fired electric generation facilities will be selected that would facilitate the creation of an integrated system of capture, transportation and storage of carbon dioxide. Until coal-fired electric generation facilities, either new or existing, are operating with carbon dioxide capture technologies, other industrial sources of carbon dioxide should be pursued.

'Large-scale' means the injection of more than 1,000,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, or a scale that demonstrably exceeds the necessary thresholds in key geologic transients to validate the ability continuously to inject quantities on the order of several million metric tons of industrial carbon dioxide annually for a large number of years.

Large scale demonstration of carbon capture technologies
At least 3 and no more than 5 demonstrations will be carried out for the large-scale capture of carbon dioxide from industrial sources of carbon dioxide, at least 2 of which are facilities that generate electric energy from fossil fuels. Candidate facilities for other demonstrations include facilities that refine petroleum, manufacture iron or steel, manufacture cement or cement clinker, manufacture commodity chemicals, and ethanol and fertilizer plants. Consideration may be given to capture of carbon dioxide from industrial facilities and electric generation carbon sources that are near suitable geological reservoirs and could continue sequestration.

Technologies: carbon capture technologies are precombustion capture, post-combustion capture, and oxycombustion.

These demonstration programs will receive the following amount of funding: $100 million per year (2008-2011) for the general program, $140 million per year (2008-2011) for carbon sequestration and $ 180 million per year for carbon capture.

Safety and review of large-scale programs
a review and research program will be carried out to determine procedures necessary to protect public health, safety, and the environment from impacts that may be associated with capture, injection, and sequestration of greenhouse gases in subterranean reservoirs. This receives $5 million for each fiscal year (2008-2011).

Training and university research
An interdisciplinary science & research training program will be established that unites the fields of geology, engineering, hydrology, environmental science, and related disciplines. This will be offered as undergraduate and graduate education, especially to help develop graduate level programs of research and instruction that lead to advanced degrees with emphasis on geological sequestration science. The development of this program receives $1,000,000 for fiscal year 2008.

Agriculture and Energy [Title V]
Amendments to the Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000
New provisions include measures to enhance cooperation and coordination in biomass research and development between the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Energy, in order to promote the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. Both departments will each designate an officer as a point of contact between the departments.

Biomass Research and Development Board
A new Biomass Research and Development Board will be established to supersede the Interagency Council on Biobased Products and Bioenergy, to coordinate programs within and among departments and agencies of the Federal Government for the purpose of promoting the use of biobased fuels and biobased products.

Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee
This new advisory committee that will inform the agriculture and energy secretaries as well as their contact points will consistt of a large range of stakeholders (a representative of the biofuels industry, of the biobased industrial and commercial products industry, of an institution of higher education who has expertise in biobased fuels and biobased products, two prominent engineers or scientists from government or academia who have expertise in biobased fuels and biobased products, a representative affiliated with a commodity trade association, two individuals affiliated with an environmental or conservation organization, an individual associated with State government who has expertise in biobased fuels and biobased products, an expert in energy and environmental analysis, an individual with expertise in the economics of biobased fuels and biobased products, and an expert in agricultural economics.

Biomass Research and Development Initiative
The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Energy will establish and carry out a Biomass Research and Development Initiative under which competitively awarded grants, contracts, and financial assistance are provided to, or entered into with, eligible entities to carry out research on, and development and demonstration of, biobased fuels and biobased products, and the methods, practices and technologies, for their production.

The objectives of the Initiative are to develop:
  1. technologies and processes necessary for abundant commercial production of biobased fuels at prices competitive with fossil fuels;
  2. high-value biobased products: (1) to enhance the economic viability of biobased fuels and power; and (2) as substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and products
  3. a diversity of sustainable domestic sources of biomass for conversion to biobased fuels and biobased products.
The purposes of the initiative are:
  1. to increase the energy security of the United States;
  2. to create jobs and enhance the economic development of the rural economy;
  3. to enhance the environment and public health; and
  4. to diversify markets for raw agricultural and forestry products.
The research will be directed towards the following technical areas:
  1. feedstock production through the development of crops and cropping systems relevant to production of raw materials for conversion to biobased fuels and biobased products, including: (1) development of advanced and dedicated crops with desired features, including enhanced productivity, broader site range, low requirements for chemical inputs, and enhanced processing; (2) advanced crop production methods, (3) feedstock harvest, handling, transport, and storage; and (4) strategies for integrating feedstock production into existing managed land;
  2. overcoming recalcitrance of cellulosic biomass through developing technologies for converting cellulosic biomass into intermediates that can subsequently be converted into biobased fuels and biobased products, including: (1) pretreatment in combination with enzymatic or microbial hydrolysis; and (2) thermochemical approaches, including gasification and pyrolysis;
  3. product diversification through technologies relevant to production of a range of biobased products (including chemicals, animal feeds, and cogenerated power) that eventually can increase the feasibility of fuel production in a biorefinery, including: (1) catalytic processing, including thermochemical fuel production; (2) metabolic engineering, enzyme engineering, and fermentation systems for biological production of desired products or cogeneration of power; (3) product recovery; (4) power production technologies; and (5) integration into existing biomass processing facilities, including starch ethanol plants, sugar processing or refining plants, paper mills, and power plants;
  4. analysis that provides strategic guidance for the application of biomass technologies in accordance with realization of improved sustainability and environmental quality, cost effectiveness, security, and rural economic development, usually featuring system-wide approaches.
Funding for this program looks like this: $25 million for fiscal year 2008; $50 million for fiscal year 2009; $75 million for fiscal year 2010; $100 million for fiscal year 2011; and $100 million for fiscal year 2012.

Forest bioenergy research program
The Secretary of Agriculture, working through the Forest Service, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, land grant colleges and universities, and private entities, will conduct a competitive research and development program to encourage new forest-to-energy technologies. The Secretary may use grants, cooperative agreements, and other methods to partner with cooperating entities on projects that the Secretary determines shall best promote new forest-to-energy technologies.

Priority will be given to projects that:
  1. develop technology and techniques to use low value forest materials, such as byproducts of forest health treatments and hazardous fuel reduction, for the production of energy;
  2. develop processes for the conversion of cellulosic forest materials that integrate production of energy into existing manufacturing steams or in integrated forest biorefineries;
  3. develop new transportation fuels that use forest materials as a feedstock for the production of such fuels; or
  4. improve the of growth and yield of trees for the purpose of renewable energy and other forest product use.
Funding: $4 million for fiscal year 2008; $6 million for fiscal year 2009; $7 million for fiscal year 2010; $9 million for fiscal year 2011; and $10 million for fiscal year 2012.

Ethanol pipelines [Subtitle C, Part 2, Sec. 8311]
Feasibility studies
The energy and transportation secretaries will conduct feasibility studies for the construction of pipelines dedicated to the transportation of ethanol.

Feasibility studies funded under this part shall include consideration of
  1. existing or potential barriers to the construction of pipelines dedicated to the transportation of ethanol, including technical, siting, financing, and regulatory barriers;
  2. market risk, including throughput risk;
  3. regulatory, financing, and siting options that would mitigate such risk and help ensure the construction of pipelines dedicated to the transportation of ethanol;
  4. ensuring the safe transportation of ethanol and preventive measures to ensure pipeline integrity; and
  5. such other factors as the Secretary of Energy considers appropriate.
These studies receive $1,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2008 and 2009, to remain available until expended.

Renewable Fuel Infrastructure
Several initiatives and mandates for studies are included in the bill that speed up the analysis of infrastructural, logistical and technical barriers to the large-scale use of biofuels for transport.

When it comes to the distribution of biofuels, it is now prohibited to restrict franchise agreements related to renewable fuel infrastructures; likewise, there is a prohibition on the restriction of the installation of renewable fuel pumps.

A study analysing the adequacy of railroad transportation of domestically produced biofuels will be launched.

Grants for concrete cellulosic ethanol production projects will be increased to $500 million for fiscal year 2009 and $500 million for fiscal year 2010. In awarding grants, priority will be given to applications that promote feedstock diversity and the geographic dispersion of production facilities.

Amongst several other studies and initiatives, the Secretary of Energy will conduct a study to review the anticipated effects on renewable fuels production if oil were priced no lower than $40 per barrel.

Image: the U.S. House passes a new energy bill, focusing heavily on the promotion of the bioeconomy. Idealized representation of the bioenergy and bioproducts cycle.

H.R.3221: Moving the United States toward greater energy independence and security, developing innovative new technologies, reducing carbon emissions, creating green jobs, protecting consumers, increasing clean renewable energy production, and modernizing our energy infrastructure. Sponsor: Rep Pelosi, Nancy [CA-8] (introduced 7/30/2007), 8/4/2007 Passed/agreed to in House. Status: On passage Passed by recorded vote: 241 - 172.

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Sun Biofuels invests $20 million in Tanzania jatropha project

Tanzania has landed a 25.3 billion shilling (€14.3/US$20 million) biofuel processing project that will see large-scale planting of jatropha oilseed crops for the production and distribution of crude and refined products. The biofuel project would catalyse the local economy and give villagers a new cash crop, which allows them to diversify their portfolio. In a first phase around 1000 jobs will be created in a region populated by 11,000 people.

According to a recently released study "Prospects for Jatropha Biofuels in Developing Countries: An Analysis for Tanzania with Strategic Niche Management" by the Eindhoven Centre for Innovation Studies, jatropha cultivation may have several beneficial social and economic outcomes in Tanzania, but there are still many obstacles in the country's prevailing energy regime which must first be overcome. Jatropha based biodiesel and biogas production yields a series of byproducts and processes that offer valuable niches in themselves (chart, click to enlarge).

Land negotiation
Sun Biofuels Tanzania Ltd, in which Britain’s Sun Biofuels Plc has an 88 per cent controlling stake, has already applied for 9,000 hectares of land in Kisarawe district in the Coast Region, some 70 kilometers from Dar es Salaam.

The process of land acquisition for the project is at an advanced stage, awaiting President Jakaya Kikwete’s assent. This will see 11 villages of one of the oldest districts in Tanzania bring in a total of 9,000 hectares of land to the investor.

Leo Rwegasira, Land Officer for Kisarawe district, said that 800 million (€453,000/US$632,000) shilling has been earmarked by the investor as compensation to 2,840 households.

The University College of Land and Architectural Studies (UCLAS) carried out the crop and land evaluation for purposes of compensation, Mr Rwegasira said:
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According to the 2002 population census, there are a total of 11, 277 people residing in the 11 villages. The villages are Mtamba, Muhaga, Marumbo, Paraka, Kidugalo, Kului, Mtakayo, Vilabwa, Mitengwe, Mzenga ‘A’ and Chakaye.

Sun Biofuels had applied for 20,000 hectares in 2005, but authorities were able to offer just 9,000. The investment has already been registered by the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), which has given the firm Certificate of Incentives number 010176.

Under the certificate, the investment implementation period is expected to be between September 25, 2005 and August 2009, and the operative date is September 1, 2009.

But owing to the existing land regulations, the investors can only get a title deed — which is being processed— after the villagers have been compensated.

Apart from Sun Biofuels Plc of the UK, the company’s shareholders are a British national, Julian Ozanne (10 per cent) and Daudi Makobore and Herbert Marwa, Tanzanian nationals who own one per cent each. The TIC requires that any changes in shareholding, project activities and level of invested capital be notified to the centre.

If the investors fail to start up the project within two years, the certificate will become invalid and the investors will need to apply for a fresh one.

Boost to local economy
Omar Dibibi, Kisarawe District Council Chairman, said the jatropha biofuel project would catalyse the district’s economy and give Kisarawe residents a new cash crop. Traditionally, cashewnut and coconut have been the major cash crops in the district.

He said the arrangement between local residents and the investors is that the former will also be given expertise and seeds to grow jatropha and sell it to SBC.

The investment is expected directly or indirectly to employ about 1,000 local people for a start, a figure that could rise as the project expands.

Experts say that while jatropha curcas seeds can be used as fuel for any diesel engine without modification, they are also used in manufacturing of varnishes, illuminants, soap, pest control and medicine for skin diseases.

Dark blue dye and wax can be produced from the bark of the jatropha curcas, its stem is used as a poor quality wood while the leaves help in dressing wounds and the roots produce a yellow dye.

Experts say the annual yield per hectare is up to 8 tonnes of Jatropha seed, which contain over 30 per cent oil. At $320 per tonne, this will translate into production of jatropha crude oil worth $768 per hectare per year.

Of potentially equal or greater value is the yield from jatropha seeds of glycerin. Up to 7 per cent of jatropha seeds are made up of glycerin, which sells for up to $2,000 per tonne, translating into glycerin sales of up to $1,120 per year per hectare, or total sales of up to $1,888 per year per hectare, experts say.

It is understood that the University of Dar es Salaam through the Energy Department in the Faculty of Engineering, along with the Tanzania Industrial Research Development Organisation, Kakute Ltd Tanzania and the Seliani Agriculture Research Institute of Arusha, are involved in research and development of the crop.

Janske van Eijck, Henny Romijn, "Prospects for Jatropha Biofuels in Developing Countries: An analysis for Tanzania with Strategic Niche Management", Diligent Tanzania and Eindhoven Centre for Innovation Studies, new version of a paper presented at the 4th Annual Globelics Conference “Innovation Systems for Competitiveness and Shared Prosperity in Developing Countries”, Thiruvananthapuram, India, 4-7, October 2006.

The East African: UK firm invests $20m in Tanzania biofuel farm - August 6, 2007.

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