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    Buenos Aires based ABATEC SA announces the release of a line of small biodiesel plants with modular design, high temperature reaction for the best yield, to produce from 50 to 1000 gal/day (190 to 3785 liter/day) of high quality methylester and valuable glycerol. PRWeb - August 10, 2007.

    Vegetable growers in North Queensland are trying to solve the problem of disposing of polyethylene plastic mulch by using a biodegradable, bioplastic based alternative. Trials are a collaboration of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries with the Bowen District Growers Association. Queensland Country Life - August 8, 2007.

    Hawaii's predominant utility has won approval to build the state's first commercial biofuel plant. It is the first substantial new power generator that Hawaiian Electric Co. has added in 17 years. HECO will build the $142.3 million facility at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu beginning early next year, and expects to begin commercial operation in mid-2009. It will run exclusively on fuels made from ethanol or biodiesel. Star Bulletin (Honolulu) - August 8, 2007.

    PetroSun Inc. announced today that it conducted its initial algae-to-biofuel program held at Auburn and Opelika, Alabama. The company intends to hold a series of these programs during August and September with biodiesel refiners and firms that are researching the use of algal oil as a potential feedstock for jet fuel production. MarketWire - August 8, 2007.

    To encourage Malaysia's private sector to generate energy from biomass resources, national electricity company Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has increased the purchase price of electricity produced from palm oil biomass waste to 21 sen per kilowatt hour from 19 sen now. According to Minister of Enegry, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik the new price structure, under the Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement (REPPA), will be implemented immediately. Such projects are eligible for the Clean Development Mechanism. Under the 9th Malaysian Plan, the country's government aims to achieve the installation of 300MW and 50MW of grid-connected electric power from renewable energy sources in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, respectively. Bernama - August 7, 2007.

    Aspectrics, which develops encoded photometric infrared and near infrared spectroscopy, will be launching a new range of biofuels analyzers designed to meet the demands of scientists and analysts to carry out biodiesel quality control and analyze biodiesel blend percentages in real time. Bioresearch Online - August 7, 2007.

    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.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Researchers: cellulosic biofuels already cost-competitive

So-called 'second generation' biofuels – made from lignocellulosic feedstocks like straw, grasses and wood – have long been touted as the successor to today’s grain ethanol, but until now the technology has been considered too expensive to compete. However, recent increases in grain prices mean that production costs are now similar for grain ethanol and second generation biofuels, according to an open access paper [*.pdf] published in the first edition of Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining - a scientific journal launched to explore the emerging bioeconomy.

The switch to second generation biofuels based on biochemical and thermochemical conversion processes will reduce competition with grain for food and feed, and allow the utilization of materials like straw which would otherwise go to waste. The biorefineries will also be able to use dedicated lignocellulosic energy crops: short-rotation trees like poplar, eucalyptus or willow, and grass species such as miscanthus, switchgrass or sudan grass, which can be grown on land less suitable for farming than traditional row crops.

These findings should be a boost to companies hoping to establish themselves in this emerging field, the researchers say. Moreover, the fact that cellulosic biofuels may reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to gasoline and diesel, implies that the world may be looking at a highly feasible and cost-effective way of mitigating climate change.

Two researchers working at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University set out to compare the capital and operating costs of generating fuel from starch and cellulose-containing materials in biorefineries.

They showed that the capital costs for 150 million gallon gasoline equivalent capacity range from around $111 million for a conventional grain ethanol plant to $854 million for an advanced (Fischer-Tropsch) plant (table, click to enlarge). The difference in the final cost of the fuel, however, was less severe, being $1.74 for first generation grain ethanol when corn costs $3.00 per bushel and $1.80 for cellulosic biofuel when biomass costs $50 per ton:
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The authors compared biochemical and thermochemical approaches to biofuels. They showed that both have much higher capital costs than conventional grain ethanol plants, but that neither had a significant cost advantage over the other.

Comparing the costs of biofuels is complicated by the fact that most studies rarely employ the same bases for economic evaluations. Differences in assumed plant size, biomass costs, method of project financing, and even the year in which the analyses are performed can skew comparisons.

“Although the costs of production are comparable for grain ethanol and cellulosic biofuels, the much higher capital costs of the cellulosic plants will be an impediment to their commercialization,” says ISU graduate student Mark Wright, one of the paper’s authors.

Mark M. Wright, Robert C. Brown, "Comparative economics of biorefineries based on the biochemical and thermochemical platforms" [*.pdf], Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining, Volume 1, Issue 1, September 2007, DOI: 10.1002/bbb.8

Eurekalert: Biofuel economics. Production costs of advanced biofuels is similar to grain-ethanol - August 8, 2007.

Biopact: An in-depth look at biorefinery concepts - July 10, 2007

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Expert: 'net energy' - a useless, misleading and dangerous metric

Even though we often use the concept of the energy balance of fuels to compare different biofuels, taking this metric of 'net energy' further for comparisons with other transport and energy options is not a good idea according to an expert. Years ago, a Biopact member came to the same conclusion, criticizing the value of the concept, which is profusely used in a wholly unscientific way by some environmentalists, peak oil 'analysts' and journalists alike.

As new fuel options develop we need means of assessing which are most effective at replacing petroleum, - on this most of us would agree. So far many have used the measure called ‘net energy’, often to argue against biofuels. However, Professor Bruce Dale from Michigan State University claims, "Net energy analysis is simple and has great intuitive appeal, but it is also dead wrong and dangerously misleading – net energy must be eliminated from our discourse." Dale’s perspective is published in the first edition of Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, which was recently launched to make the debate on the nascent bioeconomy more scientific and rigorous.

In his article titled "Thinking clearly about biofuels: ending the irrelevant net energy debate and developing better performance metrics for alternative fuels" professor Dale recommends comparing fuels by assessing how much petroleum fuel each can replace, or by calculating how much CO2 each produces per kilometer driven.

A fuel’s 'net energy' is calculated by attempting to assess how much energy a new fuel supplies, and then subtracting the energy supplied by fossil fuels needed to create the new fuel. The calculation is often carried out in a way that leaves corn ethanol with a net energy of -29%, giving the impression that it uses more fossil fuels to produce it that the new fuel supplies. Dale claims that this figure is then used by opponents of biofuels to pour scorn on the new products.

The problem with net energy, says Dale, is that it makes an assumption that all sources of energy (oil, coal, gas etc) have equal value. "This assumption is completely wrong – all energy sources are not equal – one unit of energy from petrol is much more useful than the same amount of energy in coal, and that makes petrol much more valuable," says Dale.

For evidence, he points to the markets, where a unit of energy from gas, petrol and electricity are worth 3.5, 5 and 12 times as much as a unit of energy from coal, respectively.

"Clear thinking shows that we value the services that energy can perform, not the energy per se, so it would be better to compare fuels by the services that each provides... not on a straight energy basis, which is likely to be irrelevant and misleading," says Dale.

For example, biofuels could be rated on how much petroleum use they can displace or their greenhouse gas production compared with petroleum. His calculations indicate that every MJ of ethanol can displace 28 MJ of petroleum, in other words ethanol greatly extends our existing supplies of petroleum. Using corn ethanol provides an 18% reduction in greenhouse gases compared with petrol, while sugarcane based ethanol gives an 80% reduction and cellulosic ethanol is expected to yield an 88% reduction compared to petrol:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

“As we embark on this brave new world of alternative fuels we need to develop metrics that provide proper and useful comparisons, rather than simply using analyses that are simple and intuitively appealing, but give either no meaningful information, or worse still, information that misleads us and misdirects our efforts to develop petroleum replacements,” says Dale.

Note that several years ago, a Biopact member made a similar argumentation saying that the concept of 'net energy' (EROEI - energy returned on energy invested) may be useful for comparisons of one particular biofuel with another, provided clear system parameters and boundaries are defined, but that beyond such comparisons, the concept becomes wholly inadequate. EROEI says nothing about the complex social, economic and environmental services of different energy, transport and fuel production concepts.

Moreover, 'net energy' calculations have no fixed starting and end point, they suffer under poorly defined 'horizons' and can be extended indefinitely to become absurd. For example, debates went so far as to ask whether, in a calculation of the EROEI for oil, the energy spent on food consumed by oil exploration workers had to be factored in (for biofuels, some argue that you should include energy inputs in the laborers who harvest, e.g. jatropha seeds); or that the energy needed to produce the cotton used in the clothes of Siberian oil drillers needed to be taken into account; for wind power, do you need to factor in the energy put into cleaning up the copper mining sites where the copper used in the turbine is mined? Do you need to take a generic type of copper? Or do you factor in the energy needed to protect the copper mines in Congo, where the UN has its largest peace-keeping force, which, in turn, spends huge amounts of energy on doing its job? Clearly, this is problematic.

EROEI can be used to compare different biofuels produced in relatively similar ways, when comparable boundaries are set for the production steps of each fuel, at the beginning of the calculus. Using the concept to make comparisons of entirely different energy systems, is often not possible.

Back then, his criticism infuriated some members of the Peak Oil community, who often (ab)use the concept of EROEI to make a case against all alternatives to the petroleum based economy. They do so to push an unnecessary, apocalyptic message of doom and global societal collapse, which stiffles all attempts to create a new future. Obviously, not all people involved in studying the decline of oil resources are that fanatic, but the EROEI concept keeps getting used in unscientific ways by many people, including environmentalists, journalists and Peak Oil amateurs.

Bruce E. Dale, "Thinking clearly about biofuels: ending the irrelevant net energy debate and developing better performance metrics for alternative fuels", Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, Volume 1, Issue 1, September 2007, DOI: 10.1002/bbb.5

Eurekalert: Net energy - a useless, misleading and dangerous metric, says expert - August 9, 2007.

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Jamaica ethanol exports earn $120 million in revenues

A joint-venture ethanol project between Jamaica's state-owned oil refinery Petrojam and Brazil's Coimex Group has generated some US$120 million (J$8.16 billion) in revenues since it began operation two-years ago. The Coimex Group says the plant had exported 250,000 cubic metres or 66.05 million gallons of ethanol to the United States over the period, representing 65 per cent of total ethanol exports from Jamaica to the United States (U.S).

The Coimex Group has described the joint-venture as very successful. Manfred Wefers, head of Coimex's Alcohol Business Unit, says the Brazilian company was encouraged to consider new investments in that country. The impressive numbers have also prompted Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to invite representatives of the project to join President Lula during his biofuel diplomacy tour, currently underway in Central America.

The 150 million liter (40 million gallon) per year ethanol dehydration plant, which is run by Petrojam Ethanol Ltd. (PEL), was rehabilitated at an estimated cost of US$10 million shared between Petrojam and Coimex. The venture represents the single largest investment in the Caribbean by the Brazilian group, which trades coffee, sugar and ethanol in the European Union, Asia, Japan, U.S., Middle East, Canada and the Caribbean.

PEL exports ethanol to the USA under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) of 1983 which provides exemption of duty for fuel grade ethanol up to a quota of 7% of US domestic production. Exporters not falling under the CBERA are faced with an ethanol tariff of US$0.54 per gallon:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The initial shipments to the U.S. consisted of hydrous ethanol from Brazil dehydrated at the Jamaican plant. The plan is to increase production to 250 million liters, relying on locally produced ethanol.

In 2006, Petrojam Limited and PEL also embarked on a program to introduce ethanol in gasoline for local use. The first phase of the program included a pilot study of the E10 blend (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) in a variety of cars over a period of six months. The objective was to validate existing data on E10 blend and this was successfully completed at the end of October 2006. The second phase is to introduce the E10 in all blends of unleaded gasoline in Jamaica. Assessment of infrastructural work for the refinery, loading terminals and service stations along with the reliability of supplies are currently in progress. The outcome of this assessment will determine the actual date of roll out to the consumers.

PEL continues its effort to partner with investors in the development of the local sugar cane industry for the production of fuel ethanol to export and for local consumption.

Partnership extended
Coimex said a study being conducted in collaboration with Petrojam to double production capacity at the dehydration plant was at an advanced stage and noted that it has extended its partnership in the facility to 2011. Petrojam's managing director Winston Watson disclosed recently that the refinery was currently searching for a suitable location to build a new 60 million gallon dehydration plant to expand local ethanol production.

This, according to Petrojam, would require the planting of 9,000 additional hectares of sugar cane. "We welcome this, but we will, of course, have to wait until they actually start using local feedstock so that any further planting can begin. We are certainly anxious," said chairman of the All-Island Cane Farmers Association, Allan Rickards.

Coimex also said it was collaborating with the Government in its plan to replace 10 per cent of the MTBE in gasoline with ethanol. It said it has been facilitating the training of Jamaican technicians in the use of the technology that was developed in Brazil to blend gasoline and ethanol.

The 59-year-old Coimex Group is among the top 100 businesses in Brazil. Last year the group recorded revenues of US$1.1 billion. The company currently operates businesses in logistics, infrastructure development and foreign trade. It is presently involved in the construction of a US$500 million port - the largest privately-owned port facility in the country.

Coimex is also among the nine companies recently shortlisted by the Government to bid for the assets of the Sugar Company of Jamaica, which owns and operates the five state-owned sugar estates.

Agrosoft: Coimex Trading responde por 65% das exportações de etanol da Jamaica para os Estados Unidos - s.d. (August 8, 2007)

Gazeta Mercantil: Brasil aposta na exportação de álcool via Caribe - August 8, 2007.

Jamaica Gleaner: Ethanol exports earn US$120m in revenues - August 9, 2007.

Jamaica Gleaner: Ethanol plant opened in Jamaica - Will supply an initial 150 million litres to US - November 24, 2005

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Sweet potato shows strong growth under high atmospheric CO2 concentrations

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are set to play an important role in the emerging 'carbohydrate economy' (previous post). The starch-rich root crop is already being used for the production of liquid biofuels and biogas as well as for bioplastics.

The Chinese government, which recently put a moratorium on the use of corn for biofuels, has officially named sweet potato as a crop of preference for the production of ethanol instead (more here). Auto manufacturer Toyota has a large plantation of the tuber in Indonesia to make bioplastics from it. Researchers are also looking into using the crop for the production of biohydrogen.

The starchy batatas may help us manufacture carbon-neutral bioproducts that replace petroleum, but in any case carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to keep increasing for decades to come. For this reason, scientists find it important to understand the effects of these emissions on the growth of plants (earlier post). As they have done for many other crops, researchers are trying to find out what will happen to the metabolism of sweet potatos under increased atmospheric CO2 conditions.

Writing in the Journal of Plant Biotechnology, Teixeira da Silva and team report results of trials with the tuber. They found significally increased biomass growth in the crop when it was exposed to increased levels of CO2.

The authors grew single-node explants of sweet potato (cultivar Naruto Kintok) for five weeks in vitro within special culture vessels supplied with a 3% sugar-containing agar, during which period the vessels were maintained at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of either 400 ppm (ambient) or 1000, 2000 or 3000 ppm, after which the plants were transplanted into soil and grown ex vitro for three additional weeks.

Relative to the plants exposed to ambient air, those exposed to air of 1000, 2000 and 3000 ppm CO2 produced 20%, 20% and 65% more total biomass, respectively, after having been grown for five weeks in vitro, while they produced 20%, 32% and 82% more biomass, respectively, after having been grown for three additional weeks ex vitro:
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According to CO2 Science, the results mean that for sweet potato plants, as well as many other plants that have been similarly studied, several-fold increases in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration appear to pose no problem to the plants' growth and development. In fact, the more CO2 there has been in the air during these studies, the more biomass the tested plants have typically produced.

Sweet potatoes are good starch producers and may yield some 40 to 50% more of it than corn, white potatoes and wheat. Per hectare, starch productivity can be 3 to 4 times higher than corn, and twice that of cassava. In short, sweet potatos are set to become important sources of industrial starch, needed to drive the bioeconomy. This carbon-neutral economy is aimed at replacing petroleum products, which contribute to climate change because of their carbon dioxide emissions.

Teixeira da Silva, J.A., Giang, D.T.T. and Tanaka, M. 2005 "The Growth Response of Sweet Potato Plants to Very High Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations Reference. Microprogation of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) in a novel CO2-enriched vessel." Journal of Plant Biotechnology 7: 67-74.

CO2 Science: The Growth Response of Sweet Potato Plants to Very High Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations - August 8, 2007.

Biopact: Japan's Cosmo Oil plans biofuel plants in Philippines - range of tropical feedstocks - June 13, 2007

Biopact: Sweet potatoes and the carbohydrate economy - January 07, 2007

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IDB, IICA, OAS, and Government of Guyana sign MoU to promote renewable energy projects in the Caribbean

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Government of Guyana have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote projects on renewable energy, energy efficiency and bioenergy in the Caribbean. The agreement was signed in the context of the seminar “Expanding Bioenergy Opportunities in the Caribbean” that took place in Guyana August 6-7 (earlier post).

This high-level seminar sought to formalize regional efforts towards the development of the Caribbean Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Bioenergy Action Program (CREBAP), initiate a dialogue on agro-energy strategy for the region, and foster partnerships among public and private sectors, including private investors, carbon financiers, and project developers interested in the Caribbean bioenergy industry.

Under the MoU, the parties agree to explore ways in which sustainable energy and biofuels projects can be promoted and financed in the Caribbean; seek opportunities for public-private partnerships and private investments on renewable energy, energy efficiency and bioenergy; develop an agro-energy strategy to be used by CARICOM member states; and help CARICOM member states access the biofuel world markets.

"This MOU is very important because it creates a framework to coordinate our efforts in creating sustainable renewable energy for the region and it allows us to receive assistance from international institutions, especially the the IDB," President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana, who delivered the keynote speech at the seminar.

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno highlighted the unique circumstances that the nations of the Caribbean face: that they have had a long history of cultivating sugar cane, the world’s most cost-effective feedstock for ethanol; that, with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, they are almost totally dependent on imported fossil fuels; and that the reduction of preferential prices for Caribbean sugar by European buyers is forcing sugar producing countries to find new sources of revenue:
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"These three factors make a very compelling case for creating ethanol industries to meet domestic fuel needs in the Caribbean," said Moreno. "Biofuels represent a uniquely attractive opportunity for the region."

Ambassador Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary-General of the OAS, applauded the inter-agency relationship between IICA, IDB and the OAS and the longer-term commitments they agreed to under the MoU.

“These commitments are a reflection of the reality that no one agency has all the resources or the capacity to support the needs of the Caribbean in this emerging sector, and that acting together a lot more can be achieved than by acting alone,” said Ramdin.

Participants at the seminar include Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud; Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington; IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno, IICA Director General, Chelston Brathwaite; OAS Assistant Secretary General, Surinam Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom Prime Minister with lead responsibility for energy, Patrick Manning.

Event organizers included the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the Government of Guyana, the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Program (CREDP), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), and the Organization of American States (OAS).

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BioDiesel Technologies supplies processing unit for Brazil's first jatropha project

Brazil’s first commercial jatropha biodiesel project goes into operation this month following the delivery of BioDiesel Technologies’ (BDT) processing unit. BDT will deliver an additional four processing units to increase the plant's annual capacity to 40,000 tonnes by the end of 2007.

The Compact Production Unit (CPU) 1000, which is installed in a 20-foot ISO container, is designed to use oils and fats of vegetable and animal origin, or used edible oils. It produces 1,000 liters of biodiesel per hour (8 million liters per year).

Project operator Companhia Productora de Biodiesel de Tocantins has formed agreements with local cooperatives and small farmers in the state of Tocantins to supply the biodiesel facility with the required feedstock under the 'Social Fuel Seal' policy. This has led to the establishment of 48,000 hectares of jatropha plantation. The drought-tolerant shrub, known locally as pinhão manso, thrives in poor soils with relatively low inputs of fertilizer and pesticides.

The multi-feedstock technology provided by BDT will also allow the use of animal tallow for the manufacture of biodiesel. This could prove to be a significant source of income to the large slaughter-house industry within the Tocantins state, which has more than 6 million head of cattle.

'Social fuel'
This operation, bringing local agricultural communities into the biofuel production process, is the model upon which future Biodiesel operations in Brazil will be constructed; hence President Lula will show his support when he inaugurates the project in September. Under Brazil's Pro-Biodiesel plan the country introduced mandatory blends of 2% by 2008 and 5% by 2013.

Under the 'Social Fuel Seal' policy Brazil has implemented numerous tax incentives for biodiesel producers that source their feedstock from local farming communities. The system already brings increased incomes and food security to some 60,000 rural households and ensures that biodiesel is produced in a socially sustainable way:
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The 'Social Fuel Seal' is tied to Brazil's National Biodiesel Program, and was crafted precisely to break with the problems inherent in the older Bioethanol Program. The Seal is quite refined and directly intervenes in the most crucial aspect of biodiesel production: feedstock costs and modes of production. The system takes into account regionally determined social inequalities and the geographically specific agro-ecological potential for biodiesel feedstock production. It can become a model for other developing countries aiming to launch biofuel programs (earlier post).

Compahnhia Productora de Biodiesel de Tocantins is examining project sites for a further two projects within the region, taking total regional production to more than 120,000 tons of biodiesel per year.

BDT, a biodiesel equipment manufacturer and project developer based in Austria, has 17 multi-feedstock projects operating in 10 countries worldwide.

Greencarcongress: BioDiesel Technologies Launching First Commercial Jatropha Biodiesel Project in Brazil - August 8, 2007

Biopact: An in-depth look at Brazil's "Social Fuel Seal" - March 23, 2007

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