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    Canada's Cavendish Farms, one of the country's largest food processing companies is to build a biogas plant to recycle spent cooking oils, starch and sludge from its waste-water plant to fuel its potato processing operation. Use of the carbon-neutral biofuel will limit the amount of bunker C fuel oil currently in use by the company. The plant, expected to be ready for operation by next fall, has received a $14-million loan from the Province of Prince Edward Island. CBC - August 18, 2007.

    Basin Electric Power Cooperative told a U.S. Senate Energy Appropriations subcommittee that it is looking into capturing carbon dioxide from its Antelope Valley Station and sell it for enhanced oil recovery in the Williston Basin. Carbon capture technologies have not yet been applied to a power plant that uses lignite, or even subbitumious coal. The trial would be the first one to do so in the Midwest. Bismarck Tribune - August 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service's current 'One Planet' programme focuses on revolutionary technologies and research that uses a next-generation of GM crops as factories for the production of new pharmaceuticals, green products and alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals. One Planet - August 16, 2007.

    Germany's Biogas Nord has been commissioned to construct a large multi-feed biogas plant with a capacity of 2.8 MW of electrical power in Romania. The value of the order is approximately €3.5 million. The plant will be built in the Transylvanian region close to the county town of Oradea. Interestingly, a synergy will be created by coupling the facility to the construction of a biodiesel plant. In so doing, the waste products resulting from the production of biodiesel, such as rapeseed pellets and glycerin, will be brought to the biogas plant as substrates. Ad-Hoc News - August 16, 2007.

    The University of Western Ontario's Research Park at Sarnia has received $10-million in funding for the development of biofuel technologies. The funds will be used for the creation of the 'Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Centre' at the University, including the addition of a commercialization centre with incubator suites, laboratory equipment, pilot plant space and space for startup companies. The Observer - August 16, 2007.

    Philippine Bio-Sciences Co., Inc. (PhilBio) and its Clean Development Mechanism subsidiary in Cebu, has told the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) that it will soon open a 10 megawatt biogas plant in Cebu. According to the company, under current conditions electricity generated from biogas is around 20% less costly than that generated from fossil fuels. Philippine Bio-Sciences - August 15, 2007.

    Scientists, economists and policy experts representing government and public institutions from more than 40 countries will exchange the latest information on economic and technology opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Global Conference on Agricultural Biofuels: Research and Economics", to be held Aug. 20-21 in Minneapolis. USDA ARS - August 14, 2007.

    A company owned by the Chinese government has expressed interest in investing up to 500 million US dollars in a biofuel project in Indonesia. The company is planning to use jatropha as its raw material and is targeting an annual output of around 1 million tons. Forbes - August 13, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic, Boeing and General Electric are within weeks of selecting the biofuel for a flight demonstration in the UK early next year. The conversion of biomass via the Fischer-Tropsch process is no longer amongst the biofuel candidates, because the process has already been demonstrated to work. Ground testing of the chosen fuel in a development engine at GE is expected to begin in October-November. The limited flight-test programme will involve burning biofuel in one GE CF6-80C2 engine on a Virgin Boeing 747-400. Flight Global - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    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.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Community based biodiesel production in Ghana brings power, drinking water and transport fuels

An excellent example of the many advantages of local, decentralised biofuel production comes from a small village in Ghana. There, Dumpong Biofuels, in collaboration with the Dumpong Pineapple Growers Cooperative, has begun producing biodiesel from locally sourced and abundant palm kernel oil. Dumpong Biofuels is an NGO based in the country's Eastern Region, aiming to develop and support small scale, community-based biofuel production to replace ever more costly petroleum fuels. The fuel is used to generate electricity, to pump and purify water, and to power farm equipment and the farm's trucks.

Last month a team from the United States traveled to Dumpong, a small village near Aburi, to work with the cooperative to build a small processor to convert locally grown and extracted palm kernel oil into biodiesel. The production costs of the biodiesel are approximately 25% less than the current price for diesel fuel.

By working with community based palm oil processors and with local labor the project brings additional income and quality of life improvements to the nearby villages (slideshow).

Transport fuels and electricity are important for local development, but both resources are scarce and expensive. Local biofuel production allows the community to overcome two problems: the cost of imported petroleum fuels, and their irregular supplies. For the first time, villagers can pump water from a well and purify it, instead of gathering it from dirty streams (slideshow). The biodiesel powered pump saves women (and children) time and the clean water reduces the risk of disease. A local entrepreneur uses electricity from a biodiesel powered generator to package potable water in plastic sachets (photo, click to enlarge), a product he sells on the market (slideshow).

Jerry Robock, team leader from the U.S. who helped the cooperative, says the biodiesel is obtained by very basic equipment via transesterification. Glycerine is a byproduct from the process that can be utilized locally to make soap. The pilot project cost between US$ 600 and 1000 and can be replicated in many other rural communities and similar villages.

The small biodiesel processor was built on the farm of Frank Aidoo, president of the Dumpong Pineapple Growers. The processor comprises two 200 liter steel drums welded together with an electric heating element screwed through one opening. Additional piping and a small electric pump were added to pump palm kernel oil and a solution of methanol with potassium hydroxide into the processor, then circulate the mixture and finally pump the biodiesel into a washing tank:
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The processor was built over two days and production began immediately. Over the next three days 550 liters of golden biodiesel was produced which has already been used to power a generator and to fuel the farm’s vehicles.

After the palm oil is processed into biodiesel it is washed to remove any impurities or unconverted reagents. It is then ready to be used as a substitute for diesel fuel. Due to the solvency quality of biodiesel it must initially be blended with diesel fuel as it works to clean the fuel system of the vehicle. Fuel filters will need to be changed at the start but biodiesel will actually clean the fuel system to make the vehicle perform more efficiently. Biodiesel can be mixed with diesel fuel in any proportion and there is no modification to the engine to use this fuel.

Some biodiesel will be used to power a generator that currently pumps water for a small sachet water (bottling) plant that provides clean drinking water. Frank plans to use this new fuel source to allow him to pump water to a storage tank in the nearby village to eliminate the current practice of sourcing water from a nearby stream.

The palm kernel oil is sourced from a neighboring village where palm kernel nuts are cracked to extract the palm nut. The palm nut is then crushed and boiled over a fire of palm kernel husks to separate the palm oil, which is then gathered and stored. The palm oil used for biodiesel is not further refined.

Dumpong Biofuels strategy is to take advantage of locally available oilseed crops, to included jatropha and sunflower seed, to convert into an environmentally renewable and sustainable fuel to be used locally to replace imported and dirty diesel fuel.

Images courtesy of Dumpong Biofuels.

Dumpong Biofuels homepage.

Dumpong biofuels: original project proposal [*.pdf].

Dumpong Biofuels: photo galleries.

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Forest genetics researchers to sequence and catalog conifer genes for future biofuels research

Jeffrey Dean, professor of forest biotechnology in the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, is spearheading a project at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) that will greatly expand the gene catalog for pines and initiate the first gene discovery efforts in five other conifer families.

The project will be a significant piece of the JGI's Community Sequencing Program, which focuses state-of-the-art genome analysis resources on biological organisms that have implications for helping wean dependence on fossil fuel. An international team of scientists coordinated by the JGI recently succeeded in sequencing the genome of the poplar tree, seen as an important bioenergy crop (earlier post). Other crops under investigation are Eucalyptus, cassava, sorghum as well a wide range of microorganisms that could be used for bioconversion processes (overview and more on sequencing bacteria, here).
The wood from conifers will almost certainly be an important component of this nation's biomass energy strategy. but despite extensive commercial plantations they remain essentially an undomesticated species. Information from this project will greatly enhance the ability of our tree improvement programs to develop pines tailored to suit the needs of the future bioenergy industry. - Jeffrey Dean, professor of forest biotechnology, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
The goal of Dean's research is to produce a comprehensive catalog of all the genes expressed as conifers grow, develop and respond to their environments. By comparing genes expressed by different conifer species in similar tissues under similar conditions, scientists will be able to more quickly identify the key genes controlling tree growth and development. Such studies will also improve our understanding of the formation of biomass components such as lignin that impede production of biofuels from lignocellulosic materials, including wood.

Although the JGI recently produced a complete genome sequence for poplar, the first woody perennial plant species so characterized, that information has certain limitations for comparison to conifer species, which diverged from poplars and other flowering plants while dinosaurs still dominated the Earth:
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Complete sequencing of a conifer genome is still a ways off since their genomes are typically enormous, but a complete catalog of expressed conifer genes would still be a watershed for our ability to study, predict and understand how conifer genetics have contributed to the survival of these magnificent trees through hundreds of millions of years.

While final details on specific species and numbers of sequences are still being worked out, Dean, the lead investigator, and his four co-investigators David Neale (University of California, Davis), Glenn Howe (Oregon State University), Kathleen Jermstad (USDA Forest Service) and Deborah Rogers (Center for Natural Lands Management), will focus much of their initial efforts on loblolly pine, a conifer native to the southeastern United States and a species that by itself is responsible for approximately 16 percent of the world's annual timber harvest.

Loblolly pine is a primary target for this research project because of its current commercial importance in the southeastern United States, as well as its potential for providing biomass to future biofuels markets, Dean said.

Other targeted species for the project include coast redwood, one the fastest growing conifers, and Wollemia nobilis, a species related to the Norfolk Island pine that was thought extinct until a small grove was discovered in Australia in 1994. More than fifty research laboratories from around the world have pledged their support for this project. They, along with many others, will benefit from immediate access to all gene sequences from the project, all of which will be available online as they are produced at JGI.

Picture: loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). In the Southern U.S. there is more timberland - at least 182 million acres - than cropland and pasture combined. Approximately one-third of the South is covered with pine trees. Loblolly pine is by far the most abundant species, grown commercially for timber. With the advent of second-generation bioconversion technologies, the biomass crop becomes an important biofuel source.

University of Georgia: UGA forest genetics researcher leads effort to sequence and catalog conifer genes for future biofuels research - August 17, 2007.

Biopact: Joint Genome Institute announces 2008 genome sequencing targets with focus on bioenergy and carbon cycle - June 12, 2007

Biopact: U.S. DOE to sequence the DNA of six photosynthetic bacteria to make biofuels - October 11, 2006

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Biohydrogen fuel cells to bring water, energy and telecoms to remote communities in Indonesia

The Indonesian government says it will launch a pilot 'Community Integrated Utility Program' (CIUP) to provide power, potable water and telecommunications for people living in disadvantaged and remote regions across the vast archipelago. The systems are based on stationary fuel cells that will be powered by locally produced biohydrogen. Ethanol production would be integrated into the concept.

This is a prototypical example of how developing regions can 'leapfrog' into a clean and sustainable future by utilizing the latest technologies. The project would be a world's first in that it would rely on implementing high-tech power systems in a decentralised manner in impoverished communities. What is more, income generated from the sale of products obtained from the sysem (potable water, energy, ethanol) is estimated be sufficient to finance the project.

State Minister for Accelerated Development of Disadvantaged Regions M. Lukman Edy said the government would select several regions as pilot projects before rolling out the program across the country. The same ministry earlier implemented a strategy to bring wireless 3G communications to remote areas (more here).

The CIUP could be an alternative solution to the absence of power and telecommunications facilities in disadvantaged regions, Lukman said. He added the project will be initially funded by private local and foreign enterprises, and would use technology developed in Europe and China.

CIUP senior adviser professor Reginald Theijs said the project would utilize biomass conversion of forest and agricultural waste into ethanol and hydrogen to produce power. Biohydrogen can be made from the fermentation of carbohydrate fractions of biomass by thermophilic and photoheterotrophic microorganisms or by the gasification of lignocellulosic biomass (overview). It is not clear whether ethanol production would be directly integrated into the proposed system, but technically it would be possible.

Under the plan, local communities consisting of approximately 800 families will form cooperatives to run the production system and provide power, water and telecommunications, in cooperation with private or state-owned banks. Communities, through local banks, will receive special loans to purchase all the necessary technologies, provided by special agents.
The hydrogen will be distributed, free of charge, to local residents and with hydrogen fuel cells, also provided free of charge, will be converted into electricity, and thereby will create a developed power system to areas which currently have not been reached by power networks. This system will provide sufficient electricity to run a full range of household equipment and telecommunication systems. - Professor Reginald Theijs, adviser Community Integrated Utility Program
The system would provide sufficient energy for each household to run a small reverse osmosis system to produce some 600 liters of potable water per day, of which each household will retain 100 liters and the remaining 500 liters will go to a central depot for sale:
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The ethanol produced by the biomass converter will also be sold. Combined with the potable water and communication services, the ethanol will generate sufficient income to repay the capital cost in less than three years.

Deputy minister for cooperatives and small and medium enterprises, Tatag Wiranto, said the initial stage of the CIUP would take place at the end of 2008 in remote areas of Sabang in Aceh, Rokan Hulu in Riau, Bitung in North Sulawesi, Nabire in West Papua and Merauke in Papua.

The CIUP project will be carried out over 10 years with some 6 million families who will get free electricity and potable water from this project.

The technology is environmentally friendly because it produces zero carbon dioxide emissions and utilizes biomass, which does not pollute the environmen, professor Theijs said.

: fuel cells for stationary power applications can be compact and are suitable for off-grid, remote locations. Pictured is a 300 kW fuel cell that works on biogas (reformed into hydrogen) from FuelCell Energy.

Jakarta Post: Utility program to reach remote regions - August 18, 2007.

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European biotech industry releases its policy on biofuels

EuropaBio – the EU association for bioindustries – has released [*.pdf] a consensus response to the 'integrated energy and climate change package' proposal, endorsed by EU Heads of State earlier this year and currently discussed in European Parliament. The association summarizes its policy for first and second generation biofuels as follows.

The available biomass in Europe will need to increase in order to achieve ambitious goals of biofuel use set by the European Union (5.75% in 2010 and 10% in 2020) in a sustainable and competitive way. Cultivating energy crops on set-aside and noncultivated land will contribute, but this will not be sufficient to fulfill all the demand.

The industry says that the output per hectare needs to be increased as well as crop quality that offers more fermentable carbohydrates or higher oil content crops. This can be done via plant science (modern plant breeding techniques and biotechnology) in combination with state-of-the-art application of crop protection.

Another important step to increase the biofuel production is the development of second generation biofuels; this involves the competitive production of biofuels from (hemi)cellulose and organic agricultural waste. Especially industrial biotechnology – mainly (hemi)cellulose degrading enzymes with improved efficiency - will be crucial to obtain this.

Interestingly, the organisation thinks the EU should set a quota that allows farmers from developing countries, where the potential is vast, to export a certain amount of biofuels or feedstocks to the EU, provided they are produced sustainably.
Biotechnology is today one of the most effective and innovative tools we have to attain European targets for biofuel use in a sustainable way. We are all excited about getting to the second generation biofuels, but I would like to underline that in order to facilitate the transition towards second generation biofuels, a market for first generation biofuels is needed, with an appropriate infrastructure and distribution. - Steen Riisgaard, President of Novozymes and Chairman of EuropaBio.
The EuropaBio’s recommendations call for EU initiatives to boost the use of biofuels and advocate a step-by-step approach from the current first generation to more advanced biofuels. Specifically, the industry:
  • calls upon the Member States to implement, as soon as possible, the principle of binding targets for blending biofuels with petrol and diesel
  • supports a change in fuel standards to permit a higher biofuel content in blends of petrol and diesel; and
  • advocates performance based regulation that encourages efficient delivery of biofuels which are most effective in reducing green house gas emissions
In order to harvest the full potential of biofuels, EuropaBio encourages European legislators to follow a similar approach to the USA and China and initiate policy measures which will allow second generation biofuels to become a viable, commercial business within the next 4-6 years:
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This should include support to further research in second generation technologies as well as support for demonstration projects.

Develop the integrated diversified biorefinery - an integrated cluster of industries, using a variety of different technologies to produce chemicals, materials, biofuels and power from biomass raw materials - will be a key element in the future.

EuropaBio encourages European legislators to establish a certification system for sustainable production and use of biofuels in order to ensure that biomass production always complies with good agricultural and labour practices and ensures a good and responsible balance between food and non-food crop production, complying with existing international standards and agreements.

Robust, realistic and coherent sustainability schemes - to be respected all over Europe, and preferentially worldwide - could help to achieve this.

EuropaBio does not support any unsustainable use of plant material for biofuel production and advocates that the use of biomass for fuel purposes should not jeopardise European and third countries’ ability to secure its people’s food supply, nor should it prevent achieving environmental priorities such as protecting forests, preventing soil degradation and keeping a good ecological status of waters.

Biofuels and Developing Countries

EuropaBio understands that development of biofuels also has a large potential for developing countries. In developing countries the majority of the population often lives in rural areas and subsists on agriculture. Such peoples are more vulnerable to natural disasters such as storms, floods and droughts and all efforts to counteract climate changes will therefore be beneficial. Global warming itself is today, a bigger danger to the biodiversity in these areas.

The development of biofuels will also bring direct opportunities to developing countries because their production will create many local jobs in the value chain from growing raw materials to their actual manufacture.

Industrialised countries must be prepared to set up the right regulatory frameworks with their local counterparts which can support a sustainable development for these countries and prevent unsustainable cutting of rain forests and similar (such as biofuels and sustainable production certification schemes). A realistic quota system where a certain percentage of the biomass has to be produced in the EU could create opportunities for European farmers as well as for developing countries.

Biofuels and GMO plants
The early phase of second generation biofuels will rely on current biomass (mainly crops and wood) and their agricultural residues as well as on improved enzymes and other technologies to make the process more effective. In the longer term horizon, the necessary increase in yield may probably only be achievable with modern plant breeding techniques - including plant biotechnology - and state of the art plant production methods, including the use of modern fertilization and plant protection systems.

As already seen in other parts of the world, modern plant varieties produced by biotechnology lead to far higher and more consistent yields. Also in Europe plant biotechnology can thus optimise land use and increase competitiveness and sustainability of European agriculture. Likewise, modern plant biotechnology may contribute to also grow energy plants in areas with marginal agricultural conditions, such as drought and saline zones or areas with very heterogeneous production conditions (frost, heat, flooding etc.).

This would open unique opportunities for marginal rural areas to play an economic role again in future and contribute to raising their countries Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

EuropaBio: Biofuels in Europe. EuropaBio position and specific recommendations [*.pdf] - June 2007.

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