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    China's Yunnan Province hopes to reach an annual output of 2 million tons (approx. 417 million gallons) of fuel ethanol by 2010, according to the province's fuel ethanol industry development plan released recently by the Yunnan Economic and Trade Commission, state media report. Interfax China - August 23, 2007.

    Seven companies have teamed up to create Kazakhstan's first Biofuel Association. Its aim is to integrate interested parties for creating favorable conditions to have the country’s biofuel industry developed. An initiator and coordinator of the Association is the National Holding KazAgro, the Agriculture Ministry’s press service informs. KazInform - August 23, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec today announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction closed on August 15 and includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Newswire Canada - August 22, 2007.

    Taiwan's representative to Brazil, Chou Shu-yeh, is urging Taiwan's government and private enterprises to invest in Brazil's biomass energy sector. Chou was speaking at a workshop on global investment and trade opportunities in Taipei. RTi - August 22, 2007.

    An algae-to-biofuels startup by the name of Inventure Chemical has raised about $1.5 million to continue its development of a chemical process that turns algae into biodiesel and ethanol. One of the biggest backers of the company is Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel producer. Seattle Post Intelligencer - August 22, 2007.

    The government of India's Karnataka state has approved the blending of six million litres of ethanol with diesel for use as fuel in State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) vehicles. Automotive World - August 21, 2007.

    VeraSun Energy Corporation, one of America's largest ethanol producers, announced that it closed on its acquisition with ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC for three ethanol plants with a combined annual production capacity of approximately 330 million gallons (1.25 billion liters) per year. VeraSun - August 21, 2007.

    Fujitsu develops a biodegradable laptop chassis from corn-starch bioplastic. The material reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to a chassis made from petroleum-based plastics. CNET Asia - August 20, 2007.

    India's Rana Sugars Ltd has decided to set up a new plant for producing ethanol in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated investment of €9 to 10.9 (US$12.2 to 14.7). The facility will have a capacity of 180,000 liters per year and will generate, besides ethanol, 26MW of carbon-neutral power from bagasse. Economic Times India - August 20, 2007.

    Prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike. "We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike," said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group. Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and commodity prices. The Star - August 19, 2007.

    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 25, 2007

Australia's EPA approves largest geosequestration trial, report warns for leakage risks

The Environmental Protection Agency of Victoria has issued [*.pdf] a Research Development and Demonstration Approval for injection of carbon dioxide in Australia’s first and most extensive geosequestration demonstration. The trial is to be conducted by the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), an international research and industry consortium.

In its Otway Project in south-western Victoria, CO2CRC will inject up to 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into a deep geological formation, and monitor and verify that the carbon dioxide is securely stored (diagram, click to enlarge).

CO2CRC Chief Executive Dr Peter Cook welcomed the approval, saying it represented an important step forward in demonstrating geological sequestration as a technology that could be used safely to make deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

However, an Australian parliamentary inquiry into geosequestration [*.pdf] released this month warned that the most substantial risk associated with geosequestration was the leakage of carbon dioxide from storage sites:
"Abrupt or catastrophic leaks of carbon dioxide could have serious consequences to the environment, potentially causing the death of humans and animals"
Moreover, it suggests that CO2 storage sites may become potential terrorist targets or that failure of the seal could result in catastrophic release.
"concentration of CO2 greater than 7-10 per cent by volume in the air puts the lives and health of people in the vicinity in immediate danger."
Finally, pressure built up by injected CO2 could trigger small seismic events. Other risks identified have to do with 'gradual' leakage, such as contamination of freshwater resources and the gradual degradation of the storage site by the dissolution of minerals by CO2. (On the urgent need for a policy and regulatory framework for CCS, see here).

Carbon-negative bioenergy safest
Some of these risks can be sidestepped when storing carbon dioxide from bioenergy, simply because the spatial logic of selecting sites is entirely different in so-called 'Bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) projects. BECS results in the production of radically carbon-negative fuels. It allows sequestration sites to be selected independently of the location of the upstream or the downstream. Bioenergy projects can be brought to the safest, remotest sites, far away from populations and therefor also tap sites that would not be commercially feasible for fossil fuel based projects. This much more flexible site selection logic allows for a great reduction of the risks of seismic events or the destruction of life in case of catastrophic leakage.

Most importantly, by utilizing BECS, leakage of CO2 would add no net CO2 to the atmosphere, because the carbon dioxide is derived from carbon-neutral biomass. For these reasons, the Biopact thinks CCS applied to bioenergy is the safest option to implement the technology (more here and here). Researchers have found that, being the only carbon-negative energy concept, BECS-systems implemented on a large scale can take us back to pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 levels by mid-century.

In any case, even though CCS developments will be driven by the fossil fuels industry, they are important for the bioenergy community which expects them to be applied to biofuels sooner or later.

The project embarked on by CO2CRC to monitor the environment around the injection and storage site and verify the secure storage of the carbon dioxide in a depleted gas reservoir is the most extensive undertaken anywhere in the world, and includes monitoring of the atmosphere, groundwater and subsurface:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

CO2CRC anticipates beginning the injection of carbon dioxide at the Otway Project late this year.

EPA Victoria Executive Director Bruce Dawson said the approval required CO2CRC to meet a range of environmental requirements and report on the testing to see whether carbon dioxide would leak into the soil or air.

"EPA believes that this trial is an important part of testing and evaluating the suitability of carbon storage," Mr Dawson said.

CO2CRC collaborates with leading international and national geosequestration experts to conduct worldclass research into CO2 geosequestration. Organisations supporting the CO2CRC include CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Universities of Adelaide, Curtin, Melbourne, Monash and NSW; the Alberta Research Council in Canada and the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

CO2CRC industry and state core partners are ACARP, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NZ Resource Consortium, Rio Tinto, Schlumberger, Shell, Foundation for Research Science and Technology (NZ), Solid Energy, Stanwell, the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Woodside and Xstrata. CO2CRC is supported through the Australian Government’s CRC Programme.

Image: pilot geosequestration project in south-western Victoria. Credit: CO2CRC.

CO2CRC: EPA approval for CO2CRC Otway Project - August 22, 2007.

Australia, House Standing Committee on Science and Innovation, Inquiry into Geosequestration Technology: Between a Rock and a Hard Place the science of geosequestration - August 13, 2007.

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward? - March 31, 2007

Biopact: Policy and regulatory framework crucial for CCS success - July 29, 2007

Euractiv: 'Carbon-capture trials safest way forward', Laurens Rademakers, Biopact - April 3, 2007.

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