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    BioEnergy International, a science and technology company committed to developing biorefineries to produce fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable resources, announced today the closing of a major US$61.6 million investment that will provide funding for the Company’s three strategic initiatives: generating secure cash flow from its conventional ethanol platform, product diversification through the introduction of novel biocatalysts for the manufacture of green chemicals and biopolymers and the integration of its cellulose technology. BusinessWire - August 28, 2007.

    German company Verbio Vereinigte BioEnergie, the biggest biofuels producer in Europe, says it is considering plans to invest up to €100/US$136.5 million in a biofuel production facility in Bulgaria. The company wants the new facility to be located close to a port and Bulgaria's city of Varna on the Black Sea is one of the options under consideration. If Verbio goes through with the plan, it would produce both biodiesel and bioethanol, making Bulgaria a major source of biofuels in southeastern Europe. Verbi currently produces around 700,000 tonnes of biofuels per year. Sofia News Agency - August 27, 2007.

    Czech brown-coal-fired power plant Elektrárna Tisová (ETI), a unit of the energy producer ČEZ, could co-fire up to 40,000 tons of biomass this year, the biggest amount in the company’s history, said Martin Sobotka, ČEZ spokesman for West Bohemia. ETI burned more than 19,000 tons of biomass in the first half of 2007. The company’s plan reckoned with biomass consumption of up to 35,000 tons a year. Czech Business Weekly - August 27, 2007.

    PetroSun, Incorporated announced recently that it has formed PetroSun BioFuels Mexico to establish algae-to-biofuel operations in the State of Sonora, Mexico. PetroSun BioFuels Mexico will enter into joint venture agreements to develop algae cultivation farms and extraction plants in Sonora and southern Arizona that will produce algal oil, algae biomass products and excess electricity for the Mexican and U.S. markets. MarketWire - August 27, 2007.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Guide to installing wood pellet heating systems in green buildings

The Energy Crops Company has released a freely available Wood Pellet Design Guide, which must allow architects, specifiers and builders to install wood-pellet fired heating systems in buildings. The guide provides information on the practical aspects of wood pellet heating, including system design, access, delivery, storage, and installation, as well as a summary of relevant planning guidelines and financial support available.

The guide comes at a time when a new survey on 'green building' shows that property professionals greatly overestimate the costs of such projects. The study, carried out by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and based on a global survey of 1,400 key players, found that the overestimation could be as high 300%, creating a major barrier to more energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions in the building sector. Buildings account for some 40% of the EU's final energy consumption, but implementation of EU legislation to improve building efficiency has been delayed in most member states.

Graham Hilton, managing director at the Energy Crops Company explains that global warming attracts a lot of attention from protesters and pundits alike, but that it is the construction industry that is required to turn government promises and planning requirements into action. Combined with conservation and energy efficiency, relying on biomass for heating is the most economically sound, reliable and effective way of cutting carbon emissions, meeting planning requirements, and securing long-term, stable fuel supply.

With high heating oil and natural gas prices, and the need to cut carbon emissions, heating with renewable wood pellets has become an attractive and efficient option. As a consequence, the use of the solid biofuel is growing rapidly in the EU (overview for 2005) and international trade is growing steadily (earlier post).

The guide produced by the Energy Crops Company brings the opportunities arising from these developments to the architect and the planner. It is designed to answer all the logistical and practical questions about using wood pellet heating systems, giving decision-makers the details they need to make informed choices:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The guide is intended to be used by commercial and public sector organisations of all sizes that are considering incorporating renewable fuels in their energy mix. It covers the specifics of installing wood pellet boilers in new builds, as well as the conversion of existing central heating systems, and offers practical advice on system design, equipment and maintenance.

As well as outlining the benefits of using wood pellet heating systems in terms of both cutting costs and carbon emissions, the design guide provides a detailed overview of all the pertinent planning regulations, including the Merton rules and the building and clean air regulations, as well as the financial grants and tax exemptions that apply.

The guide also includes detailed information about requirements for fuel delivery, handling, storage and access, so that these can be incorporated into building design.

The Energy Crops Company was set up in 2005 to provide sustainable wood-fired heating solutions to a wide range of commercial and industrial customers. It specialises in the supply of wood pellet fuel and, through its network of partners, delivers a complete service for converting to biomass heating.

Energy Crops Company: Wood Pellet Design Guide.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development: Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Business Realities and Opportunities. Summary Report. [*.pdf] - August, 2007.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development: Global Survey Shows "Green" Construction Costs Dramatically Lower Than Believed - August 21, 2007.

Euractiv: 'Green building' costs grossly overestimated says study - August 23, 2007.

Biopact: Solid biomass production for energy in EU increases markedly - December 21, 2006

Article continues

Syngenta introduces tropical sugar beet for food and biofuels, may yield more than sugar cane

In a very important step towards the creation of a global carbohydrate economy, Syngenta has introduced sugar beet in India for cultivation in tropical climatic conditions. The newly bred tropical sugar beet brings significant agronomic, environmental and output advantages to Indian farming and the Indian economy. The beet, which took over ten years to develop, delivers similar output yields to sugar cane and can be used both for processing sugar for food and conversion to bio-ethanol.

The new sugar beet can be grown in relatively dry areas across the tropics, with substantially less water than typically required by sugar cane. It is faster growing and can be harvested after five months allowing farmers to grow a second crop on the same land, thus increasing agricultural output and raising farmer income.

Syngenta is engaged in two tropical sugar beet projects:
  • Sugar for food: at Ambad near Jalna, in the state of Maharashtra, the Samarth Cooperative Sugar Mill has commissioned a pilot plant for processing tropical beet in co-operation with the Vasantdada Sugar Institute. First harvests delivered the expected high yield of top-quality sugar.
  • Sugar for biofuel: at Kalas, near the city of Pune, Syngenta co-operates with over 12,000 farmers linked to Harneshwar Agro Products, Power and Yeast Ltd, which built and operates a bio-ethanol production plant processing the tropical beet. The faster growth of tropical beets increases annual ethanol output over sugar cane.
The development of tropical sugar beet took over ten years, building on Syngenta’s extensive breeding know-how and technology base. The biotech company will explore use of tropical sugar beet in other tropical regions with poor soil conditions:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Indian government is highly interested in Syngenta’s technological capabilities to support growth of India’s agricultural sector, says Sharad Pawar, India’s Minister for Food and Agriculture. According to Pawar, the successful introduction of sugar beet leads to higher sugar output available for food and energy in a shorter period and using less water. He is sure the Indian sugar industry will happily work together with Syngenta to further optimize the crop and introduce it to growers across the country.

Robert Berendes, Head of Business Development at Syngenta added: "This is a unique project that benefits growers, consumers and the environment. It is an outstanding example of the application of our technology to enhancing agricultural productivity under conditions of climatic stress."

India is currently the world's second largest sugar producer, with output for 2006-2007 estimated to be a record 28 million tonnes. Next year, another increase of around 7 per cent is expected.

World sugar prices have been falling over the last year, despite a record output of ethanol in Brazil, the world's largest producer of the biofuel. Indian sugar producers have been urging the government to speed up the creation of an ethanol policy, so that blending can start immediately. This should strengthen prices and alleviate the crisis (earlier post).

The new tropical sugar beet promises the production of carbohydrates on land not suitable for sugar cane. Thus India's prospects to develop ethanol (and later biohydrogen) now look better.

Images, credit Syngenta.

Syngenta: Syngenta introduces tropical sugar beet for food and biofuels - August 28, 2007.

Biopact: Switch to ethanol can alleviate sugar crisis in India - June 09, 2007

Biopact: World sugar prices keep falling, despite ethanol boom - July 22, 2007

Article continues

UK scientists almost double hydrogen storage capacity of organic polymer

Cardiff scientists exploring the safe storage of hydrogen to power vehicles as an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol have succeeded in developing an organic polymer capable of storing 3 per cent hydrogen by weight. The figure is almost double the amount of hydrogen the group’s preliminary polymers could store last year (1.7 per cent), and offers hope of producing an organic polymer in the future capable of storing enough hydrogen to successfully power a vehicle.

The team, consisting of by Professors Neil McKeown from the School of Chemistry together with Peter Budd of the University of Manchester and David Book from the University of Birmingham, knows that in order to make hydrogen a viable alternative to petrol, a material which can store hydrogen at a weight of over six per cent is required. This figure is estimated by the American Department of Energy (DOE) as the minimum required to make a fuel tank for hydrogen to power a vehicle for 300 miles. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has set a target of 5% reversible mass loading for a realistic storage system.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funds the project focusing on the physisorption of hydrogen on the large and accessible surface of a microporous material. This technique offers the attractive possibility of safe hydrogen storage with an energy efficient release for consumption. However, physisorption relies on the very weak interactions between the microporous material and hydrogen molecules, therefore, the mass loadings are generally low. Thus, the challenge is set to make a microporous material of appropriate structure and chemical composition to help reach the DOE/IEA targets.
In order to obtain a polymer that can store useful quantities of hydrogen we need to make a much more porous material, but one in which the holes are very small so as to fit snugly the small hydrogen molecules. - Professor Neil McKeown
Previously, polymers have not been investigated as materials for the storage of hydrogen because most polymers have enough conformational and rotational freedom to pack space efficiently and are therefore not microporous:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

However, the recently developed polymers of intrinsic microporosity (PIMs) do possess significant microporosity and preliminary hydrogen sorption results are encouraging with significant quantities adsorbed. Most importantly, the chemical composition of PIMs can be tailored via synthetic chemistry. Therefore, the adventurous primary objective of the scientists' work is to prepare novel PIMs in a form that demonstrate hydrogen loadings equal to or in excess of the IEA 5% benchmark at moderate pressures and 77 K.

Professor McKeown and his team are investigating a number of promising methods to enhance pororosity as they attempt to build on their current success and produce a material that can store and release hydrogen safely and effectively. They are also collaborating with Professor Kenneth Harris within the School of Chemistry to develop other types of hydrogen storage materials.

Image: Molecular model of organic polymer. Credit: Cardiff University.

Cardiff University: Developing green fuel - August 27, 2007.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council: Polymer-based hydrogen storage materials - project overview.

Article continues