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    Canadian hydro power developer Run of River Power Inc. has reached an agreement to buy privately owned Western Biomass Power Corp. in a $2.2 million share swap deal that could help finance development of new green sources of electricity in British Columbia. The Canadian Press - September 4, 2007.

    As of Sept. 1, a biodiesel blending mandate has come into force in the Czech Republic, requiring diesel suppliers to mix 2 per cent biodiesel into the fuel. The same rule will be obligatory for gasoline starting next year. In 2009 the biofuel ratio will grow to 3.5 percent in gasoline and 4.5 percent in diesel oil. CBW - September 3, 2007.

    Budapest's first biofuel station opens on Monday near the Pesterzsébet (District XX) Tesco hypermarket. This is the third station selling the E85 fuel containing bioethanol in Hungary, as two other stations are encouraging eco-friendly driving in Bábolna and Győr. Caboodle - September 3, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction 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. Tembec - September 1, 2007.

    Innovative internet and cable/satellite channel CurrentTV is producing a documentary on Brazil's biofuel revolution. Biopact collegues and friends Marcelo Coelho (EthanolBrasil Blog), Henrique Oliveira (Ethablog) and Marcelo Alioti (E-Machine) provided consulting on the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of Brazil's energy transformation. ProCana - August 31, 2007.

    Oil major BP Plc and Associated British Foods Plc won competition clearance from the European Commission on to build a plant to make transport fuel from wheat in Hull, northeast England. U.S. chemical company DuPont is also involved. Reuters UK - August 31, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Orissa announced its policy for biofuel production which includes a slew of incentives as well as measures to promote the establishment of energy plantations. The state aims to bring 600,000 hectares of barren and fallow land under Jatropha and Karanj. At least 2 million hectares degraded land are available in the State. The new policy's other objectives are to provide a platform for investors and entrepreneurs, market linkages and quality control measures. Newindpress - August 29, 2007.

    Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said today it expects to reach large scale cellulosic ethanol production in 2015, with the first plant entering operations as early as 2011. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet, making up the bulk of the structure of wood and plants. In a first phase, Petrobras intends to use bagasse as a feedstock. Reuters / MacauHub- August 29, 2007.

    Seattle based Propel Biofuels, is announcing a $4.75 million first round of capital from @Ventures and Nth Power. The money will be used to help Propel set up and manage biodiesel fueling stations. BusinessWire - August 29, 2007.

    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.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The bioeconomy at work: Tohoku Electric turns glycerin into bioplastics

Tohoku Electric Power Co. has developed a process to convert glycerin, a major byproduct of biodiesel fuel production, into lactic acid for use in making polylactic acid (PLA), a type of biodegradable plastic.

While researching production of large quantities of acetic acid from rice hulls, the firm’s R&D center discovered that glycerin could be converted into lactic acid. It then conducted basic research on conditions to facilitate such conversion and found that stable conversion to lactic acid could be achieved by mixing the glycerin with alkaline water and raising the temperature to 300°C and the pressure to 12 megapascals.

Tohoku Electric has reached an agreement with Hitachi Zosen Corp. to develop a lactic acid production system that increases reaction efficiency and can convert large quantities of glycerin into lactic acid.

The conventional process for polylactic acid production starts with bacterial fermentation of sugar from corn, sugarcane or other renewable source to produce lactic acid. The lactic acid is then converted into lactide (two lactic acid molecules are converted into one lactide molecule). After purification through vacuum distillation, the lactide undergoes a solvent-free melt process that causes the ring-shaped lactide polymers to open and join end-to-end to form long chain polymers:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

For each ton of vegetable oil transesterified into biodiesel, around 100kilograms becomes available as glycerin. Because the product is now flooding the market, researchers have been looking for a range of new uses.

Recently a group of engineers succeeded in converting the compound into ethanol and green chemicals via anaerobic fermentation (earlier post). Another cost-effective way to use the resource is by turning it into new types of biopolymers, bioplastic films, and green specialty chemicals such as propylene glycol. Others found glycerin makes for a suitable cattle and poultry feed or for the production of biogas.

GreenCarCongress: Tohoku Elec Develops Process for Converting Biodiesel Byproduct Into Biodegradable Plastic - August 30, 2007.

Biopact: Engineers convert glycerin efficiently into ethanol, green chemicals via anaerobic fermentation - June 26, 2007

Biopact: Students patent biopolymer made from biodiesel and wine byproducts - June 20, 2007

Biopact: Researchers make biodegradable films from biofuel and dairy byproducts - June 11, 2007

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Scientists: nutrient recycling makes the bioeconomy sustainable

This spring American farmers responded to the ethanol industry's demand for grain by increasing their corn acreage by 19 percent over last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates (earlier post). What if that happens again next year? What if farmers decide against crop rotations and plant corn on the same fields, year after year? Or, what if farmers begin growing biomass crops such as switchgrass for the production of ethanol from plant fiber? Will soil lose fertility? Will erosion increase? Will the amount of energy needed to produce biofuels go up or down? In short, will the bioeconomy be sustainable?

Robert Anex, an Iowa State associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, examines a plot of hybrid sorghum-sudangrass. The plant is a high-yielding biomass crop that's being studied as a possible biomass source for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Iowa State researchers are conducting a double-crop experiment with the plant: They're growing hybrid sorghum-sudangrass in the summer and growing triticale, a wheat-rye hybrid, over the winter. That would provide two crops, capture more solar energy and reduce erosion. Credit: Bob Elbert.
Robert Anex, an Iowa State associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and associate director of Iowa State's Office of Biorenewables Programs, is working to answer those and other questions about the transition to an agriculture that produces biomass for energy as well as food, fodder and fiber. One definite answer is that American agriculture is undergoing a profound transformation.
It may well be that the development of biomass-based crops production systems can have as profound an impact on agriculture and its environmental footprint as it does on energy security and the global climate. Whether this is a positive impact or a negative impact will depend largely on how biomass feedstocks are produced and converted, and the extent to which these two activities are integrated. - Robert Anex and co-authors
Together with Andrew Heggenstaller and Matt Liebman of Iowa State's agronomy department and Lee Lynd and Mark Laser of Dartmouth College, Anex wrote "Potential for Enhanced Nutrient Cycling through Coupling of Agricultural and Bioenergy Systems" [*abstract] a paper recently published online by Crop Science, the official publication of the Crop Science Society of America.

Nutrient recycling

The paper reports that as much as 78 percent of the nitrogen fertilizer needed for crops could be recovered from an integrated biological and thermochemical process that converts switchgrass to ethanol. The study says such nutrient recovery and recycling could significantly improve the sustainability of biomass production and the amount of energy required to produce ethanol from plant fiber.
Innovative bioconversion processes configured to recover key plant nutrients from biomass will allow recycling nutrients to crop fields, thereby closing nutrient cycles and reducing the energetic and economic costs of fertilization. Such advanced bioconversion matched with complementary biomass production may promote the development of highly productive agricultural–industrial systems that protect environmental quality. - Robert Anex and co-authors
The researchers say the nutrient recovery could happen this way: Plant fiber would be converted to liquid fuels by pre-treatments and fermentation. The co-products of fermentation would be dried and heated to turn the solids into gases. The gasification would leave plant nutrients in the resulting ash and ammonia. The nutrients in both streams could be recovered and returned to the fields that produced the biomass. The scientists present a generic case to illustrate their concept:
A generally representative example of nutrient recovery from an integrated biological and thermochemical conversion process designed to produce ethanol and synthetic fuels from switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) indicates that approximately 111 kg ha–1 yr–1 of N can be recovered. This is equivalent to 78% of the N-fertilizer input required. This example illustrates that N recovery and cycling could significantly improve the sustainability of biomass production as well as the overall energy balance of ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass. - Robert Anex and co-authors
This potential for nutrient recycling means there's potential for a new kind of agriculture feeding a sustainable bioeconomy:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
"By creating a large, new domestic demand for agricultural products, the advent of commercial-scale conversion of biomass into ethanol and other industrial chemicals is likely to have a strong influence on the design of agricultural systems," the researchers wrote. "The possibility of recycling nutrients from the biorefinery to the agricultural system that produces the feedstock may allow substantial improvements in both sustainability and production efficiency."

But, sustaining biomass production is a complex system that depends on many variables such as soil type and slope, soil organic matter and the amount of biomass actually harvested.

To help farmers begin to understand how collecting biomass from their fields may affect soil fertility, erosion, energy needs, labor and the bottom line, Anex and a team of Iowa State researchers have added bioeconomy elements to I-FARM, a Web tool that helps farmers simulate and plan various changes to their operations.

I-FARM is free and can be found at http://i-farmtools.org. Its focus is on the upper Midwest but weather and soils data from 28 states are accessible from its database.

In one simulation, the I-FARM research team (Anex, Ed van Ouwerkerk, an Iowa State research associate in agricultural and biosystems engineering; Tom Richard, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Penn State University; Amritpal Kang, an Iowa State graduate student; and Brian Gelder, an Iowa State postdoctoral research associate) studied the effects of harvesting corn stalks and leaves on three farms in northwest Iowa's Palo Alto County. One grain farm harvested no stover, one harvested 1,809 dry tons of stover a year and the other harvested 3,077 dry tons a year.

The simulations found the farm that harvested the most stover also needed the most fertilizer, had the most erosion and barely returned sustainable levels of organic matter to the soil. That farm also recorded the highest net farm income before taxes.

Anex's study of the sustainability of the bioeconomy is being supported, in part, by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

The studies are helping researchers answer some questions about the sustainability of agriculture in a bioeconomy, Anex said. But there are still lots of questions about how everything in a new agricultural system would fit together.

"Despite the promise of alternative crops and cropping systems as well as the nutrient recovery and recycling concepts examined here, there are still many questions that remain about their practical implementation," Anex and the other researchers wrote in their paper. "The issues that have been addressed here and the questions that have been raised are only a small subset of those that must be addressed if we are to usher in a new and beneficial agricultural revolution."

Robert P. Anex, Lee R. Lynd, Mark S. Laser, Andrew H. Heggenstaller and Matt Liebman, "Potential for Enhanced Nutrient Cycling through Coupling of Agricultural and Bioenergy Systems", Crop Science, 47:1327-1335 (2007)

Iowa State University: Iowa State researcher studies the sustainability of the bioeconomy - August 30, 2007.

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Clean coal project ZeroGen achieves milestone by successfully drilling and testing two wells

ZeroGen, Australia’s most advanced clean coal power demonstration project owned by the Queensland government, has achieved [*.pdf] a significant milestone with the completion of the first stage of its test drilling program. The ZeroGen Clean Coal Power Demonstration Project aims to enable deep cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere by combining the technologies of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) and CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS) (schematic, click to enlarge).

Biopact focuses on developments in CCS technologies because they allow for the production of radically carbon-negative energy when applied to biomass (more here, here and here). If implemented on a global scale, socalled 'Bio-energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) systems take historic carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere and allow us to go back to pre-industrial CO2 levels in a matter of decades (earlier post).

The first phase of ZeroGen’s test drilling, Drilling Program One (DP1), involved the drilling of two wells of depths between 1000 and 2000 meters in the Northern Denison Trough in Central Queensland. The tests involved injecting water into the underground saline reservoirs to replicate carbon dioxide released from the production of electricity by burning coal.

An international peer review of the results has now confirmed the tests were successful in determining that the local geology could support the clean coal technology. The ZeroGen team has now mapped out the area for a second round of tests to locate the best saline aquifer for storing large quantities of CO2 - a process called geosequestration. Other objectives of Drilling Program Two (DP2) are to investigate the cost considerations associated with on-shore CO2 storage as well as monitoring and verification techniques:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

DP1 was undertaken by Stanwell Corporation Limited with technical expertise provided by Shell Development (Australia) Limited, a world leader in CO2 sequestration, and a number of Queensland firms. The next phase of investigations will be managed by Stanwell Corporation Limited and will be undertaken in collaboration with Shell, Sunshine Gas, MBA Petroleum Consultants and AGR Asia Pacific.

ZeroGen's commercial partner Shell Development (Australia) has agreed to be part of the next stage and will work in collaboration with Sunshine Gas and MBA Petroleum Consultants. Shell has yet to decide whether to take a 10 per cent equity in the project.

Clean coal technology is considered crucial to addressing global warming, given the continued use of coal-fired power stations, particularly in developing countries. But much depends on whether electricity generated by projects such as ZeroGen would be competitively priced.

While there are a number of clean coal technology projects around the world, including geosequestration tests being undertaken in Victoria's Otway Ranges, ZeroGen is unique in that it is designed to produce power and reduce emissions using a series of technologies in Queensland geological conditions which are, most importantly, similar to that of China. Mr Beattie has made no secret of his desire to sell clean coal technology to China in an effort to safeguard Queensland's future as a coal exporter. He has promoted ZeroGen in meetings with Chinese government officials, while the ZeroGen team has also helped China's GreenGen project and held talks with potential Chinese investors.

Graham Reed, program manager for the Centre for Low Emission Technology, yesterday said ZeroGen had made "a very significant step in so far as this project and Queensland are concerned".

Peter Cook, chief executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, also welcomed the ZeroGen development, describing it as "a first, cautious and totally appropriate step in the process".

The ZeroGen plant's critics, including at one point federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, argue that it is too small at 100mw and will not be commercially viable. Mr Macfarlane would not comment yesterday on the status of ZeroGen's application for federal funding.

But ZeroGen remains several years ahead of its comparable rivals, including the US-based FutureGen project, and is starting to be assessed by coal companies, whose financial support is crucial to its success.

ZeroGen Pty Ltd is owned by the Queensland Government and Stanwell Corporation Limited is the main service provider for the feasibility study. The feasibility study is expected to be completed by late 2008 and involves: further test drilling (DP2); an Environmental Impact Statement; the CO2 pipeline route identification; native title and cultural heritage negotiations; and extensive stakeholder engagement.

Image: artist impression of the proposed ZeroGen power station. Credit: ZeroGen.

ZeroGen: Clean coal project achieves significant milestone - August 30, 2007.

ZeroGen: Test Drilling Fact Sheet [*.pdf].

Queensland Government: Smart State takes step closer to clean coal with ZeroGen - August 30, 2007.

The Australian: Low-emission coal test success - August 30, 2007.

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NETL and USAF release feasibility study for conceptual Coal+Biomass-to-Liquids facility

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) and the U.S. Air Force have released a study that examines the feasibility of producing 100,000 barrels per day of synthetic jet fuel from coal and biomass. The study made a life-cycle analysis and showed the coal+biomass-to-liquids (CBTL) facilities could cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary greenhouse gas, by 20 percent compared to conventional petroleum processes. The resulting fuels would be competitive at current oil prices.

The study provides a performance baseline that can be used to show how CBTL with carbon capture and storage would capitalize on domestic energy resources, provide a buffer against rising petroleum and natural gas prices, and mitigate output of CO2.

The joint NETL/Air Force report, Increasing Security and Reducing Carbon Emissions of the U.S. Transportation Sector: A Transformational Role for Coal with Biomass [*.pdf] looks at a plant design that would gasify coal and biomass, and then convert the gas to jet fuel using Fischer-Tropsch (FT) chemistry (schematic, click to enlarge). The report is the first of a series of feasibility and conceptual plant design studies undertaken for commercial-scale FT plants employing co-gasification of coal and biomass.

At full capacity, a single plant, using the base-case configuration outlined in the report, would use more than 4,500 tons of high-sulfur bituminous coal and nearly 630 tons of corn stover per day. From this feedstock it would produce:
  • Nearly 7,500 barrels per day of diesel fuel or aviation jet fuel that, with additives, can be delivered to end-use customers.
  • More than 3,500 barrels per day of liquid naphtha products that can be shipped to a refinery for further upgrading to commercial-grade products or sold as chemical feedstock.
  • 11.1 megawatts of electricity that can be exported to the grid, in addition to the electricity generated for internal use.
An environmentally friendly energy producer, the conceptual plant is based on the use of “best available control technology” guidelines for sulfur, nitrous oxides, particulate matter, and mercury. In addition, CO2 will be captured and compressed for injection into a pipeline that will ship the CO2 to a sequestration site:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The comparison of CO2 emissions between petroleum-derived diesel and FT diesel was based on a limited well-to-wheel life cycle analysis. The analysis for each fuel included the major CO2 sources from the production and transportation of the feedstocks to the refinery/plant, the CO2 emitted during production, and the CO2 emissions resulting from transportation of the diesel product to the end user and the combustion of the product. Most of these CO2 emissions, apart from the combustion of the fuel itself, result from the energy used in each processing step.

The major limit imposed on the life cycle analysis was that the CO2 emissions resulting from the construction of the CTL facility were not considered. To be conservative, no credit was taken for soil carbon storage by the biomass. Complete greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were not considered. The study considered only emissions of carbon dioxide.

Three types of biomass were examined in this study: switchgrass, poplar trees, and corn stover. In all cases, Illinois #6 bituminous coal was used. A conceptual process design was prepared for a CBTL facility capable of co-feeding coal and biomass into a gasifier to produce a syngas suitable for FT synthesis. The conceptual design estimated the performance, size, and cost of the major pieces of equipment and provided the basis for estimating the CO2 emissions associated with the synthesis of FT diesel.

Most of the estimates for CO2 emissions associated with the production, transportation, and processing of feedstocks and end products were obtained from the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model version 1.7. GREET is a publicly available model that was sponsored by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and has been used to evaluate various fuel and vehicle systems for government and industry. It is a widely accepted model for estimating greenhouse gas emissions from fuels on a well-to-wheels basis.

The study is a well-to-wheels carbon analysis and includes the carbon dioxide emitted in production of the feeds to the CBTL plant, the carbon dioxide emitted during conversion of the input coal and biomass to FT fuels, and the transportation and combustion of these fuels.

Estimates for the CO2 emissions from a conventional refinery were obtained from multiple sources including GREET. A broad range of estimates were reported, depending on the assumed operating efficiency of the refinery.

Conceptual CBTL designs were examined for all three types of biomass. In these conceptual designs coal and biomass are gasified in entrained flow gasifiers and the raw synthesis gas is cleaned of impurities. The clean synthesis gas is then sent to slurry phase FT reactors where the hydrocarbon fuels are produced. Slurry phase reactor technology is under development by several companies and Sasol is utilizing these reactors at their Oryx Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar. Slurry reactors have excellent heat transfer characteristics and allow high conversions of synthesis gas per pass. However, there has not been much commercial experience with these reactors and there are issues relating to hydrodynamics and separation of the wax produced in the FT process from the fine catalyst. Wax is produced to maximize the distillate yield. The wax is hydrocracked to produce additional distillate product.

For each conceptual plant, estimates were made for the amount of biomass that would have to be co-fed with coal to attain the target 20% reduction in CO2 emissions. In these plant configurations about 88% of the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the conversion of the coal to FT fuels are captured and compressed to 2,200 psi. After compression it is assumed that the carbon dioxide is piped from the CBTL plant boundary.

In the analysis, except for one sensitivity case, no additional cost for sequestering or storing the carbon dioxide is included in the economics. In the sensitivity case a cost of $4.60 per metric tonne was added for carbon dioxide transportation, sequestering, and monitoring (TS&M). This increased the required selling price of the FT fuels by about 1.8 percent compared to cases with no costs for TS&M.

However, if the carbon dioxide could be sold for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations or other reuse it would have a net positive value and be a credit in the economic analysis. The results of the study indicated that FT diesel can be produced at the target CO2 reduction level by co-gasifying coal with a relatively modest amount of biomass. For woody biomass, the CO2 reduction target could be attained using 10-15% woody biomass by weight (7-10% by energy) on an as-received basis. For switchgrass, the CO2 reduction target could be attained using 12-18% biomass by weight (7-10% by energy) and for corn stover the needed amount is 12-18% biomass by weight (7-11% by energy).

As part of the study, a scoping level economic analysis was performed for the coal-only plant and the CBTL plants. Based on the economic parameters used in this study, the required selling price (RSP) of the diesel product was estimated to be about $71/barrel for a coal-only (CTL) plant. On a crude oil equivalent basis this would be about $55/bbl. For the woody biomass CBTL plants the RSP of the fuel is estimated to be about $76/barrel. On a crude oil equivalent basis, this is equivalent to $58-59/bbl or about seven percent higher than the coal-only case. For the corn stover and switchgrass plants the RSP of the fuel was estimated to be about $75/bbl. On a crude oil equivalent basis this is about $58/bbl. Some sources, including GREET, indicate that dedicated energy crops including short rotation woody biomass and switchgrass could further reduce the CO2 footprint of a CBTL plant. If the full soil carbon credit can be realized, it would be possible to meet the CO2 reduction goal with as little as 5-10% by weight woody biomass. However, whether or not soil carbon sequestration should be included and the amount of this credit is a controversial issue at present. To be conservative it was decided not to include this credit in this analysis. Because the percentage of biomass required is relatively low and within the range of the limited demonstration test data available for coal:biomass co-feeding to pressurized gasifiers, it is concluded that the proposed CBTL process is potentially feasible.

Energy crops
A limited resource assessment was performed to determine if sufficient biomass can be harvested and transported to a CBTL facility of sufficient size to be economically practical. It was determined that the biomass availability would not be a major limiting factor for CBTL plants in the 7,500 BPD diesel capacity range. This size CBTL facility would require a sustainable annual supply of biomass of about 1,000 TPD. For switchgrass and poplar with dry yields per acre of about 5-6 tons, the total land area required would be about 1,440 square miles (a radius of about 22 miles).

This assumes that only 8 percent of the land is available for production of the energy crops. For corn stover with a lower crop yield of about two dry tons per acre (half of the crop is left on the land for soil conditioning), the area required for sustained operations to produce 1000 TPD would be about 920 square miles (radius of about 17 miles) because the land available for production is assumed to be as high as 31 percent.

All three biomass types examined in this study showed nearly equivalent performance in the CBTL process. Regional land availability will be the most important determinant of which biomass type to use for a specific site. The reference plant studied was a 7,500 BPD diesel plant located in southern Illinois. This plant size was chosen based on a preliminary and highly approximate estimate for the amount of biomass that may be required. The report does not suggest that 7,500 BPD is either the maximum or optimum size for a CBTL plant. It was shown that larger plants of at least 30,000 BPD are feasible based on biomass resource availability. It is left as a recommendation for further work to perform a more detailed biomass resource and infrastructure assessment which would be needed to determine the maximum CBTL plant size that is technically feasible and to determine the optimum plant size for which economies of larger scale balance the increased cost of collecting larger quantities of biomass.

Time horizon
Multiple scenarios were presented with timelines for the build up of a CBTL industry. In the most conservative scenario, the production goal of 100,000 BPD is not attained until 2026. Incentives could stimulate the development of the industry. An aggressive hypothetical production ramp-up was prepared for the construction of seven CBTL facilities that would meet the DoD goal of obtaining 100,000 BPD of synthetic fuel by 2016. The ramp-up assumes that the first two plants will be small 7,500 BPD facilities of the same design as the reference plant. These first plants will use corn stover since this type of biomass is currently available. It is
assumed that over time, more plants will be constructed simultaneously; future plants will be larger in capacity (up to 22,500 BPD) and shake down periods for start-up will grow shorter. These later plants would use mixtures of switchgrass, corn stover, and woody biomass.

Although specific plant locations were not proposed, a national biomass resource assessment has forecast that there will be abundant quantities of suitable biomass available in multiple geographic regions in the U.S. by 2016 and that the hypothetical ramp-up is feasible with respect to resource availability.

Because biomass availability is often seasonal for some crops it is recommended that any CBTL plant have processing equipment on site that is suitable for several biomass types. Although this will increase capital cost, in that way when corn stover is available, after the corn harvest, the CBTL facility can utilize this crop predominately. When the switchgrass is available after harvesting, the facility could use this feed. The woody biomass should be available most of the time depending on the cutting cycle. The coal would act as the flywheel to keep the plant operating at a fairly constant output.

The concept of using both coal and biomass together to produce high quality FT fuels via gasification should be advantageous to both coal and biomass to energy technologies. Coprocessing biomass with coal can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a CTL facility and the gasification route allows non-food product biomass-like cellulose and lignin to be used for energy production.

In conclusion, the report finds economic benefits for converting coal and biomass to liquids, based on the price of crude oil. At current crude oil prices of over $60 per barrel, the commercial-scale CBTL plant configurations are shown to produce products that are competitive in the liquid fuel markets.

National Energy Technology Laboratory: Increasing Security and Reducing Carbon Emissions of the U.S. Transportation Sector: A Transformational Role for Coal with Biomass - Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Department of Defense, Air Force - August 24, 2007.

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Brazilian president proposes to include biofuels in Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty

Brazil's president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has launched the proposition [*Portuguese] to include a biofuel mandate in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a way to alleviate poverty in Africa. He expressed the idea during the presentation of the latest data which show that Brazil succeeded in reducing extreme poverty in the country by half, surpassing the UN's target. The link between poverty reduction, the MDGs and biofuels is very much present in the leader's global vision on development.

Lula said that when the wealthy countries start utilizing biodiesel and ethanol on a large scale, this should happen with the participation of Africa, where biofuel production is set to bring unprecedented opportunities for development. To do so, a mandate should be included in the UN's Millennium Development Goals - a set of eight ambitious targets aimed at reducing poverty by half by 2015.
Global biofuel production should be included in the framework of the MDGs: all countries should aim for a target of introducing 20 per cent ethanol or biodiesel by 2015 to 2020. [...] Africa's problem is that it has much to offer, but little money to invest. For this reason I am a strong proponent of a biofuel program that links the global transition towards renewables with the opportunity to generate employment and incomes in Africa. - Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil
Earlier this month the Brazilian government participated in a high level meeting with the African Union and the UNIDO to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by biofuels on the continent. A panel of African scientists there concluded that biofuel development may help reach the MDGs (earlier post). Without access to abundant and modern forms of energy, social and economic development is impossible. Energy economists have therefor called for more attention to energy economics in international development efforts (e.g. A Place for Energy Poverty in the Agenda? [*.pdf] by the IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol). Likewise, the director-general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said biofuels offer an historic chance to lift African countries out of poverty, because they offer unprecedented employment opportunities while providing that most necessary of goods: energy. However, changes in the current global trade regime are needed to achieve these benefits (previous post). The Worldwatch Institute for its part recently made the case that biofuels will help cut undernourishment in the poorest countries - a clear Millennium Development Goal.

President Lula hinted at the positive contribution to poverty alleviation of the Pro-Biodiesel program initiated in Brazil in 2003. In 2005, a biodiesel mandate was introduced requiring a 2% blend by 2008 and 5% by 2010. The program is based on the inclusion of the poorest rural households, who produce feedstocks under a 'Social Seal'. This system gives incentives to biofuel producers who source this feedstock (earlier post). Some 65,000 of the poorest farmers and their families are so far benefiting from the program.

The Brazilian president, enjoying his last term, wants to replicate the model in Africa and has launched several South-South initiatives to do so. But the real potential for African countries is to participate in a global market. Africa has all the necessary resources - abundant land, labor in need of income and employment, a huge rural population that needs to diversify its crop portfolios and needs new markets, and suitable agro-climatic conditions for a range of biofuel crops - but it lacks capital. Coupling the wealthy country's needs to Africa's potential would thus present a win-win case. The instrument of the Millennium Development Goals offers a way to ensure that the idea is implemented in a sustainable way that strengthens the goals.

Lula made the suggestion during his presentation of the Third National Report on the MDGs, which showed that the country had succeeded in meeting the goal of reducing extreme poverty by half. The MDGs include a global partnership for development with Brazil for the first time becoming a net donor of development assistance. The country wrote off around US$400 million of Africa's debts:
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According to projections by the Brazilian government, the country will succeed in reaching the other MDGs well before the stated year of 2015. These include eradicating extreme poverty, providing basic education to all, boosting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, ensuring environmental sustainability.

Several organisations have called for the inclusion of energy security and access to energy as a goal, because ultimately, access to energy is crucial for reaching the other goals. Not formally included, many international development organisations now do have energy programs, because the socio-economic impacts of rising prices have proved to be disastrous to the poorest countries. Moreover, biofuels and bioenergy offer one of the most feasible ways to ensure that the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is undertaken with the participation of developing countries.


Aquidauana News: Lula quer incluir biocombustível entre as metas do milênio - August 29, 2007.

People's Daily: Brazilian president proposes biofuel usage to help reduce African poverty - August 30, 2007.

Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome: Pobreza extrema atinge menor índice e Brasil ultrapassa meta da ONU - August 29, 2007.

UN Millennium Development Goals.

Fatih Birol, "Energy Economics: A Place for Energy Poverty in the Agenda?", The Energy Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3., International Association for Energy Economics, 2007.

Biopact: Report: biofuels key to achieving Millennium Development Goals in Africa - August 02, 2007

Biopact: FAO chief calls for a 'Biopact' between the North and the South -
August 15, 2007

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

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Mozambique's Petromoc seeks to invest $408 million in biofuels

Mozambican oil company Petróleos de Moçambique (Petromoc), together with its partners, is working to raise US$408 million to finance a project for production of biofuels which will replace the country's total petro-diesel consumption. Claudio James, one of the Petromoc engineers, says the project, to be implemented in three phases, is set to create about 800 jobs and will substantially reduce the country's fuel bill.

Oil prices increased three-fold over the past years, with disastrous consequences for developing countries. Some poor country governments are now forced to spend twice as much on importing oil products than on health. Increased energy prices affect all sectors of the economy and drive inflation, especially in energy intensive economies like those in the South. Biofuels can mitigate these negative effects.

According to James, the project has been designed already, and Petromoc and its partners are raising funds for its implementation, which implies planting 45,000 hectares of jatropha. The energy plantation will yield about 500,000 tonnes of raw material to produce 226 million litres of biodiesel a year.

As partners, Petromoc is counting on Brazil's INM International, Sonipal Ltd, and Aruangua Agro-Industrial Lda. The engineer estimates that within 36 to 48 months, Mozambique will be able to produce enough biodiesel to supply the entire country.

Mozambique is seen by analysts as one of the African countries that contribute considerably to the continent's large biofuel production potential. Researchers affiliated with the International Energy Agency estimate that Mozambique can produce around 7 Exajoules of biofuels sustainably (earlier post; map, click to enlarge). The country currently consumes around 590,000 tonnes of oil products per year, the bulk being diesel (IEA data). This equates to around 0.18EJ. Achieving full energy independence is well within reach, with capacity to spare to supply international markets.

When it comes to the availability of land, the country currently uses around 4.3 million hectares out of a total of 63.5 million hectares of potential arable land, or 6.6 per cent (FAO). Moreover, some 41 million hectares of poor quality land are available for the production of energy crops that require few inputs and are not suitable for food production (earlier post):
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Meanwhile, Petromoc has begun to implement a smaller biodiesel project worth US$ 4 million, of which the first $600,000 have been invested. This pilot project, implemented by Energias Alternativas Renováveis, Lda (ECOMOZ), a subsidiary of Petromoc, relies on coconut oil as a feedstock, but the company is considering other oil crops. Capacity is 40 million liters per year. The plant is located in the Inhambane Province.

Another local company has begun planting palm trees, but because it takes about seven years before the plants reach full maturity, jatropha is thought of as the quickest way out because it starts yielding from year three onwards, James added.

Mozambique now has an installed capacity to produce 80,000 litres of biodiesel per day. James said Petromoc is hoping the government will grant incentives for the production of biodiesel. Petromoc counts on initiating the establishment of a 3000 hectare jatropha immediately and a study for the full swing of the project is to be finalised soon.

A host of other companies are investing in Mozambique's biofuel potential too. Canada's Energem recently acquired a jatropha biodiesel project based on an initial 1000 hectares; it will begin planting a further 5000 hectares, and will invest in an additional 60,000 hectares over the coming years (earlier post). Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Brazilian companies are active in the sector as well (more here).

Most recently, the government of India and Mozambique discussed the potential of the biofuel sector to alleviate poverty in the country (previous post).

Map credit:
Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets.

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique: Petromoc Seeks Funding to Produce Bio-Fuels - 29 August 2007

Petromoc: Inauguração da Unidade de Produção de Biodisel da ECOMOZ - August 22, 2007.

Salvador Namburete: Mozambique's Experience on Bio-fuels [*.pdf], Minister of Energy of the Republic of Mozambique, presentation at the International Conference on Biofuels, Brussels, July 5-6, 2007.

Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets (2006), "Biomass and bioenergy supply from Mozambique" [*abstract / *.pdf], Energy for Sustainable Development, X(1),
Pp. 54-81

Faaij, A.P.C., "Emerging international biomass markets and the potential implications for rural development" [*.pdf], Development and Climate Project Workshop: Rural development, the roles of food, water and biomass; opportunities and challenges; Dakar, Senegal, 14-16 November 2005.

Biopact: Mozambique-India partnership: biofuels for poverty alleviation - July 03, 2007

Biopact: Energem acquires jatropha biodiesel project in Mozambique - August 02, 2007

Biopact: Journal "Energy for Sustainable Development" focuses on international bioenergy trade - November 05, 2006

Biopact: Lusophone world and China join forces to produce biofuels in Mozambique - May 19, 2007

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