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    The U.S. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) announces that 31 models of motor vehicles will be offered in the U.S. with an E85 capable engine in 2008. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes Benz will all offer flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the coming year. The NEVC expects 750,000 such FFVs will be produced in 2008. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    Spanish renewables group Abengoa released its results for the first half of 2007 financial year in which its consolidated sales were €1,393.6 million, which is a 27.9 percent increase on the previous year. Earnings after tax were €54.9 million, an 18.6 percent increase on the previous year's figure of 46.3 million euro. Abengoa is active in the bioenergy, solar and environmental services sector. Abengoa - September 4, 2007.

    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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Saturday, September 01, 2007

First global satellite survey of gas flaring shows hidden costs of oil

The first globally consistent survey of gas flaring has been conducted using satellite data, and a series of national and global estimates of gas flaring volumes have been produced covering a twelve-year period spanning 1995 through 2006.

Color composite of the nighttime gas flaring lights of the Nigeria region generated using 1992 as blue, 2000 as green, and 2006 as red. Nigeria is the second largest contributor to global gas flaring, after Russia.
The report [*.pdf], which was commissioned and funded by the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR), was executed by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The results show the hidden costs of the oil and gas industry, as large amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere and useful energy is wasted through gas flaring.

Gas flaring estimates, which were produced for sixty countries or areas around the world, show that global gas flaring has remained stable over the past twelve years, but remains large - in the range of 150 to 170 billion cubic meters (bcm).

According to the satellite data, in 2006 oil producing countries and companies burned about 170 bcm of natural gas worldwide or nearly five trillion cubic feet (graph, click to enlarge). That’s equivalent to 27% of total U.S. natural gas consumption and 5.5% of total global production of natural gas for the year. If the gas had been sold in the United States instead of being flared, the total US market value would have been about $40 billion. Gas flaring also emits some 400 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, more than the total emissions of a country like France.
Gas flaring not only harms the environment by contributing to global warming but is a huge waste of a cleaner source of energy that could be used to generate much needed electricity in poor countries around the world. In Africa alone about 40 billion cubic meters of gas are burned every year, which if put to use could generate half of the electricity needed in that continent. -Bent Svensson, manager of the World Bank’s GGFR partnership.
Flaring or burning of gas is widely used to dispose of natural gas liberated during oil production and processing when this occurs in remote areas far from potential users, where there is often no infrastructure on site to make use of the gas. In recent years, however, renewed efforts are being made to eliminate flaring, such as re-injecting it into the ground to boost oil production, converting it into liquefied natural gas for shipment, transporting it to markets via pipelines, or using it on site for generation of electricity:
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Since this is the first study of gas flaring using satellite observations, scientists warn that these preliminary results should be used with caution, as there still are several sources of error and uncertainty, including variations in flare efficiency, mis-identification of flares, non-continuous sampling, and environmental effects:

In any case the results are welcomed by the climate change and energy community.
This study proves that it is possible to monitor gas flaring from space and make reasonable and independent estimates of the volume being wasted. In the past, the only way to track gas flaring was through official estimates, but now those days are over. These independent figures should help governments and companies alike to get a better sense of how much gas they are actually flaring. - Christopher Elvidge, lead author, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center
According to the satellite observations, 22 countries have increased gas flaring over the past 12 years. These include: Azerbaijan, Chad, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Myanmar, Oman, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia (excluding Khanty Mansiysk region), Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

On the other hand, the satellite observations show that 16 countries have decreased gas flaring from 1995 to 2006, including Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria, North Sea, Norway, Peru, Syria, UAE and USA (offshore).

And nine countries have had largely stable gas flaring across those 12 years. These include Australia, Ecuador, Gabon, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Khanty-Mansiysk (Russian Federation), Romania, and Trinidad.

The authors used low-light imaging data from the U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program to assess the volumes of gas burned in flares, which are visible in observations of nighttime lights under cloud-free conditions (map at the beginning of this article, click to enlarge). Current and planned satellite sensors will continue to provide data suitable for estimating gas flaring volumes for decades to come. GGFR encourages on-site monitoring as well to help track changes in gas flaring volumes and to report progress in reducing flaring.

In 2002 the World Bank and the Government of Norway started the Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) initiative, which now has 12 country partners and 10 industrial partners, including the world’s largest petroleum companies. GGFR’s main goal is to bring all major stakeholders around the table so that they can together reduce the barriers to eliminate gas flaring to minimum levels. These main barriers include lack of an effective regulatory framework for associated gas utilization, lack of markets and lack of infrastructure to take the gas to those markets.

The GGFR partnership, managed and facilitated by a team at the World Bank in Washington, DC, includes the following partners: Algeria (Sonatrach), Angola, Cameroon, Canada (CIDA), Chad, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Khanty-Mansijsysk (Russia), Nigeria, Norway, U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office, the United States (DOE); BP, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Hydro, Shell, Statoil, TOTAL; OPEC Secretariat, and the World Bank.

National Geophysical Data Center / Global Gas Flaring Reduction: A Twelve Year Record of National and Global Gas. Flaring Volumes Estimated Using Satellite Data [*.pdf], Final Report to the World Bank - May 30, 2007

National Geophysical Data Center: Gas Flaring Survey, global results and country results.

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German IT firm uses biogas fuel cell to power server farm

In a world first, German IT service firm T-Systems has taken a biogas fuel cell into operation [*German] to power and cool one of its server farms - these energy devouring machines that power our information society. The servers' electricity and cooling requirements are covered in an entirely carbon-neutral way by the 250Kw pilot system. Better still, because of the extreme efficiency of the fuel cell, T-systems is set to cut energy costs considerably. Affordable green computing power is becoming reality.

We referred earlier to the trials with this biogas powered fuel cell. Now it is being taking into full operation. The project is a joint initiative of Power and Air Solutions, Voigt und Haeffner, and CFC Solutions GmbH, a subsidiary of MTU, supported by the German Ministry for Technology & Economy. The cell, a 'Hot Module' manufactured by CFC Solutions measures 8 by 2.5 meters and consists of three components: a gas pretreatment section that converts biomethane into hydrogen, the fuel cell, and the electricity converters that convert direct into alternating current. Coupled to the system is a cooling cell that converts the heat generated by the Hot Module (400 degrees Centigrade) into cold air used to cool the server space (image, click to enlarge).

Specifications of the biogas powered Hot Module:
  • System efficiency: 90%
  • Electrical efficiency: 47%
  • Thermal output: 180Kw
  • Electrical output: 238Kw
  • Coupled heat-power-cooling system
T-Systems wants to build a power system entirely independent of grid-electricity, in order to ensure that its energy is climate neutral and supplies are guaranteed all the time. The biogas used to power the system is generated from biogas maize produced in the vicinity of the city of München. When the biogas is converted into hydrogen, the CO2 that is released is taken back up by the dedicated energy crop, making the cycle carbon neutral.

T-Systems has been enthusiastic because the extreme efficiency of the biogas powered fuel cell has allowed it to cut energy costs. The overall thermal and electrical efficiency of the system - combining heat, power and cooling - adds up to more than 90 per cent. Traditional utility power generation plants often have a capacity below 40 per cent.

Bernd Kraus, Business Process Outsourcing chief at T-Systems, says that the company currently spends 29 per cent on energy. Without the fuel cell system, these costs would increase to 38 per cent by 2010. The biogas fuel cell system allows T-Systems instead to push down costs to 20 per cent by 2010. Costs of the project are €2.5 million, partly covered by a €1 million research grant by the German Ministry of Technology and Economy.

Energy costs at the server park are high and have been increasing steeply over the past years due to rising grid electricity prices. The servers devour more energy than all of T-System's other operations. Fifty per cent goes to cooling. Moreover, as new servers keep getting stacked on racks in the same space, cooling needs per cubic meter become bigger and bigger:
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The biomethane for the project is produced by Schmack GmbH, a global biogas leader. The biofuel is produced locally - in Pliening near München - from dedicated energy crops. The crop in question is starch rich maize, the whole crop of which is utilized to generate approximately 5000 cubic meters of methane per hectare. This is enough methane to yield an equivalent of 50 MWh per hectare per year.

T-Systems-Manager Horstmann, Project coordinator Willi Hoffmann and State Secretary of Bayern Hans Spitzner push the button, activating the unique power system. Green and efficient computing power is now a reality.

To power T-Systems' entire data center in München with biogas, around 40 to 80 of the fuel cells would be required, says Manfred Teumer, T-Systems chief for Infrastructure & Architecture Services. One entire server farm requires around 1 square kilometer of biogas maize.

An advantage of the fuel cell system is that it yields a constant amount of energy, which is exactly what is needed for server farms that do not show sudden peaks in power consumption.

In case of power outages, T-Systems used to rely on its own diesel generators. But this is a thing from the past. By implementing a 'cross-cable' concept in the design of the fuel cell system, two fully independent power circuits are available all the time. In case the grid blacks out, the fuel cell takes over 100 per cent.

All images courtesy of Herman Gfaller, Silicon.de.

Silicon.de: Bildergalerie: Brennstoffzelle im T-Systems-Rechenzentrum - August 30, 2007.

Silicon.de: Biogas fürs Rechenzentrum - T-Systems hat in seinem Rechenzentrum im Euro-Industriepark (EIP) München den Dauertest einer Brennstoffzelle gestartet - August 27, 2007.

Silicon.de: Geiz ist im Rechenzentrum geiler als Ökologie - August 17, 2007.

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Ontario province funds agricultural and bioenergy research in Northwest

The Ontario government is supporting agricultural research that will advance crop and bioenergy production in Northwestern Ontario's Thunder Bay and Nipigon regions. Bill Mauro announced the initiative on behalf of Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci.

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), designed to foster job creation and strengthen the economies of northern communities, will invest $675,000 to help the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association investigate research in four major areas: biomass production, medicinal plants, sustainability of production systems and crop nutrition.

The Thunder Bay area and the Northwest (map, click to enlarge) is considered an agricultural frontier that presents unique challenges to the production of certain crops.
  • One of the initiatives involves biomass production – turning biomass crops into liquid, solid and gaseous biofuels.
  • Another initiative will look at sustainability by testing how manure, wood ash and lime interact with fertilizer to grow crops.
  • A third initiative involves testing soil to determine what effect nutrients like zinc and magnesium have on corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
  • And the fourth will determine the benefits of local medicinal plants.
Station manager Tarlok Sahota says the station will put greater emphasis on economic drivers over the next five years.

Other investments announced by the NOHFC incude:
  • Providing $6 million to Lakehead University, which is building capacity that will support the competitive and sustainable development of Ontario’s boreal forest
  • Providing $355,974 to Lakehead University, in partnership with Bowater Canadian Forest Products and the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, for the development of new testing apparatus that would measure the polluting effects of pulp and paper mill waste water
  • Establishing the Forest Sector Prosperity Fund, part of the $1-billion plan to help forest companies invest in their own future and the future of the communities that depend on them.
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"We are looking forward to the results of this ambitious agricultural research. We are optimistic that it could create opportunities for the development of regional industries aimed at processing, marketing and adding value to local farm products," said Bill Mauro.

These initiatives are part of the government’s Northern Prosperity Plan for building stronger northern communities. It has four pillars: Strengthening the North and its Communities; Listening to and Serving Northerners Better; Competing Globally; and Providing Opportunities for All.

Ministry of Northern Development and Mines: Ontario Supports Nipigon Diversification Efforts - August 31, 2007

Ministry of Northern Development and Mines: Province Funds Agricultural Research In Northwest - August 30, 2007.

Chronicle Journal, Thunderbay: Farmers score with canola - August 30, 2007.

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Petrobras signs a MoU with India's Bharat Petroleum on biofuels marketing, logistics

Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras, via its downstream business, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with India's state-owned Bharat Petroleum to develop the market for biofuels. Downstream director Paulo Roberto Costa signed the MOU on Petrobras' behalf, while Bharat Petroleum's executive director Sanjay Krishnamurti signed for the Indian company.

The MOU is aimed at the undertaking of technical studies in ethanol and biodiesel logistics and marketing with views to exporting these goods to India and other markets abroad.

Bharat Petroleum has a strong presence in oil refining and derivative marketing in the Indian market and intends to implement the use of an ethanol-gasoline mix and to develop international ethanol marketing business opportunities [entry ends here].
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