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    Brasil Ecodiesel, the leading Brazilian biodiesel producer company, recorded an increase of 57.7% in sales in the third quarter of the current year, in comparison with the previous three months. Sales volume stood at 53,000 cubic metres from August until September, against 34,000 cubic metres of the biofuel between April and June. The company is also concluding negotiations to export between 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of glycerine per month to the Asian market. ANBA - October 4, 2007.

    PolyOne Corporation, the US supplier of specialised polymer materials, has opened a new colour concentrates manufacturing plant in Kutno, Poland. Located in central Poland, the new plant will produce colour products in the first instance, although the company says the facility can be expanded to handle other products. In March, the Ohio-based firm launched a range of of liquid colourants for use in bioplastics in biodegradable applications. The concentrates are European food contact compliant and can be used in polylactic acid (PLA) or starch-based blends. Plastics & Rubber Weekly - October 2, 2007.

    A turbo-charged, spray-guided direct-injection engine running on pure ethanol (E100) can achieve very high specific output, and shows “significant potential for aggressive engine downsizing for a dedicated or dual-fuel solution”, according to engineers at Orbital Corporation. GreenCarCongress - October 2, 2007.

    UK-based NiTech Solutions receives £800,000 in private funding to commercialize a cost-saving industrial mixing system, dubbed the Continuous Oscillatory Baffled Reactor (COBR), which can lower costs by 50 per cent and reduce process time by as much as 90 per cent during the manufacture of a range of commodities including chemicals, drugs and biofuels. Scotsman - October 2, 2007.

    A group of Spanish investors is building a new bioethanol plant in the western region of Extremadura that should be producing fuel from maize in 2009. Alcoholes Biocarburantes de Extremadura (Albiex) has already started work on the site near Badajoz and expects to spend €42/$59 million on the plant in the next two years. It will produce 110 million litres a year of bioethanol and 87 million kg of grain byproduct that can be used for animal feed. Europapress - September 28, 2007.

    Portuguese fuel company Prio SA and UK based FCL Biofuels have joined forces to launch the Portuguese consumer biodiesel brand, PrioBio, in the UK. PrioBio is scheduled to be available in the UK from 1st November. By the end of this year (2007), says FCL Biofuel, the partnership’s two biodiesel refineries will have a total capacity of 200,000 tonnes which will is set to grow to 400,000 tonnes by the end of 2010. Biofuel Review - September 27, 2007.

    According to Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, one third of the value of all of Finland's exports consists of environmentally friendly technologies. Finland has invested in climate and energy technologies, particularly in combined heat and power production from biomass, bioenergy and wind power, the president said at the UN secretary-general's high-level event on climate change. Newroom Finland - September 25, 2007.

    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

    Analysts fear that record oil prices will fuel general inflation in Kenya, particularly hitting the poorest hard. They call for the development of new policies and strategies to cope with sustained high oil prices. Such policies include alternative fuels like biofuels, conservation measures, and more investments in oil and gas exploration. The poor in Kenya are hit hardest by the sharp increase, because they spend most of their budget on fuel and transport. Furthermore, in oil intensive economies like Kenya, high oil prices push up prices for food and most other basic goods. All Africa - September 20, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Power has won an order to supply Kalmar Energi Värme AB with a biomass-fired power boiler for the company’s new combined heat and power plant in Kalmar on the east coast of Sweden. Start-up for the plant is scheduled for the end of 2009. The value of the order is approximately EUR 55 million. The power boiler (90 MWth) will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology and will burn biomass replacing old district heating boilers and reducing the consumption of oil. The delivery will also include a flue gas condensing system to increase plant's district heat production. Metso Corporation - September 19, 2007.

    Jo-Carroll Energy announced today its plan to build an 80 megawatt, biomass-fueled, renewable energy center in Illinois. The US$ 140 million plant will be fueled by various types of renewable biomass, such as clean waste wood, corn stover and switchgrass. Jo-Carroll Energy - September 18, 2007.

    Beihai Gofar Marine Biological Industry Co Ltd, in China's southern region of Guangxi, plans to build a 100,000 tonne-per-year fuel ethanol plant using cassava as feedstock. The Shanghai-listed company plans to raise about 560 million yuan ($74.5 million) in a share placement to finance the project and boost its cash flow. Reuters - September 18, 2007.

    The oil-dependent island state of Fiji has requested US company Avalor Capital, LLC, to invest in biodiesel and ethanol. The Fiji government has urged the company to move its $250million 'Fiji Biofuels Project' forward at the earliest possible date. Fiji Live - September 18, 2007.

    The Bowen Group, one of Ireland's biggest construction groups has announced a strategic move into the biomass energy sector. It is planning a €25 million investment over the next five years to fund up to 100 projects that will create electricity from biomass. Its ambition is to install up to 135 megawatts of biomass-fuelled heat from local forestry sources, which is equal to 50 million litres or about €25m worth of imported oil. Irish Examiner - September 16, 2007.

    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Yulex partners with USDA and Mendel Biotech to double rubber and biomass yields of Guayule

Yulex Corporation, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Mendel Biotechnology have signed an agreement to develop and field test proprietary Guayule plants with enhanced natural rubber latex yields and increased biomass.

Yulex Corporation is at the forefront of a clean technology industry in the U.S. Southwest based on Guayule (Parthenium argentatum), a versatile desert plant that has become a commercial source of bio-based rubber latex, and a cellulosic feedstock for bioethanol and other forms of bioenergy production.

With record oil prices, raw material costs for the manufacture of many rubber products have increased substantially. Both natural rubber (from Hevea trees) as well as synthetic rubber have trended up steeply, partly as a result of high petroleum prices, but strong demand from rapidly growing economies (especially China) is a key factor too (graph, click to enlarge). This situation has revived interest in alternative plants that yield latex. Guayule has been intensively researched as a candidate for almost a century.
Launching this program with Mendel and the Agricultural Research Service will greatly accelerate the achievement of our long term goals which include the ability to provide an economical rubber product on a global basis while providing a regional solution for ethanol production in the Southwest United States. We expect to see a vast improvement in guayule rubber yields which will allow guayule production fields to produce significantly more rubber per acre than rubber plantations in Southeast Asia. - Jeffrey Martin, CEO and President of Yulex Corporation
Robert A. Creelman, senior scientist at Mendel Biotechnology and principle investigator on the project says that expertise in plant regulatory genes and proprietary technology in transferring these genes, must allow for the creation of improved varieties of guayule that will make twice as much rubber. Since guayule grows in the United States, these improved varieties will create opportunities for American farmers, reduce dependence on imported natural latex and rubber, and decrease use of synthetic latex and rubber.

The goal of collaboration is to increase the amount of latex, rubber, and biomass the plant produces. Over the next three years, Yulex Corporation, Mendel Biotechnology, and USDA scientists will test the new guayule transgenic lines and enhanced rubber biosynthesis genes for yield improvements as well as stress tolerance. Yulex will conduct latex extraction and chemical tests, the USDA-ARS will perform agronomic, chemical and biochemical tests, and Mendel will carry out molecular tests on the new transgenic guayule plants:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Yulex obtained an exclusive license on a technology developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists in 1997 to extract natural rubber latex from the guayule plant. Since then, Yulex has emerged as the market innovator producing medical grade latex for medical and consumer products.

Yulex is currently marketing its high-performing natural rubber latex material to medical device manufacturers internationally in order to provide needed alternative products for the 73 percent of spina bifida children that suffer from Type I latex allergy and the 10 percent of healthcare workers and six percent of the general population that have symptoms of latex allergy.

The crop

Guayule grows to an average height of three feet, and produces natural rubber latex in its bark. The "variety protected" line of domesticated Guayule, reaches maturity in two years with high-latex yields.

For sustainable production, guayule grows well in arid and semi arid areas of the southwestern United States, North Central Mexico and regions with similar climates around the world. Because the Guayule plant produces terpene resins, which are natural pesticides, it is resistant to many pests and diseases. Herbicides are primarily necessary for stand establishment. When ready for harvest, it is clipped and baled with patented farming equipment. After clipping, Guayule will re-grow from its root system and be ready for latex harvesting again year after year.

Guayule has a century's worth of history as an American rubber source and alternative to the tropical Brazilian rubber tree; however, previous efforts had focused on bulk rubber for the tire industry. Yulex is the first commercial enterprise to develop Guayule as an industrial crop for its valuable latex which is marketed to the medical device industry and other.

Extracting latex
Yulex is the first company to commercially extract latex from Guayule. The patented manufacturing process Yulex uses is economical as well as environmentally sound. The Yulex biorefinery is fully automated 24/7 and produces medical-quality natural rubber latex, bio-based materials such as cellulosic ethanol, adhesives, organic pesticides, wood preservatives and other specialty chemicals.

Yulex's commercial pilot operation is located in Phoenix, Arizona. The bioprocessing operations extract the natural rubber latex from the Guayule biomass utilizing environmentally friendly ("green") processing, using only aqueous (water-based) solution.

The extraction process follows a patented four step operation which includes grinding, filtration, clarification, and concentration. The process begins with homogenizing the Guayule plant. Branches are ground breaking open the cells in the plant, releasing intact rubber particles and creating an aqueous suspension (forming latex). The suspension is placed in a high-speed centrifuge for separation and Guayule rubber particles are lighter than the aqueous solution, they are separated from the suspension. The latex portion of the mixture is culled off the top (much the same way that cream is skimmed off milk) and purified. Yulex latex is then shipped to the company's distribution and manufacturing partners.

Photo opening the article: Guayule latex is milky white after processing. Credit: David Kadlubowski, Yulex Corporation

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Bioreactor coupled to electromagnetic field boosts ethanol production by 17%

In a finding that could reduce the production cost of ethanol, researchers from the State University of Campinas in Brazil report success in using low frequency magnetic waves to significantly boost the amount of ethanol produced through the fermentation of sugar. Their study is available as an open access article [*.pdf] in the advance online edition of the American Chemical Society's Biotechnology Progress, a bi-monthly journal. The print version will appear in the October 5 issue.

Several scientists have tried to confirm that static or pulse magnetic fields with low magnetic induction and extremely low frequency, respectively, may induce effects on microbial and mammalian cells. These magnetic field bioeffects have received considerable attention in the scientific community because the interaction mechanisms of these fields with biological systems are unclear. Therefore, several works about the effects of the extremely low frequency electromagnetic field on animal and bacterial cells have been published in the past decades. In contrast, for fungi and yeast strains only comparatively few work had been done.

In their study, Victor Perez and colleagues showed that the fermentation of sugar cane by the commonly used yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the presence of extremely low frequency magnetic waves boosted ethanol production by 17 percent. The scientists also showed that ethanol production was faster, taking two hours less than standard fermentation methods:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The results presented in the report suggest that an extremely low frequency magnetic field induces alterations in ethanol production by S. cervisiae and that the magnetic field treatment can be easily implemented at an industrial scale.

Analysts and researchers have predicted that ethanol production will continue to follow its path towards ever increasing efficiency, as it has over the past 25 years in Brazil. There, producers succeeded in lowering production costs by 70 per cent over the course of less than three decennia (earlier post). Innovations in agronomy and biotechnology, process engineering, and logistics are expected to double ethanol yields from sugar cane over the coming two decades.

The findings by the scientists from Unicamp are yet another example of the processes and innovations that drive this continuing trend.

Image: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, common baker's yeast used for the fermentation of sugar into ethanol.

Victor H. Perez, Alfredo F. Reyes, Oselys R. Justo, David C. Alvarez, and Ranulfo M. Alegre, "Bioreactor Coupled with Electromagnetic Field Generator: Effects of Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields on Ethanol Production by Saccharomyces cerevisiae" [*.pdf, or *.html], Biotechnol. Prog., ASAP Article DOI: 10.1021/bp070078k S8756-7938(07)00078-1

Biopact: Brazil's ethanol production costs decreased 75% in 25 years - August 10, 2006

Biopact: New technologies to double sugar cane ethanol output to 13,000 liters per hectare - November 10, 2006

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Scientists release new low-lignin sorghums: ideal for biofuel and feed

New, low-lignin sorghum germplasm lines developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating university scientists are now available for bolstering the grain crop's value as both a livestock feed and ethanol resource.

Lignin is a cellular 'glue' of sorts that imparts rigidity and strength to plant tissues. It also plays direct and indirect roles in helping plants fend off insects and pathogens. But breeding sorghum with reduced lignin can have beneficial effects, too, say plant pathologist Deanna L. Funnell, geneticist Jeffery F. Pedersen, and agronomist John J. Toy at ARS’s Grain, Forage, and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Atlas bmr-12, which was developed by the ARS team and evaluated with University of Nebraska-Lincoln colleagues Richard Grant and Amanda Oliver, is a good example of reduced-lignin’s benefits. In the laboratory, Atlas bmr-12 scored higher on fiber digestibility than standard sorghum, which should result in higher milk production and higher beef gains when cattle are fed the new variety. Atlas bmr-12’s greater fiber digestibility also raises the prospect of improved sorghum-to-ethanol conversion at the processing plants.

The researchers initially anticipated that breeding low-lignin sorghum would diminish the plants’ defensive capabilities. But they observed otherwise in tests with harmful species of Alternaria and Fusarium fungi.

In the lab, Funnell inoculated low-lignin lines—containing either bmr-6 or bmr-12 genes—and control varieties with Fusarium moniliforme and compared the length of the red-pigmented lesions that demarcate the fungus’s spread. Inside the stems, or peduncles, of the low-lignin lines, the lesions were shorter than those of the controls, suggesting bmr-6 and bmr-12’s greater resistance. On bmr-12, for example, the lesions averaged 78 millimeters long, versus 117 millimeters for the control:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

“This surprised us because lignin has been linked to disease resistance,” says Funnell. During breeding stages, Pedersen incorporated two of several genes for a trait called “brown midrib,” which is associated with reduced lignin. The researchers theorize that the genes may have disrupted the functioning of key enzymes so as to allow buildup of phenolic compounds with antifungal activity.

“We hypothesize that there’s a difference in the levels of phenolics—the precursors to lignin—and some of these have been shown to be toxic to fungi,” says Funnell. The phenolics pose no such danger to livestock or humans and may confer health benefits.

ARS has received U.S. Plant Variety Protection on Atlas bmr-12.

Sorghum has become one of the most interesting and most researched energy crops amongst bioenergy scientists. Several projects are underway to develop drought-tolerant varieties, high sugar varieties and high biomass varieties. Some sorghums promise great opportunities for use in developing countries, where they can be grown with low inputs to yield both fuel, food, fiber and fodder (earlier post and more here).

Last month, a major breakthrough was achieved when researchers succeeded in engineering a sorghum that can grown in soils plagued by aluminum toxicity. Such acidic soils limit crop production in as much as half the world's arable land (previous post).

Photo: Geneticist Jeff Pedersen (left), plant pathologist Deanna Funnell, and agronomist John Toy examine a field of Atlas bmr-12 sorghum that will be used in digestibility studies. Courtesy: Stephen Ausmus.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service: Scientists Release New
Sorghum for Feed and Fuel
- September 10, 2007.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service: New Sorghum is Ideal for Both Fuel and Feed - September 10, 2007.

Biopact: Major breakthrough: researchers engineer sorghum that beats aluminum toxicity - August 27, 2007

Biopact: Sun Grant Initiative funds 17 bioenergy research projects - August 20, 2007

Biopact: Researchers and producers optimistic about sweet sorghum as biofuel feedstock - July 27, 2007

Biopact: Mapping sorghum's genome to create robust biomass crops - June 24, 2007

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

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Finaxo Environnement reports successful trial of experimental pyrogasification of biomass

Finaxo Environnement, a French bioenergy and water treatment developer, announces that tests carried out over six months on the experimental pyrogasification unit at the CVG Carbohydrate Utilization Centre in Amiens (France) have confirmed the efficiency of its patented technology on sugar beet molasses distillery slops (DS), with results 5% better than forecast.

Work on the experimental pyrogasification unit is part of the Pyrobio Energy+ project [*.pdf/French] run jointly by Finaxo Environnement, Téréos (an agro-industrial giant) and CVG (Centre de valorisation des glucides et produits naturels) at the Industry & AgroRessources science park operated by the Picardie and Champagne-Ardenne regional governments.

Pyrogasification involves ultra-fast transfer of heat (600 to 900°C) to the heart of the material, in the absence of oxygen, to burn organic matter and extract gas as a utilizable bioenergy source. Fertilizer rich in potassium and trace elements is produced as a valuable byproduct.

Finaxo Environnement's experimental reactor (schematic, click to enlarge) shows several key innovations:
  • a patented process relying on the utilisation of beds of small preheated iron balls to which the feedstock is introduced, which offers an increased thermal transfer (shown in bright yellow in the schematic)
  • fast pyrolysis (contrary to more common slow pyrolysis processes), which results in the production of a combustible gas with an energy potential closer to that of the raw material; reduction of energy losses
  • residual coke is burned to boost the amount of energy needed to drive the pyrolysis reaction, while at the same time preheating the pyrolysis gas which reduces the condensable fraction
  • the mineralisation of the organic material is close to complete
The plants under design show a high degree of modularity, with small units able to convert 100 tonnes of biomass, to large 30,000 ton facilities. Smaller units are being designed as mobile plants that can be transported in a standard container. These units would allow for a decentralised energy concept in which biomass is pyrogasified close to the source.

The tests on beet slops confirmed the feasibility of an industrial-scale plant, which should achieve results higher than initially expected. Initial validation results indicate that the target set by Téréos project manager Philippe Roux, namely '20% energy savings and 35,000 tonne reduction in atmospheric discharge of carbon at the Origny distillery' will be bettered.

Encouraged by these results, Finaxo Environnement will be pushing ahead with its programme, using the experimental pyrogasification unit to run tests on other types of biomass. Phase 2 of the project with Téréos, involving development of an industrial-scale pyrogasification unit capable of processing five tonnes of beet slop per hour, thus appears to be on track.

Molasses distillery slops are a byproduct of distillation of sugar crops, a product with a high viscosity which is difficult to handle and store, and requires specific equipment. Simply burning the product is energy inefficient and releases a large amount of pollution. As global ethanol output from beets and sugar cane increases, Finaxo Environnement wants to tap into this abundant resource with its pyrogasification process:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The pyrogasification process can be applied to a large number of biomass feedstocks (from dedicated energy crops to agro-forestry residues). Other organic waste streams, such as livestock residues, abbatoir coproducts, organic rich muds and sludges from urban and industrial processes, plastics, tires, and so on can be utilized as well.

Finaxo Environnement has also taken its first order for a heat-from-waste unit using its Pyrobio pyrogasification technology. The unit, to be delivered in November 2007, will be used by a shopping centre to heat and air-condition premises measuring 800 square metres using energy from waste wood, paper and card.

The 100 tonnes per year of waste material will convert under pyrolysis to 417,600 kWh, equivalent to burning 42 tonnes of fuel, to bring an overall CO2 reduction of 142 tonnes.

As well as avoiding dioxin pollution and achieving higher efficiency, the other main advantage of the Pyrobio process over incineration is that it produces gas, which means energy can be used for air-conditioning, by absorption cooling, for improved energy savings.

Finaxo Environnement sees substantial development prospects from Pyrobio implementation in this kind of shopping centre application.

In another development, the company has received an order for 12 ultrafiltration units for Annecy City Council.

Ultrafiltration involves filtering water through a membrane that traps viruses, larger bacteria and mineral matter larger than a hundredth of a micron. Free of organic matter, the resulting water does not need chlorination, and its mineral salt content is unaltered.

The units will be delivered in March 2008. The contract is worth €1 million.

Finaxo Environnement specializes in water treatment and biomass energy applications. As well as designing and making wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, it owns and develops rapid pyrogasification technology for organic matter treatment and energy utilization. Finaxo Environnement has been listed on the Marché Libre stock market since 18 June 2007.

The Pyrobio Energy+ project is the first to have been accepted by the French government for its 'plan for competitiveness' ('Pôle de Compétitivité') in the agro-industrial sector. Located in Picardia and the Champagne-Ardenne region, the project benefits from the large availability of biomass resources and industrial and scientific expertise in the green chemistry sector.

Projects in this 'pôle' must put France on the map as a leader in the development of bioenergy (biofuels, bio-electricity, heat), biomaterials (in construction, textiles, etc), biomolecules (in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and household product sectors) and in the sector of nutrition. Under the plan, by 2015, France wants to be a global reference for innovation in the bioeconomy.

Finaxo Environnement: Pyrobio Energy+ Pyro-gazeification des matières organiques [*.pdf].

Betteraves, vinasses, énergie et éthanol - Pyrobio Energy +, premier projet financé par le gouvernement
[*.pdf] - Champ'éco, Juin-Juillet 2006, Supplément N°52.

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Report: significant growth opportunities in Sub-Saharan African biofuels market

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that Sub-Saharan Africa's nascent biofuels market will earn revenues up to $1.54 billion in 2010 and estimates this to reach $1.82 billion in 2013. The growth potential is dubbed 'spectacular' and the analysis reiterates many of Biopact's points: biofuels can be made efficiently and competitively in Africa, where agro-ecological conditions are highly suitable, government policies are moving in the right direction and the investment climate is improving.

According to the report titled Sub-Saharan African Biofuels Markets the biofuels industry there is entering a period of extended growth. Despite various challenges and obstacles, in-depth understanding of current and future trading conditions will boost the chances of success and early entrants are positioned to make sizeable gains as these markets develop.
The African biofuels market is set for spectacular growth in a market where agricultural land and labour is in abundance and where government support will foster a protective market with guaranteed offset markets. Early market entry coupled with an extensive understanding of overall market dynamics as well as long term feedstock provision agreements will lead to increased market share. - Cornelis van der Waal, Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst
Despite several potential hurdles, the probable return on investment will be substantial. While government strategy will have a significant impact on the industry, it will by no means be the only factor that will determine the future of the sector.

At present, biofuels production in Africa is limited. However, successful ethanol production is ongoing in several countries that are all currently finalising their biofuel strategies. A number of companies have already started investing in the biofuels market in Africa and early participants are expected to gain considerable benefit from early market entry:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Many acres of jatropha have already been planted, intensive skills programmes are being set up and various international companies are investing in this ‘non-existent’ industry. Early market participants will not only have a significant advantage over future competitors but will also be able to shape the industry in their favour. - Cornelis van der Waal
The current market for biofuels in Africa is very ripe. However, sluggish government policy, fears centred around sustainable feedstock production and a general lack of skills in the African biofuels industry is restraining market expansion. In addition, the severe lack of capital to develop this market is hampering the objectives set under the Kyoto Protocol. Alternative technologies such as fuel cells are also putting a dampener on enthusiasm for investment.
Although the African market as a whole and the South African market in particular hold tremendous potential, the slowness of governments to develop and implement policies is straining development. However, most strategies are expected to be completed by the end of 2007 and this will result in exponential growth and investment opportunities for local and foreign companies. - Cornelis van der Waal
The Sub Saharan African Biofuels Markets is part of the Chemical and Materials Growth Partnership Service, which also includes research in the following markets: European Biofuels - Market and Opportunity Analysis, European Biodiesel and Feedstock Markets, Strategic Analysis of the Asia Pacific Biodiesel Industry and Latin American Biofuels Markets. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.

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Lula on European tour to promote biofuels; EU imports of Brazilian ethanol up 70%

Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is yet again on a tour to promote biofuels. This time he visits the energy rich countries of Scandinavia and other EU member states. Last July, at the landmark International Conference on Biofuels, Lula convinced the EU of the benefits of a 'biopact' between the North and the South (earlier post). Soon after, he toured Central America to further knit Brazil's network of 'South-South' biofuel partners. Under Lula's initiative, the country also actively started helping numerous African and Asian nations to kickstart biofuel programs. Brazil offers tech transfers and policy assistance (more here and here).

The president's diplomatic toolkit contains a biofuels success story, 30 years of socio-economic experience in the sector, some of the best technologies available, leadership of the G20, and a willingness to create trade regimes that benefit developing countries. More importantly, Brazil presents a new energy paradigm in which energy security, carbon-neutrality, and renewability are key.

Lula's latest biofuel offensive comes at a time when data show the EU's imports of Brazilian ethanol increased by 70 per cent [*Portuguese] between January and August, already surpassing last year's total annual imports. Numbers from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that Brazil has so far exported 2.39 billion liters (631 million gallons) of sugar cane based ethanol this year, despite tariffs in the US and the EU.

Finland is the first stop on Lula's Nordic tour. The official program saw him meet with President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. Both the Finnish head of state and her Brazilian counterpart have been active in the trade union movement, and are popular in their home countries. Halonen and Lula spoke about cooperating in a range of areas, from ethanol production to efforts to fight climate change:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

On Tuesday the Brazilian head of state is due to visit neighbouring Sweden and just like in Finland, he will attend meetings with business leaders. Sweden is one of Europe's largest importers of Brazilian ethanol.

As one of the EU's most progressive green countries, Sweden is a strong proponent of a new energy relationship between the North and the South. The country's trade ministrer, Sten Tolgfors has repeatedly made a case for the removal of trade barriers on biofuels, so that producers in developing countries can export to the EU (earlier post). Their biofuels are competitive, energy efficient and can help mitigate poverty. Sweden currently imports 80% of all ethanol used in the country.

Later this week the Brazilian president will visit Denmark and energy-rich Norway. Touting sugarcane-based biofuel in the EU's largest oil producing country as a cheap, eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels is a courageous move. But then, Norway's own oil output has already hit its peak and is no leverage to change the trend towards ever higher oil prices.

Brazil is expected to sign biofuel agreements with Sweden and Denmark. Finland, Norway and Sweden already buy the alternative fuel from Brazil

Brazil and Finland signed a memorandum of understanding on an initiative under the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. The agreement was signed by Finnish Foreign Trade Minister Paavo Vayrynen and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. It aims at "increasing cooperation in the field of climate policy ... and boosting ties between authorities," Finland's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Trade between Brazil and the Nordic nations reached US$3.8 billion (€2.8 billion) in 2006, an 80 percent increase since 2003, the Finnish Foreign Ministry said.

The Brazilian leader also will make a stop in Spain where he will meet with businessmen, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and King Juan Carlos.

AP: Brazil's president starts Nordic tour in Finland - September 10, 2007.

EUX.tv: Finland first stop for Brazil's Lula on Nordic tour - September 9, 2007.

Dinheiro Digital; UE importou mais 70% de etanol brasileiro até Agosto - September 7, 2007.

Biopact: How Brazil convinced the EU on biofuels - Lula's speech - July 06, 2007

Biopact: Lula: Global South to unite and cooperate on biofuels - August 03, 2007

Biopact: Sweden calls for the creation of a 'biopact' with the South - Highlights from the International Conference on Biofuels (Day 1, part 2) -
July 05, 2007

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