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    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.

    Ethanol Statistics, a new industry information resource, reports that U.S. petroleum refiners Citgo and Valero are the top 2 ethanol importing companies in the United States in the first 6 months of 2007. Overall imports were up 7.64% compared to the same period in 2006, from 193,620 gallons to 208,404 gallons. Chevron imported 43% less, whereas Noble and ConocoPhilips' imports were up 255% and 372% respectively. Data are reported in 'The United States Ethanol Market 2007’, which also provides a breakdown of U.S. ethanol production costs and a detailed analysis of U.S. consumption and production. Ethanol Statistics - September 10, 2007.

    The government of British Columbia launches a $100,000 study into the production of biogas, heat, power and clean water from household waste streams. Raw sewage water can be cleaned by microbial fuel cells that deliver electricity as they clean the water; other technologies include classic anaerobic fermentation. Canada.com - September 10, 2007.

    Saudi Aramco in its Annual Review 2006 said that last year the company's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent, compared with the previous year. Crude oil production in 2006 averaged 8.9 million barrels of oil a day (b/d) and exports 6.9 million b/d. Saudi Aramco - September 9, 2007.

    Chinese packaging manufacturer Livan Biodegradable Product Co. Ltd. will build plants in Alsozsolca and Edeleny in eastern Hungary at a combined cost of €18 million by 2009, the Hungarian economics ministry says. The plants, which will employ 800 people, are planned to produce initially 50, 000 metric tons a year of environmentally-friendly packaging material, and double that amount by a later date. Livan will use corn to manufacture biodegradable packaging boxes with similar properties to petroleum-based plastic boxes used in the food industry. Dow Jones Newswires - September 7, 2007.

    South Korea aims to raise biodiesel content in domestic diesel to 3 percent from the current 0.5 percent by 2012, Seoul's energy ministry said today. The government was initially set last year to impose a mandatory 5 percent blend, in line with the level targeted by the European Union by 2010, but the country's powerful refining lobby opposed the move, forcing it to push back the target, according to market sources. Reuters - September 7, 2007.

    Virent Energy Systems, Inc. announced today that it has closed a US$21 million second round of venture financing. Investor interest in Virent was driven in large part by the Company’s continued development of its innovative BioForming process beyond its traditional hydrogen and fuel gas applications and toward the production of bio-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Virent Energy Systems - September 6, 2007.

    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.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Novozymes to collaborate with Brazil on the development of second-generation biofuels from bagasse

Biotech and industrial enzymes company Novozymes has concluded a development agreement with the Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC), the Brazilian sugar cane industry’s technical center. Under this agreement Novozymes will contribute enzyme technology for developing second-generation bioethanol from bagasse - the cellulose-rich residual product of sugar production from sugar cane.

Bagasse is currently used as a biomass source to power sugar and ethanol processing plants. But because the residue is so abundant, excess electricity is obtained that has to be fed into a grid. This requires infrastructures and limits the number of locations where processing plants can be built (close to towns or grids). By turning the excess bagasse into cellulosic ethanol, these problems can be overcome. Liquid biofuels also have a higher commercial value than green electricity. Analysts estimate that with second-generation bioconversion techniques the ethanol yield from a hectare of sugar cane can be doubled (from 6,000 to 12,000 liters - earlier post).

The new development work will take place in a close collaboration between CTC and Novozymes in Brazil, aided by Novozymes’ R&D centers in the US and Denmark. This future process will enable higher ethanol yield and thereby optimize the process economy and energy balance of the fuel. It will also reduce the amount land needed and reduce the emissions of green house gases further.
The research agreement is part of our efforts to identify economically profitable processes within the development of biofuels from plant waste and other biomass, and although it will be a few years before we know the extent to which the co-operation can be commercialized, we see considerable potential. - Steen Riisgaard, Novozymes’ CEO
The agreement will be signed in Copenhagen today in the presence of Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. President Lula will be the first Brazilian president to make a state visit to Denmark, on September 12–13. He is currently visiting Europe to promote efficient biofuels made in the South. Earlier this week, Lula signed a biofuel cooperation agreement with Sweden (previous post).

As early as the 1970s Brazil was the first country in the world to begin using bioethanol on a large scale, and today it is the world’s largest producer of biofuel. In contrast to Europe, the US, and China, where bioethanol is predominantly produced from starch-containing crops such as corn and wheat, Brazil’s production is mainly based on sugar cane. Almost 40% of Brazil’s gasoline consumption is now covered by bioethanol, and the country also exports a large proportion of its production:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Located in Piracicaba in the state of São Paulo, CTC is supported by 160 national units producing sugar and alcohol that currently service more than 12,000 sugar cane suppliers.

CTC has experimental stations in the states of São Paulo and Bahia. Recently, regional units were also inaugurated in strategic points in the southeastern, southern, and midwestern regions to optimize production-related services. And by the end of this year the most important research center in the sugar cane segment of Brazil will complete its implementation program with a further unit in the northeastern region.

The center carries out research in the areas of industry, logistics, and agronomy, including mechanic planting and harvesting, biotechnology, biological pest control, healthy seedlings, geoprocessing, satellite images, production environment charts, sugar and alcohol production, and power generation. CTC is currently running various ongoing research programs, which have harvested domestic sugar cane varieties that yield the best productivity rates, crop yields, saccharose rates, and resistance to diseases and pests. Some 300 people are involved in CTC’s activities, working to ensure Brazil’s position as the world leader in sugar and ethanol production.

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Arctic sea ice 50% thinner compared to 2001, ocean currents and biological communities changing

First results from an expedition to the North Polar Sea led by Germany's Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, show that large areas of the Arctic sea-ice are only one metre thick this year, a dramatic thinning of around 50 percent compared to 2001. Fifty scientists have been on board the research ship Polarstern for two and a half months. Amongst other things, they have found that not only the sea-ice is thinning, but that ocean currents are changing and that biological community structures in the Arctic altering.
The ice cover in the North Polar Sea is dwindling, the ocean and the atmosphere are becoming steadily warmer, the ocean currents are changing. We are in the midst of phase of dramatic change in the Arctic, and the International Polar Year 2007/08 offers us a unique opportunity to study this dwindling ocean in collaboration with international researchers. - Dr Ursula Schauer, chief scientist, Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Dr Schauer is currently in the Arctic, underway with 50 scientists from Germany, Russia, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, the USA, Switzerland, Japan, France and China, where they are investigating ocean and sea-ice conditions. Oceanographers on board the research ship Polarstern are investigating the composition and circulation of the water masses, physical characteristics of sea-ice and transport of biological and geochemical components in ice and seawater. Sea-ice ecosystems in the seawater and on the ocean floor will also be a focus of investigations. Scientists will take sediments from the ocean floor in order to reconstruct the climatic history of the surrounding continents.

Oceanographic measuring buoys were set out in all regions of the Arctic ocean for the first time during this International Polar Year (more on Germany's contribution here). They are able to drift freely in the Arctic Ocean whilst collecting data on currents, temperature, and salt content of the seawater. The buoys will continuously collect data over and send them back to the scientists via satellite. In addition, the deployment of a new titanium measuring system which allows contamination free sample collection of trace elements for the first time due to its high effectiveness.

Changes in Sea-Ice
The thickness of the arctic sea-ice has decreased since 1979, and at the moment measures about a metre in diameter in the central Arctic Basin. In addition, oceanographers have found a particularly high concentration of melt-water in the ocean and a large number of melt-ponds. These data, collected from on board the Polarstern, and also from helicopter flights allow the scientists to better interpret their satellite images.

Sea-Ice biologists from the Institute of Polar Ecology at the University of Kiel are studying the animals and plants living in and beneath the ice. They are using the opportunity to investigate the threatened ecosystem. According to the newest models, the Arctic could be ice free in less than 50 years in case of further warming. This may cause the extinction of many organisms that are adapted to this habitat.

Ocean Currents
The Arctic Ocean currents are an important part of global ocean circulation. Warm water masses flowing in from the Atlantic are changed in the Arctic through water cooling and ice formation, and sink to great depths. Constant monitoring by the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research over the last ten years have recorded significant changes, and have demonstrated a warming of the incoming current from the Atlantic Ocean. During this expedition, the propagation of these warming events along each of the currents in the North Polar Sea will be investigated.

The large rivers of Siberia and North America transport huge amounts of freshwater to the Arctic. The freshwater appears to function as an insulating layer, controling the warmth transfer between the ocean, the ice and the atmosphere:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The study area stretches from the shelf areas of the Barents Sea, the Kara Sea and the Laptev Sea, across Nansen and Amundsen bays right up to Makarow Bay.

Between Norway and Siberia and up to the Canadian Bay the scientists have taken temperature, salinity, and current measurements at more than 100 places. First results have shown that the temperatures of the influx of water from the Atlantic are lower as compared to previous years. The temperatures and salinity levels in the Arctic deep sea are also slowly changing. The changes are small here, but the areas go down to great depths, and enormous water volumes are therefore involved. In order to follow the circulation patterns in winter, oceanographic measuring buoys will be attached to ice floes, and continuous measurements will be taken whilst they float along with the ice. The measurements will be relayed back via satellite.

In addition to the ocean currents and sea-ice, zooplankton, sediment samples from the sea floor as well as trace elements will be taken. Zooplankton are at the base of the food chain for many marine creatures, and are therefore an important indicator for the health of the ecosystem. The deposits found on the ocean floor of the North Polar Sea read like a diary of the history of climate change for the surrounding continents. Through sediment cores, the scientists may be able to unlock the key to the glaciation of northern Siberia.

In addition, the members of the expedition will be able to measure trace elements from Siberian rivers and shelf areas, that through polar drift are being pushed towards the Atlantic.

These studies will take place within the context of different research projects, all taking place during the International Polar Year: SPACE (Synoptic Pan-Arctic Climate and Environment Study), iAOOS (Integrated Arctic Ocean Observing System) and GEOTRACES (Trace Elements in the Arctic). At the same time, a large component of the work is supported by the European Union Program DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environment Studies).

The Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in oceans of temperate and high latitudes. The AWI coordinates polar research in Germany, and provides important infrastructure, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic for international scientific enterprises. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of 15 research centres of the 'Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft' (Helmholtz Association), the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

Picture: Scientists taking cores of sea-ice to determine the thickness. Photo: Florian Breier/Alfred Wegener Institute.

Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research: The sea-ice is getting thinner – A closer look at the climate and ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean - September 13, 2007

Expedition website with continuous updates at the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research: Die Expedition ARK-XXII/2.

Germany's contribution to the International Polar Year.

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A closer look at the revolutionary coal+biomass-to-liquids with carbon storage project

Earlier we reported on an feasibility study released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) which focused on a highly advanced generation of fuels made from combining the liquefaction of both coal and biomass, and then coupling the system to carbon sequestration technologies. It's a mouthful, but the radical concept comes down to: coal+biomass-to-liquids (CBTL) + carbon capture and storage (CCS), or CBTL+CCS. The CBTL process consists of the production of so-called synthetic fuels, obtained from the gasification of feedstock, with the gas then liquefied via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis into an ultra-clean synthetic fuel (schematic, click to enlarge). During the process, carbon dioxide is captured and then stored in geological formations such as depleted oil and gas fields or saline aquifers.

The CBTL+CCS project is a first step towards the transition to what researchers call 'Bio-energy with Carbon Storage' (BECS) systems. Such BECS systems result in radically carbon-negative fuels and energy, which take carbon emissions from the past out of the atmosphere (earlier post and references there). More familiar renewables like wind, solar or hydro deliver carbon-neutral energy at best; that is, they do not contribute emissions to the future. Carbon-negative biofuels on the contrary go much further, they effectively clean up the past.

Scientists working on the CBTL+CCS project include Robert Williams, a senior research scientist at the Princeton Environmental Institute and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Fred Dryer, also of Princeton. They clarify some of the challenges of the research. The project focuses on the production of future jet fuels, but the concept as such applies to all transport fuels.

Alternative energy sources, if designed appropriately, could significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released in creating and burning jet fuel. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, aviation is responsible for around 10 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in America, or roughly 2.7 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Two alternative fuel sources that are the subject of much investigation in the aviation field - coal and biomass - present a major quandary to researchers attempting to develop low-emissions jet fuels. Coal, a relatively cheap and readily available source of energy, has an emissions profile at least as harmful as petroleum. Biofuel - fuel made from plants - presents an attractive alternative because the carbon dioxide emitted from burning biomaterials will be removed from the atmosphere by a new generation of plants during photosynthesis. But the potential for large-scale biomass production in the U.S. is limited.

To take advantage of the positive characteristics of each of these sources, the Princeton researchers will center their efforts on the synthesis of jet fuels from a combination of coal and biomass. A key component of their solution is isolating and storing the carbon dioxide produced during the production of the so-called synfuels. This technique, called carbon capture and sequestration, is a promising strategy being investigated intensively by Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative, among other research programs.

An especially attractive feature of processing coal and biomass together to make synfuels is that it requires only half the amount of biomaterial as pure biofuel production, while still making fuels with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. If the fraction of biomass is increased, the ultra-clean fuels become carbon-negative.

The ultimate success of the research efforts will depend on how well the synfuels compare with traditional fuel sources, in terms of fuel characteristics, costs and environmental and safety issues:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"There is no doubt that developing feasible alternatives to petroleum for the aviation industry will be a long and expensive process," Dryer said. "And success, in the form of an enduring solution, will be priceless."

The CBTL+CCS research project provides the opportunity to make substantial progress toward the launching of green technologies not only for corporate jets, but also for commercial aviation and transportation in general, according to Williams. At Princeton, the team also includes Ju and Eric Larson, a research engineer at the Princeton Environmental Institute. In addition, the work will involve collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis.

Dryer is also working on a major project funded by the U.S. Air Force, focused on developing computational and kinetic models that accurately simulate the burning of jet fuel, a complex and poorly characterized mix of chemicals.

"In order to make alternative jet fuel sources feasible, they need to be compatible with petroleum and produce similar combustion performance," Dryer said. "This will only be possible if we fully understand how both petroleum and alternative fuels burn and design engines based on this fundamental knowledge."

The Air Force program is one of the Defense Department's highly competitive Multi-disciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grants. One of only ten such projects supported by the Air Force this year, the collaboration involves researchers from four institutions - Princeton, Case Western Reserve University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois-Chicago. The award, with an overall value of up to $7.5 million, will provide support for three years with the option of a two-year extension. Research began in July and the kick-off meeting for the project will be held Sept. 17 in Princeton.

Dryer and his MURI collaborators, including Princeton Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Yiguang Ju, will develop methods to predict and evaluate how jet fuels will behave in actual engines and characterize the emissions they will produce. While current guidelines specify some overall properties of jet fuels, they do not spell out the actual chemical composition. Depending on the source and processing method, jet fuel typically consists of hundreds to thousands of molecular structures that behave in a variety of ways.

The models developed by the team will represent and characterize the behavior of this broad range of jet fuel species using only a few types of molecular structures as surrogates for the larger whole. Dryer previously developed similar "surrogate fuel" models to represent gasoline, which are now being used for engine design by the automotive industry.

"The composition of fuels changes with the geographic source, the refining process and even with the season," Dryer noted. "Since we have an energy security problem, we need to be sure that alternative fuel sources are going to work and, in order to do that, we need to understand exactly how petroleum-based fuels work alone and in combination with alternative fuels."

Princeton University: Green skies: Engineer's work may reduce jet travel's role in global warming - September 13, 2007.

Biopact: NETL and USAF release feasibility study for conceptual Coal+Biomass-to-Liquids facility - August 30, 2007

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Singapore stresses importance of biofuels in future energy strategy

In a speech given at the 23rd Asia-Pacific Petroleum Conference in Singapore earlier this week, S. Iswaran, Singapor's Minister of State for Trade & Industry highlighted the importance the country places on the development of biofuels as part of its long term energy strategy.

Iswaran said it was important to recognize:
that biofuels have a material role within the oil industry. Sustained high oil prices have increased the attractiveness of biofuels as an alternative fuel for transportation. Although biofuels might account for only one to two per cent of overall energy demand, its future potential should not be underestimated. Biofuels are likely to be an enduring aspect of the oil industry.
He explained that the oil industry is an integral part of the Singaporean economy, but to ensure its future there had to be some key initiatives put in place, one of which was to integrate biofuels within the sector:
We will endeavour to integrate biofuels into our oil industry. In the last 3 years, the Economic Development Board of Singapore has made considerable headway in the biofuels sector by jump-starting biodiesel manufacturing on Jurong Island. With these efforts, Singapore’s biodiesel production output is expected to exceed one million tons per annum by 2010, and reach three million tons per annum by 2015.
A number of new biodiesel plants on Jurong Island are close to commencing operations (earlier post). Therefore, Singapore is embarking on the next phase of industry development for biofuels, which is biofuels trading. The country wants to become a trading hub for renewable fuels to be supplied to East and South East Asia, regions where demand for transport fuels is growing extremely fast:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

One key step in this direction would be Platts’ upcoming plans to commence price assessment for biodiesel loaded out of Singapore. Knowing the price of biodiesel is vital to exporters who are planning to establish their production bases here in Singapore to serve both regional and global markets. However, until now, there has been an acute lack of biofuels pricing information, which has hindered the development of the biofuels industry in Southeast Asia. The minister said that:
Singapore will be one of the first locations in Asia where biodiesel price assessment will be launched. Singapore's well-established, stable, transparent and reputable trading market, coupled with the robust price assessment processes of companies such as Platt’s, would provide investors with a reliable benchmark for the price of biodiesel. This will enable investors to accelerate the development of this new and important industry. Consumers, too, will have a clearer picture of the cost of biodiesel, fostering a more open trading environment. Consequently, the mix, diversity and hedging opportunities for the energy trading community in Singapore will become more vibrant.
Iswaran closed by saying that:
We are confident that these initiatives – growing refinery capacity, entrenching biofuels and advancing technologies – will position Singapore competitively in the global industry landscape. Singapore’s energy landscape is also becoming more diversified and exciting. While we continue to develop our oil industry, we will also pursue new thrusts such as natural gas and alternative energy. With these and other efforts, I am confident that Singapore will continue to play an important and useful role in helping the world overcome the twin challenges of energy security and climate change.
Platts is a leading global provider of energy and metals information. It serves the oil, natural gas, electricity, nuclear power, coal, petrochemical and metals markets. With the rapid growth in biofuels and their commodification, Platts is looking into compiling pricing data for the renewable fuels.

Biofuels Review: Singapore highlights the importance of biofuels on its energy strategy - September 12, 2007.

Biopact: Singapore's first jatropha biodiesel plants eye exports to China - March 22, 2007

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Canadian government invests $500 million in next generation biofuels

The future of renewable fuels in Canada received a boost this week with the launch of the NextGen Biofuels Fund. The new fund, with $500 million provided by the Government of Canada, will be managed by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). Even though Canada is one of the world's largest petroleum producers, it has clearly set its sights on fuels that can be 'grown' year after year.

The NextGen Biofuels Fund will support up to 40% of eligible project costs for the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels. The contribution will be repayable based on free cash flow over a period of 10 years after project completion.

Next-generation biofuels are derived from non-traditional renewable feedstocks, such as fast-growing grasses, agricultural residues and forest biomass, and produced through the use of non-conventional biochemical and thermochemical conversion technologies.
The NextGen Biofuels Fund will jumpstart the development and production
of the next generation of renewable fuels in Canada. This Fund will aim to take advantage of the abundance of suitable biomass materials available in Canada by funding large-scale demonstration facilities and encouraging the growth and retention of home-grown technologies and expertise in Canada. - James M. Stanford, SDTC Chairman
To be eligible for the NextGen Biofuels Fund a project must:
  • be a first-of-kind facility that primarily produces a next-generation
  • renewable fuel at large demonstration-scale
  • be located in Canada
  • use feedstocks that are or could be representative of Canadian
  • biomass
  • have demonstrated their technology at the pre-commercial pilot scale
Canada is well-positioned to capitalize on next-generation renewable fuels. In Canada, there is an abundance of cellulose-based feedstocks, which have an energy content that is significantly higher than conventional biofuel feedstocks. Such cellulosic feedstocks consist largely of materials that are currently considered waste, can be grown on low-grade soil, and have greater potential for co-products:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Producing the large-scale volumes of NextGen biofuels that are needed to gain market traction will provide superior environmental benefits and alternate sources of revenue for those in the agriculture, forestry, and waste management sectors. In addition, next-generation biofuels are made from cellulose, rather than edible starch. -Vicky J. Sharpe, President and CEO, SDTC
SDTC is an arm's-length foundation which has received $1.05 billion from the Government of Canada as part of its commitment to create a healthy environment and a high quality of life for all Canadians. SDTC operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative technological solutions. The $550 million SD Tech Fund supports projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil.

The $500 million NextGen Biofuels Fund supports the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels. SDTC operates as a not-for-profit corporation and has been working with the public and private sector including industry, academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the financial community, and all levels of government to achieve this mandate.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada: $500M Fund Launched to Support Next-Generation Renewable Fuels - September 12, 2007.

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EU rejects findings of OECD study on biofuels

The European Commission says its biofuel policy is positive for the environment, in response to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report issued earlier this week which warned that subsidies for biofuels produced in Europe and America could disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits.

An EU Commission spokesman rejected some of the more questionable statements in the report:
Biofuels do produce less CO2 than fossil fuels, there is no doubt about that. I am confident that our biofuel policy is definitely positive for the environment.
The spokesman for the EU's Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs added that it was 'too early to say' to comment on the commission's mechanisms on biofuel production: 'We are working on different possibilities. It is still up for discussion so I can't give further details right now.'

Biopact must stress that this entire OECD report has been selectively read by many journalists and some environmentalists. Anyone who has actually read the document itself will have noticed that the report explicitly leaves room for a trade relationship between biofuel producers in the North and those in the South. It even suggests that such a relationship is necessary and requires the abandonment of trade barriers, tariffs and subsidies in the EU and the US. It states:
Liberalising trade in biofuels is difficult but essential for global objectives. Ethanol from sugarcane grown in Brazil is by far the cheapest biofuel today. South America and Africa have a large potential to increase biofuel production.
The study clearly calls for an opening of the market and for the creation of international biofuel trade, so that unsubsidized biofuels produced in the South can be imported by the EU and the US. These biofuels - like sugar cane ethanol - are indeed efficient, competitive, sustainable and reduce carbon dioxide emissions far more than biofuels produced in Europe or America. This is what the OECD report said.

It added:
bioenergy provides a chance to enhance growth in many of the world’s poorest countries by bringing about an agricultural renaissance and supplying modern energy to a third of the world’s population. This means not only improving export opportunities for developing countries to the industrialised world but, perhaps more importantly, helping them to use biomass to produce their own electricity.
Nobody reported on these crucial perspectives contained in the OECD analysis. We urge the media and environmentalists to read reports about biofuels more carefully instead of jumping to conclusions. They often contain analyses that are broad in geographical scope and go beyond our own backyard. If they systematically leave out Africa and Latin America's explicitly sustainable potential, they miss the whole point about the future of biofuels:
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In March, the EU adopted an energy policy which set a 10 percent minimum target for all member states for the share of biofuels in overall EU petrol and diesel consumption for transport by 2020.

The EU executive is working on a sustainbility scheme which focuses on the potential drawbacks to biofuel production.

In July, at the landmark International Conference on Biofuels, the EU suggested international trade in biofuels would become a viable option. Biopact was present at this crucial conference and found that key stakeholders and policy makers are already convinced that such a new trade relation is feasible and necessary if we want a truly green biofuel future (here and here).

Forbes: EU says biofuel policy is 'definitely positive for the environment' - September 13, 2007.

Biopact: OECD warns against subsidies for inefficient biofuels in the North, calls for liberalisation of market - major boost to idea of 'Biopact' - September 11, 2007

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Researchers use IV to monitor flow of sugar in sweet sorghum, analysis aimed at maximizing biofuel potential

Test plots at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center at Beaumont, in the foreground is grain sorghum, used primarily for animal feed, and in the background, sweet sorghum for the biofuels industry. Credit: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
Scientists at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station are researching how sweet sorghum deals with sugars and have found that the process differs from that of sugar cane, a close relative. Their tactic to analyse the flow of sugar inside the plant is based on an 'intravenous' (IV) technique.

In Beaumont, Dr. Lee Tarpley, plant physiologist, and College Station colleague, Dr. Don Vietor, professor of crop physiology, focus their research on sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) because it is seen as a crop that could revolutionize the biofuels sector. Their analyses complement those of a growing group of scientists and plant breeders who are all studying and developing tropical grass species as future energy crops.

While sweet sorghum and sugarcane are close relatives, the researchers have shown that the two species have different ways of moving and storing sugar. Tracer sucrose is inserted into growing plants 'intravenously' (image, click to enlarge). Once the sucrose is inside the plants, the researchers can track the movement and distribution.

The scientists publish their findings under a creative commons licence as an open access article in the June issue of BMC Plant Biology.

They found that, due to the plant's physiology, sweet sorghum appears to be more efficient in reusing the stored sugar to support growth of other parts of the plant. The mechanisms in sugarcane, however, allow it to accumulate very high levels of sucrose.

The differences are critical, and need to be understood for breeders to develop new varieties specifically for the biofuel industry, says Tarpley. Sweet sorghum and sugarcane are both well suited for this purpose.

While sorghum is an annual and can fit well into a crop rotation, sugarcane is a suitable perennial for many areas, Tarpley adds. But to maximize the potential of sweet sorghum as a biofuel crop, breeders need to understand the physiology of the plant and not use sugarcane as a model:
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There is a large body of research on sugarcane that was previously thought to apply equally well to sorghum. Instead, we need to fully understand how sorghum moves and stores sugar in order to elevate to the next level in our breeding efforts, Tarpley concludes.

Sorghums are receiving a great deal of interest from the scientific community. Most recently, sccientists from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service released new low-lignin sorghums that are ideal for biofuel and feed (previous post). Several projects are underway to develop drought-tolerant varieties, high sugar varieties and high biomass varieties (earlier post). 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 (more here and 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).

Picture: Researchers insert an IV into the sorghum plant as a means of infusing the tracer sucrose, so that they can track the movement and distribution of sugar within the growing plant. Credit: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

Lee Tarpley and Donald M Vietor, "Compartmentation of sucrose during radial transfer in mature sorghum culm", BMC Plant Biology 2007, 7:33, DOI:10.1186/1471-2229-7-33.

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