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    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 17, 2007

Scientists develop low-lignin eucalyptus trees that store more CO2, provide more cellulose for biofuels

A team of Taiwanese and U.S. scientists has succeeded in developing eucalyptus trees capable of ingesting up to three times more carbon dioxide than normal strains, indicating a new path to reducing greenhouse gases and global warming. The new trees also have properties that make them more suitable for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In this sense, they can be seen as part of third-generation biofuels. This generation is based on crops modified in such a way that they allow the application of a particular bioconversion technology (previous post). Analyses show that there is a very large potential for the production of sustainable biomass from Eucalyptus in Central Africa and South America.

Under the auspices of Taiwan's National Science Council, staff members at the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) under the cabinet-level Council of Agriculture and North Carolina State University in the United States carried out the gene modification project that not only creates eucalyptus with a higher than normal CO2 absorptive capacity, but also causes them to produce less lignin and more cellulose.

TFRI researcher Chen Zenn-zong explained that cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin in trees are all created from carbon elements. However, only cellulose can be used in commercial processes of pulp manufacturing and bio-ethanol extraction. Lignin is the 'glue' that holds cellulose together. Breaking down the lignin barrier is a major obstacle for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
The idea behind the whole project is to increase the value of genetically-modified eucalyptus to related industries, so we adjusted the ratio of cellulose and lignin. Meanwhile, we enhance the tree's capacity in absorbing CO2 to reduce greenhouse gases, so that more trees planted for production, the more CO2 are consumed. - Chen Zenn-zong, Taiwan Forestry Research Institute
With every eucalyptus carrying 18 percent less lignin and 4.5 percent more cellulose, Chen estimated that a pulp factory with an annual output of 1 million tons could generate extra revenues of NT$1. 2 billion (about US$36 million) every year.

Eucalyptus is a fast-growing tropical tree species used as a biomass source for bioenergy, and for pulp and paper manufacturing. Major research efforts are under way to map the tree's genome with the aim to improve it as an energy crop. Eucalyptus is on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), with an international team working on increasing biomass production and the carbon sequestration capacities of the species (more here):
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So far, researchers have succeeded in developing high yield varieties. But this is the first time that the eucalyptus tree has been modified in a way that allows it both to store more carbon while at the same time yielding less lignin.

Earlier, geneticists and plant biologists succeeded in creating low-lignin poplar and willow (more here), as well as sorghum (earlier post) with the specific aim of improving pulping and ethanol production respectively.

With an emerging global carbon and biomass market, it becomes interesting to develop crops that sequester more CO2. They can be used as carbon sinks in afforestation and reforestation efforts and fetch carbon credits. Alternatively, with their high biomass yields, they will be used more and more for the production of next-generation biofuels. These include cellulosic ethanol, and fuels obtained from pyrolysis (bio-oil) and from biomass-to-liquids processes resulting in synthetic biofuels (gasification and synthesis by the Fischer-Tropsch process).

Eucalyptus is an interesting crop for the production of solid biofuels as well (woody biomass), that can be co-fired with coal or used in dedicated biomass power plants. Estimates show that there is enormous potential for the establishment of eucalyptus plantations in the tropics. A European project analysing the production of 'green steel' based on utilizing biomass from the tropics indicated that some 46 million hectares of land are available in Central Africa alone. In Brazil, another 46 million hectares are suitable. The land in question can sustain eucalyptus plantations without any major negative environmental footprint (previous post).

China Post: Gene-modified eucalyptus ingests more CO2 - September 14, 2007.

Biopact: Scientists release new low-lignin sorghums: ideal for biofuel and feed - September 10, 2007

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

Biopact: Virginia Tech researchers receive $1.2 million to study poplar tree as model biomass crop - June 26, 2007

Biopact: Celebrity spotting: Marc Van Montagu and GM energy crops - July 05, 2007

Biopact: Green steel made from tropical biomass - European project - February 08, 2007

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CME Group to offer options on ethanol futures

CME Group, the world's largest and most diverse exchange, today announced the listing of options on Ethanol futures, tools for customers to better manage risk in the energy industry, scheduled to begin trading electronically on e-cbot October 5 and then on the CME Globex platform in January.

In addition, clearing services will be offered for cash-settled options on Ethanol futures, scheduled to begin October 5, as well as for options on Ethanol Calendar Swaps, also know as forward month swaps, to be offered this fall. Centralized clearing includes the benefits of daily mark-to-market margining and reduced counterparty risk.

Ethanol futures have been trading at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), now part of the CME Group, since March 2005. The Ethanol futures prices will be used in the settlement of both the options on Ethanol futures and the cash-settled options. Forward Month Ethanol Swaps, launched in December 2006, will serve as the underlying value for those options:
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CME Group is the world's largest and most diverse exchange. Formed by the 2007 merger of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), CME Group serves the risk management needs of customers around the globe. As an international marketplace, CME Group brings buyers and sellers together on the CME Globex electronic trading platform and on its trading floors.

CME Group offers the widest range of benchmark products available across all major asset classes, including futures and options based on interest rates, equity indexes, foreign exchange, agricultural commodities, and alternative investment products such as weather and real estate. CME Group is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ under the symbol "CME."

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Shimadzu and Groton Biosystems partner to enhance ethanol monitoring system

Shimadzu Scientific Instruments and Groton Biosystems announce they are collaborating to interface Groton’s ARS series of online sampling monitors with Shimadzu’s Prominence HPLC (high performance liquid chromatograph) to form a closed-loop solution for online analysis. Manufacturers can now quickly and efficiently optimize enzyme levels in mash by incorporating this system into the bio-ethanol production process.

With this automated HPLC ethanol monitoring system, manufacturers can determine the appropriate times to add enzymes with only a few key strokes. Optimized enzymes yield more product and limit the formation of useless by-products.
Our collaboration with Shimadzu gives ethanol manufacturers more control over the fermentation process. Now they can sample product automatically, monitor enzyme levels, and get the reliable data needed for fermentation trend analysis. - Bill Dinardo, CEO of Groton Biosystems.
Groton Biosystems provides the biofuel industry a sterile sampling system able to function in the high-solids/high-viscosity environment found in both corn and biomass fermentations. The ARS system provides automated and real-time online sampling to commercial fuel ethanol plants, enabling the monitoring of both enzyme activity and ethanol production from corn starch.

Shimadzu has been working with biofuel manufacturers from the outset, providing a range of HPLC instrumentation to meet specific needs. Today, Shimadzu supports both bioethanol and biodiesel, working with central commercial labs, R&D and academic facilities engaged in biofuels research, and, of course, biofuel plant labs:
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U.S. manufacturers of bioethanol and biodiesel are struggling to keep up with dramatically increasing demand for alternative fuels. Groton shares our vision to provide manufacturers with the analysis tools they need to increase their yield to help satisfy our national needs.- Curtis Campbell, Ph.D., HPLC business manager with Shimadzu
Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (SSI) is the American subsidiary of Shimadzu Corporation, headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. Founded in 1875, Shimadzu is a $2 billion multinational corporation with three major divisions: Medical Diagnostics, Aerospace/Industrial, and Analytical Instruments. The Analytical Instruments division is one of the world's largest manufacturers of analytical instrumentation and environmental monitoring equipment.

Groton Biosystems (Boxborough, Mass.) is a pioneer in providing fermentation and cell culture production companies with leading-edge online monitoring solutions. Groton offers the most cost-effective solutions for monitoring the entire research and manufacturing process.

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Medical Discoveries Inc. acquires developer of jatropha oil

Medical Discoveries, Inc. (MDI) announced today it has acquired privately-held Los Angeles-based Global Clean Energy Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Mobius Risk Group LLC. The purchase includes certain proprietary rights, intellectual property and other rights relating to both the cultivation and production of feedstock oil from the Jatropha curcas plant, and the commercialization of the oil for the production of biodiesel.

MDI claims the per barrel cost of Jatropha oil is currently significantly lower than the cost of crude oil. It uses a fraction of the resources, and is considerably less expensive to produce than soybean, rapeseed or corn oil, the primary crops presently used for the production of biofuels. The oil extracted from Jatropha curcas seeds, a native non-edible plant indigenous to many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, including Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, is used for the production of high quality biodiesel – an important renewable fuel quickly gaining commercial acceptance worldwide. The Jatropha plant requires less water and fertilizer than conventional crops, and can be grown on desert and other lands not suitable for the production of food crops.
One of the greatest challenges facing the biofuels industry is the high cost of food-based feedstock. Developing and distributing a cost-effective non-food based biofuel feedstock is an enormous opportunity for MDI’s shareholders to participate in the very exciting biofuels industry. - David R. Walker, Chairman of the Board of MDI
Despite a surge in attention, many practical questions remain about harvesting and handling the Jatropha crop and its seeds. Dilemmas about social equity and labor conditions must be resolved as well (earlier post).

Notwithstanding these reservations, due to the vast quantities of water, land, and agrichemicals presently required by first-generation crops currently used for the production of biodiesel and ethanol-based fuels in the U.S. (corn, wheat, soybeans), government concerns about significant future environmental damage are driving the need to develop new economical biofuel feedstocks:
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According to a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. farmers only have the capacity to replace about 7% of the country’s gasoline with corn-based ethanol, despite a new federal renewable-fuels target of 15% by 2017. To reach that goal, the U.S. will likely have to find a lot more land.”
Shifting to biodiesel which has a much higher energy balance than ethanol, can allow the United States to achieve our renewable energy fuel goals while shifting jobs and revenues to U.S. companies, further reducing our dependence on foreign oil. - Richard Palmer, MDI’s newly appointed President and Chief Operating Officer.
The ability to produce low cost oil from a non-edible plant, which does not compete with land or other resources used for food crops, provides MDI an opportunity in the biofuels feedstock business without the side effect of driving up food prices.

Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. MDI believes its business strategy, the land and operating agreements it continues to develop plus its expertise in plant and soil sciences positions it to become the first and largest United States-based producer of commercial quantities of Jatropha oil.

In addition to growing and selling Jatropha oil and other biomass byproducts, the company intends to sell the carbon sequestration credits generated by the plant’s ability to convert large volumes of carbon dioxide to oxygen through photosynthesis.

The credits will be sold to companies unable to meet their greenhouse gas reduction requirements under the Kyoto Accords, or within other Cap and Trade markets domestically. The carbon credits will be sold through the European Climate Exchange (ECX) and the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change assigning mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to establish and drive its new business, the Company hired Richard Palmer, a seasoned energy executive with many years of experience in the alternate energy and bio-fuels industry. To further support the new effort, the Company has entered into a consulting agreement with Mobius Risk Group LLC, a leading energy risk management company.

In a strategic move to bolster its Board’s bio-fuels, risk management, and financial expertise, MDI appointed three new directors to its Board of Directors; Richard Palmer, its new President and COO, Eric J. Melvin, the Chief Executive Officer of Mobius Risk Group, and Martin Schroeder, the Executive Vice President & Managing Director of The Emmes Group, a strategic business development, assessment and planning organization. In order to provide additional funds for its new operations, Medical Discoveries has entered into a $1 million loan agreement with a third party lender.

Medical Discoveries purchased Global Clean Energy Holdings LLC from Mobius Risk Group and Mr. Palmer in exchange for 63,945,257 shares of its common stock. Of the 63,945,257 shares, 27,405,111 shares were issued subject to the Company achieving certain specified performance milestones. Some or all of the 27,405,111 shares may be cancelled if the milestones are not met.

Biopact: Analysts: labor-intensive Jatropha not a magic bullet - September 12, 2007

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Breakthrough in synthetic biology: scientists synthesize DNA-based memory in yeast cells, guided by mathematical model

Harvard Medical School researchers have successfully synthesized a DNA-based memory loop in yeast cells, findings that mark a significant step forward in the emerging field of synthetic biology. The scientists succeeded in building a biological device from scratch and programmed it to perform a specific task, guided by a predictive mathematical model they developed. Synthetic biology is a field generating much excitement, rumor and speculation but it lacks concrete applications. However, this is the first time scientists actually succeed in creating a useful, synthetic biological device. The disruptive science of synthetic biology promises to bring many applications in the bioenergy and biofuels sector.

Dr. Pamela Silver, lead author, explaining her research and the importance of synthetic biology, especially as it relates to potential applications in bioenergy and biofuels.

After constructing genes from random bits of DNA, researchers in the lab of Professor Pamela Silver, a faculty member in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Systems Biology, not only reconstructed the dynamics of memory, but also created a mathematical model that predicted how such a memory “device” might work. The findings are to be published in the September 15 issue of the journal Genes and Development.
Synthetic biology is an incredibly exciting field, with more possibilities than many of us can imagine. While this proof-of-concept experiment is simply one step forward, we’ve established a foundational technology that just might set the standard of what we should expect in subsequent work. - Dr Pamela Silver, lead author
Like many emerging fields, there’s still a bit of uncertainty over what, exactly, synthetic biology is. Ask any three scientists for a definition, and you’ll probably get four answers. Some see it as a means to boost the production of biotech products, such as proteins for pharmaceutical uses or other kinds of molecules for, say, environmental clean-up. Others see it as a means to creating computer platforms that may bypass many of the onerous stages of clinical trials. In such a scenario, a scientist would type the chemical structure of a drug candidate into a computer, and a program containing models of cellular metabolism could generate information on how people would react to that compound.

Either way, at it’s core, synthetic biology boils down to gleaning insights into how biological systems work by reconstructing them. If you can build it, it forces you to understand it.

Leading synthetic biologists recently released a manifesto - the Ilulissat Statement - in which they call for a global push forward in the field. They stated that synthetic biology could bring solutions in the sectors of biofuels, climate change and clean energy. Recent breakthroughs include the publication of a genome transplantation method allowing scientists to transform one type of bacteria into another type dictated by the transplanted chromosome - a revolution that might imply applications for bioenergy (earlier post). Synthetic biologists are already teaming up with biofuel producers to develop third-generation energy crops that can be guided to behave in a specific way (here and here).

Mathematically guided memory loop
A team in Silver’s Harvard Medical School lab led by Caroline Ajo-Franklin, now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and postdoctoral scientist David Drubin decided to demonstrate that not only could they construct circuits out of genetic material, but they could also develop mathematical models whose predictive abilities match those of any electrical engineering system.

Building a biological device that does precisely what you predicted it would do is seen as the litmus test for synthetic biology:
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The components of this memory loop were simple: two genes that coded for proteins called transcription factors. Transcription factors regulate gene activity. Like a hand on a faucet, the transcription factor will grab onto a specific gene and control how much, or how little, of a particular protein the gene should make.

The researchers placed two of these newly synthesized, transcription factor-coding genes into a yeast cell, and then exposed the cell to galactose (a kind of sugar). The first gene, which was designed to switch on when exposed to galactose, created a transcription factor that grabbed on to, and thus activated, the second gene. It was at this point that the feedback loop began.

The second gene also created a transcription factor. But this transcription factor, like a boomerang, swung back around and bound to that same gene from which it had originated, reactivating it. This caused the gene to once again create that very same transcription factor, which once again looped back and reactivated the gene.

In other words, the second gene continually switched itself on via the very transcription factor it created when it was switched on.

The researchers then eliminated the galactose, causing the first synthetic gene, the one that had initiated this whole process, to shut off. Even with this gene gone, the feedback loop continued.

Essentially what happened is that the cell remembered that it had been exposed to galactose, and continued to pass this memory on to its descendents. So after many cell divisions, the feedback loop remained intact without galactose or any other sort of molecular trigger.

Most important, the entire construction of the device was guided by the mathematical model that the researchers developed.
Think of how engineers build bridges. They design quantitative models to help them understand what sorts of pressure and weight the bridge can withstand, and then use these equations to improve the actual physical model. We really did the same thing. In fact, our mathematical model not only predicted exactly how our memory loop would work, but it informed how we synthesized the genes. - Pamela Silver, lead author
For synthetic biology, this kind of specificity is crucial:
If we ever want to create biological black boxes, that is, gene-based circuits like this one that you can plug into a cell and have it perform a specified task, we need levels of mathematical precision as exact as the kind that go into creating computer chips. - Pamela Silver, lead author
The researchers are now working to scale-up the memory device into a larger, more complex circuit, one that can, for example, respond to DNA damage in cells.
One day we’d like to have a comprehensive library of these so-called black boxes. In the same way you take a component off the shelf and plug it into a circuit and get a predicted reaction, that’s what we’d one day like to do in cells. - David Drubin, author

Video: credit Harvard Medical School, Department of Systems Biology.

Caroline M. Ajo-Franklin, David A. Drubin, Julian A. Eskin, Elaine P.S. Gee, Dirk Landgraf, Ira Phillips, and Pamela A. Silver, “Rational design of memory in eukaryotic cells”, Genes and Development, Volume 21, Issue 18: September 15, 2007

Pamela Silver profile at the Harvard Medical School, Department of Systems Biology

Eurekalerts: Scientists synthesize memory in yeast cells - September 14, 2007.

Biopact: Scientists call for global push to advance synthetic biology - biofuels to benefit - June 25, 2007

Biopact: Scientists take major step towards 'synthetic life': first bacterial genome transplantation changing one species to another - June 29, 2007

Biopact: Synthetic Genomics and Asiatic Centre for Genome Technology to sequence oil palm genome - July 11, 2007

Biopact: Agrivida and Codon Devices to partner on third-generation biofuels - August 03, 2007

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Black-empowered firm Siyanda advances biofuel project, despite legislative uncertainty in South Africa

Black-empowered firm Siyanda is proceeding with preparations for the the development of a soyabean-based biodiesel production plant, despite continued delays in the finalisation of legislation governing biofuels in South Africa. The project will be a joint venture between petrochemicals giant Sasol, the State-owned Central Energy Fund and Siyanda.

CEO Madi Ramsamy said that Siyanda had secured a supply of soybean seed from New Crop Seed, and was planning to plant the first crop in October, near Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal.

The project includes the development of a proposed 100,000 t/y soyabean-based biodiesel plant valued at between 1.2 and 1.3 billion rand (€120/$167 - €130/$181 million) . It includes the construction of the soyabean processing plant, an oil cake manufacturing facility, an oil extraction facility and a biodiesel refinery. Siyanda has also secured contracts for the supply of fuel and fertiliser for the farms.

Legislation governing the biofuels sector, and outlining government support for its development was expected in May, but is yet to be finalised. The Department of Trade and Industry said it was unable to comment until the policy was finalised and made public. South Africa is proceeding carefully with its legislation and wants to ensure small farmers benefit from the biofuels opportunity (earlier post):
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However, Ramsamy said that JV partner Sasol wanted to delay the project until legislation was in place. Sasol's widely reported standpoint is that a biodiesel plant in South Africa is not economically viable without government support.

The project would be decided on by Sasol's board after government's national biofuels sector strategy document had been published, and Sasol confirmed that in the absence of legislation a decision is yet to be made.

Ramsamy agreed that government support was critical for the development of the industry. In a telephonic interview, he noted that he would like to see support in the form of agricultural or crop subsidies that would promote local emerging farmers.

Ramsamy said that Siyanda wanted to use local feedstock, and that he would like to see government assist farmers by lowering their input costs, such as seed, fertiliser and fuel, through subsidies.

These cost reductions would ripple through and also benefit buyers of the feedstock, such as Siyanda.

Ramsamy said that he assumed the delays with the legislation were related to including the necessary input and approval from all the relevant government departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Finance.

Ramsamy was optimistic that the legislation would be in place by the end of October.

Engineering News: SA firm advances fuel-from-soya project, despite legislative uncertainty - September 17, 2007.

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