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    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

    Timber products company China Grand Forestry Resources Group announced that it would acquire Yunnan Shenyu New Energy, a biofuels research group, for €560/$822 million. Yunnan Shenyu New Energy has developed an entire industrial biofuel production chain, from a fully active energy crop seedling nursery to a biorefinery. Cleantech - November 16, 2007.

    Northern European countries launch the Nordic Bioenergy Project - "Opportunities and consequences of an expanding bio energy market in the Nordic countries" - with the aim to help coordinate bioenergy activities in the Nordic countries and improve the visibility of existing and future Nordic solutions in the complex field of bioenergy, energy security, competing uses of resources and land, regional development and environmental impacts. A wealth of data, analyses and cases will be presented on a new website - Nordic Energy - along with announcements of workshops during the duration of project. Nordic Energy - November 14, 2007.

    Global Partners has announced that it is planning to increase its refined products and biofuels storage capacity in Providence, Rhode Island by 474,000 barrels. The partnership has entered into agreements with New England Petroleum Terminal, at a deepwater marine terminal located at the Port of Providence. PRInside - November 14, 2007.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dynamotive demonstrates fast-pyrolysis plant in the presence of biofuel experts

Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in bio-oil production technology, today announced it hosted a tour of its fast-pyrolysis plant in Guelph, Ontario, with over seventy-five global biofuel experts attending. Amongst them were scientists from the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 40, to which we refer often as they are leading research into global bioenergy trade and logistics.

Dynamotive's plant is the first commercial-scale facility to produce bio-oil from biomass. The pyrolysis plant comprises eight fully assembled modules and will process, once in full operation, 66,000 dry tonnes of biomass a year and have an energy output equivalent to 130,000 barrels of oil. Because of its modular design, it is seen as a key technology capable of ensuring the emergence of a truly decentralized biofuel production paradigm (earlier post).

Bio-oil is an industrial fuel produced from cellulosic biomass, either obtained from dedicated energy crops or from residues from agriculture and forestry. By rapidly heating the biomass feedstock to temperatures of 450 - 600 °C in the absence of air ('fast' or 'flash' pyrolysis), a heavy pyrolysis oil ('bio-oil') is obtained (schematic, click to enlarge). When combusted this oil produces substantially less smog-precursor nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions than conventional oil as well as little or no sulfur oxide gases (SOx), which are a prime cause of acid rain. Bio-oil and Dynamotive's 'BioOil Plus' (earlier post) are price-competitive replacements for heating oils #2 and #6 that are widely used in industrial boilers and furnaces. Bio-oil can also be transformed into designer biofuels for transport.

Dynamotive's plant design has attracted attention from the bioenergy community because it promises genuine decentralized biofuel production. Because the plant is a modular concept, it can be brought to the source of the biomass, instead of bringing bulky feedstock to a central plant. The idea is to turn the bulky biomass feedstock into bio-oil on the spot. This liquid with a much higher energy density can then be transported more economically to more central processing facilities, or directly to end-markets. Moreover, the modularity of the core processing modules allows for better scaleability (more here).

During the demonstration, the plant was operational and for the first time the full cycle of production from wood chips to bio-oil was demonstrated publicly. The plant had previously undergone testing and inspection processes by regulatory and technical authorities in readiness for continuous operation. Previous tests conducted demonstrated the capacity of the plant to operate at its nominal design capacity of 200 tonnes per day biomass input.

Dynamotive and Evolution Biofuels (Dynamotive's partner in the venture) based on the successful start up will now proceed with the final commissioning and synchronization of all systems task that is expected to be completed within two weeks. The plant will be then operated by Dynamotive’s and Tecna’s staff for 60 days before handing over the plant operations to Evolution Biofuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The tour was part of a two-day conference in Toronto sponsored by the IEA's Bioenergy Task 40 which focuses on bioenergy trade, Bioenergy Focus Ontario and the Canadian Bioenergy Association, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to promote utilization of sustainable biomass for the production of biofuels, heat and power.

The Guelph plant, with a capacity to convert 200 tonnes of biomass into bio-oil per day, was developed in partnership with MegaCity Recycling Inc. and operates under the name Evolution Biofuels Inc. This Dynamotive flagship pyrolysis plant was constructed using modules that minimize on-site activities and allow for rapid deployment. It comprises eight fully assembled modules and when fully operational will process 66,000 dry tons of biomass per year with an energy output equivalent to 130,000 barrels of oil.

Prior to the tour, Dynamotive's Vice President Anton Kuipers presented the company's strategic initiatives to conference attendees on Wednesday, September 12. Mr. Kuipers commented during the presentation, "With two BioOil plants completed in Canada and plans underway for additional plants in Latin America and in the United States, Dynamotive is moving ahead in its global initiative to increase production of fuels from biomass." (On Dynamotive's activities in Latin America, see here).

In a very interesting side-development, Dynamotive also announced that it is experimenting with biochar ('agrichar', 'terra preta') which could lead to the production of carbon-negative fuels (more here and here). By storing a carbon-rich fraction of the pyrolysed biomass in agricultural soils, a low-tech carbon sequestration technique can be developed. The process has shown to result in increased yields for the (energy) crops that are planted on such improved soils.

Biopact: Dynamotive and Mitsubishi Corporation sign cooperation agreement - August 02, 2007

Biopact: Dynamotive plans to build 6 bio-oil plants in Argentina - April 30, 2007

Biopact: Dynamotive begins construction of modular fast-pyrolysis plant in Ontario - December 19, 2006

Biopact: Biomass-to-liquids: bring the factory to the forest, not the forest to the factory - September 18, 2006

Biopact: Carbon negative biofuels: Dynamotive to test biochar to boost crop yields, water quality, and sequester carbon - May 30, 2007

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African Development Bank approves €10 million loan for replanting and expanding palm oil, rubber in Gabon

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a €10 million loan under its private sector window to finance Belgium's Tropical Agriculture Investment Company (Société d’Investissement pour l’Agriculture Tropicale, SIAT) for its expansion project in Gabon.

The project involves both replanting old plantations and establishing new ones with high-yielding trees (see table for an overview of current operations):
  • Oil Palm: (1) establishing a new 4,250-ha oil palm plantation and replanting 1,500-ha in Bindo; (2) replanting a 750-ha oil palm plantation in Zilé; (3) replanting a 1,000-ha oil palm plantation in Makouké; (4) modernizing a palm oil mill and palm kernel crushing plant in Makouké; (5) expanding the capacity of the palm oil refinery in Lambaréné from 50 tons per day tpd) to 75 tpd; (6) modernizing the soap manufacturing plant in Lambaréné, and (7) increasing the capacity of palm oil storage tanks in Lambaréné and Port Gentil by 3,000 tonnes.
  • Rubber: (1) re-planting 4,100-ha nucleus rubber plantations in Bitam and Mitzic; (2) supporting a 2,000-ha out-grower rubber scheme; and (3) establishing a new crumb rubber line with a capacity of 40 tpd in Mitzic.
According to the AfDB, the project will have a strong social development impact. At the local level, it will inject capital into the economy of Woleu-Ntem and Moyen-Ogooué provinces and help increase the living standards of the rural population.

The expansion project will provide employment for an additional 520 permanent staff for field preparation, planting, harvesting oil palm fruit, and tapping rubber latex. The project will further support some 500 out-grower farmers. The project staff and out-growers will be provided regular training to enhance their skills and improve their productivity. At the national level, the project will help Gabon expand its oil palm and rubber industries and produce more value added products. It will also generate tax revenue for the state and help to generate foreign exchange earnings.

The project will contribute to diversify Gabon’s economy, which is heavily dependent on crude oil, a sector controlled by a tiny elite. The country's petroleum resources are in decline and even though Gabon has a large agricultural potential, the sector has been underinvested because of the past oil boom. Palm oil and natural rubber now offer the most immediate strategy to make Gabon less dependent on oil revenues and to prepare it for the unavoidable post-oil era. Both commodities are experiencing record prices as a result of high petroleum prices (palm oil as a substitute for diesel, natural rubber which follows petroleum-derived synthetic rubber prices):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Siat Gabon is actively involved in community development initiatives in the project area, providing social infrastructure such as roads, bore holes, and electricity. The company has created six modern townships dotted with over 900 houses for the workers. In addition, Siat Gabon has established “Cités cadres” with a total of 200 houses for senior staff, supervisors, and skilled workers in the project area. The project has further provided 8 primary schools in the neighboring communities with a combined enrollment of about 800 pupils. The company also operates 2 clinics, one for general healthcare and the other for maternal healthcare.

Women represent about 35% of the permanent workforce and about 40% of the seasonal workers. They are mainly involved in nursery activities, fruit collection, processing operations, quality control, and as office work. Women hold about 25% of the middle management positions in the company, including the post of Deputy MD. Women will benefit from a number of indirect jobs like retail shops and small restaurants to cater to the needs of the local population. The company operates a 'village plantation program', under which women are encouraged to cultivate food crops in the company’s plantations within the first two years of planting. This has enabled the women to ensure household food security as well as generate additional incomes.

As a result of a privatisation exercise implemented by the Government of Gabon in 2003, Siat acquired Agrogabon, Hévégab and a part of Sogadel, namely the Ranch of Nyanga. On the 5th of April, 2004, the take-over convention for the above mentioned enterprises was signed. Siat Gabon was created in order to accommodate the assets of these SOE’s.

The rubber activity of the company, located in the northern part of Gabon, consists of the Bitam Estate (2,500 ha mature rubber plantation) and the Mitzic Estate (5,500 ha of mature rubber plantation). It also includes 2,500 ha of mature outgrower plantations. At Mitzic the company operates a crump rubber factory with a daily capacity of 50 tonnes. Expansion work on estates and factory have resumed. The entire rubber production of 15,000 tonnes per annum is exported.

The oil palm activity is located around Lambarene and Makouké, and comprises 8,000 ha of mature oil palm plantation, a palm oil/palm kernel mill with a capacity of 30 tonnes ffb/hour, a soap factory of 25,000 tonnes/annum and a refinery/fractionation plant of 50,000 tonnes of oil per annum. Production is mainly meant for the domestic market.

The cattle ranch, located in the Province of Nyanga in the southern part of the country, comprises a concession of 100,000 ha. Presently, a heard of 2,000 head is meant to be increased to 20,000 over the next ten years. Cattle of the Ndama type will be imported from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also envisaged that approximately one third of the ranch area will be converted into an eco-tourism site.

Siat is an active member of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

SIAT: Siat in Gabon.

Africa News: Gabon: AfDB loans €10M for palm oil, rubber - September 17, 2007.

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Climate change leads to increase in atmospheric moisture, water vapor itself a potent greenhouse gas

Observations and climate model results confirm that human-induced warming of the planet is having a pronounced effect on the atmosphere’s total moisture content. Water vapor itself is a potent greenhouse gas and more of it means an amplification of global warming. Those are the findings of a new study appearing in the September 19 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as an open access article. The results debunk the claims by climate-deniers that the lower atmosphere has cooled over recent decades.

Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Modeling and Intercomparison and eight other international research centers, found that the atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m²) per decade since 1988. Natural variability in climate can not explain this moisture change. The most plausible explanation is that this is due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases.

Positive feedback
More water vapor amplifies the warming effect of increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. This is what scientists call a 'positive feedback'.

Using 22 different computer models of the climate system and measurements from the satellite-based Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I), the atmospheric scientists have shown that the recent increase in moisture content over the bulk of the world’s oceans is not due to solar forcing or gradual recovery from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. The primary driver of this ‘atmospheric moistening’ is the increase in carbon dioxide caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

This is the first identification of a 'human fingerprint' on the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. 'Fingerprint' studies seek to identify the causes of recent climate change and involve rigorous comparisons of modeled and observed climate change patterns. To date, most fingerprint studies have focused on temperature changes at the Earth’s surface, in the free atmosphere, or in the oceans, or have considered variables whose behavior is directly related to changes in atmospheric temperature.

The water vapor feedback mechanism works in the following way: as the atmosphere warms due to human-caused increases in carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons, water vapor increases, trapping more heat in the atmosphere, which in turn causes a further increase in water vapor:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Basic theory, observations and climate model results all show that the increase in water vapor is roughly 6 percent to 7.5 percent per degree Celsius warming of the lower atmosphere.

The authors note that their findings, when taken together with similar studies of continental-scale river runoff, zonal-mean rainfall, and surface specific humidity, point toward an emerging human-caused signal in the cycling of moisture between the atmosphere, land and ocean.

This new work shows that the climate system is telling us a consistent story. The observed changes in temperature, moisture, and atmospheric circulation fit together in an internally- and physically-consistent way.

Why care?
So why should we care about a more humid atmosphere? There are at least three good reasons.
  • First, water vapor is itself a potent greenhouse gas, so it is important to have a good understanding of the cause or causes of its recent increase.
  • Second, atmospheric moisture content is one of the large-scale environmental conditions that influences the genesis and development of hurricanes. In the absence of countervailing changes in other factors, an increase in water vapor would favor the development of more intense hurricanes.
  • Finally, the observed increase in water vapor provides independent evidence of the reality of warming of the lower atmosphere. The observed water vapor increase since 1988 is consistent with pronounced warming of the surface and lower atmosphere, but fundamentally inconsistent with claims (still made by some die-hard skeptics!) that the lower atmosphere has cooled over recent decades.
Wider implications of the study
One persistent criticism of the 'discernible human influence' findings of previous IPCC assessments is that such conclusions were largely based on 'fingerprint' studies which relied heavily on surface temperature changes. The thrust of the criticism was this: if there really is a signal of human activities lurking in the climate system, it should be manifest in many different climate variables, and not in surface temperature alone.

The new study helps to refute this criticism, and shows that we have now moved well beyond 'temperature only' fingerprint studies.

Map (click to enlarge): Estimates of the amount of atmospheric water vapor over oceans from the satellite-based Special Sensor Microwave Imager. Results are for August 28th (top panel) and August 29th, 2005 (bottom panel). Locations with high atmospheric moisture content are denoted by red and white colors. The highest water vapor values are associated with typhoons Talim and Nabi in the Pacific and with Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico. Courtesy: Carl Mears and Frank Wentz/Remote Sensing Systems.

B. D. Santer, et al., "Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content" [open access], Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., Published online before print September 19, 2007, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0702872104

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Increase in atmospheric moisture tied to human activities - September 18, 2007.

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Marine biofuels enter market with new biodiesel bunker tanker

A new biodiesel bunker tanker has joined the local bunker barges in Vancouver this year for the summer cruise season, Bunkerworld has learned. The Chemical Sprinter is being operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) as part of the company's biodiesel programme for cruise ships operating out of Vancouver and Seattle.

The Malta-registered tanker required a special exemption, as a foreign-flagged vessel, to stem bunkers in the port and brings the biodiesel product up from Grays Harbor in Washington state. Royal Caribbean has been undertaking sea trials of a palm oil-based biodiesel since 2005 and has used it in vessels that typically run on marine gasoil (MGO) fuelled gas turbines.

The biodiesel fuel, which is apparently 95% pure, burns cleaner than regular MGO with reduced CO2, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. Sources told Bunkerworld last year that Royal Caribbean had no trouble using the fuel as a ready substitute for the heavy marine fuel oil.

According to recent studies by Germany's Institut für Physik der Atmosphere (IPA) and by the College of Marine and Earth Studies of the University of Delaware, CO2 emissions from the shipping sector are on the same order as those of the aviation industry. They could double by 2050.

The studies reveal converging estimates of current ship emissions and suggest that shipping emitted around 800 Tg CO2 and contributed around 2.7% to all anthropogenic CO2 emissions in 2000 (1 Tg = 1012 g = 1 million metric tons = 1 Mt). The same studies put aviation emissions of CO2 at about 650 Tg (graph, click to enlarge).

For comparison, aviation and road transport contributed around 2.2% and 14%, respectively. Other comparisons suggest that shipping accounts for around 15% of all global anthropogenic NOx emissions and for around 8% of SO2 emissions. The relatively high contribution is a result of marine engines operating at high temperatures and pressures without effective NOx emission reduction technologies and because of the high average sulfur content (2.4%-2.7%) in marine fuels.

Marine biofuels reduce all major emissions substantially. Added advantages are that the green fuels are biodegradable, 10 times less toxic than table salt and are thus far less damaging to marine ecosystems than petroleum fuels. Moreover, handling marine biofuels in a bunker context is considerably safer than dealing with petro-fuels (earlier post).

This year Royal Caribbean has sourced its biodiesel from the plant in Grays Harbor operated by Imperium Renewables, which expanded this year from a 5 million gallon per annum capacity to around 100 million gallons. The cruise company has committed to nearly 50,000 metric tonnes of Imperium's biodiesel for this year, rising to close to 60,000 metric tonnes in 2008:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Feedstocks are reportedly tight at present in the biodiesel industry. Imperium will use Canadian canola oil for most of its feedstock over the next 18 months and will not use palm oil in the forseeable future, president John Plaza was reported saying this week.

According to Imperium's SEC filing, however, it has contracted with Singapore-based Cargill International Trading to supply palm oil from Southeast Asia from March this year through September 2009 as required.

The contract includes a minimum quantity over the three-year period, not specified in the SEC filing due to confidentiality reasons.

At least two Royal Caribbean cruise ships based in Vancouver this year are using the product, the Infinity and the Radiance of the Seas.

Celebrity Cruises, part of RCL, is also involved in the programme and the Chemical Sprinter was seen stemming the Summit today. Royal Caribbean was unable to provide further details about its biodiesel programme when contacted by Bunkerworld. It confirmed, however, that it did use biodiesel from time-to-time in its eight gas-turbine powered ships instead of MGO.


Bunkerworld: Biodiesel bunker tanker welcomed - September 14, 2007.

Institut für Physic de Atmosphere: Comparing Fuel Consumption, CO2 and Other Emissions from International Shipping and Aircraft: A Summary of Recent Research Findings - March 8, 2007.

Biopact: EU plans unilateral shipping emissions cap - April 23, 2007

Biopact: Shipping industry waking up to the biofuels call - BioShip - October 13, 2006

Article continues

Energy crisis in Zimbabwe fuels environmental crisis; bioenergy, renewables offer way out

Writing for The Herald in Harare, Zimbabwe, Jacob Mujokoro describes how the regional energy crisis there is leading to an environmental crisis. High fossil fuel prices result not only in disastrous social and economic consequences for poor countries (previous post), populations are also forced to deforest more and more in search for affordable fuel. In what experts call 'primitive biomass use', fuel wood is burned in an extremely inefficient way and leads to a major health crisis (indoor smoke pollution, killing up to 2 million women and children each year; more here).

Mujokoro thinks modern bioenergy, biofuels and other renewables offer a way out. The country and region has a large potential for the sustainable production of dedicated energy crops. Biofuels may have their own environmental problems, but these pale in comparison with the potential ecological disaster that could result from ever increasing oil prices.

Much has been said and written about the anticipated regional energy crisis in Southern Africa. Well, it's no longer anticipated, as many in the region, Zimbabweans included, find themselves in the midst of the crisis, Mujokoro writes.

Always anticipated, as demand outstripped supply in Southern Africa due to growth and expansion of urban areas as well as reduced water levels due to successive seasons of drought, the question is as we focus on the energy crisis, who is minding the environment? Needless to say, the negative effects of the energy crisis are already being felt across Zimbabwe through increased deforestation.

It is thus crucial that the nation and indeed the region find alternative sources of energy to avert a major environmental crisis.

Population growth has been occurring without corresponding development in energy production, compelling many countries to increase resource exploitation and accelerating environmental deterioration. With increased urbanisation and industrialisation the situation is worsening, as more energy is needed.

As can be seen in Zimbabwe, urban centres have become a lucrative market for fuelwood because it seems to be relatively available and cheaper than modern fuels. Not only will the alternative forms of energy be a major boost to national economies but such environmental damage as global warming, partly responsible for the recurrent droughts in East and Southern Africa, can also be mitigated.

The Forestry Company of Zimbabwe recently indicated that the country is losing large swathes of forestry, as much as 400 000 hectares annually as a result of the energy crisis:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

More and more people are turning to fuelwood as the energy crisis takes its toll in sub-Saharan Africa. Urban demand for fuelwood is accelerating the degradation of woody vegetation.

In Zimbabwe, advanced deforestation and soil erosion in marginal areas with poor rainfall has forced many people to migrate to urban areas and in so doing increasing the demand for electricity.

Deforestation is affecting many rural people, and is caused primarily by the need for fuelwood for the curing of tobacco and tea, by excessive felling of timber for domestic and export markets, by agricultural production, by urbanisation, by bushfires, and, more significantly, by demand for fuelwood by both rural and urban households.

As more land around the towns and cities is further depleted of its remaining vegetation, a vicious cycle of soil erosion is set in motion.

Not only is the energy crisis affecting the generation of power but the use of fossil fuel is also impoverishing the majority of Africans as more and more funds of the national budget go towards the importation of oil and other petroleum products.

With world crude oil prices nearing US$80 a barrel, economies across Africa are suffering under soaring energy costs.

As long as clean energy alternatives are absent in these countries, hard-won achievements in economic development will continue to fall prey to oil prices.

Africa has plenty of opportunities to exploit renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. And renewable biofuel production is equally achievable. Countries thus need to develop tools to diversify their energy supplies away from conventional energy sources.

The acting operations manager of the Forestry Company of Zimbabwe, Mr Abedinigo Marufu, decried the effects of the power crisis saying Zimbabwe has witnessed a massive jump of a 100 percent in deforestation as people resort to firewood as a source of energy.

Despite the fact that Africa has abundant energy resources, it is estimated that 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity, and use wood for cooking and heating.

Four hundred thousand Africans, mainly women and children, also die every year of respiratory diseases related to the indoor air pollution from using wood and other traditional fuels.

Instead of relying on nature, Africa needs to move a step further and harness the massive opportunities presented by the good climate as well as the large swathes of land uninhabited for the generation of cleaner forms of energy.

With a larger land mass bigger than China, India, Western Europe, and the United States put together, thousands of miles of coastline and only 14 percent of the global population, Africa has vast potential for wind and solar power generation. Studies have shown strong potential for wind power generation.


Another alternative will be photovoltaics. This is a technology in which light, from the sun, is converted into electrical power.

With the introduction of low-cost PV cells from China, the market price is dropping dramatically making wide-scale PV application much more feasible.


Biofuels are another sector where Africa could rival major global producers and play a central role in meeting the soaring demand for ethanol in Europe, United States, and China.

Africa's agricultural economies are well suited for a wide range of energy crops capable of producing energy.

Jatropha has attracted a fair amount of attention in developing countries, Zimbabwe included.

One hopes the efforts will not come to waste but will be taken to their logical conclusion, with more people taking up Jatropha production to meet both local and export demand. Biofuel industries can create a high-value, clean energy product for export.

Southern African countries are rich in modern energy resources.

Many sub-Saharan African countries have great potential for the development of hydropower, which is the major source of electricity production.

Indeed, as Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said "The continent is rich in renewable resources which can benefit the majority of people within a few years."

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, but rather transformed. We are continually changing one form of energy into another.

Indeed, it is high time that the Southern African Power Pool starts providing low-cost, affordable and environmentally friendly energy and to ensure that economic development in the region is not constrained by energy shortages.

Opportunities for the creation of cheaper, cleaner and environmentally friendly forms of energy are wide and the regional body needs to take the initiative in developing the sector.

The Herald (via AllAfrica): Zimbabwe: Energy Crisis Threatens Environment - September 18, 2007.

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US tops Biofuels Country Attractiveness Indices for Q2 2007

The US is the fastest expanding market in the world for biobased renewable fuels, according to Ernst & Young’s second quarterly 'Biofuels Country Attractiveness Indices' [*.pdf] (earlier post on Q1 rankings, and for definitions of the indices, which are made up of factors ranging from infrastructure to market regulations).

Some interesting changes can be observed compared to the previous rankings. Germany's lower biodiesel ranking is the most obvious one. The world's largest biodiesel market has seen a tax exemption on the fuel being removed, with the consequence that producers can no longer compete with much cheaper imports.

Brazil loses its top spot on the ethanol ranking because it is a victim of its own success: the country sees mounting pressure to stimulate further export potential, as the headroom in the domestic market is reaching its limits following record sugarcane harvest and production outputs resulting in plummeting ethanol prices (previous post). For this reason, Brazil's leaders have been touring the globe to promote Brazilian biofuels and to create export markets (more here, here and especially here).

A new entrant is The Netherlands, which wants to become a European trading hub for biofuels. Suitable infrastructures are expected to attract large investments there (see our extensive coverage of the Bioport concept). Likewise the Philippines are taken up in the Index, as it continues to receive interest from overseas investors who are starting biofuel projects with the aim to export (earlier post and here, here and here).

According to the Indices the attractiveness of the US for investment in biofuels was given a further boost last month by the US House of Representatives, which announced that it plans to provide billions of dollars of tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy (earlier post).

Overall ranking
Investment in the US biofuels industry shows no sign of abating. The increased investment in biofuels in the US is being driven by its attractive regulatory environment, support mechanisms, and project pipelines, which are unrivalled.

The US has a strong development pipeline in ethanol production and the world’s largest project pipeline for biodiesel, which should produce 450 million gallons by 2008, compared to 136.5 million gallons in 2006. The sheer size of the pipeline provides investors with a greater choice in both operating assets and project development opportunities.

In addition, recently proposed legislation would require US refineries to blend a mandatory minimum of 1.25 billion gallons of biodiesel per year by 2012, and although not passed, it sends a very positive message to investors about future demand for biofuels in the US.

These factors have strengthened the US’s position at the top of the All Biofuels Index (table 1, click to enlarge) and given the US a significant four-point lead over its closest rival Brazil.

Germany maintains its position, but is seeing significant difficulties in its biodiesel industry as producers are now running at 50% capacity. This is expected to worsen as higher local feedstock prices, rising fuel excise levies, and cheap imports are making it impossible for German producers to compete:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Spain’s score has risen closer to that of France and Germany as its newly instated mandatory blending targets of 1.9% biofuel content by 2008, 3.4% by 2009 and 5.83% by 2010 are expected to increase demand, prompting investment in new production capacity.

Behind them Sweden has moved into sixth place, principally due to the rapidly growing national demand for ethanol which is set to step up further as the next phase of the distribution obligation will take effect this year. The UK score remained steady with further ethanol production capacity expansion announced, but concerns over the lengthy pollution prevention and control permit procedures are expected to slow development.

China’s overall score remains the same despite the drop in its ethanol score, caused by the fact that no more grain-based ethanol sites will be granted permits in response to continuing rises in food crop prices.

The Netherlands is a new entrant into the All Biofuels Index top 15 with its position as Europe’s fuel hub expected to help it add over 1.2 million tons per annum (mtpa) of production capacity over the next two to three years. India drops one place as newly implemented support mechanisms are insufficient to stimulate significant growth in either biofuels technology.

Australia drops by five points over doubts surrounding the government’s ability to enforce blending targets and the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to droughts. Actual biofuels production was 13 million liters per year in 2006 against a target of 82–124 million liters per year.

The US has moved ahead of Brazil to take the top spot in the Ethanol Index at Q2 2007. The US has a strong development pipeline and further support mechanisms currently being progressed are encouraging. Continuing high levels of transaction activity and investment in established production sites as well as cellulosic technology can be expected.

Brazil’s score decreases by two points despite increased domestic blending targets from 23% to 25%; this will be insufficient to absorb the expected output increase of 13.5% this year compared to 2006. Brazil needs to compensate for this with more export agreements such as the one currently being negotiated with Japan for 3.5bLpa from 2011.

Germany’s ethanol industry sees only moderate demand increases but planned expansion of the nationwide network for E85 sales is encouraging.

Spain has overtaken France and Canada to claim fourth spot in the Indices as a result of new mandatory blending targets expected to increase demand. The positive trend in the US market is expected to aid the Canadian industry although it still lags some way behind.

Sweden’s score has risen by two points as the obligation on fuel stations resulted in almost double the level of sales of the fuel in the last year. This should increase further as the obligation will now extend to smaller retailers too. Sweden imports most of its ethanol from Brazil.

In the UK, despite recent announcements of new production capacity, the industry has raised concerns over the time taken for facilities to obtain environmental licenses.

China has dropped one point after an announcement by the government that only production facilities processing noncereal-based feedstock will be permitted, in order to relieve price pressures on food production. This is expected to limit new capacity until commercial scale cellulosic technology will become available.

With the introduction of mandatory blending targets and its favourable position as a fuel hub for Europe, The Netherlands will see a large number of new projects being constructed and moves into twelfth position.

Australia loses six points and falls four places, as the government is failing to enforce blending targets and concerns are raised over Australia’s ability going forward to grow enough grain and sugar cane given the current extended drought conditions.

India loses two points as the 5% mandated ethanol blend has to be implemented only if economically viable. This is not envisaged to be the case in the immediate future and casts significant doubts over the likelihood of developing the 560 million liters per year production capacity required to meet the target.

Indonesia enters the Ethanol Index as foreign investment is expected to continue flowing into the market from its Asian neighbours taking advantage of the high-yielding feedstock and low production costs.

The US moved up to first place in the Biodiesel Index seeing its score rise by one point. Increased incentives and rising blending targets have been reinforced by the recently proposed legislation that would require US refineries to blend a minimum of 1.25b gallons of biodiesel per year by 2012.

The US also has the largest project pipeline in the world and with the proposal starting at a mandated volume of 450m gallons in 2008, compared to production of 136.5m gallons in 2006, this should grow further.

France loses one point but remains in second place. The country has not increased the production quota exempt from excise duty, despite narrowing domestic headroom and falling demand in Germany, France’s largest export market, which may cause the market to stall.

Brazil has moved up to third place in the ranking as a result of new project announcements and a number of direct supply agreements between producers and domestic industry players with high fuel consumption. With further positive uptake of biodiesel by different national industries (e.g., mining, public transport) expected, there is still headroom for increased capacity expansion.

Germany loses the top spot and falls to joint fourth, losing nine points. Despite having the largest production capacity globally and establishing an EU biofuels target of 10% for 2020 under its EU presidency, the annually increasing tax duty on biodiesel is placing unsustainable pressure on the industry. Resultant falling demand means prices have dropped by almost 5% in Q2 while feedstock prices rose by around 10% and are now higher than at the beginning of the year. Tightening margins are predicted to force production below 50% of capacity by the year-end as the market is severely tested in the run up to the next scheduled tax increase in January 2008.

Spain should see its biodiesel production increase to more than 400ktpa by 2008 (compared to 125ktpa in 2006) due to newly introduced mandated blending targets.

Thailand remains in ninth place as the government’s 10% mandated blending target for 2011 encourages announcements of a number of further plant developments.

The Netherlands enters the Biodiesel Index as a result of a good project pipeline driven by its domestic blending regime and exploitation of key European logistical hubs Rotterdam, Eemshaven, and Terneuzen.

Indonesia sees continued foreign investment from its regional neighbors driving the industry and is in joint eleventh place.

China lacks any consistent regulatory approach to the biodiesel industry but persistent shortage of conventional diesel in the high-growth market still provides continued expansion potential.

The Philippines is a new entrant with a 1% blending target mandatory since May 2007 and foreign companies, particularly Japanese and Chinese, continuing to build capacity for export.

India dropped out of the top 15 biodiesel nations in Q2 2007 as an official price regime is not expected to cover production costs. The uncertainty over government intentions is causing small producers to negotiate individual supply contracts, thereby slowing down expansion.

Malaysia was removed from the top 15 as high prices for palm oil are likely to delay current production and further development of the industry.

UK pioneers carbon and sustainability reporting

The UK score in the All Biofuels Index remained steady at seventh position, but until the implementation of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) in 2008, current incentives, which provide tax breaks on capital expenditure and a GBP 0.20 reduction in fuel duty, are not sufficient to develop the UK biofuels market beyond niche supply.

With the recent launch of the Carbon & Sustainability (C&S) consultation on the RTFO, the UK government has taken a lead globally in pioneering a mechanism that from 2011 could differentiate incentives received by different biofuels. In the initial phase of the RTFO (2008 – 2011), only data will be collected and the incentives received shall remain unaffected.

The UK Government’s objective with the consultation is laudable, as it’s likely to bring greater rewards for biofuels suppliers who can improve the efficiency of their biofuels production, but this should not act as a barrier to rapid deployment of biofuels capacity.

Next-generation biofuels
According to the report, overall the biofuels industry faces many challenges from the rising demand for agricultural commodities. However, investment in second generation biofuels is the future. Second generation biofuels are derived from by-products that we cannot eat such as switchgrass, corn and wood chips, and are less exposed to the price fluctuations of the first generation biofuels, which are derived from food crops.

Ernst & Young: Biofuels Country Attractiveness Indices, Q2, 2007 [*.pdf] - September 2007.

Biopact: Biofuels and renewables 'Country Attractiveness Indices' for Q1 2007 - May 24, 2007

Biopact: Ethanol prices in Brazil plummet, government considers increasing blend from 23 to 25% - May 30, 2007

Biopact: U.S. House passes Energy Bill: boost to biofuels, CCS and renewables - August 06, 2007

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

Biopact: The Netherlands aims to become a 'bioport' for global biomass trading - report - February 12, 2007

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Sri Lankan students launch initiative to promote biofuels

In an interesting development, students from the Master in Business Administration class at the University of Colombo have formed a society to promote biofuels across the island state. The move is a bottom-up initiative, from socially and environmentally conscious youth, who look into their nation's long-term future.

They describe their motivation in Sri Lanka's Daily News. The students are very optimistic about the advantages of ethanol and biodiesel, but perhaps a bit naive when it comes to the potential environmental costs of biofuels and the complex economic and social drivers that dictate their feasibility. Still, let's listen to their youthly enthusiasm and to the reasons as to why they launched their biofuel society:
The recent surge in [interest] in environmental issues affecting our planet coupled with the increasing costs of fossil fuels such as oil and gas have led to an increase in interest in biofuels. [...] Sri Lankan expenditure on imported fossil fuel is totaling to US Dollars 1,029 Millions in the year 2006 (according to Central Bank Report) and day by day cost of living is going up. We use fossil fuel for power generation to lighting lamps and if an alternative energy source such as renewable energy can be used to save Billions of Dollars we spent on importation of fossil fuel.
The arguments dealing with energy security and import costs are certainly strong ones. High fossil fuel prices are truly disastrous for developing countries and especially hurt the poor. Some of the least developed countries are already spending twice as much on importing oil than on such basic social services as health care (earlier post).
Biofuels can also provide us with a sustainable form of energy. This is great news for future generations but also effects us today as dwindling supplies of oil and gas force prices upwards meaning that we pay more for our gas and petroleum as well as fossil fuel generated electricity.
'Peak Oil and Gas' remains the dark shadow that looms over all nations that want to achieve a certain degree of modernity. Abundant and low-cost energy is absolutely key to the development of economies and societies, especially when they are making the transition from low to higher development. This entails a phase of high energy intensity, requiring abundant and secure supplies of energy. Currently biofuels offer the only feasible alternative to petroleum.

Obviously, 'Peak Oil' is only a problem for those who believe in the ideologies of 'progress' and 'modernity'. But then, these discourses have found their strongest adherents in developing countries. Only in 'post-modern' societies, and amongst their middle classes that have gained all the wealth of the world, can one find the questionable idea that humanity should somehow revert back to pre-modern times. Luckily, this is remains a marginal discourse.

The Sri Lankan students continue by highlighting the fact that biofuels can be produced locally. In the words of FAO chief Jacques Diouf, they also promise to bring a 'rural renaissance'. About 80 per cent of the country's 20 million inhabitants is made up of a rural population and farmers:
There are 3.5 million households in Sri Lanka with a high potential of promoting ethanol production at domestic level. [...] Biofuels can easily be made at home and by local communities and farming groups. This can again make biofuels a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and can help to strengthen local communities both socially and economically.
There are many environmental and economic benefits of using ethanol, they students think, and they list them as follows:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  • Reduced harmful exhaust emissions
  • Sustainable energy source
  • Reduced dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas
  • Biodegradable with no toxic effect on environment
  • Does not contribute to greenhouse effect due to growth / burning cycle
  • Cheap method of achieving high octane fuel
  • Many cars are already capable of running on ethanol with no modifications
  • Can reduce levels of disease causing emissions from petrol blends.
  • Can be made at home - reducing energy costs associated with transportation
The biofuels that will be made in Sri Lanka would be first generation fuels obtained from tropical crops such as sugar cane, jatropha, coconut, cassava and tropical tree and grass species, as well as from the island's abundant agriculture and forestry residues. For these crops and fuels - contrary to biofuels made from crops such as canola or maize - the science is clear: they substantially reduce carbon emissions and can be grown in a sustainable manner.
Biofuels have an enormous environmental benefit; they can help reduce the levels of toxins in our air and water. They can reduce the advance of global warming and can help reduce fuel needs by providing more efficient models of energy creation. When a biofuel is burnt to release the energy contained within the biomass, the carbon that is released has recently been taken from the atmosphere by the plants that the biofuel derived from.
Sri Lanka needs a positive change, the students conclude:
We, a team of motivated students reading for a Master in Business Administration at The University of Colombo are aligned to create the positive change to Sri Lanka with bio fuel. We have formed a society called REBIL to further experiment on the possibilities of producing Ethanol out of illicit liquor.

REBIL stands for Renewable Energy through Illicit Local Liquor and promotes bio fuel to reduce the nations' dependency on imported crude oil, helping to reduce environmental effects of daily life and to create job opportunities to 3.5 million rural families.

We invite you, the responsible citizens of Sri Lanka to join hands with us to make this dream a reality.
Photo: Sri Lanka's mainly rural population takes advantage of the country's wet tropical climate to produce tea, rubber, coconuts and spices. The agro-ecological conditions on the island are highly suitable for a range of high-yielding biofuel crops.

Daily News (Sri Lanka): Biofuel: cheaper, more environmentally friendly - September 18, 2007.

Rural Poverty Portal: Geography, agriculture and economy of Sri Lanka.

Biopact: High oil prices disastrous for developing countries - September 12, 2007

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

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En route to carbon-negative energy: Praxair and Foster Wheeler team up to pursue carbon capture demonstration projects

The push towards so-called 'clean coal' is gathering momentum, with a growing number of demonstrations under way. The term 'clean coal' sounds like a cynical contradiction in terms, but the technologies that are being developed for it actually hold the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the most radical way. This is so because the techniques to capture and store carbon (CCS) can be applied to biomass fuels instead of coal, in which case carbon-negative energy can be obtained. Scientists looking at the concept within the context of 'abrupt climate change' suggest that if such 'bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) systems are implemented on a large enough scale, we can get back to pre-industrial atmospheric carbon dioxide levels before the middle of the century (here and here).

Whereas solar, wind, geothermal, wave and other forms of carbon-neutral renewable energy merely prevent the emissions of new greenhouse gases, BECS systems actually take carbon dioxide from the past out of the atmosphere, in a safe and reliable way. As the window to prevent catastrophic climate change is closing rapidly (earlier post and here), the question becomes whether it is still ethical to invest in carbon-neutral energy when we know carbon-negative systems can be implemented today at reasonable costs.

Biopact tracks developments in carbon capture and storage inasmuch as they relate to the transition towards BECS systems. We think the coal industry should be encouraged to develop the technologies, after which the sector should be forced to blend biomass into its fuel mix. Later on, pure biofuel-based BECS systems must be implemented on a global scale.

A new CCS initiative is under way, with Praxair, Inc. and Foster Wheeler North America Corp., signing a multi-year agreement [*.pdf] that calls for the joint pursuit of certain demonstration projects that will incorporate clean coal technologies and integrated oxy-coal combustion systems into coal-fired electric generating plants to facilitate capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The combination of the two companies' technologies and systems expertise would enable a coal-fired generating plant to reduce carbon dioxide stack emissions by more than 90 percent as compared to a conventional coal-fired plant of similar size. Generating plants that burn 'opportunity fuels' such as biomass and petroleum coke in combination with coal would also be able to effect similar reductions in CO2 emissions. When biomass is used as the sole fuel, carbon-negative energy is obtained. The two companies have agreed to share technical information to ensure successful integration of the combined systems.

Under the agreement, Foster Wheeler will develop and supply steam generators using oxy-coal combustion technology that can be installed in new or existing coal-fired power plants. Oxy-coal combustion creates a highly concentrated stream of CO2 from a steam generator to facilitate carbon capture and sequestration (schematic, click to enlarge; see here for a short discussion of pre- and post-combustion carbon capture techniques which differ substantially from oxy-fuel combustion based carbon capture). Foster Wheeler expects that its first applications of oxy-coal combustion technology would involve the company's circulating fluidized-bed (CFB) steam generators, which have already gained global market acceptance for their efficiency, fuel flexibility, and relatively low emissions. Foster Wheeler expects that oxy-coal combustion technology will be applicable to pulverized-coal (PC) steam generators as well.

The companies expect that their first joint commercial effort will be the previously announced demonstration project being pursued by the Jamestown (New York) Board of Public Utilities. The Jamestown project would be the first of its kind in the United States and potentially an international model for future energy development:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Praxair has been advancing oxygen-based combustion and gas-processing technologies that bring substantial productivity and environmental benefits to customers in many industries. For this project, Praxair will provide the upstream oxygen-supply facilities, applying its design, engineering and construction expertise in building large cryogenic air-separation plants that produce the large volumes of oxygen necessary for clean-coal projects.

Praxair also will provide the downstream CO2 capture and gas-processing technologies and equipment, based on its experience as one of the world's leading CO2 suppliers. Praxair's control systems and integration capabilities also will be a key component of the project.
We have already completed pilot and bench-scale testing of oxy-coal combustion in an R&D environment, and we look forward to accelerating this work under our agreement with Praxair. The application of oxy-coal combustion will allow us to advance both our CFB and PC technologies in the area of carbon capture. - Gary Nedelka, president and chief executive officer of Foster Wheeler North America Corp
Foster Wheeler Ltd. is a global company offering, through its subsidiaries, a broad range of engineering, procurement, construction, manufacturing, project development and management, research and plant operation services. Foster Wheeler serves the upstream oil and gas, LNG and gas-to-liquids, refining, petrochemicals, chemicals, power, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and healthcare industries.

Praxair is the largest industrial gases company in North and South America, and one of the largest worldwide, with 2006 sales of $8.3 billion. The company produces, sells and distributes atmospheric, process and specialty gases, and high-performance surface coatings.

Euractiv: 'Carbon-capture trials safest way forward' - Laurens Rademakers, Biopact - April 3, 2007

Biopact: Abrupt Climate Change and geo-engineering the planet with carbon-negative bioenergy - December 21, 2006

Biopact: Policy and regulatory framework crucial for CCS success - July 29, 2007

Biopact: EU opens public consultation on carbon capture and storage - February 24, 2007

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward? - March 31, 2007

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