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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The bioeconomy at work: farming diatoms for the next generation of paints, cosmetics and holograms

A plant-like micro-organism mostly found in oceans could make the manufacture of products, from iridescent cosmetics, paints and fabrics to credit card holograms, cheaper and greener. The tiny single-celled ‘diatom’, which first evolved hundreds of millions of years ago, has a hard silica shell which is iridescent – in other words, the shell displays vivid colours that change depending on the angle at which it is observed. This effect is caused by a complex network of tiny holes in the shell which interfere with light waves.

UK scientists working on a project titled 'Optics via cell culture' have now found an extremely effective way of growing diatoms in controlled laboratory conditions, with potential for scale-up to industrial level. This would enable diatom shells to be mass-produced, harvested and mixed into paints, cosmetics and clothing to create stunning colour-changing effects, or embedded into polymers to produce difficult-to-forge holograms.

Manufacturing consumer products with these properties currently requires energy-intensive, high-temperature, high-pressure industrial processes that create tiny artificial reflectors. But farming diatom shells, which essentially harnesses a natural growth process, could provide an alternative that takes place at normal room temperature and pressure, dramatically reducing energy needs and so cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The process is also extremely rapid – in the right conditions, one diatom can give rise to 100 million descendants in a month.
It’s a very efficient and cost-effective process, with a low carbon footprint. Its simplicity and its economic and environmental benefits could in future encourage industry to develop a much wider range of exciting products that change colour as they or the observer move position. What’s more, the shells themselves are completely biodegradable, aiding eventual disposal and further reducing the environmental impact of the process life cycle. - Professor Andrew Parker, leading researcher
Diatoms are classified as eukaryotic algae and represent one of the commonest types of phytoplankton. Each diatom is encased in a silica frustule, or cell wall. Although usually microscopic, some species of diatom may grow to as much as 2mm long. As well as oceans, diatoms can be found in freshwater and in damp soils. In the oceans, they represent an important link in the food chain.

When light strikes a diatom’s shell, tiny holes in the shell’s structure cause multiple reflections, resulting in interference to the light waves. This affects the shell’s colour, as seen by an observer. The precise interference effect depends on the angle at which light strikes the shell (i.e. the angle of observation), hence the shell appears to change colour as it or the observer moves position. This is the same sort of phenomenon that occurs when light reflects from a film of oil on the surface of water – viewed from different angles, the oil’s colours seem to change. While some light is reflected, however, certain wavelengths are transmitted into the cell. The device acts like a ‘photonic crystal’.

The new 'farming' technique developed by the British scientists basically lets nature do the hard work. It involves taking a diatom or other living cells such as those that make iridescent butterfly scales, and immersing them in a culture medium – a solution containing nutrients, hormones and minerals that encourage cell subdivision and growth:
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By changing the precise make-up of the culture medium, the exact iridescent properties of the diatoms or butterfly scales (and therefore the final optical effects that they create) can be adjusted. The researchers estimate that up to 1 tonne/day of diatoms could be produced in the laboratory in this way, starting from just a few cells. Within as little as two years, an industrial-scale process could be operational.
It’s a mystery why diatoms have iridescent qualities. It may have something to do with maximising sunlight capture to aid photosynthesis in some species; on the other hand, it could be linked with the need to ensure that sunlight capture is not excessive in others. Whatever the case, exploiting their tiny shells’ remarkable properties could make a big impact across industry. They could even have the potential to be incorporated into paint to provide a water-repellent surface, making it self-cleaning. - Professor Parker
This advance has been achieved by scientists at the Natural History Museum and the University of Oxford, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project involved a range of experts from disciplines including biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and materials science.

The 12-month research project ‘Optics via Cell Culture' received EPSRC funding of just over £104,000. The research took place at the Natural History Museum in London and at the University of Oxford.

Image: Salt water centric diatom frustule (skeleton). Diatoms are microscopic, unicellular algae that produce intricate silica (glass) cell walls that overlap like the top and bottom of a box. Credit: Astrographics.

Eurekalert: Nature leads the way for the next generation of paints, cosmetics and holograms - October 3, 2007.

EPSRC: Optics via cell culture.

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Coal prices hit records too - time for biomass?

Record oil prices are receiving a lot of media attention, but a quarter of the world's primary energy demand is met by coal. The most climate-destructive fossil fuel is used to generate around 40 percent of all electricity. And like oil, coal too is now experiencing all time highs. Record prices and tight supplies are piling the pressure on electricity generators so much that several industry players predict some utilities may even be forced to scale down operations. Physical coal prices for delivery into Europe have risen by over 50 percent this year to hit records over $100 per tonne.

The coal market is highly opaque and prices are not straightforwardly correlated to those of other fossil fuels. Some analysts however argue that higher oil prices translate to higher coal prices, because higher oil tends to push up natural gas prices, which in turn drives coal prices. Coal must also adjust upward to reflect the costs of energy-intensive mining. Large miners consume millions of liters of diesel annually to run their heavy mining equipment. If the price of oil and petroleum products rises significantly, companies will face millions of dollars in added costs - an evolution already being felt by Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer in the U.S. Natural gas and coal prices are also correlated because of demand for electricity. Add high freight rates for coal importers and the picture looks even more grim.

The current situation has some analysts worried that utilities and cement producers, also big coal users, may even be forced to scale down operations. One coal producer, quoted by Reuters, said:
The market is having to adapt to coal prices, to freights, which we've never seen before. I do believe that before the end of the year it's possible that some generators in Asia will have to look at turning off their plants because they won't have enough coal.
Physical coal prices last week surged to a record $102.00 a tonne delivered into Europe, from $65.00 in the first quarter, because rampant demand in Asia has sucked in millions of tonnes originally destined for the Atlantic market. Power generators, Europe's biggest coal consumers by far, buy most of their coal on rolling long-term contracts from producers but usually purchase a small proportion from the spot market. Coal-fired generation is used most heavily during the winter months when it is usually the lowest-cost fuel.

Some European regions can switch from coal to biomass, hydro, wind or gas-fired, notably Scandinavia, Germany and Iberia, but most European utilities rely on at least some coal-fired generation. Germany's E.ON AG, Italy's Enel and Spain's Endesa are among the utilities currently seeking coal for Q4 and Q1, market sources said.

One European utility recently paid close to $115.00 a tonne CIF for a South African cargo which it bought to replace delayed shipments of other origins. European cement companies said they also recently bought at prices far higher than those indicated on the globalCOAL trading platform or by published weekly coal indices:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Xstrata Plc, the world's largest thermal coal producer, recently settled 2008 thermal coal supply contracts with two Korean utilities at as high as $68.50 a tonne, two sources said last week. State-owned utilities Korea South East Power Co and Korea East West Power Co have agreed to buy coal from Xstrata's New Lands coal mine at $68.50 a tonne and $65.50 a tonne for coal from the Rolleston mine, they said.

Reuters quotes a trader as saying 'so many utilities and cement companies are looking. They will pay but they are desperate that nobody finds out.' In the coal sector it is not done to admit that one is 'looking'.

Consumers pay up
A large European industrial consumer of coal said his company had struggled recently to find enough coal of any acceptable origin and had no choice but to pay the price asked by the supplier. 'In Europe anyway, I think you will be able to find enough coal, but it won't be easy and you'll have to pay up,' a further trader said.

Consumers everywhere have had to adjust to paying prices higher than anybody imagined were ever achievable. Record freight rates have boosted delivered prices but free-on-board coal prices at origin have also hit records this year for Australian, Russian and Indonesian coal.

What everybody wants to know is when freights are going to fall, if they're going to fall or if we're just going to have to live with it, a major Indian trader said.
The acceptance of soaring prices by Indian end-users took many traders and producers by surprise. The same trader is quoted as saying:
We used to say India was totally a price-driven market and nobody would buy South African coal for more than $50 FOB but the consumers have had no choice this year," the Indian trader said. I think they will be paying $120 a tonne CIF by the end of the year - they'll have to or have no coal.
South African spot FOB prices are often taken as a good indicator of the cost of coal because its quality is acceptable to most consumers. Spot South African FOB prices are at about $65.00, having stayed at around $60.00 for most of the year but are expected by suppliers and consumers to reach $70.00 within weeks.

Biomass to play a role?
Record coal prices have made some utilities look at buying biomass to co-fire with coal, as 'opportunity fuels'. Some residues from agriculture and forestry - such as pelletized coffee husks or palm kernels - can be shipped efficiently over long distances because they have a relatively high energy density. However, the same high freight rates would apply.

Nonetheless, a working carbon market in Europe, with current prices at around $30 per tonne, may make the use of carbon-neutral biomass attractive for utilities. Supplies would come from the Global South, because they tend to be less costly than biomass produced in Europe.

One power generator in the Netherlands, Essent Energie, recently agreed to purchase several thousand tonnes of coffee husks from Brazilian coffee producers, to co-fire the biofuel in one of its large coal power plants in the Netherlands and to sell the electricity under a green label. However, it is not clear which factor was more important for Essent: the creation of a 'green' corporate image or the fact that biomass has become competitive with costly coal?

Even though international biomass trade is growing rapidly, as yet there is no formally established global market nor any robust trading mechanisms and market information. Moreover, the physical international trade in biomass from the South to the North competes with the potential to use this biomass locally as part of, for example, Clean Development Mechanism projects which result in carbon credits. However, many regions and millions of farmers on the planet produce vast streams of excess biomass that remains available, even when all local energy needs are met by bioenergy, which implies that the rationale for physical trade remains strong.

Reuters: Record coal prices hammer power generators - September 28, 2007.

Dow Jones: Rising Oil Prices Seen Pushing Costs Higher For Coal Miners - September 28, 2007.

Reuters: Xstrata fixes '08 coal contracts with Korean gencos - September 27, 2007.

Essent: World scoop: Green electricity from coffee husks - July 10, 2007.

globalCOAL, the world's largest coal trading floor.

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USDA: high oil prices push up food prices more than corn ethanol

First-generation biofuels like ethanol made from corn and biodiesel from rapeseed have effects on food prices. However, new evidence from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests high oil prices play a much larger role in this trend. The situation is far more complex than some want to believe, because some biofuels even succeed in pushing inflation down. Researchers point at the situation in Brazil: there inflation indices have dropped because of record ethanol output and record low prices for the biofuel (earlier post). Competitive biofuels bring down costs for all the economic sectors that would otherwise have to rely exclusively on very expensive oil products.

However, corn ethanol is another matter, because it is made from a major food crop and because it is much less efficient than sugarcane ethanol. But even here, the biofuel as such only plays a small role in increased food prices. The great irony is that ethanol's very counter-part, petroleum, is more to blame.

Acting USDA Secretary Chuck Conner - reiterating similar findings made by the UN's vice-director general and head of its Environment Agency (earlier post) and by the EU's Agriculture Commissioner (here) - explained today that global weather conditions, including droughts in Australia, as well as rising demand in China and elsewhere drove up wheat prices. More importantly, Conner says, the recent record highs for retail oil prices added to inflation by increasing the costs of everything: from packaging to transportation and processing.

In our contemporary food system, the cost of raw materials (such as corn or wheat) is marginal compared to the larger costs associated with planting, harvesting, shipping, storing, pre-treating, processing, packaging, and distributing food products. Obviously, all these steps are energy-intensive. So when energy costs and oil prices increase rapidly to reach current records, they are likely to trigger inflation.

What is more, high oil prices not only influence the food system, they influence the entire economy and virtually all of its industrial, agricultural and service sectors - thousands of manufacturing, transportation, and industrial processes (obviously, in energy-intsensive developing countries, this 'outrageous' situation - to quote India's Finance Minister - can be truly catastrophic - see here and here). Biofuels for transport and electricity are exactly meant to break this dependence on costly oil:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

And Brazil shows it works. With cheap ethanol - now at a 30% advantage compared to gasoline on an energy equivalent basis - and bioenergy from bagasse, the threat of rapidly increasing costs for these thousands of processes has been brought down.

In the U.S. food prices have increased about 2.7 percent in each of the last three years. But a jump of between 3.5 percent and 4.5 percent is expected this year before retreating a bit to between 3 percent and 4 percent in 2008, Conner said at a conference hosted by the Renewable Fuels Association, which represents the U.S. ethanol industry. Extremely high oil prices are responsible.

Ethanol producers in the U.S., meanwhile, have taken a hit to their bottom lines in recent months because corn prices remain high, while the price of ethanol has slid by 30 percent due to a supply glut. Conner said he would prefer if the ethanol price drop did not happen, but said long-term investments and production goals remain in place.

Neil Koehler, president and chief executive of Sacramento, California-based Pacific Ethanol Inc. blamed the oil industry for not absorbing as much ethanol as it could at a time when crude prices remain above $80 per barrel. Refiners contend they have limited capacity to blend the fuel with gasoline.

Still, ethanol production is booming. Archer Daniels Midland Co., Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. and other producers added a total of 1.2 billion gallons (4.54 billion liters) of capacity and 15 new plants since March, which matched the total additions in all of 2006, Conner said.

Meanwhile, the government expects U.S. farmers will produce a record 13.3 billion bushels of corn this year, with about 25 percent used for ethanol. But the number of bushels used for livestock feed also will rise slightly to 5.8 billion bushels, he said. (One bushel of corn equals 25 kilograms).

USDA: Transcript of Remarks by Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner to the Renewable Fuels Association - October 2, 2007.

Associated Press: Oil prices, weather conditions driving up U.S. food prices more than ethanol, official says - October 2, 2007.

Biopact: India: 'outrageous' oil price damages economy, as $80pb could be new floor price - September 27, 2007

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

Biopact: UN: biofuels not to blame for high food prices - September 14, 2007

Biopact: EU Commissioner: biofuels have limited effect on food prices - May 04, 2007

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Japanese scientists develop hybrid larch trees with 30% greater carbon sink capacity

The Hokkaido Forest Research Institute and Hokkaido Forest Products Research Institute conducted joint research from 2003 to 2005 on an F1 hybrid of Dahurian Larch (larix gmelinii) to identify families and parent trees with high carbon-fixing potential. The research team discovered that trees grown from certain pollen and seed trees had 30 percent greater carbon storage capacity, compared to typical larch trees. The Dahurian Larch is a species found in Eastern Siberia and Northeastern Asia, where it forms the enormous forests of the taiga. A fast growing tree, the larch is widely used in afforestation and industrial plantation projects.

The news is important for the bioenergy community because rapidly growing trees with an enhanced carbon storage capacity will be used as 'carbon capture' machines to be used in carbon-negative bioenergy production. The concept is easy to understand: the trees are planted to store large amounts of CO2, after which they are converted into energy (liquid fuels or electricity), while the CO2 they release during the process, is captured and geosequestered. The result is radical carbon-negative energy.

According to scientists, such 'Bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) systems are the most radical weapon in the fight against dangerous climate change. If implemented on a global scale, BECS can take us back to pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 levels by mid-century.

Recently, plant biologists developed Eucalyptus trees with a high carbon storage capacity - ideally suited for BECS systems (earlier post).

The Japanese researchers report that the F1 hybrid of Dahurian Larch is the first hybrid generation between Dahurian Larch as seed trees and larch trees as pollen providers. Features of this generation are high resistance to damage from threats such as field mice and weather, and high seedling survival rate. In addition, it has an excellent growth increment like larch, and higher wood density than larch, Sakhalin fir (Abies sachalinensis), and Glehn's spruce (picea glehnii):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The carbon fixing potential is calculated from the amount of carbon stored in standing timber. To enhance cost performance and carbon storage, which requires an improved growth increment and density of timber, the F1 hybrid of Dahurian larch is seen as the best choice among trees used in Hokkaido for afforestation.

Since 2006 private companies have been planting Super F1 seedlings bred from Nakashibetsu 3 and 5 seed trees, and production has been at the rate of about 20,000 seedlings per year as of April 2007. With the aim of increasing production to 300,000 per year, the government is also offering technology transfers for seedling production, targeting 11 seedling producers. The seed and seedling protection group within the Forest Development Division of Hokkaido's Department of Fisheries and Forestry is accepting inquiries on the super F1 seedlings.

Japan for Sustainability: Hybrid Larch Trees Developed with 30% Greater Carbon Sink Capacity - October 2007

Conifers.org: Larix gmelinii, description.

Biopact: Scientists develop low-lignin eucalyptus trees that store more CO2, provide more cellulose for biofuels - September 17, 2007

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GE Energy Jenbacher gas engines installed at South Africa's first CDM biogas plant

GE Energy announces it has supplied three of its ecomagination Jenbacher biogas generator sets to the owner of a process effluent-to-biogas plant that will provide electricity to a gas-to-liquids (GTL) refinery in South Africa.

The plant represents South Africa's first commercial independent power producer (IPP) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project, a United Nations carbon-emissions trading program under the Kyoto Protocol. The project is expected to produce approximately 33,000 certified emissions reductions (CERs) annually.
This project will serve as an important regional reference plant to both demonstrate the effectiveness of GE's Jenbacher biogas engines, as well as the economic viability of using alternative energy and CDM funding to help address South Africa�s pressing energy and environmental requirements. Prady Iyyanki, CEO of GE Energy's Jenbacher gas engine business
WSP Energy, a London-based IPP and a subsidiary of the listed WSP Group, developed and owns the 4.2-megawatt (MW) biogas project at the world's first GTL refinery, which is owned and operated by the national oil company PetroSA. The GTL refinery is located on the southern tip of South Africa, near the coastal town of Mossel Bay.

The Jenbacher gas engines will be fueled by methane biogas created from the anaerobic digestion of reaction water collected in PetroSA's process-effluent treatment plant. The three Jenbacher JGS 420 GS-B.L. units will each generate 1.4 MW of electricity, which WSP Energy will then sell to PetroSA under a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The units will be fully operational in October.

The project is GE's first Jenbacher biogas plant in this country. In January 2007, GE announced its Jenbacher gen-sets had been installed to generate electricity at South Africa's first landfill gas-to-energy plants:
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The project offers numerous economic and environmental benefits to PetroSA and the region. By utilizing its own existing on-site energy source, PetroSA will replace 4.2 MW of grid-based power from the local electricity utility. In turn, this eliminates the need to produce an equivalent amount of energy at coal-fired generating plants - a key element of South Africa's CDM focus.

Along with receiving debt financing from the South African Development Bank, the CDM sale of emissions credits helped make the PetroSA project economically feasible for WSP Energy. WSP also has announced it will use a portion of its CER sales proceeds to support a regional poverty alleviation initiative. The program enhances the quality of life for a number of South Africa's poor, using the funds to support the creation of sustainable commercial farming operations.

GE is well represented in South Africa through its regional equipment sales and service provider for Jenbacher gas engines, Agaricus Trading cc., which will support the PetroSA biogas project through a 15-year customer service agreement.

GE Energy's Jenbacher gas engine business is a leading manufacturer of gas-fueled reciprocating engines, packaged generator sets and cogeneration systems for power generation as well as gas engines for mechanical drive applications. GE's Jenbacher gas engines run on natural gas or a variety of specialty waste gases, including biogas and landfill gas.

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