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    Italy's Enel is to invest around €400 mln in carbon capture and storage and is looking now for a suitable site to store CO2 underground. Enel's vision of coal's future is one in which coal is used to produce power, to produce ash and gypsum as a by-product for cement, hydrogen as a by-product of coal gasification and CO2 which is stored underground. Carbon capture and storage techniques can be applied to biomass and biofuels, resulting in carbon-negative energy. Reuters - October 22, 2007.

    Gate Petroleum Co. is planning to build a 55 million-gallon liquid biofuels terminal in Jacksonville, Florida. The terminal is expected to cost $90 million and will be the first in the state designed primarily for biofuels. It will receive and ship ethanol and biodiesel via rail, ship and truck and provide storage for Gate and for third parties. The biofuels terminal is set to open in 2010. Florida Times-Union - October 19, 2007.

    China Holdings Inc., through its controlled subsidiary China Power Inc., signed a development contract with the HeBei Province local government for the rights to develop and construct 50 MW of biomass renewable energy projects utilizing straw. The projects have a total expected annual power generating capacity of 400 million kWh and expected annual revenues of approximately US$33.3 million. Total investment in the projects is approximately US$77.2 million, 35 percent in cash and 65 percent from China-based bank loans with preferred interest rates with government policy protection for the biomass renewable energy projects. Full production is expected in about two years. China Holdings - October 18, 2007.

    Canadian Bionenergy Corporation, supplier of biodiesel in Canada, has announced an agreement with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. to partner in the construction of a biodiesel production facility near Edmonton, Alberta. The company broke ground yesterday on the construction of the facility with an expected capacity of 225 million litres (60 million gallons) per year of biodiesel. Together, the companies also intend to forge a strategic marketing alliance to better serve the North American marketplace by supplying biodiesel blends and industrial methyl esters. Canadian Bioenergy - October 17, 2007.

    Leading experts in organic solar cells say the field is being damaged by questionable reports about ever bigger efficiency claims, leading the community into an endless and dangerous tendency to outbid the last report. In reality these solar cells still show low efficiencies that will need to improve significantly before they become a success. To counter the hype, scientists call on the community to press for independent verification of claimed efficiencies. Biopact sees a similar trend in the field of biofuels from algae, in which press releases containing unrealistic yield projections and 'breakthroughs' are released almost monthly. Eurekalert - October 16, 2007.

    The Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program at Colorado State University received a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand the use of woody biomass throughout Colorado. The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program is to provide financial assistance to state foresters to accelerate the adoption of woody biomass as an alternative energy source. Colorado State University - October 12, 2007.

    Indian company Naturol Bioenergy Limited announced that it will soon start production from its biodiesel facility at Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The facility has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 10,000 tons of pharmaceutical grade glycerin. The primary feedstock is crude palm oil, but the facility was designed to accomodate a variety of vegetable oil feedstocks. Biofuel Review - October 11, 2007.

    Brazil's state energy company Petrobras says it will ship 9 million liters of ethanol to European clients next month in its first shipment via the northeastern port of Suape. Petrobras buys the biofuel from a pool of sugar cane processing plants in the state of Pernambuco, where the port is also located. Reuters - October 11, 2007.

    Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in biomass-to-biofuel technology, announces that it has completed a $10.5 million equity financing with Quercus Trust, an environmentally oriented fund, and several other private investors. Ardour Capital Inc. of New York served as financial advisor in the transaction. Business Wire - October 10, 2007.

    Cuban livestock farmers are buying distillers dried grains (DDG), the main byproduct of corn based ethanol, from biofuel producers in the U.S. During a trade mission of Iowan officials to Cuba, trade officials there said the communist state will double its purchases of the dried grains this year. DesMoines Register - October 9, 2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Researchers find effects of NOx emissions in urban areas worse than thought

A team of U.S. scientists has found that the harmful effects of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from fossil fuels could be worse in urban areas than previously thought. They were the first to conduct a large scale, 3-year study based on methods for tracing sources of nitrate in rainfall. Results have been published in the online edition of the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The news is important for the bioenergy community, because some biofuels (ethanol, first generation biodiesel) produce more NOx than conventional fossil fuels, whereas others (notably synthetic biofuels) emit significantly less.

The researchers say nitrogen oxides, the noxious byproduct of burning fossil fuels in cars and power stations that can return to Earth in rain and snow as harmful nitrate, could taint urban water supplies and roadside waterways more than scientists and regulators realize.

The three-year study, led by Emily Elliott, a professor of geology and planetary science in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Arts and Sciences, recommends that urban areas and roadways be specifically monitored for nitrogen deposition. Nitrogen oxides can contribute to a wide variety of environmental and health ills. Nitrate — which forms when exhaust from vehicles and smokestacks oxidizes in the atmosphere — is an important contributor to acid rain and can result in stream and soil acidification, forest decline, and coastal water degradation. Other researchers recently reported that ecosystems recover much slower from this acid rain damage than previously thought (earlier post).

Elliott and her colleagues conducted the first large-scale application of a method for determining the source of atmospheric nitrate on rain and snow samples from 33 precipitation collection sites across the Midwestern and Northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania. The sites belong to the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), a cooperative of private organizations and U.S. government agencies that analyzes precipitation for chemicals such as nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury from more than 250 sites in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Although vehicles are the single largest source of nitrogen oxides in this region, the researchers found by analyzing the stable isotope composition of nitrate that the primary source of nitrate in their samples were stationary sources, such as power plants and factories, located hundreds of miles away. Stationary sources pump pollutants high into the atmosphere where they can be transported for long distances before falling to the ground. Vehicle exhaust is released close to the ground and more likely deposited over shorter distances near roadways. Most monitoring sites in the NADP network are deliberately located in relatively rural settings away from urban, industrial, or agricultural centers.

The amount of nitrate pouring over the cities and busy roadways thick with vehicles could be higher than monitoring data at most NADP sites reflect, and it is possible that a significant amount of this atmospheric nitrate finds its way into sensitive water supplies:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The researchers give the example of vulnerable water bodies such as the Ohio River or Chesapeake Bay. In aquatic ecosystems, excess nitrate can promote an overgrowth of oxygen-consuming algae and lead to an oxygen deficiency in the water known as hypoxia. Hypoxia kills marine creatures and creates 'dead zones' akin to the lifeless area of the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Determining the fate of major sources of nitrogen emissions is necessary to develop sound regulatory and mitigation strategies for both air and water quality, Elliott said.

The results highlight the need to improve our understanding of the fate of vehicle emissions—one way we can do this is by expanding monitoring networks to include more urban sites, Elliott said, adding that both vehicle and stationary sources are major contributors to air pollution in the region studied.

Elliott said that future research will further characterize the isotopic ratios of nitrogen oxides from various emission sources and quantify how these values change during transport and with different emission controls. She is looking for industrial partners who can provide samples from smokestacks for analysis.

Additionally, Elliott is interested in establishing an urban precipitation monitoring site in Pittsburgh to assess pollution sources that contribute to nitrate deposition in the Pittsburgh region.

Other researchers involved in this project are from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of California at Berkeley, the NADP, and Cornell University, and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York.

E. M. Elliott, et al., "Nitrogen Isotopes as Indicators of NOx Source Contributions to Atmospheric Nitrate Deposition Across the Midwestern and Northeastern United States", Environ. Sci. Technol., ASAP Article 10.1021/es070898t S0013-936X(07)00898-X, October 20, 2007

Biopact: Research finds recovery from acid rain much slower than expected - September 29, 2007

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North Atlantic too slows on the uptake of CO2

Further evidence for the decline of the oceans’ historical role as an important sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide is supplied by new research by environmental scientists from the University of East Anglia. A slowdown in the sink in the Southern Ocean had already been inferred (earlier post), but the change in the North Atlantic is greater and more sudden, and could be responsible for a substantial proportion of the observed weakening.

Since the industrial revolution, much of the CO2 we have released into the atmosphere has been taken up by the world’s oceans which act as a strong ‘sink’ for the emissions (map, click to enlarge). This has slowed climate change. Without this uptake, CO2 levels would have risen much faster and the climate would be warming more rapidly.

A paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research by Dr Ute Schuster and Professor Andrew Watson of UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences again raises concerns that the oceans might be slowing their uptake of CO2. Results of their decade-long study in the North Atlantic show that the uptake in this ocean, which is the most intense sink for atmospheric CO2, slowed down dramatically between the mid-nineties and the early 2000s.

The observations were made from merchant ships equipped with automatic instruments for measuring carbon dioxide in the water. Much of the data has come from a container ship carrying bananas from the West Indies to the UK, making a round-trip of the Atlantic every month. The MV Santa Maria, chartered by Geest, has generated more than 90,000 measurements of CO2 in the past few years.

The results show that the uptake by the North Atlantic halved between the mid-90s, when data was first gathered, and 2002-05:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Such large changes are a tremendous surprise. We expected that the uptake would change only slowly because of the ocean’s great mass. We are cautious about attributing this exclusively to human-caused climate change because this uptake has never been measured before, so we have no baseline to compare our results to. Perhaps the ocean uptake is subject to natural ups and downs and it will recover again. - Dr Ute Schuster.
But the direction of the change was worrying Schuster adds, and there are some grounds for believing that a ‘saturation’ of the ocean sink would start to occur.
The speed and size of the change show that we cannot take for granted the ocean sink for the carbon dioxide. Perhaps this is partly a natural oscillation or perhaps it is a response to the recent rapid climate warming. In either case we now know that the sink can change quickly and we need to continue to monitor the ocean uptake. - Prof Andrew Watson
Map: About half the carbon dioxide emitted into the air from burning fossil fuels dissolves in the ocean. While this process reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it raises the acidity of ocean water (just like carbonated water, which is acidic). The map shows the total amount of human-made carbon dioxide in ocean water from the surface to the sea floor. Blue areas have low amounts, while yellow regions - particularly the North Atlantic - are rich in anthropogenic carbon dioxide. High amounts occur where currents carry the carbon-dioxide-rich surface water into the ocean depths. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory - Building a Climate Model.

Schuster, U., and A. J. Watson (2007), "A variable and decreasing sink for atmospheric CO2 in the North Atlantic", J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2006JC003941, in press, (accepted 24 July 2007)

Biopact: Southern Ocean carbon sink weakens - May 18, 2007

Article continues

Mozambique signs ethanol mega-deal: $510 million, 30,000 hectares of sugarcane

Mozambique's Agriculture Minister has confirmed his country has signed a huge $510 (€360) million deal with London-listed Central African Mining & Exploration Company Plc (CAMEC) to establish an energy plantation and to build a plant to produce 120 million litres of ethanol per year, as well as fertilizers. The plan was described earlier (here), but there was uncertainty over its scope.

Agriculture Minister Erasmo Muhate said the deal envisages raw material for the ethanol will be sugarcane planted over an area of 30,000 hectares in the southern province of Gaza.
I hope that with this project a city emerges, and there will be more benefits for local communities, while helping to cut Mozambique's high fuel costs. - Agriculture Minister Erasmo Muhate
Current high oil prices are catastrophic for oil importing, energy intensive developing countries, which can spend up to 15% of their GDP on importing fuels (compared to 2-3% for OECD countries). The ethanol produced in Mozambique will therefor bring major economic benefits. The fuel will be aimed at the domestic and regional markets, including the production of electricity from the cane residues (bagasse), to be used locally. The project, to be known as PROCANA, will create and estimated 7,000 jobs and generate an annual revenue of $40 (€28) million from 2010 onwards.

Joana Matidiana, spokesperson of the government of Gaza said the new employment opportunity for the people of Massingir and surrounding areas is "welcome, as it will contribute largely in the fight against poverty in Mozambique".
It is beyond any doubt that production of ethanol is one of best opportunities for the country. [...] We want to diversify our economy because we don't want [...] to depend on just four major products of export. We would like to contribute with some other products, such as alcohol. We can also contribute with the export of electricity, as the sugar mill could also generate electrical power and sell it to the domestic market. - spokesperson of Mozambique's Agrarian Promotion Centre.
With the emergence of a 'biofuels city', the Mozambican government hopes to cut down number of nationals who flee poverty and illegally emigrate to South Africa, so far believed to be over a 1,000 per day. CAMEC is expected to start construction of the integrated ethanol factory within the next year, with completion after three years.

Mozambique has only recently begun to understand that it is a 'biofuel superpower'. Its agro-ecological resources allow for the production of a wide range of efficient energy crops, including eucalyptus, grasses, starch crops like cassava, or sugarcane and jatropha. Analysts affiliated with the International Energy Agency estimate that the country can produce around 7 Exajoules of biofuels sustainably (map, click to enlarge), that is roughly 3.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The country currently consumes around 590,000 tonnes of oil products per year, the bulk being diesel (IEA data). This equates to around 0.18EJ. Achieving full energy independence is well within reach, with capacity to spare to supply international markets.

When it comes to the availability of land for energy crops, the country currently uses around 4.3 million hectares out of a total of 63.5 million hectares of potential arable land, or 6.6 per cent. Moreover, some 41 million hectares of poor quality land are available for the production of energy crops that require few inputs and are not suitable for food production (earlier post).

Recently Mozambican scientists and researchers told an International Symposium on Tropical Roots and Tubers that they are determined to develop varieties of cassava appropriate for the production of biofuels and to use the potential of a cassava industry as a tool for poverty reduction and rural development.

Meanwhile, a host of companies has already begun investing in Mozambique's biofuel potential. Canada's Energem recently acquired a jatropha biodiesel project based on an initial 1000 hectares; it will begin planting a further 5000 hectares, and will invest in an additional 60,000 hectares over the coming years (earlier post). Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Brazilian companies are active in the sector as well (more here).

Most recently, the government of India and Mozambique discussed the potential of the biofuel sector to alleviate poverty in the country (previous post).

Map credit: Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets.

Salvador Namburete: Mozambique's Experience on Bio-fuels [*.pdf], Minister of Energy of the Republic of Mozambique, presentation at the International Conference on Biofuels, Brussels, July 5-6, 2007.

Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets (2006), "Biomass and bioenergy supply from Mozambique" [*abstract / *.pdf], Energy for Sustainable Development, X(1),
Pp. 54-81

Biopact: Pro-Cana to invest $510 million in integrated ethanol, power, sugar and fertilizer plant in Mozambique - September 04, 2007

Biopact: Mozambique to tap its large cassava ethanol potential as a tool for poverty reduction - October 12, 2007

Biopact: Journal "Energy for Sustainable Development" focuses on international bioenergy trade - November 05, 2006

Biopact: Highlights from the International Conference on Biofuels (Day 1) - July 05, 2007

Article continues

Uganda to get gelfuel and ethanol plant

A local investor in Uganda is planning to set up a plant for the production of gelfuels and ethanol, made from the waste materials of starch and sugar crops like cassava and sugarcane. Gelfuel is a clean-burning non-poisonous biobased fuel used for cooking in specially designed stoves. It is being used increasingly in the developing world and receives support from several major organisations, including the World Bank (earlier post).

Gelfuels have the great benefit of replacing inefficient wood fuels, which cause smoke pollution - the 'killer in the kitchen' estimated to lead to the death of around 1.5 million women and children each year in developing countries (see recent WHO figures).

The investor, who currently imports the biofuels from South African-based parent company Liquifier Pty Limited, hopes to set up the plant in east or western Uganda, by the end of June next year. According to the General Manager of Liquifier Uganda limited, Michael Musoke, the plan is to reduce carbon emissions through reduced deforestation and consequent charcoal burning. Gelfuels reduce emissions by up to 50% compared to wood fuels, which are, moreover, utilized in a very inefficient manner (open fires).

According to Musoke there is a lot of garden surplus in Uganda, which will be used as a feedstock. Since operations will depend mainly on the utilization of farm produce the project will support the farming sector by offering peasants more seeds to plant, better farm inputs and technical advice.

To produce gelfuel, denatured ethanol from sugar or starch crops is mixed with a biomass based thickening agent (cellulose) and water through a very simple technical process, resulting in a combustible gel. The gelfuel is thus renewable and can be locally produced in most countries in Africa. Jellified and/or solidified liquid fuels (kerosene and ethanol) have been in use since World War II, when they were used by soldiers for cooking:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Liquifier Uganda limited became operational in Uganda two years ago but its products were only launched last month. Today, their products with a brand name Liquifier have found their way in most super markets in Kampala.

Among their products are synthetic oil, which burns in specially designed lamps (liquilamp) made of durable, hard plastic, which does not get destroyed when used for lighting. The Liquilamp goes for 26,000 shilling (€10.5/$14.8). A liter of oil gives around 60 hours of lighting. According to Musoke, the synthetic oil has been mixed with citronella, which is a mosquito repellant.

The other product, gelfuel, is used in dedicated stoves made of mild steel. A litre of gel sells for around for 3,600 shilling (€1.4/$2). According to Musoke, the gel burns for a period of three to four weeks for light cooking. A double plate stove goes for Shs55,000 (€22/$31) while a single plate stove goes for Shs 42,000 (€17/$24).

The gel is packed in consumer friendly quantities ranging from one litre to 200 litre drums, which caters for big institutions like schools, hotels, restaurants, and hospitals. For hotels that have long been using spirit for warming foodstuffs during the buffet method of serving, Musoke says the gel is a better option as it burns longer.

Musoke describes the products as smokeless, odourless, highly portable, leaves minimal residue after use and produces twice as much energy, compared to gas and paraffin.

Several initiatives like the World Bank's Millennium Gelfuel Initiative - a public-private partnership aimed at adapting and disseminating the cooking fuel for the African household sector - have yielded encouraging results. Consumer tests and marketing assessments conducted in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zimbabwe have overwhelmingly affirmed the appeal and potential commercial viability of the gelfuel.

More than 15 African and 2 Latin American countries have expressed interest in introducing the local production and marketing of the gelfuel, and concrete private sector driven Millennium Gelfuel investment projects are being prepared in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Other large commercialisation efforts are underway elsewhere. In Swaziland, for example, local people are 'extatic' about a gel fuel project, because not only does it deliver cheaper and cleaner energy than wood, its production also brings in jobs and gives a boost to the local economy. The company in question has made a €uro 4 million investment and will be sourcing cassava as a feedstock from small farmers. Women entrepreneurs will sell the gel packs on local markets. 'Everything comes together so nicely', as one woman in Swaziland said enthusiastically about the project.

Sunday Monitor (Kampala): Uganda to get a biofuel plant - October 21, 2007.

Biopact: WHO: indoor air pollution takes heavy toll on health in the developing world - May 01, 2007

Biopact: Ethanol gel fuel for cooking stoves revolutionizing African households - August 11, 2006

Article continues

Syngenta partners with QUT for sugarcane biomass conversion to biofuels - draws on molecular farming

Swiss biotech company Syngenta announced today that it has agreed a research partnership in Australia that focuses on the development of cost effective conversion of sugarcane bagasse to biofuels, including the delivery of plant-expressed enzymes. This means it takes a leap towards 'third generation' biofuel production. The research partners are the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), its technology transfer and commercialization company qutbluebox and the Australian agbiotech company Farmacule BioIndustries. A new Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuel Development will be established at QUT’s campus in Brisbane, Australia. The partnership will draw on, amongst other things, molecular farming techniques developed at QUT.

Molecular farming involves growing crops to produce proteins, bioplastics and other products rather than traditional food or fibre. In order for a plant to be used to produce specific molecules, a novel gene is inserted into its chromosomes. Regulatory code is inserted with that gene which tells the plant where to produce the desired protein within its leaves, roots or seeds (schematic, click to enlarge). Farmacule works through this process with the aid of its In-Plant Activation technology ('INPACT').

In the same way that sugarcane is harvested and refined to produce sugar, proteins manufactured inside the plants through molecular farming are later extracted after a crop is harvested and processed. Instead of producing a food product, the end result could be a plastic, biofuel, medicine or even an additive for the paper manufacturing process. There is a growing worldwide demand for high value proteins. Molecular farming provides a cost effective and scaleable production mechanism to meet this demand.

Syngenta and its partners will apply the technique to sugarcane which will be modified in such a way that the crop makes its own bioconversion enzymes as it grows. Earlier, scientists succeeded in doing this for maize (earlier post), thus opening the era of third generation biofuels (overview here). With first generation techniques, sugarcane ethanol made from the sucrose in the cane yields around 6000 liters per hectare. When the residue from this process, sugarcane bagasse, is efficiently converted into cellulosic ethanol, the same hectare of sugarcane is expected to yield around 12,000 liters of biofuel with a very strong energy balance.
This collaboration brings together dynamic new technologies as well as the expertise and infrastructure to tackle the challenge of producing cellulosic ethanol from cane. It has the potential to substantially decrease the cost of bioethanol production and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. - Professor James Dale, Director at the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at Queensland University of Technology
The Queensland Government strongly supports this partnership and will invest a total of AU$ 5.1 million (€3.1/US$ 4.6 million) for the establishment of the new Syngenta centre and for the development of a related biocommodities pilot plant:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
We are very pleased to team up with such renowned experts on sugarcane as Queensland University of Technology and Farmacule. This broadens Syngenta’s biofuels strategy into new crops and speeds up our development of biomass conversion technologies to make cellulosic ethanol economically viable. - Robert Berendes, Head of Business Development at Syngenta.
Under the collaboration agreement Syngenta will have exclusive global marketing rights for the products, excluding for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific islands, where rights are held by the other project partners. Syngenta can also use the developed technologies in other crops. The Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuel Development will commence operations immediately.

QUT is a leading Australian university and is widely acknowledged for its research excellence in plant biotechnology. qutbluebox is the technology transfer and commercialization company for QUT. Farmacule BioIndustries is developing molecular farming technology to cost effectively mass produce high-value proteins, biofuels and bioplastics in plants for various industrial, therapeutic and diagnostic applications. All three partners are based in Brisbane.

Schematic: molecular farming technique. Courtesy: Farmacule BioIndustries.


Syngenta: Syngenta starts research partnership in Australia for sugarcane biomass conversion to biofuels - October 22, 2007.

Farmacule BioIndustries: Inpact and Molecular Farming.

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