<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First North America carbon cycle report: continent responsible for 27 percent of global emissions, carbon sinks can't cope

For the first time, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) has published a report that quantifies North America’s net contribution of carbon to the atmosphere and catalogues sources and sinks of carbon on the continent. It finds a troubling imbalance: the continent’s carbon budget is increasingly overwhelmed by human-caused emissions. North American sources release nearly 2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, mostly as carbon dioxide (graph 1, click to enlarge). Carbon 'sinks' such as growing forests remove less than a third of this amount, and may turn into new sources as climate changes. The findings have implications for the future of bioenergy on the continent.
This report serves an important function beyond being a critical part of the CCSP’s synthesis and assessment structure. It is also the first interagency State of the Carbon Cycle Report, which is a broadly conceived activity designed to provide accurate, unbiased, and policy-relevant scientific information concerning the carbon cycle to a broad range of stakeholders. It provides a baseline characterization of the North American carbon budget upon which future research and reports can build and refine. - Tony King, report team lead and staff scientist at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory
The report titled The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle analyzes the amounts of carbon emitted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico by industry sector, the amount absorbed naturally and how these amounts relate to the global carbon budget influenced by other regions of the globe, with particular attention given to characterizing the certainty and uncertainty with which these budget elements are known.

The report finds North America’s fossil fuel emissions represent approximately 27 percent of global emissions. The conversion of fossil fuels to energy, such as electricity generation, is the single largest carbon contributor, with transportation second but growing faster. The report details how the growth of vegetation blanketing North America absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.

Large imbalance between sources and sinks
The analysis points out a greater than three-to-one imbalance between the fossil fuel sources and the ability of vegetation to absorb carbon. This results in the large net release to the atmosphere (over one gigaton of carbon per year in 2003 - table 1, click to enlarge), but there is still some uncertainty in quantifying the North American sink compared to the carbon emission sources.

The carbon absorption by vegetation, primarily in the form of forest growth, is expected to decline as maturing forests grow more slowly and take up less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Report authors find it unclear how rapidly this carbon storage 'sink' will decline and whether it might potentially become a source since changes in climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide could affect forest growth differently in different regions. Further warming, for example, could exacerbate drought, increasing carbon release through vegetation dieback and increased fire and insect disturbances:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

A variety of local, regional and national policy approaches could affect the overall North American carbon contribution. These include changing the rates of emissions through energy efficiency improvement, fuel switching to low carbon fuels (biomass), enhancing sinks in vegetation and soil, and implementing carbon capture and geological storage (CCS).

United States
Total United States emissions have grown at close to the North American average rate of about 1 percent per year over the past 30 years, but United States per capita emissions have been roughly constant.

Carbon intensity
The carbon intensity of the United States economy, which is the amount of carbon emitted per dollar of inflation adjusted GDP, has decreased at a rate of about 2 percent per year. The decline in the carbon intensity of the United States’ economy was caused both by increased energy efficiency, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and structural changes in the economy with growing contributions from sectors such as services with lower energy consumption and carbon intensity. The service sector is likely to continue to grow. Accordingly, carbon emissions will likely continue to grow more slowly than GDP.

Sectoral breakdown
The extraction of fossil-fuels and other primary energy sources and their conversion to energy products and services, including electricity generation, is the single largest contributor to the North American fossil-fuel source, accounting for approximately 42 percent of North American fossil emissions in 2003.

Electricity generation is responsible for the largest share of those emissions: approximately 94 percent in the United Sates in 2004, 65 percent in Canada in 2003, and 67 percent in Mexico in 1998. These are the latest years for which data are available.

More than half of the electricity produced in North America is consumed in buildings, making that single use one of the largest factors in North American emissions. In the United States, 67 percent is used in buildings.

In 2003, the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from energy consumed in United States buildings alone were greater than total carbon dioxide emissions of any country in the world except China. Energy use in buildings in the United States and Canada, including the use of natural gas, wood, and other fuels as well as electricity, has increased by 30 percent since 1990, corresponding to an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent.

In the United States, the major drivers of energy consumption in the buildings sector are growth in commercial floor space and increase in the size of the average home. Carbon emissions from buildings are expected to grow with population and income.

The report also characterizes in detail the uncertainty associated with these findings. Variability in physical processes, measurement error, and sampling error all contribute to uncertainty in quantifying elements of the North American carbon budget.

About the report and the CCSP
Authors were drawn from the broad scientific community and included scientists and researchers from academia, not-for-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. In addition, the process of developing this report involved stakeholders from various sectors who have an interest in managing carbon in the future.
Through this process, we are striving to ensure that the most relevant information about the carbon cycle is presented in a useful format for decision makers. - Lisa Dilling, assistant professor at University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-lead of the author team
All CCSP synthesis and assessment products are written as reports to U.S. Congress. Members of Congress have been briefed on the findings in Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.2. Also, all finalized synthesis and assessment products are signed by the secretaries of commerce and energy, as well as the president’s science advisor. National Air and Space Administration, NOAA, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Geological Survey provided funding for the report and/or support for federal agency authors in the development of SAP 2.2.

NOAA served as the lead agency for 2.2 for CCSP and administered the review, publication, and release of the report.

U.S. Climate Change Science Program: North American carbon budget and implications for the global carbon cycle [Prototype State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR) focused on North America], Final Report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.2 [scroll down for chapters in *.pdf format] - November 2007.

Carnegie Institution for Science: First-ever State of the Carbon Cycle Report Finds Troubling Imbalance - November 14

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Government Science Panel Publishes Report on North America’s Carbon Budget - November 13, 2007

Article continues

Africa Development Indicators 2007: continent achieving healthy and steady growth rate

After years of stop-and-start results, many African economies appear to be growing at the fast and steady rates needed to put a dent on the region’s high poverty rate and attract global investment. The encouraging trend is shown in the World Bank Africa Development Indicators 2007 (ADI) [*.pdf] released today. The report is based on more than a thousand indicators covering economic, human and private-sector development, governance, environment, and aid.
Over the past decade, Africa has recorded an average growth rate of 5.4 percent which is at par with the rest of the world. The ability to support, sustain, and in fact diversify the sources of these growth indicators would be critical not only to Africa’s capacity to meet the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals on poverty, health and other issues], but also to becoming an exciting investment destination for global capital. - Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region
Solid economic performance across Africa in the decade 1995-2005 contrasts sharply with the economic collapse of 1975-1985 and the stagnation experienced in 1985-95. The ADI indicates that spreading and sustaining growth going forward can be achieved by accelerating productivity and increasing private investment. Accomplishing this will require improving the business climate and infrastructure in African countries, as well as spurring innovation and building institutional capacity.

In 2005 [the latest year for which ADI 2007 posts data], the performance varied substantially across countries, from -2.2% in Zimbabwe to 30.8% in Equatorial Guinea, with nine countries posting growth rates of near or above the 7% threshold needed for sustained poverty reduction.

African countries fall into three broad categories along this continuum (map, click to enlarge):
  • The first group of seven countries comprises the region’s seven major oil exporting economies, home to 27.7% of the region’s population.
  • The second grouping of 18 countries, home to 35.6% of the region’s population, show diversified, sustained growth of at least 4%.
  • The third grouping of 17 countries, home to 36.7% of the region’s population, is characterized by their resource-poor nature, their strong volatility, are conflict-prone, afflicted or emerging from conflicts or just trapped in slow growth of less than 4%.
Greater integration with the global economy especially through export trade, are characteristics common to all African countries that have recorded sustained growth. These according to the ADI largely explain the aggregate efficiency levels and investment volumes – comparable to India and Vietnam – recorded by these countries. Overall investments in Africa increased from 16.8% of GDP to 19.5% of GDP between 2000 and 2006.

A revenue bonanza linked to skyrocketing oil prices especially helped Africa’s seven biggest oil economies. Rising prices of precious metals and other commodities have also benefited many other resource-rich African countries. Biopact and others think many large non-oil producing countries can now become bioenergy producers and exporters, driving a more diversified export growth.

In the high growth countries, ADI 2007 finds, policies have gotten better thanks to the reforms of the last decade, inflation, budget deficits, exchange rates and foreign debt repayments are more manageable; the economies are more open to trade and private enterprise; governance is on the mend and more assaults on corruption. These better economic fundamentals have helped to spur growth, but equally important to avoid the growth collapses that took place between 1975 and 1995.

The group of 18 resource-poor countries – home to 35.6 percent of Africa’s population – have done as well as some oil-rich countries, if not better, sustaining growth of more than 4 percent over the last decade:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Only politically turbulent Zimbabwe among Africa’s 17 slowest-growing economies posted negative growth.

The slowest-growing economies – home to 36.7 percent of the region’s population – are getting more fundamentals right, ADI 2007 found. These include better macro-economic management, greater investments in human resource development, and improvements in institutions and in the performance of the public sector.
[Past pessimism about Africa’s ability to grow and compete with the rest of the world] does not arise from the failures of Africa enterprise and workers. [It] arises from the fact that the continent faces an infrastructure gap and a level of indirect costs that are anywhere from two to three times as high as those in competing economies in Asia. - John Page, World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa Region
While ADI 2007 reported significant long-term gains for Sub-Saharan economies, it warns that the region remains more volatile than in any other region. That volatility, it says, has dampened expectations and investments:
ADI 2007 finds that avoiding sharp declines in GDP growth was critical to Africa’s economic recovery. Indeed, it was crucial for the poor who suffered greatly during the declines. Avoiding growth collapses is key to accelerating progress towards the MDGs in Africa. - John Page

More exports needed
The report identifies stronger and more diverse export growth as a key factor needed to sustain growth and reduce volatility. The study laments the higher indirect costs of exporting in Africa (18% to 35% of total costs) compared to indirect costs in China – a mere 8% of total costs. As a result, while efficient African enterprises can compete with Indian and Chinese firms in terms of factory floor costs, they become less competitive due to higher indirect business costs, including infrastructure identified by ADI 2007 as an “important emerging constraint to future growth”.

Sub-Saharan Africa lags at least 20 percentage points behind the average for poor developing countries also funded by the World Bank’s concessional window (IDA) on almost all major infrastructure measures – pushing up production costs, a critical impediment for investors. Africa’s unmet infrastructure needs are estimated to total around $22 billion a year (5% of GDP), plus another $17 billion for operations and maintenance.

Despite the negative impact of poor infrastructure, 38 African countries increased their exports as the region as a whole saw its exports rise in value from $182 billion in 2004 to $230 billion in 2005. Exports were fuelled by growing pockets of non-traditional exports (such as clothing from Lesotho, Madagascar and Mauritius); the successful connection between farmers and buyers (such as with the initiative which boosted Rwanda’s coffee exports to the USA by 166% in 2005); and the aggressive expansion of successful exports (such as cut flowers whose exports from Kenya more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, making cut flowers the country’s second export earner, after tea).

Finding an appropriate balance between investments in human capital and investments in physical capital will help sustain steady progress towards the MDGs and closing Africa’s infrastructure needs, the report said. The infrastructure gap is estimated at $22 billion a year or 5 percent of the region’s GDP.

Besides infrastructure, accelerating and sustaining growth requires improving Africa’s investment climate, spurring innovation, and building institutional capacity to govern well, ADI 2007 said.

Drawn from the World Bank Africa Database, the ADI 2007 publication includes a pocket edition, the Little Data Book on Africa, the Africa Development Indicators 2007 – CD-ROM, and the new ADI family member, the Africa Development Indicators Online. ADI Online contains the most comprehensive database on Africa, covering more than 1,000 indicators on economics, human development, private sector development, governance, environment, and aid, with time series of many indicators going back to 1965. The indicators were assembled from a variety of sources to present a broad picture of development across Africa. ADI Online offers the ADI essay, the Little Data Book on Africa 2007, Country at-a-Glance tables, maps tools, technical boxes, and country analyses.

Map credit: World Bank, BBCNews.

World Bank: Africa Development Indicators (ADI) 2007.

World Bank: Africa Achieving Healthy And Steady Growth Rate - November 14, 2007.

World Bank [press release]: Spreading and Sustaining Growth in Africa - November 14, 2007.

World Bank: 50 Factoids about Sub-Saharan African - Africa Development Indicators 2007.

World Bank: The Little Data Book on Africa 2007 [*.pdf] - quick reference guid for the ADI 2007.

Article continues

Inniskillin Wines and StormFisher Biogas to turn grape pomace into electricity for homes

Canada's Inniskillin Wines and StormFisher Biogas announced a partnership today to create renewable electricity from the winery's grape by-products. This is another illustration of the diversity of bioenergy feedstocks and of how this type of renewable energy can blend in with existing food processing sectors, be they olive oil producers, breweries, citrus fruit processors, or cheese makers.

Inniskillin's grape pomace, which is comprised of grape skin and seeds, will be used to generate biogas used to produce clean, renewable electricity. About 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of by-products that were previously destined to a landfill will be given a new use as a fuel. As such, the methane gas that is produced by the decomposition of grape pomace will now be captured and used to generate power for homes in the Niagara region.

This partnership is seen as a win for residential power consumers, a win for Inniskillin, a win for StormFisher and a win for the environment. The partnership demonstrates how sustainable business practices can benefit the environment and communities while improving the bottom line by giving new use to what was once a waste product.

Vincor Canada, Inniskillin's parent company is committed to sustainable business practices and was eager to play a role in renewable energy productio. Vincor Canada and StormFisher are exploring potential expansion of this arrangement to Vincor's other winemaking facilities on the Niagara Peninsula.

StormFisher produces renewable energy from food and beverage processing by-products when it is digested in industrial tanks and either used to generate electricity or processed as natural gas. Much of Europe's food and beverage processing by-products are already used to generate biogas, and the process is rapidly gaining favour in North America:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

StormFisher Biogas is an Ontario-based biogas developer and operator developing biogas installations across North America. Its biogas plants will produce electricity, natural gas (biomethane) and heat while reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, including highly polluting methane emissions. Biogas production facilities, called anaerobic digesters, accelerate the decomposition of organic matter to create a combination of methane and carbon dioxide. Digesters can produce energy using a wide range of feedstock materials, from used cooking oils to cow manure.

StormFisher's operations will reduce farm and food processor disposal costs, divert valuable organic materials from landfills, and help to combat climate change by reducing emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Inniskillin Wines, established in 1975 by co-founders Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, is Canada's premier estate winery producing truly distinctive and elegant wines from premium grape varieties grown in Canada that rank among the world's finest. Inniskillin has vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Inniskillin has gained international recognition for its award winning Icewines, which, as the number one selling wine in duty free stores, can be found in over 40 countries around the world. Inniskillin's parent company, Vincor Canada, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Constellation Brands, Inc.

: wine-making results in a large waste stream of grape pomace, which contains skins and seeds. Credit: Winemaker Magazine.

Article continues

China launches project to enhance international cooperation on new and renewable energy

China has launched a science and technology project to boost international cooperation on the development of renewables. Under the 'International Science and Technology Cooperation Program on New and Renewable Energy', China will develop new patterns for international exchange and cooperation, encourage countries to complement each other with respective technological strengths and set up a platform for technological cooperation.

The initiative was presented at an international forum in Beijing on renewable energy, organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Development and Reform Commission who will jointly implement the program:
The Program has great bearing on the energy restructuring, energy security, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emission reduction, low-carbon economy, and sustainable development.
Government support will prioritize research into five types of renewables and energy forms: biomass fuels and biomass power, wind power, solar power, hydrogen energy and fuel cells, and natural gas hydrates, of which there is a large reserve in the South China Sea and which China recently succeeded in tapping.
Through international cooperation, China will demonstrate to the global community its determination to explore new and renewable energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build an environment-friendly society. - Cao Jianlin, vice-minister for science and technology
The announcement comes just a day after China hinted at the fact that it gives priority to energy security and poverty alleviation over reducing greenhouse gas emissions (previous post). In its latest World Energy Outlook published last week, the IEA warned that China's energy demand and consequently its emissions of greenhouse gases will grow 'inexorably'. The People's Republic is set to become the world's top greenhouse-gas producer and will be accounting for 42% to 49% of global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, more than the rest of the world combined (except India). That is, unless it aggressively invests in efficiency, renewables and conservation (previous post).

The new S&T cooperation program identifies six major tasks, namely basic research, commercialization demonstrations, scaling applications, 'phase-out' strategies for fossil fuels, international exchanges, and nuturing high-caliber professionals. The international cooperation could facilitate China’s efforts to introduce advanced technology, innovate in energy technology, and set up a batch of industrial demonstration projects so as to meet the strategic goal of developing its new and renewable energy sector:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

It is hoped interaction with the international community will highlight key areas and help introduce advanced technologies, core technologies in particular. Given China’s vast territory, unbalanced distribution of resources, and the to-be-improved market mechanism, the government will step up macromanagement, lower the cost through expanding scales so as to bring order to the development of new energy.

Vice-minister for science and technology Cao said the Chinese government is committed to identifying and developing new energy sources and finding practical applications for them. It wants to promote international exchanges via forums, seminars and joint research centers, and work with foreign counterparts to train high-level professionals.

Under the 'International Science and Technology Cooperation Program on New and Renewable Energy', invitations will be sent to new and renewable energy experts from around to the world in a bid to establish a committee to outline key tasks and suggest areas for cooperation.

As part of its $256 billion development plan for renewable energy launched earlier this year (previous post) the government will provide additional funding for research projects and offer preferential tax rates for those involved in the development and use of renewable energy.

The international initiative will help implement the renewable energy plan, which aims at increasing the proportion of renewable energy to 10 percent of total consumption by 2010, and to 15 percent by 2020, Cao said (figure, click to enlarge). Renewables currently account for just 1 percent of China's total primary energy production.

According Shang Yong, another Vice Minister of Science and Technology, equal efforts will also be given to soliciting private capital and investment from the business sector, especially the international energy giants, to enhance international cooperation on new and renewable energy.

Ministry of Science and Technology: Press Conference of “International S&T Cooperation Program on New and Renewable Energy” - November 12, 2007.

Biopact: China: poverty reduction, energy security more important than capping emissions - November 12, 2007

Biopact: IEA WEO: China and India transform global energy landscape - demand, emissions to grow 'inexorably' - November 08, 2007

Biopact: China unveils $265 billion renewable energy plan, aims for 15% renewables by 2020 - September 06, 2007

Article continues

Argentina export tax hike seen as strong incentive to biofuels

Leading agricultural exporter Argentina has added another major incentive to the booming biofuel industry by increasing the export tax on soybeans, soy-based products, and corn, but not on biofuels, according to analysts. The government raised the export tax on soy to 35% from 27.5% and the tax on soymeal and soyoil exports to 32% from 24%. The export tax on soy-based biodiesel was left at 5%, with a 2.5% tax credit - an effective export tax rate of 2.5%. The measures are part of Argentina's ongoing policy efforts aimed at preparing the country to secure a share of the international biofuels market (earlier post).

Argentina is expecting to quadruple biodiesel production next year from 200 to 800 million liters (graph, click to enlarge), and by the end of the decade will be making 10 times the amount it produced in 2007, according to a recent report [*.pdf] on the sector by the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

The export tax structure is the key to making the industry profitable and able to compete with fossil fuels, Renova SA Director Diego Mejuto said recently. Last month Renova, a joint venture between local grain exporter Vicentin SAIC and Glencore International AG, cut the ribbon on a $20 million biodiesel plant on the banks of Argentina's La Plata River, the first of a wave of major projects slated to come online in the next several months.

The company expects the European Union and U.S. to be the primary markets for the soy-based biodiesel it produces, Mejuto said.

Even before the new tax incentives, Argentina was on track to produce 1.5 million metric tons of soy-based biodiesel in 2008, according to Lorena D'Angelo, of the economic studies department of the Rosario Grain Exchange.

Most of the other major grain exporters are also racing to take advantage of the tax and other incentives designed to spur on the sector. Aceitera General Deheza and Bunge Ltd. (BG) are working on a $40 million plant, Louis Dreyfus Group is investing $45 million to get into the game and Repsol YPF SA (REP) has a $30 million project in the pipes, according to the Rosario Grain Exchange.

In addition to the federal tax incentives, the province of Santa Fe has provided a host of tax breaks and financing schemes to ensure that biofuel production is concentrated in the province, Gov. Jorge Obeid said recently. Santa Fe already boasts the majority of the nation's soy processing and shipping capacity.

Investment in the sector is expected to reach $1 billion over the next four years, according to a recent report by Abeceb Consultancy:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

President Nestor Kirchner approved the nation's biofuel incentives law in March. In addition to the export tax breaks, the law mandates a 5% content of biodiesel or ethanol in the nation's fuel by 2010 and provides tax breaks and incentives for projects aimed at supplying the domestic market that are at least 50% owned by Argentines.

Meeting the biofuel needs mandated by the law will use 8% of the soy grown each year and 3% of corn, based on current output, Miguel Almada, director of Argentina's biofuel program at the Agriculture Secretariat, said in a recent interview.


The government also raised the tax on corn exports, to 25% from 20%, while corn and sugar-based ethanol exports are taxed at an effective rate of 1%.

Although Argentine ethanol production pales in comparison to the rush toward soy-based biodiesel, companies are also starting to convert sugarcane grown in the north of the country and corn to fuel.

Last year, Argentina produced 200,000 tons of ethanol at more than a dozen plants in the northwest of the country, and producers are eying increasing production using corn.

In addition, the government introduced a bill this month to modify this year's biofuel law, extending incentives to the nation's sugar industry.

Biopact: Argentina's government amends biofuels law to include incentives for sugarcane ethanol - October 12, 2007

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service: Argentine Bio-Fuels Report [*.pdf], GAIN Report, June 6, 2007

Article continues

The bioeconomy at work: Teijin presents lightweight car that contains bioplastics and biofibers

GreenCarCongress reports that Japanese textile producer Teijin Ltd. unveiled a lightweight concept car, the PU_PA, made from materials including carbon fiber, bioplastics and fibers made from polylactic acid. The effort is aimed at demonstrating that renewable and new materials can greatly reduce the weight of cars, and thus increase their fuel economy.

The firm plans to advocate the use of advanced materials, and predicts it can lighten a 1-tonne small to 500kg in five years, a move that will greatly improve fuel efficiency. Teijin also promotes materials that have a smaller environmental impact to produce.

Teijin materials in the PU_PA include a carbon-fiber backbone; a roof and exterior window of polycarbonate resin; heat-resistant bioplastic (Biofront); an artificial leather dashboard; a polyester film for the plated front grille; and tire cord fabric.

Teijin introduced the BIOFRONT bioplastic, which it developed with Mazda, in September (previous post). The plastic will be used initially for the manufacture of a high-quality, highly durable car-seat fabric made of 100% BIOFRONT fibers, and was featured in the new Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid vehicle that Mazda premiered at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show 2007:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Although bioplastics have attracted much attention due to their environmentally friendly nature, polylactide and other bioplastics currently on the market do not offer the same level of performance as oil-based plastics in terms of heat and shock resistance. Accordingly, the use of bioplastics has been limited so far.

In 2004, however, Teijin began researching bioplastics with Musashino Chemical Laboratory, Mutual Corporation and Professor Yoshiharu Kimura from the Kyoto Institute of Technology. The result was the development of an all-new type of heat-resistant bioplastic that was officially introduced in March 2006.

BIOFRONT incorporates technologies developed at Teijin Fiber's Matsuyama plant, including those to combine polymer from non-oil materials, such as starch, and those related to yarn production, such as fiber spinning and drawing.

The melting point of BIOFRONT fibers is 210ºC, significantly higher than the 170ºC melting point of polylactide fibers. As a result, BIOFRONT readily accepts high-temperature, high-pressure polyester dyeing. Such improvements have brought BIOFRONT to the same level of performance of PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Fabrics for car-seat skins must satisfy stringent conditions demanded by automotive makers. As a result, polyester fibers have been used as the main material for car-seat skins, since conventional plant-based fibers are not capable of meeting all demands sufficiently.

Thanks to the convergence of the Teijin Group's polymer technologies and Teijin Fiber's yarn-production know-how, however, BIOFRONT fully satisfies the requirements for high quality and durability, including high heat resistance. Moreover, surface-treatment technologies for car-seat skins developed with Mazda have made it possible to develop a car-seat fabric that is 100% bio-based fibers.

Fiber, film and plastic resin applications
Teijin Group companies are focusing on additional applications for BIOFRONT fibers, films and plastic resins, where the heat-resistance of BIOFRONT is expected to be particularly useful in meeting demanding requirements for fabrication and actual use.

The following applications are envisioned in fields such as automotives, industrial materials and apparel textiles:
  • Fibers: In-vehicle products, interior products and materials requiring heat-resistant, dye-affinity and anti-bacterial properties
  • Films: Optical applications requiring transparency and heat resistance
  • Plastic resins: Electric/Electronic parts and chassis requiring heat resistance and molding
Teijin expects BIOFRONT production to reach several hundred tons in fiscal 2008 (ends March 31, 2009). The company plans to increase production at its Iwakuni plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 2008, as part of raising output capacity to several thousand tons.

GreenCarCongress: Teijin Introduces Concept Car Made From Lightweight Materials - November 14, 2007.

Teijin: Teijin Launches BIOFRONT Heat-Resistant Bio Plastic - 100% BIOFRONT car seat fabrics developed with Mazda - September 12, 2007.

Biopact: The bioeconomy at work: Mazda develops 100% PLA based biofabric for vehicle interiors - September 12, 2007

Article continues