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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2008.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2008.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2008.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leeds researchers produce biohydrogen from biodiesel byproduct glycerol

Scientists at the University of Leeds have found a novel, efficient process to turn low-grade glycerol sludge obtained from biodiesel production into a high-value hydrogen rich gas. The process could make eco-friendly biodiesel even greener and more economical to produce, while at the same time opening a viable production pathway for hydrogen. Given that the gas is produced from a renewable, bio-based feedstock, it can effectively be called 'biohydrogen'.

Biodiesel – motor fuel derived from vegetable oil - is a renewable alternative to rapidly depleting fossil fuels. It is biodegradable and non-toxic, and production is on the up. But for each molecule of biodiesel produced, another of low-value crude glycerol (glycerin) is generated. Its disposal presents a growing economic and environmental problem. When vegetable oils are transesterified, around 10% of the volume becomes glycerin. This has led to a glut of crude glycerol on the market. Many researchers are therefor looking for novel applications for the product: some have found cost-effective ways to use crude glycerin as feedstock for new types of biopolymers, bioplastic films, and green specialty chemicals such as propylene glycol. Others found glycerin makes for a suitable cattle and poultry feed or for the production of biogas. Still others recently found a way to turn it efficiently into ethanol.

Now researchers from Leeds have shown how glycerol can be converted to produce a hydrogen rich gas. Hydrogen is in great demand for use in fertilisers, chemical plants and food production. Moreover, hydrogen is itself viewed as a future ‘clean’ replacement for hydrocarbon-based transport fuels, and most countries currently reliant on these fuels are investing heavily in hydrogen development programmes.

The novel process developed by Dr Valerie Dupont and her co-investigators in the University's Faculty of Engineering mixes glycerol with steam at a controlled temperature and pressure, separating the waste product into hydrogen, water and carbon dioxide, with no residues. A special absorbent material filters out the carbon dioxide, which leaves a much purer product.

Hydrogen has been identified as a key future fuel for low carbon energy systems such as power generation in fuel cells and as a transport fuel. Current production methods are expensive and unsustainable, using either increasingly scarce fossil fuel sources such as natural gas, or other less efficient methods such as water electrolysis.
Our process is a clean, renewable alternative to conventional methods. It produces something with high value from a low grade by-product for which there are few economical upgrading mechanisms. In addition, it’s a near ‘carbon-neutral’ process, since the CO2 generated is not derived from the use of fossil fuels. - Dr Valerie Dupont
Dr Dupont believes the process is easily scalable to industrial production, and, as the race towards the ‘hydrogen economy’ accelerates, could potentially be an economically important, sustainable – and environmentally friendly – way of meeting the growing demand for hydrogen. Whilst it is likely to be many years before a full hydrogen economy can be achieved due to infrastructure and storage issues, biodiesel is a forerunner to this as a sustainable, more environmentally friendly fuel, to be used in combustion engines:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Hydrogen production is a large and growing industry. Globally, some 50 million metric tons of hydrogen, equal to about 170 million tons of oil equivalent, were produced in 2004. The growth rate is around 10 per cent per year. In the United States, 2004 production was about 11 million metric tons (MMT), an average power flow of 48 gigawatts. For comparison, the average electric production in 2003 was some 442 gigawatts. As of 2005, the economic value of all hydrogen produced worldwide is about $135 billion per year.

Dr Dupont’s research has been funded with a £270k grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under the Energy programme, and is in collaboration with Professors Yulong Ding and Mojtaba Ghadiri from the Institute of Particle Science and Engineering, and Professor Paul Williams from the Energy and Resources Research Institute at the University.

Industrial collaborators are Johnson Matthey and Jatropha biodiesel producer D1-Oils.

Dr Valerie Dupont is a senior lecturer in the Energy & Resources Research Institute (ERRI) in the Faculty of Engineering. Her research interests span combustion and fuel engineering, fuel science and technology, by-products relating to fuels, the chemistry of catalysis and energy and the environment. Earlier she developed a promising method for the production of biohydrogen from vegetable oils (abstract and here *.pdf).

ERRI is a pioneering institute of international standing housed within the School of Process, Materials and Environmental Engineering (SPEME). Strongly interdisciplinary in nature, it has collaborative links with many University schools and departments, as well as with other academic institutions around the world. The Institute spans a diverse portfolio of research areas including: combustion, flames, fire and explosion, advanced energy engineering, environmental pollution control, monitoring and modelling, renewable energy systems and future fuels, sustainable management of resources.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £740 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

University of Leeds: Leeds researchers fuelling the ‘hydrogen economy’ - November 27, 2007.

S.n. "Production of hydrogen from sunflower oil", Fuel Cells Bulletin, Volume 2004, Issue 10, October 2004, Pages 8-8

Ross A.B., Hanley I, Dupont V., Jones J.M., Twigg M., Brydson R., "Development of unmixed reforming for production of hydrogen from vegetable oil", Waterstof, March 25, 2007.

Biopact: Scientists convert biodiesel byproduct glycerin into ethanol - November 04, 2007

Biopact: The bioeconomy at work: Dow develops propylene glycol from biodiesel residue - March 19, 2007

Biopact: Students patent biopolymer made from biodiesel and wine byproducts - June 20, 2007

Biopact: Researchers make biodegradable films from biofuel and dairy byproducts - June 11, 2007

Biopact: Researchers study effectiveness of glycerin as cattle feed - May 25, 2007

Biopact: Biodiesel byproduct glycerine makes excellent chicken food - August 04, 2006

Biopact: Glycerin as a biogas feedstock - December 27, 2006

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Landmark Human Development Report 2007/2008 puts climate change at center of analysis

With governments preparing to gather in Bali, Indonesia to discuss the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Development Programme’ warns in its landmark Human Development Report 2007/2008 that the world should focus on the development impact of climate change that could bring unprecedented reversals in poverty reduction, nutrition, health and education.

The UNDP's Human Development Reports (HDR), published yearly, are key documents driving debates about social, economic, cultural and environmental development. They contain the often referenced Human Development Index (HDI). This year, the report also offers a wealth of interactive information (maps, stats) on comparative carbon footprints, the efficiency of greenhouse gas reduction efforts per country, and on the essential role energy plays in development.

The new major report, Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world, provides a stark account of the threat posed by global warming. It argues that the world is drifting towards a “tipping point” that could lock the world’s poorest countries and their poorest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats, and a loss of livelihoods.

Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs,” comments UNDP Administrator Kemal Derviş.

The report comes at a key moment in negotiations to forge a multilateral agreement for the period after 2012—the expiry date for the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It calls for a “twin track” approach that combines stringent mitigation to limit 21st Century warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F), with strengthened international cooperation on adaptation.

On mitigation, the authors call on developed countries to demonstrate leadership by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. The report advocates a mix of carbon taxation, more stringent cap-and-trade programmes, energy regulation, and international cooperation on financing for low-carbon technology transfer.

Turning to adaptation, the report warns that inequalities in ability to cope with climate change are emerging as an increasingly powerful driver of wider inequalities between and within countries. It calls on rich countries to put climate change adaptation at the centre of international partnerships on poverty reduction.

“We are issuing a call to action, not providing a counsel of despair,” commented lead author Kevin Watkins, adding, “Working together with resolve, we can win the battle against climate change. Allowing the window of opportunity to close would represent a moral and political failure without precedent in human history.” He described the Bali talks as a unique opportunity to put the interests of the world’s poor at the heart of climate change negotiations.

The report provides evidence of the mechanisms through with the ecological impacts of climate change will be transmitted to the poor. Focusing on the 2.6 billion people surviving on less than US$2 a day, the authors warn forces unleashed by global warming could stall and then reverse progress built up over generations. Among the threats to human development identified by Fighting climate change:
  • An additional 1.8 billion people facing water stress by 2080, with large areas of South Asia and northern China facing a grave ecological crisis as a result of glacial retreat and changed rainfall patterns.
  • The breakdown of agricultural systems as a result of increased exposure to drought, rising temperatures, and more erratic rainfall, leaving up to 600 million more people facing malnutrition. Semi-arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa with some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the world face the danger of potential productivity losses of 26% by 2060.
  • Displacement through flooding and tropical storm activity of up to 332 million people in coastal and low-lying areas. Over 70 million Bangladeshis, 22 million Vietnamese, and six million Egyptians could be affected by global warming-related flooding.
  • Emerging health risks, with an additional population of up to 400 million people facing the risk of malaria.
Setting out the evidence from a new research exercise, the authors of the Human Development Report argue that the potential human costs of climate change have been understated. They point out that climate shocks such as droughts, floods and storms, which will become more frequent and intense with climate change, are already among the most powerful drivers of poverty and inequality— and global warming will strengthen the impacts:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

“For millions of people, these are events that offer a one-way ticket to poverty and long-run cycles of disadvantage,” says the report. Apart from threatening lives and inflicting suffering, they wipe out assets, lead to malnutrition, and result in children being withdrawn from school. In Ethiopia, the report finds that children exposed to a drought in early childhood are 36% more likely to be malnourished—a figure that translates into 2 million additional cases of child malnutrition.

While the report focuses on the immediate threats to the world’s poor, it warns that failure to tackle climate change could leave future generations facing ecological catastrophe. It highlights the possible collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheets, the retreat of glaciers, and the stress on marine ecosystems as systemic threats to humanity.

“Of course there are uncertainties, but faced with risks of this order of magnitude uncertainty is not a case for inaction. Ambitious mitigation is in fact the insurance we have to buy against potentially very large risks. Fighting climate change is about our commitment to human development today and about creating a world that will provide ecological security for our children and their grandchildren,” Mr. Derviş said.

Avoiding dangerous climate change
The authors of the Human Development Report call on governments to set a collective target for avoiding dangerous climate change. They advocate a threshold of 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels (the current level is 0.7°C, 1.3°F).

Drawing on a new climate model, the report suggests a ‘21st Century carbon budget’ for staying within this threshold. The budget quantifies the total level of greenhouse gas emissions consistent with this goal. In an exercise that captures the scale of the challenge ahead, the report estimates that business-as-usual could result on current trends in the entire carbon budget for the 21st Century being exhausted by 2032. The authors warn that on current trends the world is more likely to breach a 4°C threshold than stay within 2°C (3.6°F).

The Human Development Report addresses some of the critical issues facing negotiators in Bali. While acknowledging the threat posed by rising emissions from major developing countries, the authors argue that northern governments have to initiate the deepest and earliest cuts. They point out that rich countries carry overwhelming historic responsibility for the problem, have far deeper carbon footprints (map, click to enlarge), and have the financial and technological capabilities to act.

“If people in the developing world had generated per capita CO2 emissions at the same level as people in North America, we would need the atmosphere of nine planets to deal with the consequences,” commented Mr. Watkins.

Using an illustrative framework for an emissions pathway consistent with avoiding dangerous climate change, the Human Development Report suggests that:
  • Developed countries should cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% to 2050 and 30% by 2020 from 1990 levels.
  • Developing countries should cut emissions by 20 percent to 2050 from 1990 levels.
However, these cuts would occur from 2020 and they would be supported through international cooperation of finance and low carbon technology transfer.

Measured against this benchmark, the authors find that many of the targets set by developed country governments fall short of what is required. It notes also that most developed countries have failed to achieve even the modest reductions—averaging around 5% from 1990 levels—agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. Even where ambitious targets have been set, the report argues, few developed countries have aligned stated climate security goals with concrete energy policies.

Scenarios for future emissions reinforce the scale of the challenge ahead. On current trends, CO2 emissions are projected to increase by 50% to 2030, —an outcome that would make dangerous climate change inevitable. “The bottom line is that the global energy system is out of alignment with the ecological systems that sustain our planet,” commented Mr. Watkins, adding: “realignment will take a fundamental shift in regulation, market incentives, and international cooperation.”

Fighting climate change identifies a range of policies needed to close the gap between climate security statements and energy policies for avoiding dangerous climate change. Among the most important:
  • Pricing carbon. The report argues that both carbon taxation and cap-and-trade schemes have a role to play. Gradually rising carbon taxes would be a powerful tool to change incentive structures facing investors. It also stresses that carbon taxes need not imply an overall greater tax burden because they could be compensated by tax reductions on labour income.
  • Stronger regulatory standards. The report calls on governments to adopt and enforce tougher standards on vehicle emissions, buildings and electrical appliances.
  • Supporting the development of low carbon energy provision. The report highlights the unexploited potential for an increase in the share of renewable energy used, and for breakthrough technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
  • International cooperation on finance and technology transfer. The authors note that developing countries will not participate in an agreement that provides no incentives for entry, and which threatens to raise the costs of energy. The report argues for the creation of a Climate Change Mitigation Facility (CCMF) to provide $25-50 billion annually in financing the incremental low-carbon energy investments in developing countries consistent with achieving shared climate change goals.
Drawing on economic modeling work, the Human Development Report argues that the cost of stabilizing greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million (ppm) could be limited to an average to 1.6% of world GDP to 2030. “While these are real costs, the costs of inaction will be far greater, whether measured in economic, social or human terms,” warned Mr. Derviş. The report points out that the cost of avoiding dangerous climate change represents less than two-thirds of current world military spending.

Interestingly, in an analysis of potential mitigation options, which include biofuels, the authors make a case for a 'Biopact' of sorts - the win-win situation in which countries from the South utilize their comparative advantages to make carbon reducing fuels to supply the less efficient North:
International trade could play a much larger role in the expanding Markets for alternative fuels. Brazil is more efficient than either the European Union or the United States in producing ethanol, Moreover, sugar-based ethanol is more efficient in cutting carbon emissions. The problem is that imports of Brazilian ethanol are restricted by high import tariffs. Removing these tariffs would generate gains not just for Brazil, but for climate change mitigation. - UNDP, Human Development Report

Adaptation efforts overlooked
While stressing the central medium-term role of mitigation, Fighting climate change warns against neglecting the adaptation challenge. It points out that, even with stringent mitigation, the world is now committed to continued warming for the first half of the 21st Century. The report warns that adaptation is needed to prevent climate change leading to major setbacks in human development—and to guard against the very real danger of insufficient mitigation.

The report draws attention to extreme inequalities in adaptation capacity. Rich countries are investing heavily in climate-change defence systems, with governments playing a leading role. By contrast, in developing countries “people are being left to sink or swim with their own resources,” writes Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, in the report, creating a “world of ‘adaptation apartheid’.”

“Nobody wants to understate the very real long-term ecological challenges that climate change will bring to rich countries,” Mr. Watkins commented. “But the near term vulnerabilities are not concentrated in lower Manhattan and London, but in flood prone areas of Bangladesh and drought prone parts of sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Human Development Report shows that international cooperation on adaptation has been slow to materialize. According to the report, total current spending through multilateral mechanisms on adaptation has amounted to $26 million to date—roughly one week’s worth of spending on UK flood defences. Current mechanisms are delivering small amounts of finance with high transaction costs, the authors say.

The report argues for reforms including:
  • Additional financing for climate proofing infrastructure and building resilience, with northern governments allocating at least $86 billion annually by 2015 (around 0.2% of their projected GDP).
  • Increased international support for the development of sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity to monitor climate and improve public access to meteorological information.
  • The integration of adaptation planning into wider strategies for reducing poverty and extreme inequalities, including poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs).
Fighting climate change concludes that “one of the hardest lessons taught by climate change is that the historically carbon intensive growth, and the profligate consumption in rich nations that has accompanied it, is ecologically unsustainable.” But the authors argue, “with the right reforms, it is not too late to cut greenhouse gas emissions to sustainable levels without sacrificing economic growth: rising prosperity and climate security are not conflicting objectives.”

The Human Development Report continues to frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Kevin Watkins is the Lead Author of the 2007/2008 report, which includes special contributions from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Mayor of the City of New York Michael R. Bloomberg, Advocate for Arctic climate change Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Chair of the World Commission on Sustainable Development and former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, and the Director of the Centre for Science and Environment Sunita Narain.

The Report is translated into more than a dozen languages and launched in more than 100 countries annually.

UNDP Human Development Reports website.

UNDP: Human Development Report 2007/2008 [*.pdf] - English Summary.

UNDP Human Development Reports: Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world - November 27, 2007.

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Biofuel consumption soars in Thailand: biodiesel up more than 1000%, ethanol up 64%

The consumption of alternative fuels in Thailand is growing rapidly as the government continues to keep contributions to the state Oil Fund lower for biofuels than for traditional fuels. Demand for B5 soared by growing over 1000%, E10 grew with 64% and natural gas for vehicles more than doubled. Thai ethanol producers who were seriously mired by overproduction at the beginning of the year (previous post) thus see their troubles coming to an end.

Average B5 diesel retail prices are now one baht per litre lower than petro-diesel (€0.021/liter or $0.121/gallon), and 'gasohol' (E10) is 4 baht (€0.086/liter or $0.485/gallon) cheaper than premium petrol and 3.30 baht (€0.071/liter or $0.4/gallon) cheaper than regular petrol.

According to Metta Bunturngsuk, director-general of the Department of Energy, B5 diesel (5% biodiesel) consumption jumped from 3.43 million litres in October last year to 65.13 million litres last month - a staggering increase, but not exceptional for a fuel that is just beginning to take off. Petro-diesel grew slightly by 2.2% to 1.49 billion litres from 1.43. billion a year earlier.

Ethanol is a more established fuel in Thailand. The total consumption of gasohol 95 and 91 - or 10% ethanol mixed with 90% gasoline - rose 63.7% to 179 million litres in October from 110 million litres during the same period last year.

Premium and regular gasoline consumption fell 11.4% to 441 million litres from 498 million litres last year, the second consecutive month it has fallen.

Consumption of natural gas for vehicles also jumped 110% in October to 29.6 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) from 14 million mmcfd last year. Next year NGV consumption is likely to double from this year due to strong support from the Energy Ministry and PTT Plc, which is offering free NGV kits and is selling the fuel at petrol stations. However, Mettha Bunthuengsuk conceded that NGV is now unavailable for sale in some areas since there is a shortage of gas cylinders:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Thailand's state-owned energy giant PTT Plc had already shifted a purchase order for the cylinders to companies in Brazil from South Korean companies in order to address the shortage. It is expected the problem would be solved in a few months.

Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) consumption grew 15.6% from 9.2 million kilogrammes to 10.7 million kilogrammes as more motorists converted their engines to gas from petrol. But the figure will probably drop next year as the government says it will no longer subsidise LPG, which is also used as cooking gas.

Crude oil imports in October dropped 12.8% from 4.238 million barrels to 3.696 million barrels. The value of crude oil imports also dropped 0.3% from 62.56 billion baht last year to 62.35 billion this year.

Energy policy planners also announced that they intended to promote new names for what is currently described in Thailand as 'gasohol': gasoline E10/95, gasoline E10/91 and gasoline E20/95.

Diesel fuel will be completely replaced by B2 nationwide on April 1, 2008. The new names will be B2, B5 or whatever proportion of biofuel is mixed with regular fuel.

Bangkok Post: Ethanol-based fuel sales jump in October - November 27, 2007.

Bangkok Post: Bio-fuel use soars in first 10 months - November 27, 2007.

Biopact: Thai ethanol producers stuck with surplus - April 09, 2007

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CSIRO report on life cycle emissions of biodiesel in Australia confirms fuel cuts CO2, pollutants

A lifecycle analysis released today by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) confirms that using pure first generation biodiesel or blending biodiesel with standard fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from the transport sector.

First generation biodiesel can be manufactured by transesterification of any product containing fatty acids, such as vegetable oil or animal fats. The report titled The greenhouse and air quality emissions of biodiesel blends in Australia [*.pdf] assesses the emission levels and environmental impacts of biodiesel produced from Australia's most common sources including used cooking oil, tallow (rendered animal fat), imported palm oil and canola.

CSIRO Energy Transformed National Research Flagship researcher and report author Dr Tom Beer believes the wider introduction of biodiesel in Australia would help address the high greenhouse gas intensity of Australia's transport sector. The results of the study show biodiesel has the potential to reduce emissions from the transport industry by up to 87%. The transport sector is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in Australia, behind stationary energy generation and agriculture.

The greenhouse gas savings do however depend on the feedstock used to produce the biodiesel.

The upstream processes of growing and harvesting canola lead to upstream GHG emissions that are approximately 3.5 times higher than upstream emissions from refining the diesel. Tallow has upstream GHG emissions that are approximately 50% higher than the upstream emissions of diesel, whereas those of used cooking oil are slightly lower. Upstream GHG emissions of palm oil depend on whether the plantation was established before 1990, in which case the emissions associated with land clearing and with soil disturbance are not counted as greenhouse gas emissions under present methods of carbon accounting. In this case upstream greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 25% higher than the upstream emissions associated with diesel refining.

When using BD100 produced from tallow, canola, used cooking oil or plantation-based palm oil then the carbon dioxide emissions are offset by the carbon dioxide sequestered during the feedstock production so that the tailpipe GHG emissions are zero, which is to say that the emissions of fossil carbon are zero. However, fossil carbon or other greenhouse gases are emitted during the growth or manufacture of the feedstock.

Overall this results in a saving in total life-cycle GHG emissions for different feedstocks: canola (422 g CO2-e/km saving; 49%), tallow (646 g CO2-e/km saving; 76%) used cooking oil (746 g CO2-e/km saving; 87%), palm oil from existing plantations (680 g CO2-e/km saving; 80%) when compared to extra low sulfur diesel (XLSD), which emits 855 g CO2-e/km. GHG emissions from palm oil that is sourced from cleared rain- or peat swamp forest are 8 to 21 times respectively greater than those from diesel. (table, click to enlarge).
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The extra upstream processing required for reducing the sulfur content results in higher GHG emissions for XLS diesel compared with ULS diesel. The highest savings in GHG emissions are obtained by replacing base diesel with biodiesel from used cooking oil (725 g CO2-e/km for ULSD to 746 g CO2-e/km for XLSD).

The large difference between the upstream emission of tallow and used cooking oil are
based on the assumption that the tallow is being taken from existing market uses and is not a waste product, whereas the used cooking oil is taken to be a true waste, with no existing market. If low-grade tallow, with no other viable markets, was available, its emission profile would be similar to that of used cooking oil. However, low-grade tallow does require more processing to produce biodiesel than high-grade (edible) tallow.

Blends with 2% biodiesel lead to much smaller GHG savings (when there are savings) or
much smaller increases (when there are increases): the savings are 14-15 g CO2-e/km for used cooking oil blends when using BD2 compared with diesel; 12-13 g CO2-e/km for
tallow biodiesel; and 7-8 g CO2-e/km for canola oil biodiesel. Palm oil based BD2 produces savings of 12-13 g CO2-e/km if the palm oil comes from existing plantations, but can lead to increases in GHG emissions that range from 142 to 338 g CO2-e/km if the palm oil comes from cleared rainforest or cleared peat swamp forest respectively.

Obviously not all new palm oil plantations are established on peat lands - the report looked at these specifically, because some environmentalists have made a case of this. The peat swamp issue is specific to a small region in Indonesia. New palm oil plantations in Africa and South America will have very different properties and result in fuels with a much lower carbon footprint. Transporting palm oil in ocean-going tankers is a very efficient transport mode, releasing very small emissions.

If palm oil was to be grown in Australia (rather than imported from Asia), the emissions are likely to increase further because of the greater use of mechanisation in Australian agriculture, with its concomitant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The use of biodiesel also reduces the particulate matter released into the atmosphere as a result of burning fuels, providing potential benefits to human health. Life-cycle emissions of CO, NMVOC, and particles are reduced when biodiesel blends are used, but emissions of NOx may increase slightly.

While the results are encouraging, further research is required to establish the viability of the biofuels industry in Australia and address some of the associated issues such as sustainability, technological improvements and economic feasibility.

CSIRO, as part of the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship, is undertaking an extensive research program into alternative fuels such as biodiesel to assess possible biophysical, social and economic impacts of their production and adoption.

CSIRO: The greenhouse and air quality emissions of biodiesel blends in Australia [*.pdf] - November 27, 2007.

CSIRO: Alternative transport fuels: prospects and impacts.

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FuelCell Energy supplies 4 biogas fuel cell power plants to Linde Group for renewable distributed power generation

FuelCell Energy, Inc, a manufacturer of high efficiency, ultra-clean fuel cell based power plants for commercial, industrial, municipal and utility customers, today announced the sale of 3.9 megawatts of power plants to the Linde Group, a leading gases and engineering company. Linde will install the four power plants at various customer locations in the San Diego area which will utilize purified biogas from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (PLWTP) as the primary fuel source for combined heat and power generation. The four power plants include three 1.2MW plants (image, click to enlarge) and one 300kW plant. Their overall systems efficiency, when used in CHP mode, is over 80%.

The unique feat about the project is the fact that Linde will leverage its gas purification and distribution expertise to upgrade the biogas on-site, utilizing energy generated by the 300kW fuel cell running on biogas. The clean biomethane will then be transported off-site to the larger biogas fuel cells in tube trailers. This is the first time renewable biogas is to be used in such a decentralised, distributed way.

Direct FuelCells (DFC) capitalize on the wastewater treatment plants' production of methane gas to produce renewable energy. Because of their high efficiency, DFCs produce near-zero emissions for around-the-clock operations such as hotels, universities, breweries and wastewater treatment plants (more info on these fuel cells in this previous post). Until now, however, the use of wastewater treatment gas was limited to producing power at the facility where the methane is generated, since transporting fuel elsewhere entailed financial and logistic obstacles.

Linde will use methane gas that is currently being flared at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (PLWTP) in San Diego, California to fuel the four DFC power plants being purchased from FuelCell Energy. Most of the gas collected and purified by Linde will be transported off-site to three separate customer locations in southern California where DFC1500 ultra-clean power plants will be installed. The remainder of the methane will be used on-site to fuel a DFC300, which will provide renewable baseload power for Linde's purification plant. The electricity generated by the three DFC1500 units will be sold to the host customers under Power Purchase Agreements - establishing the first commercial DFC fuel cell installations to run on transported renewable fuel.
The ability to generate renewable fuel in one location and transport it economically to another where it can be utilized most effectively, fundamentally alters the economics of putting clean energy in place. We are working on a number of opportunities in this area, and strongly believe that projects such as this one, with the added benefits from high efficiency, ultra-clean Direct FuelCell technology, help maximize the economics and utilization of renewable resources. - Christopher Carson, Linde's Head of Biogas Business Development
Just as it does in its traditional industrial gases business, Linde will deliver purified methane by tube trailers to local off-site customers for the production of renewable heat and power. Linde makes thousands of deliveries each day of products like oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and other gases to its customer base, which spans a variety of industries from healthcare and food to traditional heavy industries such as steel, refining and glass:
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By partnering with a global gas company like Linde, we are in a position to open entirely new markets transporting biogas from generators like wastewater treatment plants to industrial and commercial customers for the production of on-site renewable electricity. Not only will this collaboration lead to a much greater use of biofuels to generate ultra-clean power, but it will also make green energy economical for customers that want to be carbon neutral and contribute to greenhouse gas reduction worldwide. - FuelCell Energy's Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Linde's purchase of the DFC units is funded in part by California's Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which promotes the installation of clean power generation sources throughout the state, and the federal Investment Tax Credit for fuel cells. In addition, because the biogas feedstock costs are not tied to the energy markets, Linde is able to offer its customers price stability for up to a ten year period. This adds up to a winning combination for Linde's customers.

The news of FuelCell Energy's sale to Linde comes just days after the fuel cell manufacturer sold three power plants to California's Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) (earlier post).

Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant treats the wastewater from the City of San Diego and 15 other cities and districts from a 450 square mile area with a population of over 2.2 million. An average of 180 million gallons of wastewater is treated every day. The organic solids (sludge) which have settled out of the wastewater are pumped into one of eight digesters where they are reduced in volume through a heat and bacterial process called anaerobic digestion. After about two weeks, this digested sludge is pumped from Point Loma through a 17 mile pipeline to the Metro Biosolids Center for further processing. Biogas, a biofuel, is a by-product of the digestion process.

The Linde Group is a world-leading gases and engineering company with around 50,000 employees working in more than 70 countries worldwide. Following the acquisition of The BOC Group plc, the company has sales of around 12 billion euro per annum. The strategy of The Linde Group is geared towards earnings-based growth and focuses on the expansion of its international business with forward-looking products and services.

FuelCell Energy is the world leader in the development and production of stationary fuel cells for commercial, industrial, municipal and utility customers. FuelCell Energy's ultra-clean and high efficiency DFC(r) fuel cells are generating power at over 50 locations worldwide. The company's power plants have generated more than 200 million kWh of power using a variety of fuels including renewable wastewater gas, biogas from beer and food processing as well as natural gas and other hydrocarbon fuels. FuelCell Energy has partnerships with major power plant developers, trading companies and power companies around the world. The company also receives substantial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and other government agencies for the development of leading edge technologies such as hybrid fuel cell/turbine generators and solid oxide fuel cells.

FuelCell Energy: FuelCell Energy Completes Sale to The Linde Group of 3.9 Megawatts of Power Plants for Renewable Distributed Generation - November 27, 2007.

FuelCell Energy: DFC1500MA product Brochure [*.pdf].

FuelCell Energy: The Direct FuelCell Advantage [*.pdf], brochure.

FuelCell Energy: Direct FuelCells White Paper [*.pdf].

Biopact: FuelCell Energy sells three biogas fuel cells to EMWD: low emissions, high efficiency, renewable fuel - November 20, 2007

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Tate & Lyle building biomass boiler to slash carbon emissions of London sugar refinery by 70%

Industrial ingredients and food processing giant Tate & Lyle announces it is implementing a £20 (€27.8/$ 41.4) million biomass boiler project at its East London sugar refinery, which will slash the carbon emissions from energy use by 70% in less than two years and turn the factory into a net energy producer. The carbon footprint of Tate & Lyle cane sugar, from far away field to product leaving the factory gate, will be reduced by 25% following the switch to renewable biomass. The factory in London is one of the largest cane refineries in the world, processing 1.1 million tonnes of sugar a year (image, click to enlarge).

The new biomass boiler, which will power the combined heat and power (CHP) plant for the factory, will mean Tate & Lyle can switch to renewable biomass to supply 70% of the energy it needs. Post 2009, with the boiler working at full capacity, the carbon footprint of cane sugar produced at the UK refinery will be reduced to 0.32 tonnes per 1 tonne of sugar.

Raw cane sugar milling is almost carbon neutral. Cane grows in the field, waste fibre from the cane (bagasse) powers the factory and the cane re-grows each year, often up to 10 times without the need for replanting since sugar cane is a semi-perennial. The raw sugar is then transported by Tate & Lyle to its UK refinery by ships, widely regarded as the most energy efficient mode of transport only producing very small levels of CO2 emissions per ton shipped.

The total capacity of the biomass boiler at the Thames plant will be 65MW. It will generate 80 tons of steam per hour at 45 bar (650psi) pressure and will run 24/7. The feedstock for the boiler will be wheat feed, a by-product of flour production. The factory will become a net exporter of energy to the grid with the biomass scheme ensuring this excess electricity is green.

Tate & Lyle also hopes to recycle the estimated 6,500 tonnes of ash from the boiler as a base for fertiliser or for use in the construction of building blocks, rather than going to landfill (more on utilising biomass ash as a construction material, see here).
Having recently confirmed what we’d already anticipated, that our carbon footprint is low at 0.43 tonnes per 1 tonne of sugar, we are now proud to be taking steps to reduce that even further with this project. This is more than a pledge - it's happening now, with construction already started. Furthermore, we believe the boiler being constructed at our Thames site is not only the largest of its kind for London, but also a first for the UK food and drink industry. At Tate & Lyle we have an overall target to reduce energy consumption by 3% per annum and this has been in place since 2000. In addition, we are currently a net-exporter to the National Grid at the refinery and once the biomass project is complete, the source will be green. - Ian Bacon, Chief Executive Tate & Lyle Sugars
Tate & Lyle’s carbon footprint was calculated by URS Corporation Ltd., an independent consultancy in carbon measurement, who have developed a tool to measure the carbon footprint of both the UK cane sugar refinery as well as the entire cane sugar production process from field to leaving the factory gates:
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Key stages of URS’ methodology included:
  1. Understanding the manufacturing process from raw material production through to distribution
  2. Developing a process map to identify each of the inputs and outputs of each stage including utility use as well as raw materials
  3. Defining the boundaries and scope of the footprint
  4. Data collection
  5. Data processing and calculation
Commenting in support of the biomass project, Callton Young, Director of Sustainability and Competitiveness at the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), said that climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the planet.
The planned 70% reduction in CO2 emissions associated with energy use is significant by any standards. Indeed, it is exemplary. It is exactly the sort of change in behaviour that FDF is encouraging under our Five-fold Environmental Ambition launched last month. If more companies follow Tate & Lyle’s example, a low carbon economy will quickly cease to be an aspiration and become a reality. - Callton Young, Director of Sustainability and Competitiveness at the Food & Drink Federation
Efforts to reduce carbon emissions at the Thames refinery are part of Tate & Lyle's group-wide environmental and energy saving measures, which has seen energy consumption per unit of output reduced by 1.2%; water consumption per unit of output reduced by 2.5%; and non hazardous solid waste consumption per unit of output reduced by 29.5% in the last year (calendar year 2006).

Tate & Lyle is a leading manufacturer of renewable food and industrial ingredients. It uses innovative technology to transform corn and sugar into value-added ingredients for customers in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, paper, packaging and building industries. The Company is a leader in cereal sweeteners and starches, sugar refining, value added food and industrial ingredients, and citric acid. Tate & Lyle is the world number-one in industrial starches and is the sole manufacturer of SPLENDA Sucralose.

Headquartered in London, Tate & Lyle operates more than 50 production facilities throughout Europe, the Americas and South East Asia. In the year to 31 March 2007, it employed 6,900 people in its subsidiaries with a further 2,300 employed in joint ventures. Sales in the year to 31 March 2007 totalled £4.0 billion.

Tate & Lyle: The Future's green for Tate & Lyle - November 26, 2007.

Biopact: The bioeconomy at work: buildings made of biomass ash? - May 17, 2007

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