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    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Scientists find global warming intensified El Niño in the past; provides clues for the future

Scientists from France and Chile have found [*French] that the climatic phenomenon known as El Niño intensified significantly because of global warming in the past. Their results offer a new starting point to investigate whether the extreme El Niño events that occured at the end of the 20th century were due to (anthropogenic) climate change, and whether they are a first signal of ever more intense extreme weather events in the regions hit by the phenomenon. The findings are published in Geophysical Research Letters.

El Niño ('Child Jesus') got its name because it generally occurs at the time of Christmas along the Peruvian coasts. This mode of variability of the climate, also called ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation), results from a series of interactions between the atmosphere and the tropical ocean. Its effects are drought in otherwise humid areas and, vice versa, precipitation and even floods in arid zones (schematic, click to enlarge).

Scientists qualify this phenomenon as 'quasi-cyclical' because its periodicity, which varies from 2 to 7 years, does not have a strict regularity. Drawing on research carried out for over 25 years by oceanographers, climatologists and meteorologists, the mechanisms driving El Niño events are becoming known better and better. However, it has been difficult to include and understand the influence of other modes of climate variability on the ENSO subsystem. More precisely, until now it was not known whether the intensity and the frequency of the phenomenon is undergoing changes because of planetary global warming.

Now a team made up of Chilean scientists and researchers from France's Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) sheds new light on the question. The researchers took sediment cores, going 80 metres deep, in the bay of Mejillones, located in the north of Chile, and analysed the geochemical data contained in the samples. In particular they zoomed in on the by-products of the decomposition of diatoms - unicellular planktonic algae - which allowed for a precise determination of the changes of ocean surface temperatures in this area between 1650 and 2000.

The researchers found a sea temperature drop of more than 2°C between 1820 and 1878. The same decrease was detected in two samples collected near the South American coast more than one thousand kilometers north and south of Mejillones. The findings prove the ocean temperatures observed since 1820 affected the entire coastline of western South America, from central Chile to the north of Peru. The entire stretch of ocean where the Humboldt current can be found was thus the theatre of a significant cooling during this period.

However, this conclusion is paradoxical because the beginning of the 19th century coincides with the end of the 'Small Ice Age' which was accompanied by a reheating of the planet. In order to supplement and double check the data, the scientists studied minerals contained in the sediment samples, which made it possible to confirm that these minerals were transported by the winds from the continent. From this they concluded that the dominant trade winds in the region were strengthened at the time, pushing back the layer of warm surface water towards the west, resulting in an upwelling of cold water found usually in the deep along the Pacific coasts of South America:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The assumption was confirmed by the measurement of the organic carbon flow which is directly related to an increase in the concentration of nutrients in the surface water. The increase in this flow, consistent with the observation of a 'cold phase' between 1820 and 1878, proves that the rise in the concentration in nutrients is the consequence of an upwelling of cold water.

The researchers then put forth the assumption that, in a climatic context of warming like the one which followed the end of the Small Ice Age, the important variation in temperature between the continent's land mass and that of the ocean would be responsible for this strengthening of the trade winds.

Whereas the coastal desert of Atacama was heated quickly during this period, the temperature of sea water would have increased much more slowly. Because this difference persisted and even grew, dominant winds intensified. By pushing back surface waters towards the west, these winds would thus have allowed the cooling of coastal water, modifying the normal mode of El Niño, which is usually characterized by a heating of the water.

Between the end of the Small Ice Age and the onset of the warming effects caused by anthropogenic climate change, the ENSO changed its mode.

These historical climatology studies also explain the observations made by chroniclers at the time who describe floods and an abrupt change in El Niño's behavior, occuring around 1820, along the peaceful coasts of South America.

Since the beginning of the 19th century, from the end of the Small Ice Age onwards, the ENSO has been characterized by abnormal rains occuring at in central Chile during the southern winter and on the northern coast of Peru during the next southern summer.

The new results underline the complexity of the interactions between global changes in the climate, the particularities of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and regional climatic changes.

Now it remains to be determined whether the very strong intensity of the two extreme El Niño events occuring at the end of the 20th century, in 1982-1983 and again in 1997-1998, are also related to the recent intensification of the warming of the land mass caused by global warming. If that were indeed the case, El Niño could then become increasingly intense and have destructive impacts on the coasts of South America, but also in other areas of the planet.

The research was undertaken by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in collaboration with the Universities of Chile and Concepción. They follow upon the doctoral thesis of Gabriel Vargas supported at the University of Bordeaux I and financed by the IRD.

(Note, Chilean universities recently launched a bioenergy program based on drought-tolerant energy crops to be planted in the arid zones along the coast. The project will have to take into account potential for more extreme El Niño events in the future.)

Translated for Biopact by Laurens Rademakers, 2007, CC.

Vargas G., Pantoja S., Rutllant J. A., Lange C. B., Ortlieb L. "Enhancement of coastal upwelling and interdecadal ENSO-like variability in the Peru-Chile Current since late 19th century", Geophysical Research Letters, 2007, 34 (13), doi:10.1029/2006GL028812

AlphaGalileo: El Niño affecté par le réchauffement de la planète - December 10, 2007.

IRD: Les recherches sur le climat à l'IRD - dossier [*.pdf] - 2007.

Biopact: Chile and the U.S. to cooperate on biofuels development - July 14, 2007

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BioReGen project expands: greening brownfield sites with energy crops and biofuels

A pioneering EU-funded project which could green thousands of acres of derelict brownfield sites in North East England while providing climate friendly bioenergy is expanding after successful trials. The University of Teesside’s Clean Environment Management Centre (CLEMANCE) is using energy crops to clean up contaminated sites once used by industry, a process known as phytoremediation. The combination of phytoremediation, wildlife habitat restoration and renewable bioenergy and biofuel production offers a win-win-win synergy - sustainability at its best.

Entitled BioReGen ('Biomass, Remediation, reGeneration'), the project began in 2004 with test planting at several small brownfield sites, the first being a former enamel works at Fylands Bridge, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham. The willow trees and the miscanthus, reed canary and switch grasses cleaned up the soil by absorbing contaminants such as zinc, copper, cadmium and heavy metals in coal ash. Plants break these pollutants down into harmless byproducts and either incorporate them into their roots, stems and leaves or release the clean substances into the air (schematic, click to enlarge).

BioReGen believes the method can work on bigger sites and planting has now been carried out on five larger areas, each covering a hectare and all with a history of heavy industrial use. The five full-scale demonstration sites are at: (1) the former Haverton Hill shipyard on the River Tees, near the Transporter Bridge; (2) part of the old Head Wrightson engineering site, at the Tees Barrage, made famous by Margaret Thatcher’s Walk in the Wilderness during a visit to Teesside two decades ago; (3) a former colliery and coal yard at Binchester, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham; (4) Warden Law, a landfill site, and former gravel pit, near Sunderland; (5) a former sewage treatment works at Rainton Bridge, near Houghton-le-Spring, Wearside.

CLEMANCE believes the work, supported by a €1.2 million grant from the European Union’s LIFE-Environment research programme, has major implications for greening the industrial landscape of the past.
When we started this project, we did not know if we could grow plants on such contaminated land but it has been a success everywhere we have tried it. We have proved that phytoremediation works and what works on a small site can also do so on much larger sites as well. It is also much cheaper than having to clean up a site or remove contaminated soils to landfill sites. Developers looking to do that spend millions of pounds per hectare, whereas our method costs only tens of thousands of pounds. - Dr Richard Lord, CLEMANCE’s Programme Leader for Contaminated Land and Water
The potential of the project is described as 'huge', because there are 1,155 hectares of brownfield land in the Tees Valley alone. However, the old dirty industrial past stretches across the entire industrialised world and has transformed much of its landscape into sites that need to be cleaned up.

Phytoremediation is not a quick fix, though. To get a site ready for development through this method could take years but BioReGen thinks it is on the right track (however, recently scientists designed an energy crop with a vastly improved phytoremediation capacity, speeding up the process considerably - more here). CLEMANCE researchers regard their activity as a holding operation until the sites are needed for industry again. In the meantime, the greened sites are made attractive again, and good wildlife habitats, rather than visions of unsightly dereliction which blight the image of the North-East. The project is helping to turn the Tees Valley - the ultimate symbol of a polluted landscape - into a 'Trees Valley' instead.

But then the story gets even better. CLEMANCE has been negotiating with energy provider SembCorp about providing willow to the company’s recently-opened Wilton 10 biomass power station, on the Wilton International site near Redcar, east Cleveland:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Wilton 10 is a £60m biomass power station, the first of its type in the UK, which began generating this summer and is capable of producing energy for 30,000 properties. Operated by SembCorp Utilities UK, it burns wood, a classic example of an infinitely renewable fuel which is also ‘carbon neutral’.

Wilton 10 is helping to sustain the planting and harvesting of woodland and is a development which neatly ties in with the pioneering phytoremediation project.

When the willow has been coppiced, or cut back, the resulting timber could help feed Wilton 10’s voracious appetite for 300,000 tonnes of wood a year. Forty per cent of the station’s required timber will be recycled and a similar amount will eventually be sourced from energy crops, such as those planted by CLEMANCE.

According to Dr Lord, Wilton 10 has a huge appetite for timber and BioReGen can help provide it, particularly if it expands its planting over larger areas. What started as a research project has thus found a commercial application.
Wilton 10 could provide a real opportunity to commercialise our work by using willow trees as an energy crop. This is as sustainable as it gets. Wilton 10 has already generated national and international interest. - Dr Lord
It doesn't come as a surprise that other researchers, both in the EU and the US, are looking at creating similar win-win situations.

Recently, scientists led by the University of Washington's Sharon Doty reported that they succeeded in genetically engineering poplar plants with a dramatically improved capacity to clean up contaminated sites. Doty, an assistant professor of forest resources, told Biopact that the ideal end of phytoremediation projects based on the trees would be to use the plants as a bioenergy feedstock. After all, poplar has been identified as a promising, fast-growing energy crop (previous post).

Other scientists in France looked at miscanthus, an energy crop, to clean up brown fields (more here); Michigan State University researchers are working on a similar project and are examining the possibility that some oilseed crops like soybeans, sunflower and canola, and other crops such as corn and switchgrass, can be grown on abandoned industrial sites for use in ethanol or biodiesel fuel production (previous post). Finally, scientists have identified hybrid poplars as good candidates for soaking up and cleaning polluted water from coal mining sites (earlier post).

BioReGen is short for "Biomass, Remediation reGeneration: Re-using brownfield sites for renewable energy crops". It is a 4-5 year project funded by the EU's Life III Environment Programme to investigate whether brownfield sites can be used to grow plants for fuel.

Photo: University of Teesside researchers planting energy crops to phytoremediate a polluted site under an EU-sponsored project called BioReGen. Credit: BioReGen.

AlphaGalileo: Pioneering project helps to transform brownfield sites into the ‘Trees Valley' - December 10.

John Dean, "Green Revolution", Research & Enterprise, a University of Teesside Magazine, Issue Six, pp. 34-35 (December 2007).

BioReGen project website.

Biopact: Scientists dramatically improve poplar's capacity to clean up polluted sites - potential to couple phytoremediation to bioenergy - October 17, 2007

Biopact: Turning brownfields into greenfields with the help of biofuels - August 09, 2006

Biopact: Energy crops may soak up methane water - August 15, 2006

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Evergreen BioFuels teams up with large cooperative to manage 100,000 ton biomass pellet plant

Evergreen BioFuels USA announced today an agreement with Centerview, Missouri-based Show Me Energy Cooperative (SMEC), which is comprised of 400 farm businesses, to engineer, build and manage one of the largest biomass pellet fuel production plants in North America. When completed in early 2008, the $6.5 million plant will produce enough biomass to not only be used in coal utility energy production, but also meet the heating needs of about 20,000 homes.

Evergeen BioFuels (EBF) already calls itself a 'carbon negative' bioenergy company, because it anticipates that its biomass pellets will not only be co-fired with coal, but used in the future in dedicated biomass power plants that capture CO2 and bury it underground. If this indeed happens, the electricity and heat thus produced will show a 'negative emissions' balance and take CO2 out of the atmosphere, instead of merely reducing emissions. Other renewables are 'carbon-neutral' at best in that they do not add new emissions (more on carbon-negative bioenergy here and here).

The agreement between EBF and SMEC will see the annual production of 100,000 tons of biomass pellet fuels, the energy equivalent of 300,000 barrels of crude oil, which EBF will market into the local energy market to replace coal. This agreement is being closely watched by policy makers in Washington D.C., as well as by many other cooperatives who have expressed an interest in developing similar production facilities.
Our goal is to produce millions of tons of renewable energy pellets to displace coal use. If adopted on a global scale, this has the potential to displace billions of tons of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for today’s climate change crisis. While others are relying on food crops to create energy, SMEC is demonstrating a sustainable, environmentally friendly way that doesn’t threaten the food supply or skew the market. - Mark Drisdelle, CEO of Evergreen BioFuels USA
The production of pellets can use any type of cellulose-based fibers including, wood and crop residues, dedicated energy crops like switchgrass and industrial fibers. These are then formed by extruding them into dense cylindrical pellets with predictable combustion characteristics, to serve as a cleaner-burning alternative to carbon-emitting fuels currently in use by power plants and utilities. The amount of energy generated by solid fuel pellets is similar to that of coal, but can be burned at significantly lower costs due to the fact that they are carbon neutral while reducing other polluting emissions like sulfur and nitrogen oxides.

Biomass pellets have the logistical peculiarity that they behave like a fluid and can be shipped, stored and handled in an efficient manner, despite their lower volumetric energy density compared to coal:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

At least half of Show Me Energy’s production of Power Pellets is destined to be co-fired with coal, as an immediate means of addressing the issue of reducing carbon emissions. EBF’s pellet fuel is engineered to work with existing utility plant infrastructure without the need for replacement or retrofit of existing technology and equipment. According to the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) this approach of co-firing renewable energy with coal is a near term solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions which are responsible for climate change.
Since our inception in 2003, our commitment is to be a leading model for other energy co-ops in biomass production and we also strive to benefit the local agricultural marketplace. Our partnership with EBF will allow farm communities and businesses to diversify farm income, keep energy production in state, and effect change globally by replacing coal with clean renewable, locally grown energy crops. - Steve Flick, board of directors president of SMEC
Evergreen BioFuels stands at the forefront in the development and manufacturing of clean renewable forms of energy for power plants, enabling them to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a cleaner future. Through the use of clean, renewable bioenergy solutions, Evergreen BioFuels is creating a future where the global economical growth doesn't have a negative impact on the environment.

Headquartered in Montreal, Evergreen BioFuels and Delaware the company develops, manufactures and distributes the highest quality biomass pellets that release clean, renewable energy with proven efficiency. Utilizing patent-pending technology innovations, Evergreen BioFuels is to offer sustainable green energy solutions to prevent global warming in a carbon-constrained future.

Show Me Energy Cooperative is a non-profit, producer owned, cooperative founded to support the development of renewable biomass energy sources in West Central Missouri through the establishment of suitable conditions in the field of energy development which incorporate the efforts, products, and goals of local agricultural biomass producers. SMEC provides additional revenue streams for farmers and producers for their products by utilization in biomass energy production and support and reinforce local economy and community through employment and development of renewable, sustainable, technologies.

SMEC seeks to keep its member-owners informed about their co-op business, economic, political, charitable, and social environments as well as help to improve the quality of life, both now and in the foreseeable future, in the areas where Show Me Energy Cooperative has a business, purchasing, or distributing presence.

On carbon-negative biofuels and bioenergy, see:
The studies by the Abrupt Climate Change Strategy (ACCS) group.

Peter Read and Jonathan Lermit: "Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage (BECS): a Sequential Decision Approach to the threat of Abrupt Climate Change", Energy, Volume 30, Issue 14, November 2005, Pages 2654-2671.

Noim Uddin and Leonardo Barreto, "Biomass-fired cogeneration systems with CO2 capture and storage", Renewable Energy, Volume 32, Issue 6, May 2007, Pages 1006-1019, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2006.04.009

Stefan Grönkvist, Kenneth Möllersten, Kim Pingoud, "Equal Opportunity for Biomass in Greenhouse Gas Accounting of CO2 Capture and Storage: A Step Towards More Cost-Effective Climate Change Mitigation Regimes", Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Volume 11, Numbers 5-6 / September, 2006, DOI 10.1007/s11027-006-9034-9

Christian Azar, Kristian Lindgren, Eric Larson and Kenneth Möllersten, "Carbon Capture and Storage From Fossil Fuels and Biomass – Costs and Potential Role in Stabilizing the Atmosphere", Climatic Change, Volume 74, Numbers 1-3 / January, 2006, DOI 10.1007/s10584-005-3484-7

David Tilman, Jason Hill, Clarence Lehman, "Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass", Science, 8 December 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5805, pp. 1598 - 1600, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133306

James S. Rhodesa and David W. Keithb, "Engineering economic analysis of biomass IGCC with carbon capture and storage", Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 29, Issue 6, December 2005, Pages 440-450.

Further reading:
Biopact: IPCC to warn of 'abrupt' climate change: emergency case for carbon-negative biofuels kicks in - November 16, 2007

Biopact: Carbon-negative bioenergy is here: GreatPoint Energy to build biomass gasification pilot plant with carbon capture and storage - October 25, 2007

Biopact: A quick look at 'fourth generation' biofuels - October 08, 2007

Biopact: Green steel made from tropical biomass - European project - February 08, 2007

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UN's IFAD invests $1.5 million in pro-poor biofuels project

The United Nations' specialized agency for rural development, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announces that it supports a biofuels project led by led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The project is aimed at tapping the biofuels opportunity as a means for poverty alleviation amongst some of the world's poorest farmers, namely those living drylands. IFAD has committed US$1.5 million in funding for the three-year research-for-development project. With it, the UN indicates that, when implemented in a smart way, biofuels do offer a major opportunity for the improvement of livelihoods in the rural parts of the developing world through strengthening food and energy security.

The IFAD, being the leading expert body on rural development and poverty alleviation in the South, is the first among the development investors supporting international agricultural research institutes under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the consortium of organisations that created the Green Revolution. The project will facilitate farmers and entrepreneurs to utilize sweet sorghum stalks and cassava roots in producing ethanol, and seeds of jatropha in producing biodiesel. As part of its pro-poor biofuels initiative the ICRISAT recently developed high-yielding, drought tolerant sweet sorghum hybrids that allow farmers to grow food, fiber, feed and fuel production in an integrated manner (previous post).

According to the IFAD, 75 percent of the world's poorest people live in rural areas, a large part of them in semi-arid environments. Focusing on these areas is therefor of major importance for poverty reduction. The Inter-Center biofuels project, involving ICRISAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the appropriate national agricultural research centers, will involve popularization of the cultivation of sweet sorghum in India, the Philippines, China and Mali; cassava in Vietnam and Colombia; and jatropha in India and Mali. Research results on producing ethanol from the juice of stalks of sweet sorghum and roots of cassava, and biodiesel from the seeds of jatropha are quite encouraging.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the project will support the farmers of the drylands with the latest research and research products and link them with the biofuel market. Thus they will be able to improve their incomes and livelihoods from the biofuel revolution. He thanked IFAD for committing support to this unique project that linked multiple crops and institutions across multiple continents.

The project facilitates entrepreneurs to utilize sweet sorghum stalks and cassava roots in producing ethanol, and seeds of jatropha in producing biodiesel. The above program will be implemented by sensitizing farmers, research partners and other stakeholders in the production and supply chain about biofuel production. This will enable them to work together and make use of project's research outputs, such as, improved target crop cultivars, production packages, seed systems, processing technologies (including management of effluents and exploitation of by-products), and learn about innovative input and market linkages developed for different agro-eco-regions in the target countries.

In addition, the project draws upon the strength of small-scale farmers' know-how in formulating and implementing various activities:
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The overall purpose of the project is thus to facilitate small-scale farmers and landless poor to take advantage of the market demand for their crops for biofuel production and/or utilize the biofuels for local use (e.g. running motor pump), which in turn, will help them improve their livelihoods and rehabilitate the degraded lands (wherever jatropha and local species of biodiesel plantations are taken up).

The project also envisages facilitating the development of farmer-friendly procedures to enable them to take advantage of the clean development mechanism (CDM), of the Kyoto protocol, to improve their livelihoods. The project contributes to energy self-sufficiency of the target countries.

Biofuels are gaining importance as fossil fuel prices are skyrocketing and also the growing concerns globally over environmental pollution associated with fossil fuels. Considering these issues, several developed and developing countries are formulating policies for mandatory blending of ethanol and biodiesel (produced from renewable sources) with fossil fuels (petrol and diesel) resulting in a huge demand for raw materials for producing biofuels.

In the semi-arid and seasonally dry tropics/sub tropics of India, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Mali and Colombia millions of poor farmers cultivate sorghum and cassava as staple food and fodder crops. Jatropha is grown as hedge/avenue and forest shrub/tree to extract oil from the seeds for use in lighting and for other uses such as leather tanning.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is a nonprofit, non-political organization that does innovative agricultural research and capacity building for sustainable development with a wide array of partners across the globe. ICRISAT's mission is to help empower 600 million poor people to overcome hunger, poverty and a degraded environment in the dry tropics through better agriculture. ICRISAT belongs to the Alliance of Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

CIAT is a not-for-profit organization that conducts socially and environmentally progressive research aimed at reducing hunger and poverty and preserving natural resources in developing countries. CIAT is one of the 15 centers that make up the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Seventy-five per cent of the world's poorest people - 800 million women, children and men - liv in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods.

Working with rural poor people, governments, donors, non-governmental organizations and many other partners, IFAD focuses on country-specific solutions, which can involve increasing rural poor peoples' access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

Picture: farmer in Andhra Pradesh, India, growing the ICRISAT sweet sorghum hybrid. Credit: ICRISAT.

ICRISAT: IFAD supports biofuels research-for-development project led by ICRISAT - December 6, 2007.

CGIAR News: Sweet Light Alternative (ethanol for poverty reduction) - June 2007.

Biopact: Sweet super sorghum - yield data for the ICRISAT hybrid - February 21, 2007

Biopact: ICRISAT's pro-poor biofuel projects provide livelihood and food security to landless farmers in India - August 13, 2007

Biopact: ICRISAT launches pro-poor biofuels initiative in drylands - March 15, 2007

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Napier University launches Biofuel Research Centre focused on second-generation fuels

Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, has launched a Biofuel Research Centre (BfRC) to find sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy. The BfRC, the first of its kind in the UK and led by Dr Martin Tangney, is committed to researching and developing second-generation biofuel from a potentially diverse range of non-food energy crops and waste biomass.

As an expert in the biological production of butanol, Dr Tangney has already secured £500,000 in research funding to study biofuel and is establishing the centre to act as a portal between industry, government, academia and the public; giving accurate and consistent messages across all relevant parties.

The UK Road Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) requires five per cent of all UK fuel sold on UK forecourts to come from a renewable source by 2010, while the EU Biofuels Directive sets reference values of a 5.75 per cent market share for biofuel.
While the global production of biofuels is doubling every few years, there have been negative impacts on biodiversity, food prices and carbon emissions as land has been inappropriately cleared to plant first-generation crops. There are already innovative projects in Scotland trialling biofuels from more sustainable sources than food crops such as waste material, but of course more research and development needs to be done. - David Cairns, Minister of State at the Scotland Office
Jim Mathers, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism at Scottish Government has also shown his support for the project. He said the Scottish Government believes renewable energy will give citizens a vibrant energy sector that makes a significant contribution to Scotland's future wealth and prosperity:
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The BfRC will be exploring how to best to exploit technologies to make a real, sustainable and cost-effective contribution to tackling climate change with second-generation biofuels.

Dr Andrew Rickman OBE, Chairman of Green Biologics, who will officially open the centre said industry is calling for legislation that will clarify the issues surrounding biofuel, hoping that the centre will help to achieve this.

Professor Joan Stringer, Principal & Vice-Chancellor of Napier University added that sustainability is a hugely relevant issue and one of Napier's highest priorities. The opening of the centre not only shows the university's commitment to this, but also its dedication to lead new areas of research, in line with its vision to become Scotland's best modern university.

Napier University: Napier Launches the UK’s First Biofuel Research Centre of its Kind - December 10, 2007.

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