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    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    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.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Schmack Biogas and HgCapital in €130 million deal on biogas plants

The world's largest biogas plant manufacturer Schmack Biogas AG and HgCapital, a leading private equity investor in Europe's renewables sector, have signed a €130 ($189) million framework agreement that will run until 2010. Under the agreement, Schmack Biogas will build 12 to 15 biogas plants with a combined capacity of approximately 30 MW. Biogas is seen by HgCapital as a sector with a huge growth potential, especially because the efficient biofuel can be fed into existing natural gas pipeline networks and because it accomodates a broad diversity of biomass feedstocks.

The bulk of the plant construction volume is expected to be ordered in 2008 and 2009. The framework agreement also covers the development of the respective project sites. Schmack Biogas AG assumes that the site development services provided will be reflected in 2007 and 2008 sales and earnings.

Ulrich Schmack, CEO of Schmack Biogas AG, says HgCapital is an experienced investor in renewable energies and already has extensive experience with biogas technology. Against this background, the strategic partnership is seen as all the more valuable. Schmack Biogas is particularly pleased that Regensburg based Aufwind Schmack - also involved in wind and geothermal projects - will be in charge of the commercial management of the projects, as the company has already worked successfully with HgCapital in the past.
We believe that biogas is the most technically efficient and economically attractive segment of the bioenergy industry and that the feeding-in of biogas into the natural gas grid is a market with huge potential. [...] In Schmack Biogas we have found a partner that combines mature technology with a compelling and innovative feedstock and service concept. - Emma Tinker, Director at HgCapital
Through Aufwind Schmack HgCapital has already invested in a number of biogas plants in Germany that use Schmack Biogas’s technologies (see animation):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

HgCapital makes long-term equity investments in Western European renewable energy projects and development companies. It covers a broad spectrum of renewable energy technologies and focuses on projects and companies with total investment volumes of €20-€500 million. It is also active as a buyout investor with a focus on investments in businesses with enterprise values ranging between €75 and €750 million.

HgCapital's business model combines sector specialisation with pro-active company support as well as the corresponding management expertise across each phase of the investment process. HgCapital manages more than €2.7 billion for some of the world’s leading institutional and private investors. Its goal is to achieve outstanding results for our investors, management teams and intermediaries. on HgCapital please visit .

Schmack Biogas AG is a leading German supplier of advanced biogas plants. Established in 1995, the company provides its services through two divisions, namely Planning and Construction and Plant Management and Service, and is one of the few full-service providers in the industry. Apart from technical support, the company focuses on comprehensive microbiological service.

Through its subsidiary, Schmack Energie Holding the company now also operates its own plants and markets the biogas produced as well as the electricity and heat generated – mainly together with joint venture partners. To date, Schmack Biogas has built 204 plants with a combined nominal output of approx. 61 MW.

In Europe, biogas is being developed on a large scale for the production of fuels for stationary power generation (to be used in natural gas plants, in cogeneration units or in fuel cells), as well as for the transport sector (earlier post and here). It is being fed into the natural gas grid on an increasingly large scale (previous post and especially here) or in dedicated pipelines supplying cities, while some are creating real biorefineries around it that deliver green specialty chemicals, fuels and power (earlier post). The green gas can be made by the anaerobic fermentation of biomass, either obtained from dedicated energy crops (such as specially bred grass species, biogas maize or sugarcane), or from industrial, municipal or agricultural waste-streams.

Of all biofuels, biogas delivers most energy per hectare of crops. It is also the least carbon intensive production path, with some biogas pathways actually delivering carbon-negative bioenergy (earlier post and here). Importantly, biogas can be integrated in carbon capture and storage systems (CCS), in a way that presents advantages over other CCS pathways (earlier post).

According to a recent assessment of the sector, the world market for biogas currently has a value of around €2 billion, expected to grow to €25 billion by 2020 (previous post). But the competition is growing, worldwide. Some projections show biogas may replace all of Europe's natural gas imports from Russia by 2020 and yield up to 500 billion cubic meters per year (earlier post).

Animation: integrated biogas technologies developed by Schmack Biogas. Credit: Schmack Biogas AG.

Schmack Biogas AG: Schmack Biogas signs framework agreement with HgCapital - Order volume of approx. EUR 130 million until 2010 - December 20, 2007.

Biopact: Market study tracks global boom in biogas, Germany technology leader - July 13, 2007

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Karnataka state produces draft biofuel policy

India's southwestern state of Karnataka has produced a draft biofuel policy suggesting legislation to mandate the use of the green fuels both in the transport and industrial sector. The policy projects major social and economic benefits to emerge for the state's predominantly rural population, especially its sugarcane farmers who face a crisis.

The document was prepared by a subcommittee of experts constituted by the Agriculture Department and as a first step proposed the mandatory use of biofuel in all state-owned vehicles, including those of public sector undertakings. It further recommends a mandate for the use of bioenergy in stationary applications, including power stations and generators of the industrial sector.

The draft policy wants Karnataka to follow the Union Government’s target of blending 5 per cent biofuel with fossil fuel next year, thereafter progressively stepping it up to 10 per cent by 2015, 15 per cent by 2020 and ultimately to 20 per cent by 2025.

Biofuel expert Balakrishna Gowda, member of the subcommittee, said the biofuel sector will provide supplementary incomes to farmers, especially sugarcane growers, who are in dire straits owing to the crash in prices of various agricultural produce. While first generation biodiesel is produced from the seeds of neem, jatropa, honge and other oilseed bearing species, ethanol will be produced from sugarcane, sweet sorghum and other sugar and starch-rich crops. Later on, cellulosic biomass will be the feedstock for advanced biofuels.

Karnataka is one of India's key sugarcane growing areas (map, click to enlarge), with over 300,000 hectares dedicated to the crop and over 40 sugar factories in operation. However, despite a record global output in sugarcane ethanol, world sugar prices have declined over the past year, affecting millions of farmers across the country (here, here and here). In October, Karnataka's farmers joined their collegues from across the nation in pressuring the government into mandating biofuels, to take the sugar industry out of its crisis (here).

Both national and state governments responded positively and see the biofuels sector as an opportunity to alleviate rural poverty and economic insecurity. Members of Karnataka's subcommittee on biofuels project the following numbers to apply to the sector as it would emerge in the state once the policy comes into force:
  • 500,000 hectares of unused farmland land suitable for energy crops and trees would be devoted to bioenergy
  • biofuels and bioenergy would provide 200,000,000 - 250,000,000 rupees (€3.5/$5m - €4.37/$6.35) of net annual income for each of the state's 29 districts, or a total of €100-127 / $145-184 million.
  • the bioenergy sector would offer additional employment for 15 to 60 days a year in rural areas; roughly 66% of Karnataka's 53 million inhabitants live in rural areas, wih 56% of the state's workforce employed in agriculture
  • with an estimated poverty ratio of 25% and much of this due to hidden rural unemployment, the biofuels industry is set to play a key role in alleviating rural poverty
To achieve the social benefits of biofuels, the draft policy recommends the creation of oil extraction units at the village, taluk and district-levels, including those managed by the community at panchayats besides promoting small scale extraction units at home-level. To encourage the biofuel production, the draft policy has recommended tax holidays and various incentives besides remunerative prices.

Laying emphasis on the marketing network, the committee also recommends establishing a cooperative market system on the lines of milk unions with assured price and purchase policy. Plans are also afoot to derive carbon trading benefits from this eco-friendly activity:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The sub-committee further suggests the creation of an autonomous board to oversee the implementation of the biofuel policy and to monitor the activities related to research and development.

The draft policy has now been circulated to representatives of various bodies and institutions to elicit their views.

The draft biofuel policy suggests popularising the use of biofuels by making it mandatory for vehicles of the government agencies, captive fleets and machinery of industrial organisations and companies. The Karnataka state public transport corporation transports an average of 2.2 million passengers daily and employs about 25,000 people. It would use biofuels in its fleet of more than 10,000 buses.

The document comes at a time of high oil prices, with biofuels expected to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and to save foreign exchange. India imports nearly three-fourths of its crude oil requirement and spent more than $57 billion in 2006-07 for the purpose - almost equal to the country's entire trade deficit. Recently, with oil at $80 per barrel Palaniappan Chidambaram, Finance Minister of India, called these prices 'outrageous' and dangerous to the country's development.
The price of crude oil is an enormous external risk. Since these outrageous prices cannot be fully passed through to the consumers in India, the burden falls largely on the domestic budget and constrains our capacity for investment. - Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram
Biofuels are largely expected to be competitive with oil products, especially when they are produced from highly efficient crops like sugarcane and sorghum, which can be grown in abundance in Karnataka and for which the state has a strong infrastructure already in place (sugarcane and sugar mills). Moreover, Karnataka is India's biotech hub, scoring strong on innovation and research and development in the biotechnology sector, which is expected to play a key role in future biofuels.

In addition, the policy document notes efficiently produced biofuels reduce environmental pollution: they show a substantial reduction in the emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide as well as in particulate matter. As more stringent fuel emission norms are expected to be implemented in the near future, biofuels can take advantage of their low emissions profile.


The Hindu: Panel recomnmends mandatory use of biofuel in State-owned vehicles - December 22, 2007.

The Hindu: Sugarcane growers warn of protests - December 20, 2007.

WebIndia: Karnataka farmers bat for ethanol production by sugar units - October 14, 2007.

Biopact: World sugar prices keep falling, despite ethanol boom - July 22, 2007

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

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