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    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    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.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Bacteria in water buffalo's rumen may help produce cellulosic biofuels

According to a Filipino- American scientist, bacteria in the rumen of a subspecies of water buffalo could help produce lignocellulosic biofuels. Dr. Fiorello Abenes, a professor emeritus of animal and veterinary sciences at CalPoly Pomona University in California, says the Carabao's rumen fluid contains organisms that can help transform rice stubble and straw and other types of non-food biomass into bioethanol.


The natural conversion of biomass in the buffalo's pouch could constitute the first fermentation step that breaks down the difficult cell walls of lignocellulosic biomass, to release the sugars contained in it. It could thus become the 'mother liquor' of ethanol, and make the first and most difficult step in the production of cellulosic ethanol more affordable. A large group of scientists across the world is researching ways to achieve the same goal, but their strategies are mostly based on expensive enzymes, chemical or physical hydrolysis or even synthetic organisms.

When effective techniques are found to convert lignocellulose - the planet's most abundant molecule found in all plants - we enter a world of almost 'endless' biofuels. Waste biomass from forestry and agriculutre is so abundant that its use for biofuels would end the fuel versus food debate.

The theoretical basis for Abenes' findings was discussed in a lecture at the Institute of Graduate Studies at the Central Luzon State University. Results were validated by experiments conducted at the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).
The experiments confirmed the ability of the model to produce ethanol using rumen microorganisms as first stage fermenters, followed by yeasts in the final fermenting stage.- Dr. Fiorello Abenes
Abenes, who obtained his doctoral degree in animal science at the University of Connecticut in 1975, worked for many years as regional swine specialist in Alberta, Canada, and at the Dairy Training and Research Institute of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations before moving to CalPoly Pomona University. He retired at 55 years old in that university in 2005 and is now engaged in various private enterprises in the United States. Abenes graduated with the degree of agricultural education from the CLSU in 1969. He was among the first Filipinos staying abroad who responded to the government’s Balik-Scientist program in 1975.

Abenes thinks it will not be too difficult to make the bacteria from the buffalo's pouch available on a large scale: "We can extract the rumen fluid from carabao and multiply [it] many times for commercial production of ethanol from biomass,” he said.

The process

In his lecture at the CLSU, Abenes said the carabao is a model for a way to convert lignocellulose to ethanol. Current high tech approaches are too expensive under Philippine conditions, he says.

The carabao is known for its ability to subsist on low quality forage, including rice stubble and straw. This ability is conferred upon the animal by the rumen that digests cellulose and hemicellulose, turning them into methane and volatile fatty acids (VFAs):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The methane is expelled when the carabao belches while the VFAs are parceled between the host animal and the microorganisms. The host animal uses the VFAs as a source of energy. The microorganisms use them to support its life functions by synthesizing glucose.

Abenes said the feasibility of the method, as suggested by 'the carabao paradigm', has been validated in experiments conducted by the PCC. He said the rumen fluid can turn lignocellulose into fermentable carbohydrates and the fermentable carbohydrates can be turned into alcohol using common yeast.

Abenes, who conducted the experiment with PCC scientist Perla Florendo, said because of the promising results of the experiment they submitted a paper to a national science and technology contest in energy research and development. The researchers have no illusion about winning any prize due to the limited scope of the project but its submission at least documents that the first research in this area was conducted at PCC and CLSU.

He said preliminary calculations based on theoretical models have indicated that as much as 117 liters of alcohol can be distilled from 1,000 kg of biomass materials.

Given the natural abundance of biomass, the use of 85 percent ethanol for flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) may be possible, he said. There is now a technology for the conversion of vehicles using engine fuel to FFV at an affordable cost, he added.

Rural boost

Abenes said the commercial production of ethanol using the carabao model can involve residents of rural areas. They can be part of the factory assembly line by performing the tasks involved in the digestion process (in bioreactor containers) of the biomass material with the use of the rumen fluid that will be supplied to them.

The alcohol from the “bacterial beer” collected from the participating rural residents can be further refined through a solar distiller, he said. The distiller is now being designed by engineers from CLSU, he said.

Abenes also said residents who will be involved in this project can have added income, making the project a boost to rural economy.

Inquirer: Carabao may be key to biofuel, says scientist - January 26, 2008.


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