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    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    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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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Native American tribes and grad students receive $3 million to tap forests and farms for biofuels in Washington

The University of Washington has launched a $3 million program that will team doctoral students, faculty and local Native American tribes to transform local forestry and agricultural waste into new generations of biofuels. The award for graduate education was awarded by the National Science Foundation.

The program's goals are to create a new generation of PhD graduates in sustainable energy, and develop local sources of renewable fuels. The students will learn to consider not only economic benefit, but the environmental and social implications of their designs. The program therefor takes a social, economic and environmental lifecycle or 'cradle-to-cradle' approach to bioenergy and biofuels from the very start.

The IGERT award, for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training, funds six interdisciplinary doctoral students each year for five years. Program partners include the University of Washington's College of Engineering, the College of Forest Resources and the American Indian Studies Program.

The bioenergy experts in the making will follow a curriculum that includes topics like 'Sustainability & Design for Environment', 'Sustainable Resources in Indigenous Communities', 'Economics of Conservation', 'Plant-Microbe Interactions', 'Bio-fuel processing', 'Life Cycle Assessment', 'Engineering, Resource Management and Culture', and 'Technology Assessment in Indigenous Communities'. The centerpiece of the program is a two quarter multidisciplinary design and resource management project that will involve collaboration with Washington State Native American communities.

Local resources
Biofuels, energy sources from plants, are popular because they’re often domestically produced, renewable, and close to 'carbon-neutral' - meaning the plants suck up the same quantity of CO2 while growing that they release when converted into fuels and burned. But right now, biodiesel and ethanol are generally made from plants such as corn or soy imported from other states, or tropical oils imported from other nations. The new BioEnergy IGERT program will try to identify local alternatives.

A major emphasis will be forestry waste from the state's large forests (map, click to enlarge), the branches and debris that normally get burned or left behind to cause a fire hazard, and residue from paper mills. Students will also look at agricultural waste such as leftovers from apple and wheat crops. Converting these products to fuel creates a new source of energy and also reduces the quantity of material going to landfills and emissions from burning waste.

Transforming these wastes into a liquid fuel that fits in a gas tank is not easy. The alternative to first generation fuels based on easily extractible sugars, starches or oils, is cellulosic products, like wood or agricultural waste, which we can’t eat, but have repeating sugars embedded in their structures. These complex sugars are much more difficult to extract. But it is not impossible.

Cellulosic biofuels

According to Dan Schwartz, professor of chemical engineering and leader of the interdisciplinary group that has received the multimillion-dollar award, wood can be processed into a product that resembles brown sugar or molasses. These technologies do exist, he says, but they are not yet economical, nor can they be operated at sufficient scale right now:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Students in the program will work on these types of engineering challenges for sustainable energy. They will also consider social and environmental impacts. The program emphasizes 'cradle-to-cradle' analyses that compare the overall impact of different energy sources. How much energy does it take to harvest and process the resource? Where does it go when it’s burned as fuel? Is it reducing the food supply? What would it take to do it on a large scale? Are there social benefits, such as increasing local employment?
Understanding the energy and environmental impacts of biomass production, transportation and conversion into biofuels allows us to engineer systems that maximize the benefits of switching to biofuels. - Joyce Cooper, associate professor of mechanical engineering who performs life-cycle assessments
Native Americans
Another major emphasis of the grant is working with Native American communities. Native Americans are underrepresented in doctoral programs and the project will recruit students from those communities, Schwartz said. Partners include the Yakama Nation in southern Washington and the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula.

Washington state tribes’ natural resources are more valuable than those of tribes in any other state except for Alaska and California, said Tom Colonnese, director of the UW’s American Indian Studies program and member of the program board. The Yakama Nation, located on 1.2 million acres in south-central Washington, controls more forestry resources than any other Native American tribe in the country.

While each doctoral student in the program will work on a traditional thesis, each year’s class will work together on a group project on one of the Native reserves, solving an energy-related problem identified by one of the tribes.

Phil Rigdon, director of natural resources for the Yakama Nation and a graduate of the UW’s College of Forest Resources, said tribe members are discussing their options for sustainable energy. Plans include installing small-scale hydropower and wind energy projects. The collaboration with the UW may produce energy from forest and agricultural wastes.
We have significant natural resources, and to be able to convert some of that to energy would help our economy as well as provide jobs for our community. Working with people at the UW who are technically capable of the engineering is an important link to make this happen. - Phil Rigdon, member of the BioEnergy IGERT program's advisory board
Students will be asked to incorporate not just engineering constraints, but also address environmental, social and labor concerns in their designs. "We want appropriate energy technologies" Schwartz emphasized. "Whenever you hear someone present an energy solution and say, ’This is the solution,’ you know it’s wrong because there is no one solution for every situation"

The results could be applied to other forest- or agricultural-based communities in the state. And the skills the students learn will be prized by future employers, Schwartz believes.

This year the committee got additional funding from the University of Washington, enabling it to accept eight graduate students who began classes in January. Students can major in any of the participating colleges. This class includes three students in the College of Forest Resources and five in the College of Engineering. The students’ skills and interests range from plant ecology, to remote sensing to map forest resources, to chemical engineering techniques for converting biomass into other products. The inaugural class includes two Native American students.

This is the eighth IGERT award for the University of Washington, which has won more of the interdisciplinary training grants than any other institution in the country. Previous IGERT programs were focused on nanotechnology, urban ecology, international environmental issues and astrobiology.

Map: Land cover map of Washington State. This false color image uses data from the Landsat satellite; forests in green and deserts in red. The light blue regions are the highest mountains in Washington. Credit: NASA/Landsat.

University of Washington: Graduate students and Native American tribes will tap forests, farms for biofuels - January 30, 2008.

University of Washington: Bioresource-based Energy for Sustainable Societies - project website.


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