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    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.

    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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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Oxford Catalysts and Novus Energy in strategic alliance to develop biogas-to-liquids

In a highly interesting development, Oxford Catalysts Group PLC, a catalyst innovator for clean fuels, announces that it has signed a Strategic Alliance Agreement with Novus Energy, LLC, a Minneapolis-based renewable fuels company, to develop technology for the production of fuel-grade alcohols from biogas. Biopact has earlier called advanced anaerobic digestion a 'second generation' biofuel technology, because it efficiently converts a wide range of non-woody types of biomass, including cellulosic substrates, organic waste, manure and dedicated non-food energy crops (such as grass).

By converting the biogas to liquids, decentralised production and wide-scale distribution of an efficient and renewable second-generation biofuel becomes possible. Remote communities with large biomass and/or organic waste resources could produce biogas and have it distributed without the need for gas pipelines, as a liquid. In fact, a large part of the subtropics and the tropics could be viewed as one vast zone containing 'stranded biogas' that is currently not exploited.

Such a decentralised production system would be highly practical in several remote locations that currently produce first-generation ethanol from, for example, sugarcane. These ethanol plants convert only the easily extractable sugars but are left with a large mass of bagasse (fibrous waste). This resource can be used as a fuel in cogeneration facilities, with excess electricity transferred to the grid. But obviously this requires a grid in the first place. In many highly productive agricultural areas of the developing world such a grid is absent. For these situations, the biogas-to-liquids process would be a solution: all biomass from the plantation would be converted directly into methane instead of ethanol, yielding a considerably higher amount of net energy (up to 130% more than conversion of sugars into ethanol and bagasse into power) and then synthesised into liquids ready for shipment.

Oxford Catalysts and Novus Energy will pool their expertise and proprietary technologies to design and deploy exactly such on-site units for the processing of organic wastes into fuel-grade alcohols. Both companies are currently working together under contract to design and build a pilot plant unit which will demonstrate the operation of the combined technologies during the first half of 2008.

Novus Energy's core product, fuel-grade ethanol, can be efficiently produced from the organic waste generated by a variety of food and agricultural processors, landfills and municipal wastewater treatment plants. Novel, patented, anaerobic bio-digester technology applied to the processing of the waste at such sites will produce large volumes of methane-rich biogas, which will then be converted into feedstock for Novus Energy’s novel, patented alcohol production technology. The heart of Novus Energy's 'Renewable Gas-to-Liquid' (RGL) process is based on allowing syngas to flow under specific temperatures and pressures through a catalyst-filled alcohol reactor. After exiting the reactor, gaseous alcohols are removed by condensation, while un-reacted syngas is cycled back to the reactor inlet for reprocessing.

Oxford Catalysts’ technology will provide and improve key links between the biogas generation and the alcohol synthesis steps. The key platform technology to be used in the process is Catalytic Partial Oxidation (CPOx) of methane, based on a novel class of catalysts made from metal carbides which, for certain reactions, can match or exceed the benefits of traditional precious metal catalysts at a lower cost. Applications of these metal-carbide catalysts include the removal of sulphur from crude oil fractions (known as hydro-desulphurisation or HDS), the conversion of natural gas or coal into virtually sulphur-free liquid fuels via the Fischer-Tropsch reaction (known as the GTL and CTL processes respectively), and the transformation of biogas (waste methane) into syngas - the building block of liquid fuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The strategic alliance provides funding for Oxford Catalysts to further develop key steps of the process, and to design subsequent large-scale facilities. Once these plants come on stream, Oxford Catalysts will earn a royalty income based on sales revenue of fuel-grade alcohols from each unit.

Novus Energy has announced plans to roll out dozens of on site facilities in the US over a period of five years or so, designed to deliver clean, locally produced and supplied renewable fuels. Novus Energy is also planning to introduce the technology into Europe, where a similar number of facilities are also planned. According to the Strategic Alliance Agreement, Oxford Catalysts’ role in these plans is projected to generate revenues of up to £100,000 in 2008, rising to an average of up to $750,000 p.a. royalty income per facility (depending on the market price for fuel-grade alcohols at the time) once the full-scale on site units come on stream, with the first such unit expected in 2009-2010.

Fuel-grade alcohols can be made from specially grown crops, such as sugar cane and corn, but these first-generation bio-fuels consume significant amounts of water, land and energy in their production. Not only do they result in a limit reduction of carbon footprint, they also compete with food production leading to unfortunate consequences for food prices worldwide. In contrast, second-generation biofuels, such as those which will be produced by the Strategic Alliance, use organic waste instead, converting it on site into fuel-grade alcohols that are clean, green and truly sustainable.

Novus Energy, [brings] complementary technology and expertise to this exciting and innovative waste-to-energy alliance. Together we will address the rapidly growing need for truly renewable, clean, sustainable transport fuels, and share in the significant revenue potential which this opportunity presents. - Roy Lipski, Chief Executive of Oxford Catalysts

Oxford Catalysts Group PLC designs and develops specialty catalysts for the generation of clean fuels from both conventional fossil fuels and certain renewable sources such as biomass. Its patent-pending technology is the result of almost 20 years of research at the University of Oxford's prestigious Wolfson Catalysis Centre, headed by Professor Malcolm Green, one of the world's most respected inorganic chemists. Oxford Catalysts was founded by Professor Green and Dr Xiao in October 2004 and was admitted to trading on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange on 26th April 2006, having raised £15m before expenses from a solid base of institutional investors.

Oxford Catalysts' strategy is to license its catalysts for commercial application by entering into co-development partnerships with leading manufacturers, producers and suppliers in the petroleum, petrochemicals, fuel cells, biogas, steam applications and catalysis markets.

Besides metal carbides, the company has a second platform technology which relates to chemical reactions involving a liquid containing a renewable fuel, such as methanol, ethanol or glycerol, and dilute hydrogen peroxide. The company's novel catalyst can be used to release hydrogen gas from this liquid, instantaneously starting from room temperature. This groundbreaking Instant Hydrogen technology has the potential to significantly accelerate the commercial adoption of fuel cells in the portable and other mobile markets, by providing the much needed source of cheap, safe, transportable hydrogen.

Another of the company's catalysts can be used to produce steam at temperatures between 100ºC and 800ºC+ instantaneously starting from room temperature, from a liquid fuel containing dilute hydrogen peroxide and either an alcohol, sugar, glycerol, starch or formic acid. Such Instant Steam could have important applications in a broad range of markets, from cleaning and disinfecting, to green energy in the form of motive power or electricity.

Novus Energy, LLC, a Minnesota (U.S.A.) renewable fuels development company, was organized in 2004 to design, fabricate and rollout high-yield fuel-grade alcohol facilities, using organic waste materials as the fuel feedstock. The Company’s proprietary process generates methane-rich biogas from advanced anaerobic digestion methods, and converts the biogas to ethanol and higher alcohols using a novel renewable gas-to-liquid (RGLTM) process. The company currently has contracts to build refineries at a North Dakota sugar beet processor, a Minneapolis landfill, at an Idaho potato plant, and at an Iowa site converting farm corn stover and hog waste. The first full-scale facility is expected to be operational in 2009-2010.

Oxford Catalysts: Waste-to-Energy Strategic Alliance to Deliver Royalty Income - January 7, 2008.

Biopact: Salzburg AG opens biomethane gas stations in Austria: driving on pure grass - November 24, 2007

Colen, F., Pasqual, A., "Sugar cane (Saccharum sp.) juice energetic potential as substrate in UASB reactor", Energia na Agricultura, 2003, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 58-71


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