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    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    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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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

China and Brazil cooperate on newly discovered sweet cassava for ethanol

The state-owned Brazilian Agricultural Research Enterprise (EMBRAPA) and biotech researchers from the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) have launched a cooperation program to research the use of a recently discovered type of cassava for biofuels. Brazilian scientists have a large manioc germplasm bank in which sweet cassava mutants can be found that are highly suitable for ethanol production. Under the collaboration, China offers its rapid genome sequencing capacities to Brazil for further research into the new crop. The People's Republic's scientists indicated the country is thinking of switching from ordinary cassava - which is rich in starch - to the new and more easily convertible sugar varieties instead.

EMBRAPA met with a Chinese science delegation at its headquarters in Brasilia last month, to kick off the technical cooperation between the two countries' leading tropical agriculture research institutions. The program is headed by two EMBRAPA units: Genetic Resources and Biotechnology - Pastures (Planaltina – DF); and Agroenergia e Mandioca e Fruticultura Tropical (Bioenergy from Manioc and Tropical Fruticulture). The Chinese committee visited EMBRAPA Mandioca e Fruticultura, in Cruz das Almas, in Bahia state, as well as EMBRAPA Pastures' manioc germplasm bank which contains a collection of 500 representative cassava accessions.

The technical cooperation is aimed at exploring the development of hybrid sweet cassava that grows well in open pastures, and in poor and acid soils, is pest and disease-tolerant and is optimised for sugar production, explains EMBRAPA Genetic Resources and Biotechnology researcher Luiz Joaquim Castelo Branco Carvalho. In 1996, the researcher and his team identified natural cassava mutants rich in glucose in the Amazon. After fundamental genetic and biochemical research the researchers now conclude that this type of sweet cassava has great potential for fermentation into alcohol.

Cassava improvement programs in Brazil have so far focused on the production of flour and starch. The new varieties of sweet cassava can diversify the market for the crop and open new markets, says Carvalho. One of these markets is alcohol production, because the glucose-rich cassava allows for the direct conversion of the roots' sugars into ethanol. This fact contrasts with the conventional process in which starchy cassava tubers first need to undergo a hydrolysis treatment. The sweet cassava variety skips this step.

China currently cultivates around half a million hectares of cassava, of which 200,000 are destined for ethanol production. The People's Republic chose cassava as one of its future biofuels crops, because it is considered to be an industrial plant, and not a food crop. According to Wenquan Wang, researcher at CATAS, cassava has gained importance because of its low environmental footprint and because it has a well established industrial presence. "For 30 years, cassava was a staple for many Chinese people, later it became a crop for animal feed, and nowadays 60% of the entire harvest is destined for the industrial production of starch, 20% goes to ethanol and the remainder is turned into pig feed."

However, China's cassava ethanol initiative is mainly based on starch rich varieties. Together with Brazil it is now looking at introducing the sweet varieties instead, which demand less costly and complicated conversion steps.

Since 1996 Carvalho and his team have achieved significant research results: they identified the genes and processes involved in the mutation that led to the emergence of the sugar-rich cassava plant. With this information, concrete applications become possible.

Currently, the genetic characteristics of the sweet root crop are being transferred to commercial cassava varieties via conventional breeding techniques. This research in turn is used by EMBRAPA scientist for genomic studies and to deepen the knowledge about the metabolic processes at work in the sugar-rich plant.

It is these results which interested the CATAS and which called for a cooperation to speed up the development of sweet cassava dedicated to ethanol production. For the Brazilian side, the technical partnership with China will advance the sequencing of the genome of the cassava varieties. Both EMBRAPA Genetic Resources Biotechnology - Pastures, and EMBRAPA proper have already started this genome sequencing project, but China has rapid and mass sequencing capacities which allow for much faster analyses of the genomes found in the mutants:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Commenting on the Chinese delegation's visit to the cassava germplasm bank, Eduardo Alano Vieira, researcher at EMBRAPA Pastures, said that "It is an active bank, with new accessions being added continuously".

Researchers at EMBRAPA Pastures are zooming in on another particular type of cassava, rich in betacarotene (red cassava), of which eight varieties are being researched. Alano says the plants are interesting from a nutritional perspective and have characteristics that could be embedded into the sweet variant for ethanol. On the basis of these varieties, he is developing a crop that allows the producer to plant a productive, suitable material that is tolerant to aluminum toxicity (which affects a very large number of soils throughout the tropics and the subtropics), and which is disease tolerant.

When it comes to the sweet cassava for ethanol, the goal is to couple high productivity to a root crop with a thin skin, which facilitates processing.

First breeding and planting experiments show promising results: over the past year, 100 individuals were obtained from crossing IAC 12, which grows well on open pastures, with the sugar varieties found in the Amazon. Sugar yields were encouraging and the hybrids adapted well to the conditions in the open pasture.

EMBRAPA stresses that the cooperation agreement with China is established in full accordance with the rules found in the Brazilian laws dealing with access to and distribution of geneting resources and biodiversity benefits.

Translated by Laurens Rademakers

EMBRAPA: Brasil e China discutem produção de álcool a partir da mandioca - January 25, 2008.

EMBRAPA: Pesquisadores chineses conhecem tecnologias geradas pela pesquisa com mandioca - January 28, 2008.


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