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    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2007.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2007.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2007.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2007.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2007.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2007.

    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    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.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New research to unlock potential of Ireland's maturing forest plantations

A new research project by Ireland's Agriculture & Food Development Authority (Teagasc) has commenced in Athenry and will provide a framework for quantifying the wood resources from farm forests in order to maximise potential markets, amongst which the rapidly growing bioenergy market. The new research will provide a significant stimulus to the plantation sector and its potential contribution to the country's wood supply chain. It also offers an intersting insight into how plantation resources can be managed and monitored by integrating several types of geospatial data and remote sensing technologies.

A critical mass of private and farm forestry is now developing in Ireland, with over 219,000 hectares planted since 1980. Many of these plantations are coming to the stage where decisions on management requirements need to be made. Currently, 105,000 hectares of private forests are over 10 years of age and 40,000 hectares are over 16 years of age.

The majority of private forest owners are farmers (84%). Recent research conducted by Teagasc and reported in the Small-scale Forestry journal indicates that if only 50% of private owners decided to thin their plantations, the annual output from farm forest first thinning could potentially rise to in excess of 200,000 cubic meters. This represents around 2.14 PJ worth of energy.

COFORD (National Council for Forestry Research and Development) estimates that the private sector’s market share will rise to 23% by 2015. However, the actual supply from the private sector is still far short of this target, with many farm forest plantations in Ireland currently unthinned for many reasons, including the high cost of harvesting, economies of scale, lack of knowledge about when to thin, and the price attained for farm forest produce.

While researchers have a general picture of the area of forest approaching first thinning age, there is very little information at a local level on exactly where the resource is located and which plantations are suitable for thinning in the next five to 10 years. In addition, there are few structures in place to quantify, locate or market the timber for owners, and there is a danger that the resource will be overlooked if the potential is not fully recognised.

It is timely then that Teagasc, with the support of COFORD, intend to conduct research to address critical issues facing farm forestry, such as the the lack of local level information about forests for specific market requirements. This research will address the critical issue of economies of scale among small forest owners. A cluster-based approach will be developed so that the management, thinning, harvesting and marketing requirements of farm forests can be achieved for a particular district. The outputs of this research should improve the ability of farm forest owners to market and sell their produce.

The work will quantify the material from farm forests by providing a methodology for assessment of the wood resource within any particular location, and link that resource to sawmills and bioenergy markets.

New methodology
The ‘cluster’ methodology involves the capturing and compilation of highlevel inventory or growth information on forest plantations, using available database resources from the Forest Service, remotely sensed imagery such as aerial photography, satellite imagery and airborne laser scanning (LiDAR), and field-based measurements.

The first phase of the study utilises a geographic information system (GIS) in order to provide information about the location of forest plantations. The research uses a cluster approach performed in a GIS for locating areas with large concentrations of private forest cover (figure, click to enlarge). The method is extremely efficient in grouping large concentrations of forestry together and concentrates survey resources where forest cover has reached a critical mass:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Forest clusters were identified at a national level based on two parameters: (1) private forestry in excess of 5% of the total land use; and, (2) cluster area greater than 10,000 hectares.

Some 16 separate areas matched these requirements spread throughout the country. It would appear from this preliminary analysis that private grant-aided (PGA) forestry does have spatial concentrations. A total of 42% occurs within identified cluster areas, while these cluster areas make up less than 14.5% of the total national land area.

Of these cluster areas, four were identified as being priority areas. These priority areas include the Ballaghaderreen (example cluster, click to enlarge), Glenamoy, Bellacorrick and Leitrim clusters. These areas were chosen based on the initial intention of this research programme to concentrate on the west of Ireland. Therefore, 10% of PGA forestry will be assessed by concentrating resources in only 0.3% of the national land area.

Remote sensing methods
Work is underway in identifying the best available methods for determining forest stand parameters. The latest aerial photography is being used in order to capture value-added data about plantations in the cluster areas. This involves determining field boundaries, identifying development stage and stocking levels, and providing information on roadways and access (figure, click to enlarge).

This will be further aided by SPOT satellite imagery, which will be made available from the Teagasc Spatial Analysis Unit in 2008. The potential of LiDAR (Light Imaging Detection and Ranging) in obtaining stand-related parameters is also being assessed. LiDAR is a remote sensing system, which appears to have great applicability for the estimation of canopy height models that can be used to estimate other forest parameters, such as stand heights, stand volume and the structure of the forest canopy. In turn, canopy structure gives vital information on stocking density and wind damaged areas. Therefore, this research will evaluate the potential of these new technologies for analysing species, spatial distribution, monitoring forest cover fragmentation, planning of forest road networks and the monitoring of forest land cover change.

Field assessment and production forecast

All plantations within a cluster that are approaching first thinning stage or have passed first thinning stage (or a certain age criteria) will be visited in the field, where an assessment of timber quality and volume will be performed in each stand using tried and trusted forest sampling methods. The field survey will be based on capturing forest growth parameters. All the data will be compiled into a field database and the volume of each stand will be computed using the COFORD Dynamic Yield Model ‘Growfor’.

These models will be used to generate forecasts of volume production by projecting the growth of stands forward to a reference age and quantifying the effects of thinning a crop. A forecast for timber production for each stand in the cluster will be made and will be used as the main tool for further development work, especially in the identification of suitable locations for new market opportunities.

Further analysis will be performed using GIS technologies such as: distance from sawmill; optimum haulage route; and, optimising the location of additional wood utilising facilities such as wood energy boilers.

The Cluster Research Programme has been part-funded by the Council for Forest Research and Development (COFORD). This work is also funded by the Teagasc Core Programme.


Niall Farrelly, Brian Clifford and Stuart Green. "Unlocking farm forest potential", TResearch, Volume 3: Number 1. Spring 2008, pp 22-25.

AlphaGalileo: Teagasc research news - unlocking farm forest potential, buffering market volatility, disability on Irish farms and reducing labour inputs for calving and calf feeding - February 26, 2007.


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