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    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key Topics to be discussed include: the true value of a 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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Sunday, February 03, 2008

A quick look at heating with biomass in the EU

Euronews has a small presentation about the different scales at which Europe is heating with biomass. The document shows a large operation to heat part of an entire city, in this case Vilnius, via a municipal heating system based on biomass. The decision to use the carbon-neutral fuel was made for economic reasons as much as for ecological ones, because the fuel has become competitive. Moving to France and to home heating we arrive at pellet and wood chip heating with small, portable modules that are entirely automated. Finally, around Ljubljana in Slovenia, farmers survive because of the new bioenergy opportunities; without this emerging market, which can bring up to 50 per cent of new income to farmers, they would not make it.

The presented projects are part of the Intelligent Energy Europe program. This program allows researchers and companies from different EU countries to design specific applications for bioenergy, and allows them to exchange best practises. Sub-projects, like BioHousing, zoom in on one specific type of technology that holds large market potential, in this case the development of standardized biomass heating modules for homes. The AgriForEnergy project, headed by Slovenia's forestry service, helps farmers understand the new bioenergy market and find opportunities. Five Eures brings together EU countries to study large scale heating with biomass at the level of entire cities.

Biomass is by far the largest source of renewable energy in the EU today. According to Eurobserver, bioenergy's share of the EU's primary renewable energy has reached more than 66% (2005) compared with that of hydropower (22.2%), wind (5.5%), geothermal (5.5%) and solar (0.7%).

This large difference is mainly due to the versatility and competitiveness of biomass. The "sleeping giant", as the resource is often called, can be used both for the production of electricity, heat, and combined heat and power (and cooling - socalled 'polygeneration'). Of course, it can be transformed into liquid biofuels for transport, as well as in a large number of bio-products - from biopolymers to renewable platform chemicals.

Another major advantage of biomass is the fact that it can be used in most existing energy infrastructures. As a solid biofuel in coal plants, which can first co-fire with coal, then switch to full biomass power with minor adaptations, or as liquid biofuels in fuel infrastructutes for transport; green gas (synthetic gas upgraded to natural gas quality) and biomethane can be fed into the natural gas network (previous post).

The fact that biomass is solar energy stored by plants that grow their own storage medium (lignocellulose) makes it important for baseload applications. Intermittent renewable energy sources like wind or solar would depend on fossil fuels to provide baseloads, but biomass can now take over this role. Coupling bioenergy to other renewables, allows for the design of entirely non-fossil, green energy systems (previous post on a test project in Germany that couples biogas to wind and solar).

But the heating market remains the most easy target for biomass. Burning wood in new, dedicated biomass boilers is both more economic, climate friendly and efficient than heating with fossil heating oil, electricity or natural gas. The economic argument explains the growing success of pellet heating systems and district heating, especially in the leading green EU countries, like Sweden, France and Austria (in that latter country, biomass for home heating is taking the market by storm - previous post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

For a country like the UK - of all large EU member states performing worst on renewables - biomass would be the most obvious candidate allowing it to reach its renewable targets (set at 15% by 2020) with some ease. But instead of signalling a major push towards renewables, the government recently gave the signal first that it would be investing in nuclear energy again. However, nuclear only delivers electricity, which is not the same as energy.

Greenpeace UK rightly says the lion’s share of Great Britain's energy demand is for heat and transport. Although nuclear power currently accounts for about a fifth of UK electricity generation, that is less than 4% of total energy demand The often repeated argument that 'nuclear electricity improves security of gas or oil supply' is elegantly debunked. 86% of the UK's oil and gas consumption is for purposes other than producing electricity. Most of the gas used is for heating and hot water. Virtually all oil is used for transport and heat.

In this context, nuclear power – which can only generate electricity and no heat-to-market – is irrelevant indeed. Solar heating and biomass heating should get priority instead. That is where the renewable energy gains can be made most swiftly and economically.

To stick with the UK, the country's Biomass Strategy (previous post) indicates that by expanding existing biomass supplies the potential future biomass resource makes up a total of approximately 96.2 TWh (8.3 Mtoe), that is, more than 20% of current residential primary energy consumption. As biomass trade is growing, the country can easily import green fuels from countries with cheap and abundant supplies, in particular Scandinavia and North America.


Euronews: Burning the wood you can't see for the trees - January 31, 2008.

European Commission: Intelligent Energy Europe.

EU BioHousing Project.

EU AgriForEnergy project.

All (renewable) energy statistics for Europe can be found at Energy.eu.

Greenpeace UK: Mind the gap - January 10, 2008.

Biopact: Biomass pellets revolution in Austria: 46% less costly than heating oil; most efficient way for households to reduce carbon footprint - October 06, 2007

Biopact: UK outlines Biomass Strategy: large potential for bioenergy, bioproducts - May 28, 2007

Biopact: Germany is doing it: reliable distributed power based on 100% renewables - December 29, 2007.


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