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    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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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two sugarcane ethanol plants for the Dominican Republic: biofuels reanimate sugar sector

The recently incorporated company Bio E Group today announced the construction, together with other foreign investors, of two ethanol plants in the Dominican Republic. The distilleries come at a cost of US$300 (€205) million, and will produce 35 million gallons (13.2 million liters) of ethanol and 30 megawatts of renewable electricity each per year. The feedstock for the biofuel is sugarcane, the residues of which (bagasse) will be used to feed the cogeneration units. The biofuel projects contribute to the revival of the sugar sector, which has been in decline since the 1980s.

After Cuba, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean producer of sugarcane, the nation's most important commercial crop. But low world prices since the 1980s have ruined the sector, pushing countless farmers out of work and into poverty. Many of the state-owned sugar mills, who accounted for half the production, closed down. Production of sugarcane rose from 8.6 million tons in 1970 to 1.1 million tons in 1983 after which decline set it. In 2006, the country produced a mere 500,000 tons (graph, click to enlarge).

The biofuels opportunity is now set to revive the sugar sector and is expected to boost the island state's rural economy, which employs 17 percent of its work force and contributes more to its GDP than any other economic sector, around 11 per cent.

The announced ethanol plants will be located in the townships Bayaguana, Monte Plata province (east) and Quisqueya, San Pedro province (east). Bio E Group president Alfonso Fermín Balcácer said the two partner companies will generate an estimated RD$900 million (€18.1/US$26.6 million) per year in the zones where they will operate.

At a press conference organized by the National Energy Commission (CNE), Balcácer said the projects will provide 12,000 direct jobs. The large number of jobs is projected because the biofuel consortium will not produce its own sugarcane but will buy it from local farmers at a fair price:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

According to Balcácer, the international companies Tomsa Destil (from Spain) and Biotech will share ownership of the distilleries. Both companies supposedly have more than 100 years combined experience in ethanol and sugar production and have erected or managed 400 distilleries around the world.

The president of the National Commission of Energy, Arístides Fernandez Zucco, who represented the State in the presentation of the projects, said that the government guarantees a climate of confidence for the investments, through a legal framework. He clarified that the State does not have any participation in the activities, "because this is a business for the private sector."

The ethanol to be produced will have a purity of 99.8 percent, making it readily blendable with gasoline. The dehydrated ethanol could be exported to the U.S., because the Dominican Republic does not fall under the ethanol tariff regime imposed on other producers.

Besides ethanol, both projects will generate electricity from two 30MW cogeneration units. The feedstock is bagasse, the abundant biomass residue from sugarcane processing.

The utilization of bagasse for energy makes sugarcane ethanol a fuel with a very strong energy balance (energy inputs needed to produce the fuel, versus energy contained in the fuel; also called 'net energy return' or 'energy return on energy invested' - EROEI). For Brazilian ethanol, the EROEI is between 8 and 10 to 1. This compares favorably to most other biofuels (e.g. corn ethanol has a net energy return of 1.2 to 1.5 to 1).

According to Bio E Group, the projects have received approval under the new Renewable Energy Law, which provides the legal framework for the biofuels sector.

No date was provided for the start of the operations of production at the plants, but the company said feasibility studies and agronomic assessments had already been completed or are to be finalised within the next three months.

El Caribe: Instalarán dos destilerías - Producirán 70 millones de galones de etanol al año - February 6, 2007.

El Dinero: Inversionistas extranjeros invertirán US$300 MM en dos destilerías para producir etanol - February 6, 2007.

FAOStat production data for sugarcane.


Blogger matt h2o said...


Indentured labour is a major problem in the Dominican sugar industry.

Just to keep things fair and balanced.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Biopact team said...

Sure, labor standards are critical, certainly in the sugarcane industry.

It's also well known that in the 1970s many workers in the Dominican Republic's were poor Haitians who fled the dictatorship in their country, and were then forced to perform slave labor on the plantations.

At Biopact we often refer to labor standards in the context of sugarcane production. Some examples:

A closer look at sustainability criteria for biofuels

Brazilian government frees sugarcane debt 'slaves'

An in-depth look at Brazil's "Social Fuel Seal".

What we will never do, however, is falsify the debate and claim that all people who perform manual labor in agriculture are slaves. We stick to ILO rules.

When a biofuels project brings opportunities for farmers who operate in full sovereignty, and it results in higher prices for their products or more market opportunities, then we will stress this.


7:53 PM  
Blogger matt h2o said...

If you read the link I attached, you'll see that the Haitian labour issue still exists.

I suspect you're just being prickly, but for the record - I'm a journalist , and I would never advocate spinning the facts to make out that all sugarcane workers were slaves either. I do continue to think that it's worth mentioning the labour pitfalls alongside the potential, though, so that readers have a balanced picture.

7:59 PM  
Blogger matt h2o said...

If you have access to a Bloomberg terminal, by the way, you should read the very long piece on sugarcane ethanol published last week by one of their columnists, who was on the ground on Brazil. It was very good, balanced reporting that covered all aspects of the industry - the good and the bad - in a lot of depth.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Biopact team said...

Thanks Matt,
we make no secret of the fact that we often highlight the potential beneficial effects of biofuels for developing countries - because we try to look at the long term picture of an energy transition.

The current pains that come with this transition must be analysed, but they should not be artificially inflated or dominate a debate that basically deals with the future. We leave the focus on current problems to others; instead we prefer to look at things from a longer term perspective.

In short, we don't think we spin things or that we consciously leave out the many potential drawbacks of biofuels. But we do not singlemindedly focus on them either, as some clearly do.

We weren't aware of the fact that the sugarcane sector in the Dominican Republic still relies on Haitian labor - we'll read the Ethical Sugar paper and keep it in mind.

Thanks for the reference to the Bloomberg story, we'll check it out.

As you know, we have also reported quite a few times on the fate of Brazilian sugarcane workers - it's a highly complex labor issue that is part of a heated debate in Brazil and the subject of an increasing body of legislation. For example, several initiatives are underway to make the transition to increased mechanisation less painful. We will continue to report on these developments.

Of course, one can always read the biofuels debate through a far more fundamental lense, with a line of questions about the benefits and drawbacks of Modernity as such, about universal social justice, about globalisation.

We sometimes try to do this and our readers know more or less where we stand on this type of philosophico-political questions. However, you can take this debate very far, so far in fact that our object of study - bioenergy and Euro-African relations - gets out of focus.

We try to strike a balance between these fundamental questions and mere reporting about biofuels research and technologies.


11:28 PM  

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