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    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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Friday, February 01, 2008

Welcome to the Anthropocene?

An international team of geologists is proposing that since the Industrial Revolution humankind has so changed the earth that it has brought about an end to one epoch of earth’s history and marked the start of another. They believe that human dominance has so physically altered the earth itself that the Holocene epoch has ended and we have entered a new epoch - the Anthropocene.

In the open access article "Are we now living in the Anthropocene?", published in the journal GSA Today, the scientists examined phenomena such as changes in the patterns of sediment erosion and deposition, major disturbances to the carbon cycle and global temperature, ocean acidification and wholesale changes to the world’s plants and animals.
Human activity has become the number one driver of most of the major changes in Earth's topography and climate. You can’t have 6.5 billion people living on a planet the size of ours and exploiting every possible resource without creating huge changes in the physical, chemical and biological environment which will be reflected dramatically in our geological record of the planet. - Dr Andrew Gale, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth
The Holocene epoch the researchers think is now ending, is a geological period which began approximately 11,550 years ago. It is part of the Neogene and Quaternary periods and can be considered as an interglacial in the current ice age. In 2002, Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning chemist, however suggested that we had left the Holocene and had entered a new Epoch — the Anthropocene — because of the global environmental effects of increased human population and economic development.

Members of the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London now amplify and extend the discussion of the effects referred to by Crutzen and then apply the same criteria used to set up new epochs to ask whether there really is justification or need for a new term, and if so, where and how its boundary might be placed. In their paper, the scientists present the scholarly groundwork for consideration by the International Commission on Stratigraphy for formal adoption of the Anthropocene as the youngest epoch of, and most recent addition to, the earth's geological timescale.

Human influence altering the Holocene
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the global human population was some 300 million at A.D. 1000, 500 million at A.D. 1500, and 790 million by A.D. 1750 and exploitation of energy was limited mostly to firewood and muscle power. Early to mid-Holocene increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide ranged from 260 to 280 ppm, a factor in the climatic warmth of this interval, the result of forest clearance by humans. Human activity was not absent in the creation of Holocene strate, but it did not create new, global environmental conditions that could translate into a fundamentally different stratigraphic signal.

In contrast, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present day, global human population has climbed rapidly from under a billion to its current 6.5 billion (Fig. 1, click to enlarge), and it continues to rise. The exploitation of coal, oil, and gas in particular has enabled planet-wide industrialization, construction, and mass transport, the ensuing changes encompassing a wide variety of phenomena, which can be summarised under the following headings:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Changes to Physical Sedimentation
Humans have caused a dramatic increase in erosion and the denudation of the continents, both directly, through agriculture and construction, and indirectly, by damming most major rivers, that now exceeds natural sediment production by an order of magnitude.

Carbon Cycle Perturbation and Temperature
Carbon dioxide levels (379 ppm in 2005) are over a third higher than in pre-industrial times and at any time in the past 0.9 million years. Conservatively, these levels are predicted to double by the end of the twenty-first century. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere have already roughly doubled. These changes have been considerably more rapid than those associated with glacial-interglacial transitions. Global temperature has lagged behind this increase in greenhouse gas levels, but temperatures in the past century rose overall, with the rate of increase accelerating in the past two decades. Temperature is predicted to rise by 1.1 °C to 6.4 °C by the end of this century, leading to global temperatures not encountered since the Tertiary.

Biotic Change
Humans have caused extinctions of animal and plant species, possibly as early as the late Pleistocene, with the disappearance of a large proportion of the terrestrial megafauna. Accelerated extinctions and biotic population declines on land have spread into the shallow seas, notably on coral reefs. The current rate of biotic change may produce a major extinction event. The projected temperature rise will certainly cause changes in habitat beyond environmental tolerance for many taxa.

The effects of these temperature changes will be more severe than in past extinction waves because, with the anthropogenic fragmentation of natural ecosystems, “escape” routes are fewer.
The combination of extinctions, global species migrations, and the widespread replacement of natural vegetation with agricultural monocultures is producing a distinctive contemporary biostratigraphic signal. These effects are permanent, as future evolution will take place from surviving (and frequently anthropogenically relocated) stocks. - Jan Zalasiewicz, et. al.
Sea-level change
Pre-industrial mid- to late Holocene sea-level stability has followed a 120m rise from the late Pleistocene level. Slight rises in sea level have been noted over the past century, ascribed to a combination of ice melt and thermal expansion of the oceans. The rate and extent of near-future sealevel rise depends on a range of factors that affect snow production and ice melt. In its latest report, the IPCC predicted a 0.19–0.58 m rise by 2100.

This prediction however does not factor in recent evidence of dynamic ice-sheet behavior and accelerating ice loss possibly analogous to those preceding “Heinrich events” of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, when repeated episodes of ice-sheet collapse caused concomitant rapid sea-level rise. Current predictions are short-term, while changes to the final equilibrium state may be as large as a 10–30 m sea-level rise per 1 °C temperature rise.

Ocean acidification
Relative to pre-Industrial Revolution oceans, surface ocean waters are now 0.1 pH units more acidic due to anthropogenic carbon release. The future amount of this acidification, scaled to projected future carbon emissions, its spread through the ocean water column, and its eventual neutralization (over many millennia) has been modeled: projected effects will be physical (neutralization of the excess acid by dissolution of ocean-floor carbonate sediment, hence creating a widespread non sequence) and biological (hindering carbonate-secreting organisms in building their skeletons), with potentially severe effects in both benthic (especially coral reef) and planktonic settings.
The sensitivity of climate to greenhouse gases, and the scale of (historically) modern biotic change, makes it likely that we have entered a stratigraphic interval without close parallel in any previous Quaternary interglacial. - Jan Zalasiewicz, et. al.
The scientists conclude that the Anthropocene might evolve into a “super-interglacial” , with Earth reverting to climates and sea levels last seen in warmer phases of the Miocene or Pliocene, most likely achieved via a geologically abrupt rearrangement of the ocean-atmosphere system. Such a warm phase will likely last considerably longer than normal Quaternary interglacials. It is not clear that an equilibrium comparable to that of pre-industrial Quaternary time will eventually resume, they write.

Figure: Comparison of some major stratigraphically significant trends over the past 15,000 yr. Trends typical of the bulk of immediately pre-Holocene and Holocene time are compared with those of the past two centuries. Credit: Zalasiewicz J, et al., GSA Today.


Zalasiewicz J, Williams M, Smith A, Barry TL, Coe AL, et al. (2008), "Are we now living in the Anthropocene", GSA Today: Vol. 18, No. 2 pp. 4–8

AlphaGalileo: Man's impact on the planet brings about new epoch in earth's history - January 31, 2008.


Blogger rufus said...

So, why is it getting Colder?

9:35 PM  

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