<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    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.

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

ADM, Bayer CropScience and Daimler team up to turn Jatropha into major biofuel crop

In what is both a boost and a potential threat to those involved in growing Jatropha curcas, some of the world's leading companies in biotech, agribusiness and car manufacturing are teaming up to turn the plant into a major biofuel crop. Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), Bayer CropScience AG and Daimler AG today announced they plan to jointly explore the potential for a biodiesel industry based on Jatropha oil. A respective Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the companies. A few years ago, the tropical oilseed shrub was virtually unknown outside of a small group of bioenergy experts, and has been a typical underutilized and under-researched crop. This is now changing in a big way.

Jatropha, a tropical plant from the Euphorbia family, is seen by the three cooperating partners as a promising alternative energy feedstock for the production of biodiesel. Biodiesel derived from Jatropha nut kernels has properties similar to those of biofuels obtained from oilseed rapes. It is also characterized by a positive CO2 balance and can thus contribute to protecting the climate.

In this project, the companies are seeking to develop production and quality standards for Jatropha-based biofuel. ADM is running several biodiesel refineries worldwide. Bayer CropScience plans to develop and register herbicides, soil insecticides and fungicides for disease and pest control of Jatropha plants. At the end of last year, Daimler AG completed a wide-ranging five-year research project which demonstrated that Jatropha can be used and cultivated to obtain high-quality biodiesel and studied the use of this fuel in test vehicles. The company will continue to explore the interactions between fuel and engine in vehicles powered by Jatropha biodiesel and mixtures of this and other fuels.

Dr. Peter Reimers, General Manager, European Oleo Chemicals at ADM says that by diversifying the world’s energy supplies, the companies increase global energy security and create for many nations the ability to produce fuel from local sources.

Dr. Rüdiger Scheitza, Member of Board of Management of Bayer CropScience and Head of Global Portfolio Management, added that energy is a fundamental and indivisible human need. Sustainable production of Jatropha without impacting food production is not only an interesting option on marginal areas. It might be a further essential key in renewable energy strategies of the future.

According to Prof. Dr. Herbert Kohler, Vice President Vehicle and Powertrain, Group Research and Advanced Engineering and Chief Environmental Officer of Daimler AG, Alternative fuels are an integral part of our roadmap towards sustainable mobility. Daimler's research activities within the last years have proven for example, that Jatropha biodiesel can be produced with quality similar to biodiesel from oil seeds. Now, it is time to evaluate the commercial potential of Jatropha biodiesel.”

Jatropha's promise
Jatropha currently remains a "wild plant", and therefore it has never been professionally cultivated. Recent studies show a potential of approximately 30 million hectares of land on which this plant could be grown, especially in South America, Africa and in Asian countries such as China, India or Indonesia. Since Jatropha can be cultivated on barren land, it does not compete for land that is being used for food production, and thus provides farmers with an additional source of income.

Jatropha originates from Cental America, and was transported to Africa and Asia by Portuguese sailors on their voyages round the world. It is a hardy, drought tolerant plant and can be cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical regions, and even on degredaded soil. It requires very little water or fertilizer. The plant is an excellent source of renewable energy because its seeds contain more than 30 percent oil. Furthermore, it is excellent for preventing soil erosion caused by water and/or wind. Jatropha can be maintained economically for 30 to 40 years:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Archer Daniels Midland Company
(ADM) is the world leader in bioenergy and has a premier position in the agricultural processing value chain. ADM is one of the world’s largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa. ADM is a leading manufacturer of biodiesel, ethanol, soybean oil and meal, corn sweeteners, flour and other value-added food and feed ingredients. Headquartered in Decatur, Illinois, ADM has over 27,000 employees, more than 240 processing plants and net sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2007 of $44 billion.

The Bayer Group is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience AG, a subsidiary of Bayer AG with annual sales of about EUR 5.7 billion (2006), is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and plant biotechnology. The company offers an outstanding range of products and extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture and for non-agricultural applications. Bayer CropScience has a global workforce of about 17,900 and is represented in more than 120 countries.

Bayer CropScience earlier announced it was looking into researching Jatropha as part of its recent €750 million investment in bioeconomy-related science and technology (previous post).

Daimler AG can look back on a tradition that stretches back over more than a hundred years and is marked by the pioneering achievements of automotive engineering. Today, the company is a leading supplier of premium passenger cars as well as the world‘s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles. With its strong brands and its comprehensive portfolio of automobiles from compact cars to heavy-duty engine trucks which are completed by tailor-made services along the automotive value chain, Daimler is active in nearly all countries in the world. With 271,486 employees, Daimler achieved revenues of € 47.2 billion in the first Half-Year 2007.

Other major players involved in Jatropha are D1Oils and BP who recently created a new company - D1-BP Fuel Crops Limited - to research and improve the crop. The joint venture will pour £80 million over five years into the project (previous post).

Boost and threat
Congratulations to all those who started looking at Jatropha years ago - their vision is being rewarded today. The anonymous researchers who started utilizing the crop's oil in diesel generators in Mali's poor rural areas, the environmentalists who taught small farmers how to make the most of the crop and its byproducts, the entrepreneurs and self-made men who tested the first jatropha biodiesel batches in cars - all of them deserve accolades.

With the growing interest from large companies into Jatropha, serious plant and agronomic research is now going to speed up. It is expected that modern breeding techniques and genomics will result in the emergence of high-yielding quality seeds and agronomic protocols relatively soon. This will benefit all those who are interested in growing the crop and could turn many developing country farmers into good fuel producers, securing an income.

However, it is not difficult to predict that genetically modified Jatropha seeds will appear on the market too. These will be owned by large agribusiness conglomerates who could easily come to dominate the market. All the problematic social and economic aspects that go with this must be taken into account: dependence on seed producers, a decline of local agricultural knowledge about the crop, questions about intellectual property and ownership of Jatropha varieties, and so on.

The boost the three major companies have just given to Jatropha could also imply large investments are now going to enter this crop - if ADM, Bayer and Daimler are in, the crop must have a good future - , with foreign capital securing large land areas and taking away the opportunities of smaller farmers.

In any case, the shrub is no longer a marginal player in the biofuels sector. It will become one of the leading feedstocks and, in the best case, it could open an era of rural development, energy security and poverty alleviation in the third world.

Bayer CropScience: Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bayer CropScience and Daimler to cooperate in Jatropha biodiesel project - January 9, 2007.

Biopact: Bayer CropScience to increase yearly R&D budget to €750 million to meet challenges of the bioeconomy - September 11, 2007

Biopact: D1 Oils and BP to establish global joint venture to plant jatropha - June 29, 2007

Biopact: Anthropological study explores the effects of genetically modified crops on developing countries - January 27, 2007

Article continues

Maharashtra agrees to remove export duty on ethanol

In what could be a major step towards successful implementation of India's ethanol program, Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora announced he succeeded in convincing Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to remove the export duty on ethanol, facilitating the supply of excess ethanol from Maharashtra to other states. With more than 50 mills, Maharashtra is India's second largest sugarcane and ethanol producing state, contributing around 14 per cent of total sugar output (map, click to enlarge).

India launched its "National programme for the supply of ethanol-blended petrol (EBP)" in November last year and aims to blend 5% ethanol into gasoline across the nation. This will amount to a total production of 600 million liters per annum within three years time. The policy is partly meant to help the country's millions of sugarcane farmers earn more income, as they have been hit by low prices for the commodity.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister announced the withdrawal of the export fee of Rs 1,500 per kilolitre (€0.026/liter or $0.145/gallon), now being imposed on ethanol supplies to other States.
This will ensure supply of excess ethanol from Maharashtra to other States, thus making the ambitious programme run successfully in many States and Union Territories. It will also benefit sugarcane farmers of Maharashtra. - Murli Deora, Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister of India
The Petroleum Minister stressed that the EBP programme is aimed at contributing to energy security through the use of alternative fuel sources, to lower carbon emissions and urban air pollution, and to help sugarcane farmers earn additional income. Despite record global sugar-based ethanol output, prices for the commodity have been low because of record 2007 harvests both in India and in Brazil. India's sugarcane farmers have been urging the government to intervene, with success.

So far, E5 is being supplied in 11 States and three Union Territories covering about 70 per cent of the country's states identified to participate in the program. Over the coming three years, India will be producing 1.8 billion liters of ethanol:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Of this total, oil marketing companies (OMCs) have already contracted 1.4 billion liters and so far procured 1.935 billion litres under the programme as on December 31, 2007.

The programme in a few states, including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Kerala, could not be implemented for various reasons. In the case of Kerala, OMCs have finalized tenders but the state excise department is required to issue necessary import permits. The Government of West Bengal is required to issue notification permitting import of ethanol and indicating taxes/levies applicable, whereas the government of Tamil Nadu has stopped ethanol supplies due to reported shortage. In Orissa & Chhattisgarh procurement could not be finalized due to high duties/levies.

Deora said up till now certain procedural impediments affected the free movement of ethanol across states, such as multiple clearances to be obtained for the issue of permits for export of ethanol from one State to another. He therefor launched an initiative to solve the problems, meetings with the state governments concerned.

Maharashtra's withdrawal of the ethanol export duty is the result of these negotiations, and is set to improve supplies to other states.

India is the world's second largest sugar producer after Brazil. Its ethanol program is based on utilizing molasses, sugar and in a later stage bagasse for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In 2007, the country achieved a record sugar harvest, with a production of 162.621 million tonnes, up 9 per cent against 2006. The country now has a sugar surplus of 9.115 million tonnes.

Ministry of Petroleum & Gas: Shri Murli Deora holds discussions with Maharasthra CM for smoothening implementation of Ethanol Blended Petrol programme - January 7, 2007.

Article continues

Green cement: Indian producer opens 6MW rice husk fueled biomass plant

Indian cement producer Barak Valley Cements, announced its 6MW biomass-based thermal power plant is ready to be taken into operation to reduce carbon emissions and to ensure secure supplies of reliable energy. The bioenergy project, developed by its subsidiary Badarpur Energy Private Limited, will provide all the power for cement production and clinkerisation at Barak's cement plant in Badarpurghat, in India's Assam state.

Cement production, a highly energy intensive process, is one of the key contributers to climate change with 5% of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions coming from this sector. According to the IEA, the non-metallic mineral sub-sector accounts for about 9% of global industrial energy use, of which 70 to 80% is used in cement production. CO2 is emitted from the calcination process of limestone, from the combustion of fuels in the kiln, as well as from power generated within the industry. India's cement industry alone releases around 89 million tonnes of CO2 per year, roughly 5 per cent of the country's total. Per ton of cement produced, around 0.9 tons of CO2 get released, putting India amongst the most carbon intensive producers (compare with the carbon intensity of Japan's and Europe's cement sector: 0.45 tons of CO2 per ton.)

A Report of the Working Group on the Cement Industry, commissioned by India's Planning Commission, suggested a reduction of CO2 emission levels in the next five years to about 80 million tons while output is growing (that is, reducing CO2 emissions to 0.5/tons per ton of cement) by adopting a range measures such as the increased production of blended cements, optimising the pyro-processing system, recovering waste heat for cogeneration of power, increasing the use of marginal grade limestone and switching to green fuels.

With increased energy prices, switching to renewable fuels like biomass has become a cost-effective way to cut the sector's emissions. Barak Valley Cements is choosing this option, using rice husks as a fuel in the biomass power plant, a major by-product of the rice industry in which Assam takes a leading place. The average cost of power is estimated to be about Rs 2.20 (€0.038 / $0.056) per kWh, highly competitive with fossil based electricity for industrial consumers.

The power generated by this plant will meet the entire energy requirement of the cement production facility and contribute towards conservation of fossil-fuels. The multi-fuel, environment-friendly power plant will be the first of its kind in the North-East of India.

The project in particular helps Barak Valley Cements solve its problems related to increasing power cost, frequent power cuts, variations in voltage and lack of energy at times of peaks in demand for cement products. Its access to quality power at cheaper rates puts it at an advantageous position vis-à-vis its competitors:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Badarpur Energy Private Limited was as a Private Limited Company in February ’2005. Barak Valley Cements Limited has acquired the 100% stake of this company in the financial year 2005-06. The 6MW biomass power plant had a total project cost of Rs 25 crore (€434,000/$638,000). Power generated in the plant will be transmitted through a dedicated transmission line to Barak's operating plant and its subsidiary’s plant Cement International Limited. The power project has been appraised by NEDFi (North Eastern Development and Financial Institution).

The North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP), 2007 announced by the Government of India, provided for a capital investment subsidy at 30% of the investment made in the plant and machinery.

BEPL's biomass plant has locational advantages resulting in the smooth production of power. The project is located on the national highway connecting Guwahati and Silchar due to which it has following locational advantages: access to a well-developed paddy growing area which will provide rice straw/husk, which can support 6MW power generation capacity; a railway station being only 2.5km away, which allows efficient transportation of the biomass and the presence of the River Barak, 1.5 km from the project site, which will act as source of water throughout the year.

Barak Valley Cement is a manufacturer of cements of different grades starting production in 2001 with a 300 ton per day capacity. The plant was upgraded an now produces 460 tons. The technology Barak uses in manufacturing our product is the Dry Process Rotary Kiln Technology with 4 stage Suspension Pre Heater technology.

The company is located in Assam and all the operations of the company are concentrated in the North Eastern region, where demand for cement is high. Its operations include raw material procurement, crushing, blending, grinding and packaging of cement. The company's product portfolio includes both Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) and Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC).

Picture: a view inside Barak Valey Cements' kiln in Badarpurghat. Credit: Barak Valley Cement.

India PRWire: Assam cement plant's biomass power unit ready now - January 9, 2007.

Badarpur Energy Private Limited.

Indian Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Dept. of Industrial Policy & Promotion: Cement industry.

International Energy Agency: Tracking Industrial Energy Efficiency and CO2 Emissions [*.pdf], 2007 [provides an overview of the energy and carbon intensity of the global cement industry].

Article continues

Süd-Chemie to manufacture biodiesel catalysts for Benefuel

Benefuel, Inc., a biodiesel refining and distribution company, announced an exclusive, world-wide manufacturing agreement with New Delhi-based Süd-Chemie India Pvt. Ltd. (SCIL), a joint venture of Germany's Süd-Chemie AG, one of the world's largest catalyst companies. Under the terms of the manufacturing and supply agreement, SCIL will manufacture the proprietary catalysts for Benefuel's biodiesel
production facilities around the world.

Traditional biodiesel 'catalysts' are better described as chemical 'reactants', rather than catalysts, because they are destroyed during the refining process. Sodium and potassium hydroxides – the most common substances used to transesterify oils and fats into methyl esters - are consumed during production and must be washed out of the biodiesel crude. In addition to being discarded after each batch, caustic reagents must be neutralized with acid before the biodiesel can be recovered and then contaminate the glycerin byproduct with waste salts, which dramatically degrades its commercial value, as well as add costs to the biodiesel process.

Benefuel's solid catalyst technology, developed by chemists and chemical engineers at India's National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), based in Pune, can on the contrary turn most vegetable oils, animal fats or waste cooking oils directly into fatty acid methyl esters, without the need for costly pre-processing or post-process water washing.

Benefuel's ENSEL process, which employs these catalysts, also produces a highly pure glycerin co-product. The purity of this glycerin permits its direct conversion into other commercially attractive chemicals or to pharmaceutical grade glycerin, providing an additional revenue stream for biodiesel manufacturers. The catalysts can also be used with long-chain alcohols to produce premium biolubricant base oils.

The utilization of solid catalysts changes the fundamentals of the biodiesel refining equation, enabling a continuous flow fuel-processing model that is not possible in traditional stirred tank reactors. The latter convert feedstocks to methyl esters in 'batches', requiring significant labor inputs and stop-and-go production. The continuous flow model based on catalysts streamlines the production process and allows for constant output:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Because of this, a Benefuel refinery does not require manual batch testing for quality assurance. Each Benefuel refinery is continuously monitored cutting labor costs and eliminating down time.

Benefuel addresses several major problems in biodiesel today. Its technology platform enables to:
  • Process the broadest range of feedstocks with no pre-processing (up to 100% FFA’s).
  • Eliminate the need for water washing or dry washing, as there is no caustic liquid catalyst to remove.
  • Create an exceptionally high purity glycerin (98%+) resulting in significant economic benefits.
  • Reduce the size of the plant to a portable micro-refinery. These refineries can be pre-configured and shipped ready to produce fuel.
  • Eliminate the possibility of out of specification fuel with an in-line, continuous automated quality monitoring system connected through Internet technologies.
In October, Benefuel announced plans to construct the world's first industrial-scale biodiesel refinery to use its novel, solid catalyst. Construction of the plant, to be located in Seymour, Ind., U.S., will begin in early 2008.

Benefuel, Inc. is a new-generation biodiesel refining and distribution company with a streamlined production process that allows for distributed and scalable biodiesel plants that leverage local resources, enable cost advantages for producers and distributors, and facilitate expansion of the biofuels market.

Benefuel was incorporated in December 2006 bringing together two complimentary groups of entrepreneurs: the team from Gripp Industries, a biodiesel company based on a keen understanding of the fuel needs of the transportation industry and the team from New Century Lubricants which has been developing petroleum and chemical engineering solutions for the past 30 years.

Süd-Chemie AG is a highly-innovative, specialty chemical company operating on a worldwide scale, its catalysts and adsorbents divisions offering products and technical solutions to facilitate effective use of resources in customer value chains.

PRNewswire: Süd-Chemie Enters Biodiesel Market as Manufacturer of Benefuel Catalysts - January 8, 2007.

Benefuel: ENSEL process.

Article continues

Research finds no convincing evidence for decline in tropical forests - need for better monitoring

Claims that tropical forests are declining cannot be backed up by hard evidence, according to new research from the University of Leeds. This major challenge to conventional thinking is the surprising finding of a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Dr Alan Grainger, Senior Lecturer in Geography and one of the world's leading experts on tropical deforestation. From his findings, Dr Grainger concludes that the lack of apparent decline in tropical moist forest area could suggest that deforestation is being offset by natural reforestation at a higher rate than previously thought. However, to understand what is really happening on the ground, the scientist calls for the establishment of a World Forest Observatory that uses the latest satellite tools to monitor the situation.

Every few years we get a new estimate of the annual rate of tropical deforestation, says Dr Grainger. These assessments always seem to show that these marvellous forests have only a short time left. Unfortunately, everybody assumes that deforestation is happening and fails to look at the bigger picture – what is happening to forest area as a whole - he argues.

In the first attempt for many years to chart the long-term trend in tropical forest area, he spent more than three years going through all available United Nations data with a fine toothcomb – and found some serious problems.
The errors and inconsistencies I have discovered in the area data raise too many questions to provide convincing support for the accepted picture of tropical forest decline over the last 40 years. Scientists all over the world who have used these data to make predictions of species extinctions and the role of forests in global climate change will find it helpful to revisit their findings in the light of my study. - Dr Alan Grainger
Dr Grainger does not claim that tropical deforestation is not occurring, as there is plenty of local evidence for that. But owing to the lack of frequent scientific monitoring, something for which he has campaigned for 25 years, we cannot use available data to track the long-term global trend in tropical forest area with great accuracy.
The picture is far more complicated than previously thought. If there is no long-term net decline it suggests that deforestation is being accompanied by a lot of natural reforestation that we have not spotted. - Dr Alan Grainger
The expert first examined data published every 10 years by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since 1980 - the Global Forest Resources Assessments. These cover all forest in the humid and dry tropics and appear to indicate decline. FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, for example, showed that all tropical forest area fell from 1,926 million hectares to 1,799 million hectares between 1990 and 2000. Ten years earlier, however, FAO’s previous report said that tropical forest area fell from 1,910 million ha to 1,756 million ha for the same 90 countries between 1980 and 1990:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Owing to corrections to the earlier study, the 1990s trend was just like a 're-run' of that in the 1980s, says Dr Grainger. The errors involved in making estimates for forest area could easily be of the same order as the forest area reported cleared in the previous 10 years. Even if you take enormous care, as FAO does, the expert argues that large errors are inevitable if you produce global estimates by aggregating national statistics from many countries. This has important implications for the many scientists who rely on FAO data.

Since errors in national statistics are higher for forests in the dry tropics than for forests in the humid tropics, in places near the Equator such as Amazonia, Borneo and the Congo Basin, he repeated the process just for tropical moist forest, with a different set of data, in the hope it would give a clearer picture. This time he found no evidence for decline since the early 1970s. Indeed, while his own estimate in 1983 of tropical moist forest area in 1980 was 1,081 million hectares, the latest satellite data led to an estimate of 1,181 million hectares for the same 63 countries in 2000.
We would expect to see some increase in estimates as we use more accurate satellite sensors. This is even apparent in FAO’s data. It is sad that only in the last 10 years have we begun to make full use of the satellite technology at our disposal. - Dr Alan Grainger
Despite the large errors attached to present estimates, the lack of apparent decline in tropical moist forest area suggests that deforestation is being offset by natural reforestation at a higher rate than previously thought. Dr Grainger uses data from FAO’s latest report, published in 2006, to show that in a few countries, such as Gambia and Vietnam, forest area has actually expanded since 1990, as the reforestation rate has exceeded the deforestation rate. He believes that a rise in natural reforestation is a logical precursor to this switch from net deforestation to net reforestation. It has already been the subject of studies in Brazil, Ecuador and India, but available data are too poor for us to be sure of its exact scale worldwide.

To give us more reliable data Dr Grainger says we need a World Forest Observatory to monitor changes in forests in the tropics and elsewhere.
What is happening to the tropical forests is so important, both to the peoples of tropical countries and to future trends in biodiversity and global climate, that we can no longer put off investing in an independent scientific monitoring programme that can combine satellite and ground data to give a reliable picture. A World Forest Observatory would bring together existing research teams in Europe, the USA and elsewhere and ensure they are properly funded to continue mapping tropical forest at least every five years. It could also undertake a massive project to analyse all available satellite and other data from the past and reconstruct the trend in tropical forest area since 1970. Only then will we really know what has happened to tropical forests over the last 40 years. - Dr Alan Grainger
Dr Alan Grainger, Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Leeds, is an internationally-renowned expert on tropical deforestation, having studied the issue since 1978. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and two overview reports, the first published in The Ecologist magazine in January 1980, followed by a book, Controlling Tropical Deforestation, published in 1993. He gained his doctorate the University of Oxford in 1987 for producing the world's first global computer simulation model of the tropical forests.

Grainger, A. "Difficulties in tracking the long-term global trend in tropical forest area", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 7-11, 2008.

University of Leeds: No convincing evidence for decline in tropical forests - January 8, 2008.

Eurekalert: No convincing evidence for decline in tropical forests - January 7, 2008.

FAO - Forestry: Global Forest Resources Assessment homepage.

BBC: 'No clear trend' in forest loss - January 8, 2007.

Mongabay: Is tropical deforestation really occurring? - January 8, 2007.

Article continues

Renewables in Germany in 2007: 9.1% of total energy consumption, 115m tonnes of CO2 avoided

Germany's national association for renewables (Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie, BEE) today presented its annual overview of the state of clean energy production in the country. According to BEE, 219.5 billion kilowatt hours or 9.1 per cent of all of Germany's primary energy is currently generated from renewables. With this, the country prevented around 115 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Its reduced dependence on imported oil, gas, coal and uranium is now worth €5.9 billion. When all externalities are taken into account, Germany prevented an estimated €8.6 billion worth of environmental damages resulting from the use of fossil fuels.

Despite these encouraging figures, the association warns that laws and policies remain a stumbling block for some forms of clean energy, particularly for renewable transportation fuels which have been plagued by trade and tax related problems.

In 2007, a total of 219.5 billion kilowatt hours worth of electricity and thermal energy were produced from renewables in Germany. Energy from biomass - for electricity generation, heating and transportation fuels - achieved by far the largest share with a total production of 149.6 bn kWh, up from 142.5bn kWh the previous year. Wind (38.5 bn kWh) and hydropower followed (27.1 bn kWh), with solar and geothermal growing but remaining marginal (figure 1, click to enlarge).

BEE notes that the output of electricity from both wind and biomass have grown in 2007, even though investments have decreased slightly compared with the record year 2006. Still, the share of renewables in Germany's electricity production is now 14.3 per cent, up from 11.9 per cent the year before and from 10.3 per cent in 2005. Expressed in kilowatt hours, some 86.71 billion kWh were produced, up 13.67 bn kWh, or the equivalent of the entire annual electricity production of a nuclear power plant.

Fewer new wind turbines have been installed this year, but existing ones have been upgraded, explaining the increased power output to 38.5 bn kWh.

Electricity production from bioenergy (23.5 bn kWh) for the first time surpassed that of hydropower, the output of which has remained virtually stagnant. The fastest growing bioenergy sub-sector is electricity generated from dedicated biogas production (most often in efficient CHP plants): whereas biogas only provided 2.5 bn kWh in 2005, today it accounts for 8.5 bn kWh. Other biomass sources used in Germany for electricity are solid and liquid biofuels, as well as organic waste and landfill gas. Their share keeps growing gradually.

Even though photovoltaic electricity remains tiny compared to wind and bioenergy, it continued its steady growth, from 2.2 to 3bn kWh (figure 2, click to enlarge).

Renewable heat
The BEE notes that a large potential for renewable heat production exist in Germany, but that it remains underexploited and seems to be stagnating, contrary to its growing use in neighboring countries. Currently, heat from biomass, solar thermal installations and geothermal achieves a share of 6.4 per cent in Germany's total heat consumption, equivalent to 89bn kWh. Of this, bioenergy makes up the bulk, with 83.1 bn kWh (figure 3, click to enlarge):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Transport fuels
Liquid biofuels - biodiesel and ethanol - now make up 7 per cent of Germany's total transport fuels, up from 6.6 per cent the year before. The modest growth is the result of the increased taxes on biofuels that came into effect on January 1, 2007. Before that date, biofuels were exempt from fuel taxes.

BEE warns that this policy threatens to put some producers out of business, because they will not be able to compete with manufacturers abroad, notably Brazil for ethanol.

Of the liquid biofuels, of which 4.29 million tonnes were sold, only biodiesel grew significantly, seeing a consumption of 31.9 bn kWh equivalent, up from 28.93 bn kWh. Pure plant oil, used in converted diesel engines and by farmers, grew slightly, while bioethanol declined marginally (down from 3.57 bn kWh eq. to 3.5 bn kWh eq.)

The organisation calls for 'an immediate abandonment of the tax' on liquid biofuels, to reverse the trend.

Savings through renewables
The association states unambiguously that renewables are by far the most effective tool to fight climate change. The combined production of energy from biomass, wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal systems, avoided 115 million tonnes of CO2. This is 14 million tonnes per annum more than in 2006, the equivalent of taking 5 million passenger cars off the road, or of preventing the total emissions of a city the size of Cologne.

The reduced reliance on fossil fuels has benefits to the global environment. Even though a difficult exercise, applying environmental economics to the increased use of renewables, allows the BEE to conclude that an estimated €8.6 billion in environmental damages were avoided. Direct savings from reduced imports of oil, gas, coal and uranium were worth €5.9 billion in 2007.

Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie: Erneuerbare Energien: Rekordwerte trotz gebremsten Wachstums - January 8, 2007.

Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie: Präsentation mit den Jahreszahlen 2007 [*.pdf] - January 8, 2007.

Article continues