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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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Friday, February 15, 2008

Syntec Biofuel achieves yield of 105 gallons of synthetic alcohol per ton of biomass

Syntec Biofuel Inc, a company developing biomass-to-liquids (BTL) conversion technologies, has achieved a yield of 105 gallons (397.5 liters) of alcohols (ethanol, methanol, n-butanol and n-propanol) per ton of lignocellulosic biomass - a milestone. In 2006, the company had targeted a yield of approximately 113 gallons (42.8 liters) per ton, and achieved 73 gallons (27.6 liters) last October. With the new yield achievement and Syntec's projections showing high commercial feasibility for its process, the food versus fuel dilemma is set to end soon, since the process can use any type of biomass.

The Syntec B2A technology, initially developed at the University of British Columbia, is focused on second-generation cellulosic ethanol production via a process that parallels the low-pressure catalytic synthesis process used by methanol producers. The company has a specific focus on non-precious metal catalysts to synthesize specific alcohols (schematic, click to enlarge). High pressure catalytic synthesis requires substantial energy to operate and the risk associated with the high pressure is significant. Syntec Biofuels utilizes more energy efficient low pressure catalytic synthesis instead (previous post). Using this technology, it has now broken the 100 gallon per ton of biomass barrier for the first time.
This level of achievement makes the B2A process profitable in relatively small scale facilities using a wide variety of waste biomass feedstocks in any combination. - Michael Jackson, President of Syntec Biofuel Inc.
Syntec’s synthetic biofuel technology uses any renewable waste biomass such as hard or soft wood, sawdust or bark, organic waste, agricultural waste (including sugar cane bagasse and corn stover), and switch-grass to produce syngas.

This syngas, comprised of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is then scrubbed and passed through a fixed bed reactor containing the Syntec catalysts to produce ethanol, methanol and higher order alcohols. The Syntec technology can also produce alcohols from biogas ("biogas-to-liquids"), such as biogas sourced from anaerobic digestion of manure and effluent, landfill gas or stranded methane:
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According to Syntec, the 105 gallon per ton yield marks a major milestone as it is equivalent to revenues in excess of $27 million per year for a 300 ton per day biomass processing facility.

In October 2007, Syntec calculated that the variable cost per gallon alcohol on then current yield (approximately 73 gallons per ton) was C$0.48 per gallon, which it expected to shrink to C$0.37 per gallon on reaching a targeted yield of 113 gallons per ton. Current dry mill production of corn ethanol yields approximately 100 gallons per ton of corn (2.8 gallons/bushel corn grain, 1 bushel = approximately 56 lbs).

Syntec is continuing to optimize its catalytic technology, and projects reaching the 113 gallon per ton yield this year.

Syntec Biofuel: Syntec Biofuel achieves yield of 105 gallons of alcohol per ton of biomass - February 14, 2008.

Biopact: Syntec Biofuel acquires catalyst technology for biomass-to-liquids production - October 02, 2007

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New study shows stabilizing climate requires near-zero carbon emissions now - boosts case for carbon-negative bioenergy

Now that scientists have reached a consensus that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are the major cause of global warming, the next question is: How can we stop it? Can we just cut back on carbon, or do we need to go much further? According to a new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution, halfway measures won't do the job. To stabilize our planet's climate, we need to find ways to reduce emissions to near-zero, immediately.

This means carbon-negative bioenergy becomes the key technology, as it is the only energy system that allows societies to function normally while actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Carbon-negative bioenergy with its negative emissions is obtained by coupling carbon capture and storage (CCS) to bioenergy production - by either storing biogenic CO2 in geological formations or as biochar in soils.

Ordinary renewables like wind, solar, or hydropower - which all add new CO2 to the atmosphere over their lifecycle - can play a role, but do not go far enough, especially given the enormity of the task of countering emissions from fossil fuels. Take photovoltaics: per kilowatthour of electricity produced, around 100 grams of CO2 equivalent is released over the entire lifecycle of the solar energy system. Wind power comes in at +30grams, as does biomass, while hydropower and nuclear add between 10 and 20 grams. Carbon-negative bioenergy on the contrary can yield up to -1000 grams (that is: minus a thousand grams per kWh). In short, the emissions generated by classic renewables and fossil fuels, must be counter-acted by carbon-negative bioenergy if we want to reach a level of near zero new emissions.
What if we were to discover tomorrow that a climate catastrophe was imminent if our planet warmed any further? To reduce emissions enough to avoid this catastrophe, we would have to cut them close to zero - and right away. - Ken Caldeira, Stanford University, Carnegie Institution, Department of Global Ecology
In the study, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, climate scientists Ken Caldeira and Damon Matthews used an Earth system model at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology to simulate the response of the Earth's climate to different levels of carbon dioxide emission over the next 500 years. The model, a sophisticated computer program developed at the University of Victoria, Canada, takes into account the flow of heat between the atmosphere and oceans, as well as other factors such as the uptake of carbon dioxide by land vegetation, in its calculations.

This is the first peer-reviewed study to investigate what level of carbon dioxide emission would be needed to prevent further warming of our planet.

Most scientific and policy discussions about avoiding climate change have centered on what emissions would be needed to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But stabilizing greenhouse gases does not equate to a stable climate. The scientists studied what emissions would be needed to stabilize climate in the foreseeable future.

They investigated how much climate changes as a result of each individual emission of carbon dioxide, and found that each increment of emission leads to another increment of warming. So, if we want to avoid additional warming, we need to avoid additional emissions. With emissions set to zero in the simulations, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowly fell as carbon sinks such as the oceans and land vegetation absorbed the gas. Surprisingly, however, the model predicted that global temperatures would remain high for at least 500 years after carbon dioxide emissions ceased.

Just as an iron skillet will stay hot and keep cooking after the stove burner's turned off, heat held in the oceans will keep the climate warm even as the heating effect of greenhouse gases diminishes. Adding more greenhouse gases, even at a rate lower than today, would worsen the situation and the effects would persist for centuries.

Global carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are both growing at record rates. Even if we could freeze emissions at today's levels, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations would continue to increase. If we could stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which would require deep cuts in emissions, the Earth would continue heating up. Matthews and Caldeira found that to prevent the Earth from heating further, carbon dioxide emissions would, effectively, need to be eliminated:
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While eliminating carbon dioxide emissions may seem like a radical idea, Caldeira sees it as a feasible goal. It is just not that hard to solve the technological challenges, he says.

Ken Caldeira is a climate scientist in the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University. Damon Matthews is a climate scientist in the Concordia University Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment in Montreal, Canada.

Going negative
In 2005, a group of scientists obtained a mandate from the G8 to study ways to drastically reduce and even eliminate carbon emissions on a global scale. This group, called the Abrupt Climate Change Strategy group (ACCS), found that carbon-negative bioenergy can be implemented on a global scale and would allow societies to function as normal. If implemented widely - replacing all fossil fueled power stations with biomass+CCS - we can even bring back atmospheric CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels by mid-century (2060), they found.

Carbon-negative bioenergy production is the only feasible geo-engineering type of intervention. Not only is it a very low risk strategy to eliminate emissions, it is commercially and economically manageable.

Negative emissions from bioenergy can be obtained both in electricity production as in biofuel production: in both cases, the biomass is decarbonised and the CO2 sequestered safely. Leaks from CO2 storage sites would not be problematic since the CO2 is biogenic in nature.

In power production, the biofuel is turned into hydrogen (a decarbonised fuel) in integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power stations, after which the CO2 can be captured and stored. Other options exist, such as capturing emissions from existing power plants that have switched from coal to solid biomass or from natural gas to biogas. In biofuels for transport, the biomass is turned into hydrogen via gasification or biological fermentation, with the carbon dioxide again captured and sequestered.

Finally, negative emissions energy systems can be created by coupling bioenergy to biochar production. Part of the biomass is turned into an inert form of carbon (biochar or agrichar), which is then sequestered into soils (which boosts crop production). The rest of the energy is used for the production of power and heat. This way, energy can be generated while establishing a manageable carbon sink.

Only biomass-based systems can result in negative emissions energy that removes CO2 from the past and cleans up the atmosphere. In the event of "abrupt climate change" or when a radical transition to "zero emissions" is needed, which is the case according to Caldeira and Matthews, they are the key technology to achieve the goal.


Matthews, H. D., and K. Caldeira (2008), "Stabilizing climate requires near-zero emissions", Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2007GL032388, in press.

Eurekalerts: Stabilizing climate requires near-zero carbon emissions - February 14, 2008.

Scientific literature on negative emissions from biomass:
H. Audus and P. Freund, "Climate Change Mitigation by Biomass Gasificiation Combined with CO2 Capture and Storage", IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme.

James S. Rhodesa and David W. Keithb, "Engineering economic analysis of biomass IGCC with carbon capture and storage", Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 29, Issue 6, December 2005, Pages 440-450.

Noim Uddin and Leonardo Barreto, "Biomass-fired cogeneration systems with CO2 capture and storage", Renewable Energy, Volume 32, Issue 6, May 2007, Pages 1006-1019, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2006.04.009

Christian Azar, Kristian Lindgren, Eric Larson and Kenneth Möllersten, "Carbon Capture and Storage From Fossil Fuels and Biomass – Costs and Potential Role in Stabilizing the Atmosphere", Climatic Change, Volume 74, Numbers 1-3 / January, 2006, DOI 10.1007/s10584-005-3484-7

Further reading on negative emissions bioenergy and biofuels, and carbon capture techniques:
Peter Read and Jonathan Lermit, "Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage (BECS): a Sequential Decision Approach to the threat of Abrupt Climate Change", Energy, Volume 30, Issue 14, November 2005, Pages 2654-2671.

Stefan Grönkvist, Kenneth Möllersten, Kim Pingoud, "Equal Opportunity for Biomass in Greenhouse Gas Accounting of CO2 Capture and Storage: A Step Towards More Cost-Effective Climate Change Mitigation Regimes", Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Volume 11, Numbers 5-6 / September, 2006, DOI 10.1007/s11027-006-9034-9

Biopact: Commission supports carbon capture & storage - negative emissions from bioenergy on the horizon - January 23, 2008

Biopact: The strange world of carbon-negative bioenergy: the more you drive your car, the more you tackle climate change - October 29, 2007

Biopact: "A closer look at the revolutionary coal+biomass-to-liquids with carbon storage project" - September 13, 2007

Biopact: New plastic-based, nano-engineered CO2 capturing membrane developed - September 19, 2007

Biopact: Plastic membrane to bring down cost of carbon capture - August 15, 2007

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward? - March 31, 2007

Biopact: Towards carbon-negative biofuels: US DOE awards $66.7 million for large-scale CO2 capture and storage from ethanol plant - December 19, 2007

Biopact: Biochar and carbon-negative bioenergy: boosts crop yields, fights climate change and reduces deforestation - January 28, 2008

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German group invests €50 million in 20 biogas projects in France

German bioenergy group BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has announced its subsidiary BIOSTROM Energy Group AG has created a joint venture with BEE Beteiligungsgesellschaft Erneuerbare Energien mbH to invest €50 million (US$73.05mln) in 20 biogas projects in France's Alsace region. The new company, France Biogaz Valorisation, based in Haguenau, will build biogas plants with a capacity of at least 500 megawatts annually.

Leading development company Sterr-Koelln & Partners will assist the planning and construction of the anaerobic digesters, which will primarily cater to customers from the foodstuffs industry. BIOSTROM and BEE both have a 50 percent stake in France Biogaz Valorisation, with the first €50 million investment being part of a strategy that will be expanded to a nine-digit sum when the first plants are online. The consortium will plan and develop projects and organise investment, with finance being provided by institutional investors and food processors.
This joint venture is of great importance, because there are only a few biogas facilities in France so far, with a combined output of 60MWel, even though the potential is enormous. Demand for biogas technologies is huge and our business model is unrivalled in meeting it because we aren't a biogas plant manufacturer, but a general project developer who succeeds in covering the entire project and value chain: from the location search, to long-term operational and financial management. This model has proved to be highly successful elsewhere. - Guenter Schlotmann, COO of BKN BioKraftstoff Nord
The venture targets France because biogas production potential was found to be very large there and renewable energy regulations favorable. In France, renewable energy use receives incentives that compare favorably to Germany's Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz (Renewables Law), in that a fixed amount of support is guaranteed independent of the scale of the project and the raw materials used.

Furthermore, France's biogas market is very underdeveloped compared to Germany, where thousands of farmers have built small and larger plants to generate extra income by feeding green electricity into the grid or renewable gas into the natural gas pipelines. According to BKN, independent studies expect annual growth in this market segment in France to be between 30 and 60 per cent until 2020:
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The new consortium plans to produce biogas mainly from waste streams from the food processing industry. According to BKN, French food processors currently have to pay to remove large amounts of waste materials such as potato peelings. This waste is a free feedstock for the production of biomethane, which can be generated profitably.

Biogas is obtained by fermenting organic material - either agricultural, industrial or municipal waste or dedicated energy crops - under anaerobic conditions. Biogas can be upgraded to natural gas quality by scrubbing out corrosive residual gases, to obtain almost pure methane. This gas can then be used locally for the production of heat and power, or fed into the natural gas grid.

Germany is world leader in biogas development, but the sector is expanding rapidly throughout Europe. According to the latest "Biogas Barometer", in 2006, around 5.35 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) was produced in the EU, an increase of 13.6% compared to 2005. The production of electricity from biogas grew by 28.9% over the same period. Germany remains European leader and noted a 55.9% growth in 2006 in electricity generated from the renewable gas (previous post, and map, click to enlarge).

According to a study commissioned by the German Green Party, Europe has a very large biogas potential, so large in fact that it could replace all Russian natural gas imports by 2020 (more here). A short overview of some of the recent technological developments in biogas production can be found here: Experts see 2007 as the year of biogas; biomethane as a transport fuel.

BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has specialised itself in biogas project management after abandoning biodiesel projects, following a collapse of the industry in Germany mainly because of taxes on biofuels. BIOSTROM Energy Group AG functions as the company's operational subsidiary which plans and builds concrete projects.

BKN BioKraftstoff Nord: Joint Venture für Frankreich gegründet, 50 Mio. EUR Projektvolumen gesichert - February 15, 2008.

Biopact: Study: EU biogas production grew 13.6% in 2006, holds large potential - July 24, 2007

Biopact: Report: biogas can replace all EU natural gas imports - January 04, 2008

Biopact: Experts see 2007 as the year of biogas; biomethane as a transport fuel - January 09, 2007

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Lanworth tailors its satellite-based tools to estimate biomass potential

A growing number of remote sensing service companies is finding opportunities in the emerging bioenergy sector, by providing detailed data about the availability of biomass in a given region and the feasibility of harvesting it for commercial use. Similarly, several governments and international organisations are drawing on earth observation data that drive GIS-tools which allow policy makers and investors to assess biofuels potential, make investment and management decisions and allow for estimates of impacts on local economies, ecosystems and populations.

Such tools - which often come in the form of an interactive GIS-based biomass atlas - can be as simple or as complex as one wants them to be, depending on the types of data that are connected to each other (environmental, social, infrastructural, etc) and on the desired level of detail. They can be static or dynamic and allow projections well into the future. Ultimately, a global biomass atlas of sorts should emerge, that can be used as the basis for discussions about the long-term sustainability of the sector (previous post on the FAO's recently unveiled bioenergy assessment tool).

An Illinois-based company has now joined the growing group of data providers who may contribute to the creation of such an atlas, by tailoring its satellite technology to help clients figure out how much woody biomass is available in a given area. Lanworth Inc. is an information technology company that specializes in the application of aerial and satellite remote sensing for natural resources management.

For the past seven years, Lanworth has enabled companies in the forest products industry to estimate pulp and timber volumes. Now, it has added another module that will help clients figure how much woody biomass can be extracted beyond sawmill and pulp extractions.
It has been a natural extension for us to deploy our tools to organizations pursuing wood-pellet plants, biomass boilers, cellulosic ethanol or other woody biomass-based facilities. - Shailu Verma, vice president of Lanworth
Lanworth has records of global forest covers that date back to the 1970s. It tracks growth of forest covers and is able to put the trajectory of growth of any forest in the world.

On the basis of these EO data, it then builds proprietary models that can tell how much woody biomass is available. The models use soil, elevation, slope, wetlands and other data layers to estimate extraction costs, as well as the total delivered cost of fiber to a processing site. The models also show the environmental impacts of additional biomass harvesting:
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I believe we can help make these significant investment decisions, which not only have an important impact on the economics of fiber supply in a region, but also help manage the region’s environmental balance. - Shailu Verma
Lanworth also performs similar analyses for crops. It assesses how many acres were planted, and how much yield would come out of corn, soy and wheat across the world.

The company's presence right now is largely in the United States, but it also has clients in Brazil and Argentina. Very soon, it will be working in the Baltic states, where a large bioenergy potential exists. The imaging is also used by clients to understand acreage and yield expected in the palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Verma said the woody biomass technology is used by pellet manufacturers, while the crop technology is utilized by large agribusinesses and hedge funds that are actively trading commodities.

Image: On multiple sites in Brazil, Lanworth analyzed satellite and aerial images to identify conflicts between planned and actual harvest zones. Additionally, conservation plots were examined to detect illegal logging. Also in Brazil, an appraisal project involved the verification of Eucalyptus harvest. Credit: Lanworth, Inc.

Biomass Magazine: Satellite-based tools estimate woody biomass supplies - February 12, 2008.

Biopact: FAO unveils important bioenergy assessment tool to ensure food security, shows global biofuels potential - February 11, 2008

Biopact: India prepares 'Biomass Atlas' to map and tap bioenergy potential - November 26, 2007

Biopact: India to roll out real-time data on all standing crops - towards 'planetary biomass management' - October 02, 2007

Biopact: Satellites play vital role in understanding the carbon cycle - April 26, 2007

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