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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.


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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Quicknotes on biofuels, from the hispanic world

Our Spanish speaking crew compiled the following overview of newsbits on biofuels from the hispanic world. For this month's quicknotes from the lusophone world, check here.

ARGENTINA. A new and very interesting law stimulating biofuels production will create 25,000 jobs in Argentina, in the sector of biodiesel and ethanol for export alone, says senator Roberto Urquía who introduced the bill, in an interesting interview. The senator notes that Argentina has arrived at a "point of no return" when it comes to biofuels.
Interestingly, the "Ley de Biocombustibles" stresses a "bottom-up" approach for biofuels production, giving small farmers more legal instruments to become fiscal persons (in the form of cooperatives), so that they can more easily access micro-credit and capital. Bioenergy and biofuels production need a "critical mass of capital" in order to be successful, which is what the law tries to promote.
The leftist government currently in power in Argentina, will try to push the creation of biofuel production units by fiscal measures, crucially giving priority to small farmer associations over agro-industrial giants. A tech transfer program aimed at those small cooperatives will be put in place.
Further, the law contains very stringent environmental criteria to ensure that the biofuels are produced in a sustainable way.
We at the BioPact think this is the way forward for countries where huge social inequalities between farmers and the elite exist. June 6, Agrodiario Argentina and Noticias Agropecuarias.

SPAIN. Researchers from the University of Almeria have joined forces to create a "Biotech Lab for the Study of Marine Microalgae". Their aim is to couple CO2 emissions from industrial power plants to (genetically altered) algae systems which produce bioenergy feedstocks (both for ethanol as for biodiesel) by feeding on the CO2. That way, the algae biofuels displace the CO2 that would normally come from the use of petroleum.
Other research is dedicated to using the algae as a "CO2-container" for easy carbon storage underground. It is much easier to pump the captured CO2 underground when it is contained in algae, than to store it as a free gas. May 31, Terra Actualidad.

COLOMBIA. A joint-venture between a Spanish (Ingemas) and a Colombian agro-industrial company has made a major (€ 180 million) investment in producing biodiesel feedstock for export to Europe, on 90,000 hectares of land, using local oil crops, such as Inchi, Jatropha and Sacha-Inchi ('Inca Peanuts'). Sacha-Inchi (see picture) is native to the Amazon, a small hardy bush, the (edible) seeds of which contain up to 55% oil, making it an excellent biodiesel feedstock crop.
The project will produce up to 300,000 tons of oil to be exported to Europe, and a similar amount of protein for animal feed (from the press cake) to be used by local beef producers.
Interestingly, the Colombian government considers Sacha-Inchi to be a "strategic crop" which may provide an alternative source of income for coca-farmers.
Finally, the same companies are negotiating with Manuel Del Lago, another firm, to create a "bio-terminal" on the Río Orinoco in Venezuela, from which the biodiesel feedstock can be shipped to Europe. The project will create some 6000 new jobs. June 12, Finanzas. See also: "Alianza colombo-española en el agro", Portafolio Colombia.

URUGUAY. German and Canadian investors are to invest US$ 45 in a cellulosic ethanol plant in the rice-growing region of Treinta y Tres. The plant will use abundantly available rice hulls and stalks that are considered to be low-value waste products.
The technology in question is that of Iogen Corp, the Canadian pioneer in cellulosic ethanol. The project creates 200 direct jobs. June 15, Espectador.

PANAMÁ. Panamá and Brazil are combining their strengths to create a centre for the global distribution of biofuels. Panamá has no petroleum reserves of its own and is looking to Brazilian expertise for a technology transfer program that should introduce local biofuels production. But more importantly, Panamá of course has its intercontinental Canal, facing both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. And that's a great asset, especially for Brazil. Panamá would become a bioenergy hub, processing and distributing biofuels from Brazil for export to both the Far East, Europe and the United States's West Coast.
As we have reported before (in the context of Brazil's 1000km dedicated ethanol pipeline), for a global biofuels trade to come into existence, a lot of infrastructural barriers still exist. The fact that Brazil is eyeing Panamá for the creation of a 'Biohub' does not come as a surprize though. June 6, El Mercurio Online.

PARAGUAY. The country's Ethanol 85 programme is a huge success, with a record demand for the fuel, now standing at 465,000 litres a day. Distilleries cannot keep up with demand and are enjoying record revenues. It now becomes crucial to increase sugar production, but through productivity increases and not so much through expansion of the growing area. For this purpose, Paraguay is looking to Brazilian expertise (with its long experience and knowledge about sugar cane agronomy. Brazil also has a vast collection of special sugar cane varieties). Jun 15, Portal Paraguayo de Noticias.

SPAIN. Spain is Europe's biggest corn producer and exporter so it looks to the global market and notes China’s record harvest this year. China's National Food Import & Export Corporation announced that the maize growing area in China has increased by 1.9%, total production is up by 1.6% and the use of the grain for the production of ethanol is up by 27%, now standing at 1.22 million tons. June 14, Terra Actualidad.

ARGENTINA. An Argentinian daughter of Japanese giant Mitsui has decided to invest US$ 300 million in an ethanol plant to be constructed in Rosario (Cordoba Province). This was announced right after the new and controversial "Ley de Biocombustibles" was passed, which focuses strongly on the social opportunities coming with biofuels. It will be interesting to see how an industrial giant cooperates with the small cooperatively owned farmers' associations that the law aims to support.
Mitsui's investment follows that of many other companies, including Repsol (US$ 30 million; 100,000 ton ethanol production plant), Vincentín (US$ 40 million, 200,000 ton biodiesel plant) and Oil Fox (US$ 80 million in both biodiesel and ethanol).
The investments keep coming, despite disgruntled agro-industrial giants like Cargill and Oil Fox, who have been critical of the socially responsible biofuels law. May 17, La Capital.

SPAIN. Between 19 and 22 October 2006, the city of Valladolid will host ExpoBioenergia 2006, a major bioenergy fair in Europe. More at: ExpoBioenergia.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Milton Olive, director of the Dominican Chamber for Biofuels and Bioenergy urges Parliament to speed up legislative work on biofuels, saying the country has great potential for the production of home-grown fuel, and that such a law and program will attract major investments and create thousands of jobs. Olive wants mandatory targets and incentives to investments in infrastructure and agriculture, comparable to those implemented in the European Union.
Given the Dominican Republic's exemplary governance of its natural resources, Olive also wants a major program for the production of bio-fertilizers and for recycling agricultural waste streams. June 17, El Nuevo Diario.

ECUADOR. Malaysia and Brazil are interested in Ecuador's potential for the cultivation of Elaeis Guineensis, the African oil palm, as a biofuels feedstock. A Brazilian company is eyeing investments in 100,000 hectares of land whereas Malaysian investors have filed for the acquisition of 50,000 hectares. Ecuador currently produces 340,000 tonnes of palm oil, which it exports to Venezuela. June 12, CRE Satelital Equador.

CUBA. We end with an op-ed piece from Cuba, where Arnaldo Coro writes about the "ethics" of biofuels, a topic of interest to the BioPact. Notwithstanding the environmental and energy security benefits of ethanol and biodiesel, the question of food security must be addressed on a global scale. The reality of our consumer society is such that millions of tons of food are turned into fuel for wealthy consumers who drive inefficient cars, while at the same time 800 million people are facing food shortages and hunger. The global push towards biofuels will put pressure on grain and sugar prices, affecting these poor most.
Further, Coro notes that an opportunity exists for farmers in the South, though, to export their own energy crops. These crops enjoy the climatic advantages of the tropics, making them the most competitive. But such a scenario first requires wealthy markets such as those of the U.S. and the E.U. to lift their "criminal" subsidies, so that access to these markets indeed becomes a reality. June 15, Cuba Ahora.

[Entry ends here.]

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