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    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2007.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2007.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2007.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.


    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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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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Turning pest into profit: bioenergy from water hyacinth



Water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) is a beautiful plant, but is considered to be one of the world's most destructive and unbeatable weeds. It clogs up rivers, hydroelectric plants, waterways and entire lakes, killing aquatic life, hampering river transport and fisheries, endangering the livelihoods of millions of poor people in the tropics.
According to a study produced by the World Conservation Council (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the water hyacinth is now the world's most destructive pest, costing billions of dollars in damages each year.

Due to its ferocious biomass growth rate (up to 17 tonnes per hectare per day, doubling its biomass each week!), it colonizes water bodies in a matter of days, laying immense and dense carpets of flowers over the water. One flower produces up to 1000 new plants in under 50 days...

Originating from South America, the water hyacinth is now found in all major tropical rivers and lakes of the world. There's a long history of attempts to control the species, from mechanical destruction over manual harvesting, to, more recently, biological control through a species of beetle which lays its eggs in the plant on which those eggs feed. One colonial administrator working in the Belgian Congo, tasked with coordinating a grand campaign to destroy the hyacinth, even wrote a bizarre autobiographical novel about it (Congo Ya Sika), narrating his encounters with crocodiles, cannibals and Congolese curses while trying to battle the flower (a battle he lost, by the way.)

In short: water hyacinth is a major problem in the tropics, and it produces a lot of nasty biomass.

Could it be used as a bioenergy and biofuels feedstock perhaps? Indeed, it could:



First of all, let's see how creative people are and how they are making the best of the pest that seems to be indestructible.

People have experimented with using the water hyacinth as a substrate for mushroom production. This seems to work for a wide variety of mushrooms (e.g., oyster mushrooms), and the plant offers a high biological conversion efficiency.

Others claim it makes for an excellent bio-fertilizer: water hyacinth biomass accumulates a great amount of inorganic mineral nutrients necessary for other plants. When its biomass is pelleted together with local rock phosphates, it seems like it makes a good fertilizer. Some say its use will reduce over-dependence on imported fertilizers, promote agricultural productivity and profitability, and enhance food security for several regions that suffer under water hyacinth invasion.

More recently, smart small African entrepreneurs have started making beautiful pieces of furniture from it. When compressed and dried, the hyacinth's fibrous stalks generate soft but strong fibres, which can be used for manufacturing paper, mats, and various categories of domestic furniture. Check out these nice examples.

Sewage and biological waste-water treatment: by virtue of its high photosynthetic efficiency, with the associated photosynthetic oxygen production, water hyacinth has great potential for use in sewage treatment. Water hyacinth absorbs nutrients voraciously and enhances evaporation through transpiration. Growing water hyacinth in effluent streams has proved to be a successful treatment technology.

For more on some of these uses, check out the Swedish Development Agency's report [*.pdf] on utilisation and control of Water Hyacinths.


Now let's get to where things interest us. Biogas production. Water hyacinth's abundant biomass can be used to produce renewable energy locally, simply fermenting it in anaerobic digester.

Biogas production from manure and from sewage and agricultural wastestreams has been studied well. For water hyacinth, the literature is scarce, but some (such as this one, this one [*.pdf], and another one by the FAO) exist and they suggest the weed to make for a great biogas feedstock.

Some conclusions:

1. the total amount of gas produced from Water hyacinth is about one and a- half time higher than the Cow dung per gm volatile solid.

2. a blend of Water hyacinth and Cow dung in the ratio of 2:3 by weight is most suitable for biogas production.

3. Addition of very little amount of lower volatile fatty acid particularly acetic acid facilitates the gas production. This finding is very helpful for projects at the village level, where farmers often use biogas plants. In many villages all over the tropics, farmers produce sugar (from many different plants such as palm sugar, coconut, sugar cane or other local plants). If the leftover of the process of making sugar juice is kept for fermentation for a few days the content will be highly rich in acetic acid. The addition of this left over would circumvent the problem of lower gas production during the colder nights and biogas plants could run successfully during all the seasons.

4. The rate of production of biogas from Water hyacinth is higher as compared to Cow dung slurry. However, the fermentation process takes a longer time period in the case of Water hyacinth. The kinetic studies performed with Water hyacinth + inocculum show that gas production rate increases twelve times in a very short period of five days in comparison to Cow dung + Water hyacinth (20 – 40 days) systems.

5. The digested slurry can be used as useful chemical free eco-friendly fertilizer.


We can imagine many local farmers in the tropics benefiting from using this abundant resource. Harvesting the crop might be labor or energy intensive, but this cost is offset by the fact that a major pest is destroyed while at the same time yielding energy. Most of the poor countries where the hyacinth is a major problem, do not have the funds to launch targetted control campaigns. So it might be crucial to introduce basic biogas technology to places where the weed destroys fish stocks, clogs up water ways or threatens small hydroplants. That way, investments in removing the weed become more economic.

This is just a first exploration of the use of water hyacinth as a bioenergy feedstock. Here at the BioPact we try explore bioenergy in the tropics in all its forms. Access to energy for the poor is one of our priorities. We think this case of turning a pest into profit, is worth looking into further.

Laurens Rademakers

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Sneak Preview of the "Biofuels Atlas" - a great planning tool

Exclusive story, from our own members


One of our members works as a researcher for a bioenergy consulting firm and he's currently involved in a mapping project called the Biofuels Atlas. We are grateful that he's willing to give us a sneak preview of his work. Since the planning tool is proprietary, we can only give a few screenshots.
The Biofuels Atlas uses a series of agronomic GIS and socio-economic databases on land use patterns, hydrology, climate, soils, growing seasons, crop productivities, demographic and economic trends, urbanisation, climate change and political risks, transport infrastructure and projected energy demand, to name the most important factors. Many of those are provided by the UN, the IEA and other big institutions, still others are academic databases whereas the rest are proprietary.

The result is a fascinating interactive tool that allows planners to visualise a country's bioenergy, biomass and biofuels production potential over time, using combinations of layers. The maps show the potential per energy crop, or for a combination of crops. More than 14 of the most interesting bioenergy crops will be covered (amongst them sugar cane, cassava, sorghum, sugar beet, palm oil, soya, maize, jatropha, eucalyptus, switchgrass, poplar, sunflower and coconut).

We can't wait to see the Biofuels Atlas coming online.
Have a look at some of the maps.




Biofuels Atlas, combination of socio-economic and climate layers


Biofuels Atlas, showing sugar cane land suitability layer for the DR Congo


Biofuels Atlas, showing several types of forest in the DR Congo


Biofuels Atlas, showing cassava land suitability layer for the DR Congo

As can be noted, cassava does not grow in rainforest zones, on the contrary, it prefers agro-ecological zones at the fringes and at lower and higher latitudes.

We already knew this was the case for cassava in Central-Africa, but to our surprise, the same is true for soya.


Biofuels Atlas, showing soya land suitability layer for the DR Congo

Soya does not grow there were rainforests thrive. The Biofuels Atlas promises to bring more nuance to the debate about the environmental effects of energy farming. This is exactly what's needed, since this debate is often troubled by a lack of scientific insight - for example, some environmentalists continuously refer to soya's destructive effects on rainforests, but then we see this map; in the case of the DRCongo, soya isn't even an important crop. Cassava and sorghum have much more potential (both crops do not eat away forests, on the contrary).


Sadly the pictures are too small to read the total energy potential of all these energy crops, but we have been assured that it is impressive. Anyway, we can't wait to use this interactive tool. It will allow us to get a better appreciation of where we're going with our project - and it will be an interesting guideline in the discussions about which crops hold the greatest potential over time, and which ones have what kind of effects on the ecology of the regions we're concerned with here at the BioPact.

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