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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, July 02, 2006

Quicknotes on biofuels from the francophone world

Time for our notes on biofuels from the French speaking world. Please don't forget to check our previous notes from the hispanic and the lusophone world.

BENIN. We start in West-Africa, where the World Bank is implementing a bioenergy scheme, in coordination with the Beninese government, that will bring energy self-sufficiency to poor rural villages. The programme starts from converting local biomass residues into densified biopellets that can be used in small co-generation facilities. This ensures that existing pressures on forests are diminished and that households no longer experience the damaging effects of indoor smoke pollution when cooking and heating. Indoor smoke pollution kills an estimated 2 million people, mostly women, each year. June, 28 Le Matinal.

FRANCE. The French government has formally installed the long-awaited "Flex fuel 2010" action group, symbolically headed by former F1-pilot Alain Prost. The working group unites the automotive sector, the petroleum sector, the agriculture sector, consumer associations and government administrations.
The policy group's aim is to turn France into an ethanol nation by 2010, with a crash program that will have to create breakthroughs in all sectors: the car manufacturers will be supported to have a line of flex-fuel vehicles ready by 2010, the agro-industrial sector will be backed with R&D and concrete investments into production facilities, the petroleum sector will be helped to devise distribution and transmix agreements, and the government will prepare financial regulations, technical norms and agricultural policies on the EU level.
France's government was the first to take 'Peak Oil' seriously, when it published a report projecting the date for that potentially catastrophic 'event' to be around 2014, which is very soon. It is now working towards a radical energy transition, using its large bioenergy potential. June 7, Libération.

SWITZERLAND. The Swiss gas industry has signed a Biogas Convention and has created a fund, which will result in doubling the injection of biogas into the pipeline network of the country. Gas companies who inject more biogas into the network than the standing average, get a bonus from the fund. The convention states that at least 10% of all gas used in the country must come from biomass.
Biogas is a renewable and CO2 neutral gas obtained from the methanisation of biomass residues and comparable to ordinary natural gas. Purified, it can be injected into the existing gas infrastructure.
Switzerland is one of the leading consumers of biogas. In 2005, it used 11.6 GWh of biogas and 19.7GWh of natural gas, which comes down to a 37.5% share for biogas. This year, new biogas installations are coming online fast, some of them aimed at fuelling public fleets (that used to operate on CNG). June 29, Presseportal.

FRANCE. The Franco-German company that won last year's Energy Globe Award for its technology for mixing biogas into natural gas networks, Schmack Biogas AG, has developed a process for the purification of biogas using micro-algae. The pilot project is supported by state funds and runs until 2008. It uses a sweet water algae, Spirulina platensis, which scrubs the gas obtained by dry fermentation, and removes the CO2 and other impurities that have corrosive effects on infrastructures. The algae need CO2 to grow. And the more CO2 they remove from the biogas, the richer its methane content and the higher its energy content. While the algae do their work, they themselves grow into a bioenergy feedstock that can later be recycled to produce more biogas or biofuels. June 1, Futura Sciences.

ILE MAURICE. The island state of Mauritius is seeing a biodiesel hype with three investments having received the green light to start producing the fuel this year. An Indian company is opting for the oil palm as its main feedstock. Other initiatives focus on Jatropha curcas and Pongamia. A 20,000 ha jatropha plantation is currently being established.
For island states like Mauritius it makes sense to invest in domestically produced biofuels, since their petroleum import bills are exceptionally high due to the fact that they cannot use the same leverage as big consumers when buying on the open market, nor can they invest in their own petroleum infrastructure (because of scale disadvantages).
It is estimated that the new biofuel projects will save the state an impressive 450 million Mauritian rupees (€ 11.5 million) per year, capable of providing 30% of Mauritius' liquid fuel needs. On average, the locally produced biodiesel will be competitive when a barrel of oil costs more than US$ 43. July 1,L'Express.

FRANCE. Agritel and Agrisalon offer an interesting op-ed piece on the long-term market perspective for biofuels on a global scale. The piece is written from the perspective of French agriculture and its place in Europe. Its main conclusions, which are logical and interesting for us at the BioPact: after a first phase of heavy investments and soaring domestic production, a stagnation phase will set in because Europe will have used up its land resources and will have opened up its market to foreign bioenergy producers. This second phase will see imports of biofuel feedstocks from the South, most notably the tropical belt of countries made up by Brazil, Central Africa and South Eas Asia.
Check out this piece, with an in-depth discussion about possible WTO agreements on green energy, and scenario's for France's agricultural policy development within the EU as we enter the era of bioenergy. June 15, Agrisalon.

FRENCH CARIBBEAN & GUYANA. eCaraibes offers an interesting overview of the potential for biofuels production in the Caribbean. This region is exempt from import tarriffs when it wants to export green energy to the EU, under the Union's APC-provision. Both President Chirac and the EU's Development Commissioner, Louis Michel, have pointed out that the EU welcomes biofuels produced in the region, and that they offer a route for development now that energy prices are so high. The Caribbean have a long tradition of sugar production, that died a few years ago because of low world prices, but that can now be revived in the context of the global ethanol market.
The article further offers an interesting overview of investments in bioenergy and biofuels, made by European and Brazilian companies. s.d. June, eCaraibes.

FRANCE. Le Figaro expands on the recent bioenergy agreement signed between France and Brasil, about which we reported earlier. It focuses on the collaboration of both countries on organising a biofuel technology transfer to the poorest African countries and to the Caribbean. May 26, Le Figaro.

ILE MAURICE. Total, the oil company, and Alcodis, a local ethanol producer, are starting to bring ethanol on the market in this small island state. The faculty of engineering of the Université de Maurice will be monitoring the performance of the cars that will be using the E10. June 1, AllAfrica.

CANADA. Farmers' associations in Québec are satisfied to see the prices for their grains rise on the ethanol boom, but forestry associations carefully urge the local government to assess medium term options and devise a strategy to use other feedstocks than corn. Québec has a large forestry base that could serve as a base for bioenergy production, with lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock for second generation biofuels. La Presse Affaires.

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Ambitious French project: lignocellulosic biomass conversion into liquid fuels and biohydrogen

In a major development, two important French energy and scientific institutions normally associated with two grand energy lobbies and traditions - the Commissariat for Nuclear Energy (CEA) and the famous Institut Français du Pétrol (IFP) - are collaborating on an ambitious project that will bring second generation biofuels and biohydrogen based on the thermochemical conversion of lignocellulosic biomass. This comes after the biochemical "sugar route" - the production of fuels and biomaterials starting from plain sugars, or those contained in cellulosic biomass - has already had its series of investments, projects and planning rounds in France.

Whereas first generation biofuels in France (Europe) yield a maximum of one to two tonnes of liquid fuel per hectare (e.g. rapeseed biodiesel or corn ethanol), the green synthetic fuels that use wood, agroforestry and household residues promise to bring 4 tonnes of fuels, and a range of specialty biomaterials.

The CEA has been constructing a biomass-conversion plant at its site in Cadarache (where coincidentally the ITER fusion reactor will be built), aiming to increase the efficiency of bioconversion technologies. Already operational, the plant now produces experimental synthesis fuels based on biomass. After high-temperature gasification of biomass, the synthesis gas is liquefied via a traditional Fischer-Tropsch process. Currently this process has an efficiency of around 30%. Both institutions are now working on the creation of a fluidized bed reactor, that will increase the efficiency of the process to up to 40% and reduce the tar ratio that remains after extracting the gas. The resulting fuels cover a wide range of grades, from heavy diesel to light gasolines and with an important fraction of biohydrogen.

Project chronology:
  • 2009: prototype of a unit for the conversion of biomass into bio-oil
  • 2010: prototype of a fluidized bed reactor
  • 2012-2017: prototype plant capable of producing between 0.15 and 0.30 million barrels of oil equivalent (per annum)
  • 2015-2025: construction of full-scale biorefineries capable of producing between 7 and 15 million barrels of oil equivalent (per annum) by 2025.

It is estimated that the potential of this technology is such that it can deliver 30% of France's entire liquid fuel needs by 2025. France has a large woody biomass stock and sees the development of these second generation biofuels as a strategic path towards more energy security.

Source: Le Mag, and an introductory leaflet:Biofuels of the Future. Our cars will run on wood. [*.pdf].
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