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    China's state-owned grain group COFCO says Beijing has stopped approving new fuel ethanol projects regardless of the raw materials, which has put a brake on its plan to build a sweet potato-based plant in Hebei. The Standard (Hong Kong) - July 03, 2007.

    Blue Diamond Ventures and the University of Texas A&M have formed a biofuels research alliance. The University will assist Blue Diamond with the production and conversion of non-food crops for manufacturing second-generation biofuels. MarketWire - July 03, 2007.

    African Union leaders are to discuss the idea of a single pan-African government, on the second day of their summit in Accra, Ghana. Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is championing the idea, but many African leaders are wary of the proposal. BBC - July 02, 2007.

    Triple Point Technology, a supplier of cross-industry software platforms for the supply, trading, marketing and movement of commodities, announced today the release and general availability of Commodity XL for Biofuels™. The software platform is engineered to address the rapidly escalating global market for renewable energy fuels and their feedstocks. Business Wire - July 02, 2007.

    Latin America's largest construction and engineering firm, Constructora Norberto Odebrecht SA, announced plans to invest some US$2.6 billion (€1.9 billion) to get into Brazil's booming ethanol business. It aims to reach a crushing capacity of 30 million to 40 million metric tons (33 million to 44 million tons) of cane per harvest over the next eight years. More soon. International Herald Tribune - June 30, 2007.

    QuestAir Technologies announces it has received an order valued at US$2.85 million for an M-3100 system to upgrade biogas created from organic waste to pipeline quality methane. QuestAir's multi-unit M-3100 system was purchased by Phase 3 Developments & Investments, LLC of Ohio, a developer of renewable energy projects in the agricultural sector. The plant is expected to be fully operational in the spring of 2008. Market Wire - June 30, 2007.

    Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. and the U.S. National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) today announced a partnership to speed the growth of alternative fuel technology. The 10-year agreement between the center and Siemens represents transfers of equipment, software and on-site simulation training. The NCERC facilitates the commercialization of new technologies for producing ethanol more effectively and plays a key role in the Bio-Fuels Industry for Workforce Training to assist in the growing need for qualified personnel to operate and manage bio-fuel refineries across the country. Business Wire - June 29, 2007.

    A paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society proposes a new method of producing hydrogen for portable fuel cells that can work steadily for 10-20 times the length of equivalently sized Lithium-ion batteries. Zhen-Yan Deng, lead author, found that modified aluminum powder can be used to react with water to produce hydrogen at room temperature and under normal atmospheric pressure. The result is a cost-efficient method for powering fuel cells that can be used in portable applications and hybrid vehicles. More soon. Blackwell Publishing - June 29, 2007.

    An NGO called Grains publishes a report that highlights some of the potentially negative effects associated with the global biofuels sector. The findings are a bit one-sided because based uniquely on negative news stories. Moreover, the report does not show much of a long-term vision on the world's energy crisis, climate change, North-South relations, and the unique role biofuels can play in addressing these issues. Grain - June 29, 2007.

    Researchers at the Universidad de Tarapacá in Arica plan to grow Jatropha curcas in the arid north of Chile. The trial in the desert, is carried out to test the drought-tolerance of the biodiesel crop, and to see whether it can utilize the desert's scarce water resources which contain high amounts of salt minerals and boron, lethal to other crops. Santiago Times - June 28, 2007.

    India and Thailand sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that envisages cooperation through joint research and development and exchange of information in areas of renewable sources of energy like, biogas, solar-thermal, small hydro, wind and biomass energy. Daily India - June 28, 2007.

    Portucel - Empresa Produtora de Pasta e Papel SA said it plans to install biomass plants with an expected production capacity of 200,000 megawatt hours per year at its paper factories in Setubal and Cacia. The European Commission gave the green light for state aid totaling €46.5 million, contributing to Portucel's plans to extend and modernise its plants. Forbes - June 28, 2007.

    Petro-Canada and GreenField Ethanol have inked a long-term deal that makes Petro-Canada the exclusive purchaser of all ethanol produced at GreenField Ethanol's new facility in Varennes, Quebec. The ethanol will be blended with gasoline destined for Petro-Canada retail sites in the Greater Montreal Area. Petro-Canada - June 27, 2007.

    According to a study by the Korean Energy Economics Institute, biodiesel produced in Korea will become cheaper than light crude oil from 2011 onwards (678 won/liter versus 717.2 won/liter). The study "Prospects on the Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel and Improving the Support System", advises to keep biodiesel tax-free until 2010, after which it can compete with oil. Dong-A Ilbo - June 27, 2007.

    Kreido Biofuels announced today that it has entered into a marketing and distribution agreement with Eco-Energy, an energy and chemical marketing and trading company. Eco-Energy will purchase Kreido Biofuels’ biodiesel output from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Argo, Illinois, for a minimum of 3 years at current commercial market prices, as well as provide Kreido transportation and logistics services. Business Wire - June 27, 2007.

    Beijing Tiandi Riyue Biomass Technology Corp. Ltd. has started construction on its new fuel ethanol project in the county of Naiman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's Chifeng City, the company's president told Interfax today. Interfax China - June 26, 2007.

    W2 Energy Inc. announces it will begin development of biobutanol from biomass. The biofuel will be manufactured from syngas derived from non-food biomass and waste products using the company's plasma reactor system. Market Wire - June 26, 2007.

    Finland based Metso Corporation, a global engineering firm has received an order worth €60 million to supply two biomass-fired power boilers to Portugal's EDP Producao - Bioeléctrica, S.A. The first boiler (83 MWth) will be installed at Celbi’s Figueira da Foz pulp mill and the second boiler (35 MWth) at Caima’s pulp mill near the city of Constância. Both power plants will mainly use biomass, like eucalyptus bark and forest residues, as fuel to produce together approximately 40 MWe electricity to the national grid. Both boilers utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology. Metso Corporation - June 26, 2007.

    Canada's New Government is investing more than $416,000 in three southern Alberta projects to help the emerging biofuels industry. The communities of Lethbridge, Drumheller and Coalhurst will benefit from the projects. Through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), the three firms will receive funding to prepare feasibility studies and business plans to study the suitability of biofuels production according to location and needs in the industry. MarketWire - June 26, 2007.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce today that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants. More info soon. Detroit Free Press - June 26, 2007.

    A Kerala based NGO has won an Ashden Award for installing biogas plants in the state to convert organic waste into a clean and renewable source of energy at the household level. Former US vice president Al Gore gave away the award - cash prize of 30,000 pounds - to Biotech chief A. Saji at a ceremony in London on Friday. New Kerala - June 25, 2007.

    AltraBiofuels, a California-based producer of renewable biofuels, announced that it has secured an additional US$165.5 million of debt financing for the construction and completion of two plants located in Coshocton, Ohio and Cloverdale, Indiana. The Coshocton plant's capacity is anticipated to reach 60million gallons/year while the Cloverdale plant is expected to reach 100 million gallons/year. Business Wire - June 23, 2007.

    Brazil and the Dominican Republic have inked a biofuel cooperation agreement aimed at alleviating poverty and creating economic opportunity. The agreement initially focuses on the production of biodiesel in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Today - June 21, 2007.

    Malaysian company Ecofuture Bhd makes renewable products from palm oil residues such as empty fruit bunches and fibers (more here). It expects the revenue contribution of these products to grow by 10% this year, due to growing overseas demand, says executive chairman Jang Lim Kuang. 95% of the group's export earnings come from these products which include natural oil palm fibre strands and biodegradable mulching and soil erosion geotextile mats. Bernama - June 20, 2007.

    Argent Energy, a British producer of waste-oil based biodiesel, announced its intention to seek a listing on London's AIM via a placing of new and existing ordinary shares with institutional investors. Argent plans to use the proceeds to construct the first phase of its proposed 150,000 tonnes (170 million litres) plant at Ellesmere Port, near Chester, and to develop further plans for a 75,000 tonnes (85 million litres) plant in New Zealand. Argent Energy - June 20, 2007.


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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mozambique-India partnership: biofuels for poverty alleviation

Speaking at the opening of 'Conclave on India/Africa Project Partnership 2007' in Maputo, Mozambique's Minister of Energy, Salvador Namburete, said Mozambique has become "one of the major African destinations for investment from various parts of the planet."

The country is indeed one of Africa's success stories. After a cruel civil war that lasted nearly two decades (1975-1992), the country organised general elections, took a careful approach to the 'structural adjustment' programs introduced by international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, and, ensuring political and economic stability, steadily attracted foreign investments. The country's GNI has doubled in the past 5 years, and GDP growth was 7.7% last year (World Bank data).

Investments not only include mega-projects such as the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo, and the Brazilian investment in coal mining in the western province of Tete, but also a 'concerted effort by the government to promote the country's enormous business potential' to 'non-traditional' investors in Asia, including India. Namburete says the government hopes to see further investment in such areas as agriculture, food processing, mining and energy.

Biofuels and poverty alleviation
India is seen as a prime partner in the sector of renewable energy because of its growing expertise.
We would like to see Indian involvement in the field of renewable sources of energy. India has a very advanced experience in this area, in solar energy and in biofuels. Its technology is good, simple and easy to use, and that's what we need to fight against poverty.- Salvador Namburete, Mozambique's Minister of Energy
Namburete will also be present at the EU's high-level meeting on international biofuels trade to be held this Thursday in Brussels, where Mozambique's biofuel potential has been recognized. Biopact was invited to attend this two-day conference and we will be reporting on it from Friday onwards.

Namburete insisted that the Mozambican government remains committed to the promotion of biofuels "with the aim of responding to the national poverty alleviation agenda, as well as providing a response to high, unpredictable and volatile oil prices on the world markets". High oil prices are disastrous for developing countries, with some now spending twice as much on importing petroleum than on health. Among the benefits of biofuels the minister mentioned the fact that "they are labour intensive, and can create agricultural and agro-industrial employment, self-employment and income".

Producing biofuels does not threaten food security in Mozambique, given its vast unused land base. Estimates (map, click to enlarge) by researchers working for the International Energy Agency put the country's explicitly sustainable biofuel potential at around 6.7 to 7 Exajoules per year, with moderate introduction of agricultural technology and using strict sustainability criteria. 6.7EJ is the equivalent of around 3 million barrels of oil per day (earlier post). Namburete pointed out that Mozambique has 36 million hectares of arable land of which only nine per cent is currently in use:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Furthermore, a crop like Jatropha curcas, can be grown "on an additional 41.2 million hectares of marginal land, giving people in rural areas the opportunity to generate an income out of land that did not produce anything at all".

Namburete pointed out that it was not enough that Mozambique had natural resources - the government had to take a pro-active role in attracting investment, though a consistent and coherent programme of reforms to ensure macro-economic stability and efficient management in selected priority areas, such as fiscal management, public sector and financial reforms, improving the investment climate and the ongoing reform of the judicial system.

The minister stressed that the government is taking further steps to reduce the cost of doing business in Mozambique through decentralisation, streamlining of licensing procedures, addressing the rigidities in the labour market, and improving basic infrastructure, such as energy, roads and telecommunications.

For his part, the Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anand Sharma, said that agriculture was vital for India's cooperation with Mozambique and other members of SADC (Southern African Development Communitry). "We want to cooperate with these countries and help Africa advance and improve its investment climate", he said.

Besides investors from India, several initiatives from Europe, Brazil and China have been launched in the country's biofuels sector (earlier post). Amongst them is a typical South-North-South exchange which sees Italy and Brazil cooperating on biofuels in Mozambique.

References:
Agência de Informação de Moçambique (via AllAfrica): Mozambique: India Now Among Top Ten Investors - July 2, 2007.

Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets (2006), "Biomass and
bioenergy supply from Mozambique"
[*abstract / *.pdf], Energy for Sustainable Development, X(1),
Pp. 54-81

Faaij, A.P.C., "Emerging international biomass markets and the potential implications for rural development" [*.pdf], Development and Climate Project Workshop: Rural development, the roles of food, water and biomass; opportunities and challenges; Dakar, Senegal, 14-16 November 2005.

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