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    A group of Spanish investors is building a new bioethanol plant in the western region of Extremadura that should be producing fuel from maize in 2009. Alcoholes Biocarburantes de Extremadura (Albiex) has already started work on the site near Badajoz and expects to spend €42/$59 million on the plant in the next two years. It will produce 110 million litres a year of bioethanol and 87 million kg of grain byproduct that can be used for animal feed. Europapress - September 28, 2007.

    Portuguese fuel company Prio SA and UK based FCL Biofuels have joined forces to launch the Portuguese consumer biodiesel brand, PrioBio, in the UK. PrioBio is scheduled to be available in the UK from 1st November. By the end of this year (2007), says FCL Biofuel, the partnership’s two biodiesel refineries will have a total capacity of 200,000 tonnes which will is set to grow to 400,000 tonnes by the end of 2010. Biofuel Review - September 27, 2007.

    According to Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, one third of the value of all of Finland's exports consists of environmentally friendly technologies. Finland has invested in climate and energy technologies, particularly in combined heat and power production from biomass, bioenergy and wind power, the president said at the UN secretary-general's high-level event on climate change. Newroom Finland - September 25, 2007.

    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

    Analysts fear that record oil prices will fuel general inflation in Kenya, particularly hitting the poorest hard. They call for the development of new policies and strategies to cope with sustained high oil prices. Such policies include alternative fuels like biofuels, conservation measures, and more investments in oil and gas exploration. The poor in Kenya are hit hardest by the sharp increase, because they spend most of their budget on fuel and transport. Furthermore, in oil intensive economies like Kenya, high oil prices push up prices for food and most other basic goods. All Africa - September 20, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Power has won an order to supply Kalmar Energi Värme AB with a biomass-fired power boiler for the company’s new combined heat and power plant in Kalmar on the east coast of Sweden. Start-up for the plant is scheduled for the end of 2009. The value of the order is approximately EUR 55 million. The power boiler (90 MWth) will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology and will burn biomass replacing old district heating boilers and reducing the consumption of oil. The delivery will also include a flue gas condensing system to increase plant's district heat production. Metso Corporation - September 19, 2007.

    Jo-Carroll Energy announced today its plan to build an 80 megawatt, biomass-fueled, renewable energy center in Illinois. The US$ 140 million plant will be fueled by various types of renewable biomass, such as clean waste wood, corn stover and switchgrass. Jo-Carroll Energy - September 18, 2007.

    Beihai Gofar Marine Biological Industry Co Ltd, in China's southern region of Guangxi, plans to build a 100,000 tonne-per-year fuel ethanol plant using cassava as feedstock. The Shanghai-listed company plans to raise about 560 million yuan ($74.5 million) in a share placement to finance the project and boost its cash flow. Reuters - September 18, 2007.

    The oil-dependent island state of Fiji has requested US company Avalor Capital, LLC, to invest in biodiesel and ethanol. The Fiji government has urged the company to move its $250million 'Fiji Biofuels Project' forward at the earliest possible date. Fiji Live - September 18, 2007.

    The Bowen Group, one of Ireland's biggest construction groups has announced a strategic move into the biomass energy sector. It is planning a €25 million investment over the next five years to fund up to 100 projects that will create electricity from biomass. Its ambition is to install up to 135 megawatts of biomass-fuelled heat from local forestry sources, which is equal to 50 million litres or about €25m worth of imported oil. Irish Examiner - September 16, 2007.

    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Scientists develop low-lignin eucalyptus trees that store more CO2, provide more cellulose for biofuels


A team of Taiwanese and U.S. scientists has succeeded in developing eucalyptus trees capable of ingesting up to three times more carbon dioxide than normal strains, indicating a new path to reducing greenhouse gases and global warming. The new trees also have properties that make them more suitable for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In this sense, they can be seen as part of third-generation biofuels. This generation is based on crops modified in such a way that they allow the application of a particular bioconversion technology (previous post). Analyses show that there is a very large potential for the production of sustainable biomass from Eucalyptus in Central Africa and South America.

Under the auspices of Taiwan's National Science Council, staff members at the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) under the cabinet-level Council of Agriculture and North Carolina State University in the United States carried out the gene modification project that not only creates eucalyptus with a higher than normal CO2 absorptive capacity, but also causes them to produce less lignin and more cellulose.

TFRI researcher Chen Zenn-zong explained that cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin in trees are all created from carbon elements. However, only cellulose can be used in commercial processes of pulp manufacturing and bio-ethanol extraction. Lignin is the 'glue' that holds cellulose together. Breaking down the lignin barrier is a major obstacle for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
The idea behind the whole project is to increase the value of genetically-modified eucalyptus to related industries, so we adjusted the ratio of cellulose and lignin. Meanwhile, we enhance the tree's capacity in absorbing CO2 to reduce greenhouse gases, so that more trees planted for production, the more CO2 are consumed. - Chen Zenn-zong, Taiwan Forestry Research Institute
With every eucalyptus carrying 18 percent less lignin and 4.5 percent more cellulose, Chen estimated that a pulp factory with an annual output of 1 million tons could generate extra revenues of NT$1. 2 billion (about US$36 million) every year.

Eucalyptus is a fast-growing tropical tree species used as a biomass source for bioenergy, and for pulp and paper manufacturing. Major research efforts are under way to map the tree's genome with the aim to improve it as an energy crop. Eucalyptus is on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), with an international team working on increasing biomass production and the carbon sequestration capacities of the species (more here):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

So far, researchers have succeeded in developing high yield varieties. But this is the first time that the eucalyptus tree has been modified in a way that allows it both to store more carbon while at the same time yielding less lignin.

Earlier, geneticists and plant biologists succeeded in creating low-lignin poplar and willow (more here), as well as sorghum (earlier post) with the specific aim of improving pulping and ethanol production respectively.

With an emerging global carbon and biomass market, it becomes interesting to develop crops that sequester more CO2. They can be used as carbon sinks in afforestation and reforestation efforts and fetch carbon credits. Alternatively, with their high biomass yields, they will be used more and more for the production of next-generation biofuels. These include cellulosic ethanol, and fuels obtained from pyrolysis (bio-oil) and from biomass-to-liquids processes resulting in synthetic biofuels (gasification and synthesis by the Fischer-Tropsch process).

Eucalyptus is an interesting crop for the production of solid biofuels as well (woody biomass), that can be co-fired with coal or used in dedicated biomass power plants. Estimates show that there is enormous potential for the establishment of eucalyptus plantations in the tropics. A European project analysing the production of 'green steel' based on utilizing biomass from the tropics indicated that some 46 million hectares of land are available in Central Africa alone. In Brazil, another 46 million hectares are suitable. The land in question can sustain eucalyptus plantations without any major negative environmental footprint (previous post).

References:
China Post: Gene-modified eucalyptus ingests more CO2 - September 14, 2007.

Biopact: Scientists release new low-lignin sorghums: ideal for biofuel and feed - September 10, 2007

Biopact: Joint Genome Institute announces 2008 genome sequencing targets with focus on bioenergy and carbon cycle - June 12, 2007

Biopact: Virginia Tech researchers receive $1.2 million to study poplar tree as model biomass crop - June 26, 2007

Biopact: Celebrity spotting: Marc Van Montagu and GM energy crops - July 05, 2007

Biopact: Green steel made from tropical biomass - European project - February 08, 2007


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