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    The Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program at Colorado State University received a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand the use of woody biomass throughout Colorado. The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program is to provide financial assistance to state foresters to accelerate the adoption of woody biomass as an alternative energy source. Colorado State University - October 12, 2007.

    Indian company Naturol Bioenergy Limited announced that it will soon start production from its biodiesel facility at Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The facility has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 10,000 tons of pharmaceutical grade glycerin. The primary feedstock is crude palm oil, but the facility was designed to accomodate a variety of vegetable oil feedstocks. Biofuel Review - October 11, 2007.

    Brazil's state energy company Petrobras says it will ship 9 million liters of ethanol to European clients next month in its first shipment via the northeastern port of Suape. Petrobras buys the biofuel from a pool of sugar cane processing plants in the state of Pernambuco, where the port is also located. Reuters - October 11, 2007.

    Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in biomass-to-biofuel technology, announces that it has completed a $10.5 million equity financing with Quercus Trust, an environmentally oriented fund, and several other private investors. Ardour Capital Inc. of New York served as financial advisor in the transaction. Business Wire - October 10, 2007.

    Cuban livestock farmers are buying distillers dried grains (DDG), the main byproduct of corn based ethanol, from biofuel producers in the U.S. During a trade mission of Iowan officials to Cuba, trade officials there said the communist state will double its purchases of the dried grains this year. DesMoines Register - October 9, 2007.

    Brasil Ecodiesel, the leading Brazilian biodiesel producer company, recorded an increase of 57.7% in sales in the third quarter of the current year, in comparison with the previous three months. Sales volume stood at 53,000 cubic metres from August until September, against 34,000 cubic metres of the biofuel between April and June. The company is also concluding negotiations to export between 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of glycerine per month to the Asian market. ANBA - October 4, 2007.

    PolyOne Corporation, the US supplier of specialised polymer materials, has opened a new colour concentrates manufacturing plant in Kutno, Poland. Located in central Poland, the new plant will produce colour products in the first instance, although the company says the facility can be expanded to handle other products. In March, the Ohio-based firm launched a range of of liquid colourants for use in bioplastics in biodegradable applications. The concentrates are European food contact compliant and can be used in polylactic acid (PLA) or starch-based blends. Plastics & Rubber Weekly - October 2, 2007.

    A turbo-charged, spray-guided direct-injection engine running on pure ethanol (E100) can achieve very high specific output, and shows “significant potential for aggressive engine downsizing for a dedicated or dual-fuel solution”, according to engineers at Orbital Corporation. GreenCarCongress - October 2, 2007.

    UK-based NiTech Solutions receives £800,000 in private funding to commercialize a cost-saving industrial mixing system, dubbed the Continuous Oscillatory Baffled Reactor (COBR), which can lower costs by 50 per cent and reduce process time by as much as 90 per cent during the manufacture of a range of commodities including chemicals, drugs and biofuels. Scotsman - October 2, 2007.

    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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Friday, October 12, 2007

Pasturing cows convert soil to a source of methane - keeping them in stables could free up land for biomass production

The cow as a killer of the climate: this inglorious role of our four-legged friends is well-enough recognised because the animals produce vast amounts of methane, which is expelled continuously. Now, however, a team of German scientists from the Institute of Soil Ecology of the GSF – National Research Center for Environment and Health (Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres) and Czech colleagues at the Budweis Academy of Science have been able to show that bovine animals can also boost the production of this potent climate gas in soil. They publish their results in the current issue of Nature - ISME ( Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology).

The findings are important for the bioenergy community, because they suggest cows might better be kept in their stables instead of allowing them to graze on winter pastures. This would free up land for the production of biomass crops or for the establishment of carbon sinks. Note, this is our own deduction - the researchers do not state this as such. But others have made the obvious suggestion that the global bioenergy production potential could be significantly increased when a transition towards more intensive cattle production is achieved, notably by keeping the animals inside. The reduction of climate-threatening methane emissions from soils which would result from such a transition, gives the idea more clout.

The scientists found cows create a methane-generating process in soils especially when the animals do not spend the cold season exclusively in the cowshed, but are kept on winter pastures. The study, carried out on a Czech farm, proved that two factors are vital for this process to take place: the amount and quality of organic material from the excrement and the strong compaction of the soil by the weight of the cattle. These changes lead to the fact that methane-producing micro-organisms from the gastro-intestinal tract of the animals can be established in the soil while, simultaneously, the process of methane oxidation is restrained.

Grass lands that are not used intensively for agriculture generally act as sink for the greenhouse gases, methane, carbon dioxide and laughing gas. However, this situation can change if intensive management of the pastures with cattle occurs. Indeed, it is known also that well-aired soils have the potential for producing methane. Hence, the scope of the study should include examination of the extent to which the over-wintering of cattle on pastures stimulates this potential, and grassland soils really becomes a methane spring.

For animal protection reasons, the placing of cattle in winter on pastures - with the possibility of sleeping in a cowshed or of obtaining feed there – becomes increasingly popular.
The over-wintering of bovine animals is quite widespread at least in the ecological agriculture of Central Europe as a whole. The reasoning is that the animals are less susceptible to infectious disease, thanks to the movement outside and, therefore, fewer antibiotics need to be used. However, this connection has not been proved. - Dr. Michael Schloter, lead researcher
The investigation was carried out on an farm in south Bohemia. The area in question comprises approximately four hectares and has been used since 1995 for the over-wintering of about 90 cows from October till the beginning of May:
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According to Schloter, at the end of this season, they could clearly see the consequences of the over-wintering, on the soil. Unlike typical summer grazing, where the animals spread out evenly, the animals on the winter pastures prefer to stay near the feed house. As a result, no vegetation was visible any more in this area, and the ground was strongly compressed. In addition, this area was marked by a very high incidence of organic matter from the excrement of the animals. In more distant areas, the consequences were far less drastic.

The intensive grazing in the areas close to the cowshed led to a clear increase of methane emissions throughout the whole winter. These showed 1,000 times more than the control areas, where no bovine animals were kept. Methane oxidation is the metabolic way that can lead to the breaking down of the methane. Interestingly, the classical process of methane oxidation, which is related to aerobic conditions, was restrained in the intensely grazed areas.

According to Schloter, this is explained by the high quantities of urea in the ground. The scientists were able to show further that methane producing micro-organisms from the gastro-intestinal tract of the cattle could survive in the soil and suppress parts of the autotchtone microflora. The newcomers profited from the environmental conditions in these soil, namely the extensive organic material.

Although in summer and autumn the animals were kept on other pastures, the composition of the microflora barely changed in the strongly over-grazed areas. Indeed, the methane production rates clearly decreased during these months, because the continuous supply of organic material was absent.
We shall continue the project, because we also suspect consequences for the nitrogen cycle. In addition, we have possibly proved a very rare process in the strongly compounded areas, namely the anaerobic oxidation of methane. All in all, it can be said that just about every agricultural measure has its positive and negative consequences. What weighs more in each case, however, is a social, rather than a scientific question. - Dr. Michael Schloter, lead researcher
References:
Radl, V., Gattinger, A., Chronoakova, A., Nemcova, A., Cuhel, J., Simek, M., Schloter, M., Elhottova., D., "Effects of cattle husbandry on abundance, diversity and activity of methanogenic archaea in upland soils", Nature - ISME 1, 447-452 (2007); doi:10.1038/ismej.2007.60

GSF - Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit: Heaps of climate gas - Pasturing cows convert soil to a source of methane - October 12, 2007.

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