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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, February 11, 2007

Three myths about the future of the global biofuel market

Quicknote biofuels trading
Ethanol industry analyst Henrique Oliveira understands Brazil's thorough experience with biofuels from the inside. In an interesting article, he urges Americans (and Europeans) to learn from the country, instead of upholding some common myths about biofuels:
As a Brazilian-American who spent most of his life in Brazil and just recently moved to Michigan, it simply awes me that Americans choose to overlook the experience that has been going on, for decades, right across the little Caribbean pond.
Oliveira sums up three of the most common misperceptions he encounters when advising media, industry players and the public at large on the global future of biofuels:
Myth # 1: The U.S. must find an alternative to oil - and that alternative must, by all means, be found in the U.S. itself.

Myth # 2: Producers and distributors have to be one and the same.

Myth # 3: Trading dependence on Middle Eastern oil for "dependence" on Brazilian ethanol would be a poor deal.
Check out why Oliveira concludes his analysis of these misconceptions with the statement that "The knot, then, begins to unravel with the elimination of the tariff" [entry ends here].
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Vinod Khosla builds his first cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who's been a major player in the race towards efficient cellulosic ethanol production (earlier post), has announced his biofuel firm Range Fuels will build its first plant in Georgia.

Over at BioStockBlog, C. Scott Miller explains the plant's main biomass feedstock will be wood waste from the state’s millions of hectares of indigenous Georgia Pine. Range Fuel's bioconversion technology allows for the utilisation of otherwise useless products such as wood chips, agricultural wastes, grasses, and cornstalks as well as hog manure, municipal garbage, sawdust and paper pulp.

The company's ethanol production process is two-fold: a thermochemical gasification process breaks down the lignocellulosic biomass into so-called syngas; in a second step, the gas is transformed into ethanol. This thermochemical conversion route is entirely different from the biochemical option that is currently being researched and which consists of using specially designed enzymes to break down the cellulose.

Like most biomass-to-liquids concepts (earlier post, and here), Range Fuel's plants are modular:
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This means the plant can be decentralised and located near the biomass resource, where the bulky feedstock will be transformed into an energy dense liquid. This liquid can then be transported to more centrally located refining facilities where it is turned into the final product. The modular concept means that transport costs and fuel consumption are kept low and that the system can be scaled-up as biomass availability increases: just add another module.

C. Scott Miller sketches the context of Khosla's initiative, and shows that woody biomass holds a vast potential in the U.S. - a far bigger potential than corn stover:
The high energy potential of wood cellulose, the ready available of cheap waste, and the search for a renaissance of forestry-based industries makes the announcement a welcome one to the "nation's woodpile" in the southeastern states.
Announcing the initiative, Khosla himself speaks of a 'war on oil': “the production of cellulosic ethanol represents not only a step toward true energy diversity for the country, but a very cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels. It is advanced weaponry in the war on oil.” Earlier he has indicated he could see cellulosic fuel prices sinking to US$1 per gallon within 10 years.

Range Fuels estimates that this first plant – combined with others to follow – will have the capacity to produce over 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year. The first plant will create over 70 new jobs for the area.

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