<body><script type="text/javascript">//<![CDATA[try{(function(a){var b="http://",c="news.mongabay.com",d="/cdn-cgi/cl/",e="img.gif",f=new a;f.src=[b,c,d,e].join("")})(Image)}catch(e){}//]]></script> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network


    Saudi Aramco in its Annual Review 2006 said that last year the company's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent, compared with the previous year. Crude oil production in 2006 averaged 8.9 million barrels of oil a day (b/d) and exports 6.9 million b/d. Saudi Aramco - September 9, 2007.

    Chinese packaging manufacturer Livan Biodegradable Product Co. Ltd. will build plants in Alsozsolca and Edeleny in eastern Hungary at a combined cost of €18 million by 2009, the Hungarian economics ministry says. The plants, which will employ 800 people, are planned to produce initially 50, 000 metric tons a year of environmentally-friendly packaging material, and double that amount by a later date. Livan will use corn to manufacture biodegradable packaging boxes with similar properties to petroleum-based plastic boxes used in the food industry. Dow Jones Newswires - September 7, 2007.

    South Korea aims to raise biodiesel content in domestic diesel to 3 percent from the current 0.5 percent by 2012, Seoul's energy ministry said today. The government was initially set last year to impose a mandatory 5 percent blend, in line with the level targeted by the European Union by 2010, but the country's powerful refining lobby opposed the move, forcing it to push back the target, according to market sources. Reuters - September 7, 2007.

    Virent Energy Systems, Inc. announced today that it has closed a US$21 million second round of venture financing. Investor interest in Virent was driven in large part by the Company’s continued development of its innovative BioForming process beyond its traditional hydrogen and fuel gas applications and toward the production of bio-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Virent Energy Systems - September 6, 2007.

    The U.S. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) announces that 31 models of motor vehicles will be offered in the U.S. with an E85 capable engine in 2008. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes Benz will all offer flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the coming year. The NEVC expects 750,000 such FFVs will be produced in 2008. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    Spanish renewables group Abengoa released its results for the first half of 2007 financial year in which its consolidated sales were €1,393.6 million, which is a 27.9 percent increase on the previous year. Earnings after tax were €54.9 million, an 18.6 percent increase on the previous year's figure of 46.3 million euro. Abengoa is active in the bioenergy, solar and environmental services sector. Abengoa - September 4, 2007.

    Canadian hydro power developer Run of River Power Inc. has reached an agreement to buy privately owned Western Biomass Power Corp. in a $2.2 million share swap deal that could help finance development of new green sources of electricity in British Columbia. The Canadian Press - September 4, 2007.

    As of Sept. 1, a biodiesel blending mandate has come into force in the Czech Republic, requiring diesel suppliers to mix 2 per cent biodiesel into the fuel. The same rule will be obligatory for gasoline starting next year. In 2009 the biofuel ratio will grow to 3.5 percent in gasoline and 4.5 percent in diesel oil. CBW - September 3, 2007.

    Budapest's first biofuel station opens on Monday near the Pesterzsébet (District XX) Tesco hypermarket. This is the third station selling the E85 fuel containing bioethanol in Hungary, as two other stations are encouraging eco-friendly driving in Bábolna and Győr. Caboodle - September 3, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Tembec - September 1, 2007.

    Innovative internet and cable/satellite channel CurrentTV is producing a documentary on Brazil's biofuel revolution. Biopact collegues and friends Marcelo Coelho (EthanolBrasil Blog), Henrique Oliveira (Ethablog) and Marcelo Alioti (E-Machine) provided consulting on the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of Brazil's energy transformation. ProCana - August 31, 2007.

    Oil major BP Plc and Associated British Foods Plc won competition clearance from the European Commission on to build a plant to make transport fuel from wheat in Hull, northeast England. U.S. chemical company DuPont is also involved. Reuters UK - August 31, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Orissa announced its policy for biofuel production which includes a slew of incentives as well as measures to promote the establishment of energy plantations. The state aims to bring 600,000 hectares of barren and fallow land under Jatropha and Karanj. At least 2 million hectares degraded land are available in the State. The new policy's other objectives are to provide a platform for investors and entrepreneurs, market linkages and quality control measures. Newindpress - August 29, 2007.

    Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said today it expects to reach large scale cellulosic ethanol production in 2015, with the first plant entering operations as early as 2011. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet, making up the bulk of the structure of wood and plants. In a first phase, Petrobras intends to use bagasse as a feedstock. Reuters / MacauHub- August 29, 2007.

    Seattle based Propel Biofuels, is announcing a $4.75 million first round of capital from @Ventures and Nth Power. The money will be used to help Propel set up and manage biodiesel fueling stations. BusinessWire - August 29, 2007.

    BioEnergy International, a science and technology company committed to developing biorefineries to produce fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable resources, announced today the closing of a major US$61.6 million investment that will provide funding for the Company’s three strategic initiatives: generating secure cash flow from its conventional ethanol platform, product diversification through the introduction of novel biocatalysts for the manufacture of green chemicals and biopolymers and the integration of its cellulose technology. BusinessWire - August 28, 2007.

    German company Verbio Vereinigte BioEnergie, the biggest biofuels producer in Europe, says it is considering plans to invest up to €100/US$136.5 million in a biofuel production facility in Bulgaria. The company wants the new facility to be located close to a port and Bulgaria's city of Varna on the Black Sea is one of the options under consideration. If Verbio goes through with the plan, it would produce both biodiesel and bioethanol, making Bulgaria a major source of biofuels in southeastern Europe. Verbi currently produces around 700,000 tonnes of biofuels per year. Sofia News Agency - August 27, 2007.

    Czech brown-coal-fired power plant Elektrárna Tisová (ETI), a unit of the energy producer ČEZ, could co-fire up to 40,000 tons of biomass this year, the biggest amount in the company’s history, said Martin Sobotka, ČEZ spokesman for West Bohemia. ETI burned more than 19,000 tons of biomass in the first half of 2007. The company’s plan reckoned with biomass consumption of up to 35,000 tons a year. Czech Business Weekly - August 27, 2007.

    PetroSun, Incorporated announced recently that it has formed PetroSun BioFuels Mexico to establish algae-to-biofuel operations in the State of Sonora, Mexico. PetroSun BioFuels Mexico will enter into joint venture agreements to develop algae cultivation farms and extraction plants in Sonora and southern Arizona that will produce algal oil, algae biomass products and excess electricity for the Mexican and U.S. markets. MarketWire - August 27, 2007.

    China's Yunnan Province hopes to reach an annual output of 2 million tons (approx. 417 million gallons) of fuel ethanol by 2010, according to the province's fuel ethanol industry development plan released recently by the Yunnan Economic and Trade Commission, state media report. Interfax China - August 23, 2007.

    Seven companies have teamed up to create Kazakhstan's first Biofuel Association. Its aim is to integrate interested parties for creating favorable conditions to have the country’s biofuel industry developed. An initiator and coordinator of the Association is the National Holding KazAgro, the Agriculture Ministry’s press service informs. KazInform - August 23, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec today announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction closed on August 15 and includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Newswire Canada - August 22, 2007.

    Taiwan's representative to Brazil, Chou Shu-yeh, is urging Taiwan's government and private enterprises to invest in Brazil's biomass energy sector. Chou was speaking at a workshop on global investment and trade opportunities in Taipei. RTi - August 22, 2007.

    An algae-to-biofuels startup by the name of Inventure Chemical has raised about $1.5 million to continue its development of a chemical process that turns algae into biodiesel and ethanol. One of the biggest backers of the company is Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel producer. Seattle Post Intelligencer - August 22, 2007.

    The government of India's Karnataka state has approved the blending of six million litres of ethanol with diesel for use as fuel in State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) vehicles. Automotive World - August 21, 2007.

    VeraSun Energy Corporation, one of America's largest ethanol producers, announced that it closed on its acquisition with ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC for three ethanol plants with a combined annual production capacity of approximately 330 million gallons (1.25 billion liters) per year. VeraSun - August 21, 2007.

    Fujitsu develops a biodegradable laptop chassis from corn-starch bioplastic. The material reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to a chassis made from petroleum-based plastics. CNET Asia - August 20, 2007.

    India's Rana Sugars Ltd has decided to set up a new plant for producing ethanol in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated investment of €9 to 10.9 (US$12.2 to 14.7). The facility will have a capacity of 180,000 liters per year and will generate, besides ethanol, 26MW of carbon-neutral power from bagasse. Economic Times India - August 20, 2007.

    Prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike. "We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike," said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group. Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and commodity prices. The Star - August 19, 2007.

    Canada's Cavendish Farms, one of the country's largest food processing companies is to build a biogas plant to recycle spent cooking oils, starch and sludge from its waste-water plant to fuel its potato processing operation. Use of the carbon-neutral biofuel will limit the amount of bunker C fuel oil currently in use by the company. The plant, expected to be ready for operation by next fall, has received a $14-million loan from the Province of Prince Edward Island. CBC - August 18, 2007.


Creative Commons License


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Italian start-up to produce biopolymers from sugar beet and cane residues with 95% efficiency

An Italian biotech start-up called Bio-On is entering [*Italian] the bioplastics market with a process that produces polylactic acid (PLA) based plastics from sugar beet and sugarcane residues with a claimed efficiency of 95 per cent.

PLA based bioplastics are currently produced almost exclusively from corn and grain starch. But given that prices for these feedstock keep rising because of their use in the production of ethanol, the utilization of new raw materials becomes an attractive proposal. The production of sugar crops - both cane and beets - on the contrary is outstripping demand. Both Brazil and India delivered record crops, and in the EU too sugar prices have declined.

Bio-On (a name chosen as the opposite of 'petroleum-off') has developed a series of patented processes that ferment waste and byproducts from beet and cane processing into lactic acid, filtrates and polymers useable for the production of a range of fully biodegradable plastics. PLA is biodegradable in soil, compost or water, and the degradation products of PLA are non-toxic to the environment. PLA has comparable mechanical properties to petroleum-based plastics.

According to Marco Astorri, co-founder of Bio-On, a bio-cascading strategy results in a residue-to-product efficiency of 95 per cent. In other words: waste streams become valuable resources that can be converted almost in their entirety in a useful product. Sugar beet pulp, one of the prime feedstocks, is usually used as low value animal feed or disposed of at additional cost. Likewise, bagasse and mollases from sugarcane have a relatively low value and are abundantly available.

Moreover, Bio-On's production process would reduce energy costs and as it is based on a multi-feedstock strategy, costs for raw materials would be substantially lower than those for traditional PLA production.

A first range of products to be developed by Bio-On are a range of biodegradable plastics with natural flame retardants to be used for automotive applications:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The planned location of the production plant is quite significant: 'Plastic Valley' in Bologna, the region with a long tradition of developing innovative plastics, with some leading research organisations working on bioproducts. There, Bio-On is creating relations with universities and scientists, and aims to have a production facility ready by 2009. Output would be 10,000 tons.

Between 2 and 3 million euros have so far been invested in research and development, whereas the full scale production plant would add another €10 million. Contrary to some other bioplastic manufacturers, Bio-On will be financed entirely by the private sector. The founders are looking for partners to licence the technology for production abroad.

Bioplastics face a bright future in Italy. This year a series of laws and policies came into effect that aim to phase out the use of petroleum based plastic bags and other products entirely by 2010.

Sugar crops have recently gained attention as feedstocks for a range of biobased plastics. Recently the Dow Chemical Company, the world's largest producer of polyethylene, and Crystalsev, one of Brazil's largest ethanol players announced plans for a world-scale facility to manufacture polyethylene from sugar cane (earlier post). Braskem too, the leading company in Latin America's thermoplastic resins segment and Brazil's second largest privately owned industrial company, recently produced polyethylene, this time made from sugarcane ethanol (more here).

The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have teamed up to develop and patent technologies to convert sugar cane into bioplastics and green chemicals (previous post); finally, leading bioplastics producer Metabolix announced a collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology, an alliance of Australia's sugarcane biotechnology research organizations, to develop natural plastics from sugarcane.

Add the fact that recently Syngenta introduced a high yielding sugar beet developed specifically for the tropics, and the prospects for the bioeconomy in the Global South look ever more promising. An overview of bioplastics and biopolymers being developed in developing countries can be found here.

References:
Polimerica: PLA made in Italy - August 31, 2007.

TamTam: Bioplastiche: al via nuovi impianti - August 20, 2007.

Nachrichten (Switzerland): Kunststoff aus Zuckerrüben - September 7, 2007.

Biopact: Dow and Crystalsev to make polyethylene from sugar cane in Brazil - July 19, 2007

Biopact: Australia and South Korea team up to produce bioproducts from sugarcane - May 18, 2007

Biopact: Metabolix to develop bioplastics from sugarcane - May 09, 2007

Biopact: Syngenta introduces tropical sugar beet for food and biofuels, may yield more than sugar cane - August 28, 2007

Biopact: Notes on biopolymers in the Global South - March 11, 2007


Article continues

First European conference on polygeneration: community managed hyper-efficient renewable energy systems

The European Union has adopted an energy policy which doesn’t simply aim to boost competitiveness and secure energy supply but also aspires to increase energy efficiency, to save energy and promote climate-friendly energy sources. One way to combine these demands in a single system is by creating 'polygeneration' concepts.

The term means an energy supply system which delivers more than one form of energy to communities, in a very efficient way: electricity, heating and cooling can be delivered from a single plant with production fully integrated and coupled to prevent losses. Polygeneration can involve combined co-generation (power and heat) or tri-generation (power, heat and cold) plants often integratd with district heating, and all this powered by renewables (mostly biomass, sometimes in combination with solar or wind). Such polygeneration systems should be designed and controlled with a view to optimizing all relevant interactions between supply and demand. Their main benefit is in maximising the overall efficiency of the integrated system near the point of use.

Polygeneration combined with efficient district heating and cooling may provide added benefits to a larger community and involves smart interventions in the urban ecology. Secondary benefits may include improved reliability of the supply and distribution networks, arising from better interaction between producers and distributors.

Europe's first conference on the subject will take place in Tarragona, Spain, from October 16th to the 17th. The conference is organised in the frame of the CONCERTO project aimed at creating 'Energy networks in sustainable cities' - POLYCITY - to share the knowledge of the different CONCERTO projects on polygeneration updating on the latest development on the use of key technologies.

There are three POLYCITY projects under development: one in Germany's Scharnhauser Park in Ostfildern, a former military area where 10,000 people will be living in a hyper-efficient integrated community; one in Cerdanyola del Vallès, a development area planned for 50.000 inhabitants north of Barcelona, and the Arquata in Turin, a labour district which will be restored with regard to ecological criteria and hyper-efficient energy supplies. Each project is embedded in a network of regional partners and further 'observer communities'. This will guarantee a sustainable development of the projects and an effective adoption of the results by other communities.

A closer look at these projects reveals that polygeneration is more than a concept to boost the energy efficiency of renewable power systems: their decentralised, localized and distributed nature means that polygeneration involves local resource control and the active participation of communities, instead of individual consumers:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Scharnhauser Park
The most important measure in the Scharnhauser Park is the optimisation of a new biomass plant (combined heat and power). One of the targets is to use the residual heat to cool the office buildings in summer. Furthermore, all buildings will be equipped with optimal heat insulation to minimise heat loss in winter. It is planned to realise all measures between 2005 and 2010. This polygeneration system comes down to efficient trigeneration.

The whole project is designed as an exemplary ecological community development, where low energy building standards are prescribed for all plots and a wood fired ORC co-generation plant will deliver electricity and heating energy. Combining work places, residential areas and green park sections leads to an integrated living and transportation concept with high comfort and low energy consumption. The whole investment volume of the project with 480,700 m² built floor area is €1.5 million.

In the frame of the POLYCITY project a total of 178,000 m² of residential and commercial buildings will be constructed until 2009 and supplied by a 1 MWel and 6.3 MWth biomass co-generation unit, a 200 m² solar thermal plant and 70 kW of building integrated photovoltaics.

The first sections of the area have been developed in the last years and 2500 people are living on the site with about half of the work places already created (1200). €250 million have already been spent on public infrastructure (schools, kindergarden) and further €700 million Euros will be invested on the site. The complete site is owned and managed by the Town of Ostfildern (70%) and the Hofkammer Baden-Württemberg (30%), which have prescribed low energy building standards for all new constructions and obligatory connection to the heating network of the biomass co-generation plant.

The inclusion of cold production via the biomass heating network has been initiated through the POLYCITY proposal and signifies a major innovation.

Cerdanyola del Vallès
Eco-buildings for residential, industrial and service purposes will be established on a common basis of innovative sustainable construction.

Several innovative measures will be taken in the supply side. A high efficiency energy system is to be implemented in the new urban development called the Directional Centre, in order to produce electricity, heat and cold.

This polygeneration system will comprise natural gas cogeneration plants with an electrical output of about 46 MWe, with thermal cooling facilities (absortion and adsorption chillers) and a district heating and cooling network within the Science and Technology Park, which represents the core of the Directional Centre and has a thermal demand of 74.000 MWh for heating and 152.000 MWh for cooling.

To promote the use of renewable energies in Spain, the system will also include RES represented by a gasification biomass plant of 1 MWe, mainly fuelled by wood waste from the furniture industry or by subproducts from agricultural processes, and a solar thermal plant of 2000 m2 of collectors that will produce hot water for cooling purposes.

A Communal Energy Management System (CEMS) that integrates supply and demand will be implemented to optimise the system exploitation. This polygeneration system will be implemented in several stages, according to the pace of development within the Directional Centre. The results of the first stage will determine the suitability of implementing greater RES in subsequent stages.

This project will make sure that the residential and the industry buildings as well as the scientific park are supplied efficiently with innovative energy. The exceptional approach in this project is that the whole energy is produced with power-heat-cold-coupling. The innovative character consists of different integrated systems for the advanced production of electricity, i.e. of warmth and cold in one net.

In this heat cooling net an innovative management system adjusts the raw energy consumption to the inquired quantity consumed. Consumption centres are meant to supply industry and service buildings efficiently with energy. Only residential buildings are excepted, since these are to be supplied by private investors.

Arquata

The Italian project Arquata, coordinated by the Fiat Research Centre, is part of a larger initative aimed at promoting integrated energy systems based on distributed generation (co-generation and renewable energies). The initiative involves the relevant stakeholders in the region, such as public administrations, utilities, research centres and users.

The overall Arquata District Contract is a detailed programme including several measures of urban and social requalification such as the refurbishment of the council buildings, the realisation of green areas, the creation of common spaces dedicated to social activities, social and occupational development of the district, the improvement of mobility, the creation of small commercial spaces.

The different measures on the supply side aim at achieving energy efficiency through system integration. To supply district heating and electricity demand in the most efficient way, gas fired co-generation will cover the bulk of the energy demand. The co-generation unit is heat demand driven, so that additional solar thermal energy would reduce the co-generation unit operating hours and thus reduce economic operation. However, to have a share of renewable energy, the high rise office building will integrate multifunctional photovoltaic panels as sun-shading devices.
The energy efficient energy supply system will contain:
  • A natural gas modular co-generation plant (0.9 MWel, 1.1 MWth) to be installed at the ATC commercial building.
  • An absorption chiller, thermally coupled to the co-generation plant, placed in the ATC commercial building that will provide cold for the climatisation of the ATC building itself.
  • Modification of the district heating distribution grid to provide heat storage for peak management.
  • Photovoltaic modules to be integrated in the facade of the ATC commercial building as Sun-shading devices with a total peak power of 50 kW.
  • Additional photovoltaic modules to be installed on the roofs of the council buildings with a total peak power of 100 kW.
The excess electricity produced by the co-generation plant will be provided to the distribution grid. ATC will install telematic electricity meters for each of the customers/exchange points with the distribution grids in order to monitor all the electricity flows in the Arquata area.

Observer Communities
Within each project region and outside of them, a network of associated communities is set up to disseminate the project experience and to replicate the project results. More advanced communities speed up the learning curve for communities just starting the process, and a living network of European communities is formed. Communities outside the regional circles will be attracted to participate in the process.

The associated communities will transfer the project results into other regions and to the key players in administration and industry. 19 Eastern and Western European and several Canadian communities have already registered. The number of associated communities will be enlarged during the project phase.


POLYCITY is part of the CONCERTO initiative, launched by the European Commission. CONCERTO is addressing the challenges of creating a more sustainable future for Europe’s energy needs by applying an integrated approach towards Energy Efficiency measures combined with the increased use of Renewable Energy Sources on a local level. Currently, nine projects and their communities are carrying out demonstration activities.

References:
The POLYCITY project website.

The CONCERTO program's website.

1st European Conference on Polygeneration website.


Article continues