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    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.


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Friday, January 18, 2008

DOE JGI releases soybean genome assembly to enable worldwide bioenergy research

A preliminary assembly and annotation of the soybean genome, Glycine max, has been made available by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), to the greater scientific community to enable bioenergy research. The genetic information will enable crop improvements and the design of a plant that performs according to specific predetermined tasks for energy production.

The announcement of what it calls 'this monumental project' was made by Eddy Rubin, DOE JGI Director, during his keynote remarks Jan. 15 at the Plant and Animal Genome XVI Conference in San Diego,CA. The preliminary data can be accessed here.

The soybean genome project was initiated through the DOE JGI Community Sequencing Program (CSP), an international scientific program bringing together leading genetic researchers and bio-engineers. The soybean project was conducted by a consortium led by DOE JGI’s Dan Rokhsar, Stanford’s Jeremy Schmutz, Gary Stacey of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Randy Shoemaker of Iowa State University, and Scott Jackson of Purdue University, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

The large-scale shotgun DNA sequencing project began in the middle of 2006 and will be completed in 2008. A total of about 13 million shotgun reads have been produced and deposited in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Trace Archive in accordance with the consortium’s commitment to early access and consistent with the Fort Lauderdale genome data release policy.

The current assembly (representing 7.23x coverage), gene, set, and browser are collectively referred to as "Glyma0". Glyma0 is a preliminary release, based on a partial dataset. This is expected to be replaced with an improved, chromosome-scale "Glyma1" version by the end of 2008. Early users of this data are encouraged to track their favorite genes by saving local copies of the DNA sequences of these loci, and not by identifier or sequence coordinate, as these will change in future versions.

DOE JGI’s interest in sequencing the soybean stems from its role as a principal source of biodiesel, a renewable, alternative fuel which, it says, has the highest energy content of any alternative fuel.

Detailed knowledge of the soybean genetic code will enable crop improvements for more effective application of this plant for clean bioenergy generation. Knowing which genes control specific traits, researchers are able to change the type, quantity, and/or location of oil produced by the crop:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Through utilization of the sequence information generated by DOE JGI, it may be possible to develop a customized biomass production platform for combining oil seed production for biodiesel with enhanced vegetative growth for ethanol conversion--doubling the energy output of the crop. In 2004, over 3.1 billion bushels of soybeans were grown on nearly 75 million acres in the US, with an estimated annual value exceeding $17 billio--second only to corn, and about twice that of wheat.

Several other individuals, projects, grants, and agencies have made this monumental project possible. These included the four major projects: Public Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs), SoyMap (which includes BAC libraries, modern physical mapping, and clone-based sequencing), and the Genetic Map with funding from USDA, NSF, United Soybean Board (USB), and the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP).

The Public EST Project, supported by USB and NCSRP, was led by Lila Vodkin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Randy Shoemaker of the USDA-ARS, Ames, Iowa; and P. Steven Keim of Northern Arizona University.

The original physical map development, funded by USB, was conducted by Jan Dvorak, from the University of California, Davis, along with the Washington University Genome Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and David Grant, USDA-ARS, Ames, Iowa.

The NSF SoyMap team, comprising principal investigator Scott Jackson, Gary Stacey and Henry Nguyen, Jeff Doyle of Cornell University, William Beavis of the National Center for Genome Resources (NCGR) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Iowa State, Gregory May (NCGR), Will Nelson and Rod Wing of the University of Arizona, with Randy Shoemaker, anchored the map and conducted quality control.

The team devoted to genetic mapping and physical map anchoring, yielding several thousand sequence-based markers, included USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) investigators, including Perry Cregan and Dave Hyten of Beltsville, Maryland, Randy Shoemaker, David Grant, and Steven Cannon of Ames, Iowa, along with James Specht of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The annotation of the soybean genome was carried out by a team of researchers from the DOE JGI and the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Integrative Genomics, with support from the DOE, USDA, NSF, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five national laboratories -- Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest -- along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. DOE JGI’s Walnut Creek, CA, Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges.

The JGI has sequenced a variety of bioenergy crops, and for the first time ever published the entire genome of a tree, namely the poplar, seen as a biomass crop. It is working on genetic research into many other plants and organisms, including sorghum, eucalyptus, cassava, foxtail millet, and a whole range of microorganisms, algae, fungi and other biological organisms that can be harnessed for the production of biofuels and bioenergy.

References:
DOE JGI: DOE JGI Releases Soybean Genome Assembly To Enable Worldwide Bioenergy Research Efforts - January 17, 2008.

Phytozome.net: Glycine max genome.

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

Biopact: Super-fermenting fungus genome sequenced, to be harnessed for biofuels - Monday, March 05, 2007

Biopact: Moss genome sequenced: shows how aquatic plants adapted to dry land - key to development of drought-tolerant energy crops, cellulosic biofuels - December 14, 2007

Biopact: Scientists sequence and analyse genomes of termite gut microbes to yield novel enzymes for cellulosic biofuel production - November 22, 2007

Biopact: The first tree genome is published: Poplar holds promise as renewable bioenergy resource - September 14, 2006


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