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    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.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Futurist and space visionary Zubrin calls for a bioeconomy


World-renowned space engineer, futurist and father of the Mars Society, Dr Robert Zubrin has published a new book titled Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. The man who developed and popularised the idea of 'terraforming' Mars to make it habitable for humans, now takes a political turn with a synthetic vision on what to do here on Earth to make our planet more liveable.

In Energy Victory, the futurist presents a grand and elegant case for the development of a bioeconomy: utilizing photosynthesis and plants' fascinating capacity to work like factories that produce valuable green chemicals and copious amounts of efficient and clean energy.

Interestingly, Zubrin thinks such a bioeconomy could greatly benefit developing countries, and allows them to leapfrog from a fossil based economy straight into a clean and perpetually renewable 'carbohydrate economy' - itself an old sci-fi concept that is now becoming a reality (see Section 8 in the video 'New Fuels Can Help Third World Economies', click 'open tools'). In fact, Zubrin makes a case for a kind of a 'Biopact' of sorts: instead of thinking in mere terms of energy independence, he talks about a much more realistic scenario of global green energy interdependence - we obviously consider him an ally.

Moreover, the scientist is one of the few people who point to the grim fact that oil's nine-fold price increase since 1999 is 'an extremely regressive tax on the world's poor' and has 'devastating' consequences on their economies. In fact, the oil price rises could already have 'killed millions' of people in poor countries (because they drain states' financial capacities to provide the most basic of services such as poverty alleviation, health care or education; they derail agriculture, food production, trade, business; they generalize inflation and lead to excessive unemployment, cause resource conflicts and wars, and so on). This alone should prompt world leaders to encourage a switch to biofuels in these countries, he thinks.

With martian vigor, Zubrin attacks OPEC, terrorism and the fossil fuel industry, which he defines as 'enemies' that must and can be defeated by renewables. Beyond this harsh rhetoric, Zubrin's vision is refreshingly optimistic, comprehensive and goes beyond the short-term thinking so prevalent in the current debate about bioenergy. But that's only logical for the man who has thought deeply about the science, the technologies and the politics of making planets habitable.

More information, video and a discussion forum, here: Fora TV: Robert Zubrin: Energy Victory.
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Leading European Institute warns for oil price surge to $200

One of Europe's leading economic institutes, the Deutsches Institute für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW), warns that the price of oil could rise to $150 per barrel in five years and $200 in 10 years. Wednesday's record oil price of $100 per barrel of crude marks this long-term upward trend, no longer merely fueled by speculation but by the growing incapacity of suppliers to meet demand.

If they materialise, the scenarios could have dramatic consequences on economic development in energy intensive economies in the developing world as well as on transition economies. On the other hand, they would make the mass production of biofuels and coal based synfuels inevitable.

The DIW's prognoses have sparked controversy in Europe, but the institute defends its position, saying sound projections are key to energy policy makers:
It is the task of economists to analyse medium-term trends in energy prices. [Our] scenarios are plausible and based on sound economic research. This is not about the magic of single numbers for future oil and gas prices. What really matters is whether German and European energy policy has designed preparedness plans to deal with the eventuality of very high energy prices. - DIW spokesperson Carel Mohn
The DIW's chief for the department of Energy, Transport and Environment, Professor Claudia Kemfert, further clarified the rationale behind the projections:
Scenarios covering 15 to 20 years are what they are: scenarios that could materialize, but that are meant not to do so, because they allow policy makers to develop counter-measures. Oil is not scarce yet, but will become so, because of rapidly growing demand of booming transition economies. Without a 'Moving away from Oil'-strategy, economies and societies will be too vulnerable to supply disruptions and high prices.
Professor Kemfert adds that the most recent surge in oil prices which drove the price to records was due to speculative buying. The share of the oil price attributable to speculation is likely to be around 20 percent today, adding that the price was likely to reach $105 in the coming weeks. But speculation will soon make way for the reality of the growing incapacity of suppliers to physically meet demand. The effects of a possible peak in oil production - signalling the irreversible end to the oil era - could begin to be felt as early as 2020.

In 2007 the price of oil jumped 57 percent due to the weak dollar, worries about oil reserves and world political turbulence, said Kemfert:
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The DIW and other experts don’t expect the oil market to calm down anytime soon. “We find it difficult to contemplate any scenario which doesn’t see annual average prices going steadily higher,” commented Kevin Norrish, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

The immediate cause for this week’s rise in oil prices was a US Energy Information Administration report due out Thursday. It is expected to show a drop in US crude inventories, which would be the seventh consecutive weekly decline. Violence in Nigeria and port closures in Mexico resulting from bad weather likewise have oil traders nervous.

The German Institute for Economic Research is one of the EU's leading research institutes. It is an independent, non-profit academic institution which is involved in basic research and policy advice. DIW Berlin was originally founded in 1925 as the Institute for Business Cycle Research and was later renamed to German Institute for Economic Research.

References:
Deutsches Institute für Wirtschaftsforschung: Energiepreise: 200 Dollar fürs Öl? DIW Berlin empfiehlt mehr Nüchternheit in der Debatte - January 7, 2007.

Der Spiegel: Oil Price Could Hit $200, Says German Institute - January 7, 2007.

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Mission Biofuels signs jatropha feedstock deal with farmer-owned cooperative in India

Australia's Mission Biofuels Limited announces that its Indian subsidiary, Mission Biofuels (India) Pvt Ltd (MBIPL), has signed another agreement with an Indian district managed farmers' cooperative granting it exclusive, long-term access to Jatropha Curcas seeds from already planted lands as well as access to additional land in the district that is to be planted with the drought-tolerant crop over the next three years.

The district authority has formed a Cooperative Federation under the Indian Societies Act which is owned by the farmers and jatropha growers in the district, and which will be managed by the district authority. The district authority has, from funding received from the state and central governments under various programs including the rural employment guarantee programs, planted over 60,000 acres (24,280 hectares) of Jatropha Curcas during the last five years.

The district authority will continue to plant more of the biofuel crop under the purview of the State Government policies for funding and development of Jatropha Curcas. The district has now transferred all planted and to be planted jatropha to this newly formed federation.

Under the Agreement, MBIPL has agreed with the District Authority and the federation to:
  • provide technical inputs and know-how to the Jatropha Curcas farmers
  • establish nurseries
  • to support the newly formed federation in development of land along with effective utilization of Government grants for development of Jatropha
This will enable MBIPL to gain exclusive access to all Jatropha Curcas seeds harvested in the district and will favorably impact the price MBIPL will pay for the seeds purchased from the Farmers/ Self Help Groups of the federation:
This win-win partnership provides another excellent example of how a forward thinking government authority can help to provide: sustainable benefits to people living in poverty; long term value accrual to the Self help groups & farmers as owners of the cooperative federation; achievement of economies of scale; and benefits from the research and technical and commercial inputs from an integrated biofuels player. More districts should follow this example. - Ashish Swarup, CEO of MBIPL
MBIPL has been in active discussions with other districts for similar arrangements and is confident that this second agreement will help it finalize arrangements with some more districts in the region providing it immediate and long term access to large scale supplies of Jatropha Curcas seeds:
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Mission Biofuels Limited is listed on the ASX but with operations in Malaysia and India. The company has commissioned a 100,000 tonnes per annum biodiesel plant at Kuantan in Malaysia using Crown Iron Works technology and is building a 250,000 tonnes per year biodiesel plant adjacent to the 100,000 tonnes plant using Axens’ 2nd generation trans-esterification technology. Initially it will use Crude Palm Oil (CPO) as the feedstock for its biodiesel plants in Malaysia.

The company is rapidly developing its upstream feedstock business in India, which is focusing on a drought-resistant perennial plant (Jatropha Curcas) that grows in marginal/poor soil. Jatropha is easy to establish, grows quickly, produces seeds for over 40 years and importantly is inedible. Ultimately it will replace CPO with Jatropha oil as its feedstock for its biodiesel plants.

References:
Mission Biofuels: Mission signs another long term exclusive feedstock deal with a government controlled entity in India - January 7, 2007.

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