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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.


    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2008.


    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2008.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2008.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eni to invest $3 billion in Congo's oil and palm oil sector; Food Plus Biodiesel project to employ 10,000 people

Italy's largest industrial conglomerate, Eni, announced it will invest $3 billion in the Republic of Congo's hydrocarbon and palm oil biodiesel sector, generating an expected equity production of 150 million boe. A project focusing on the coproduction of food and biofuels will yield an estimated 10,000 formal jobs. Investments are to be made in the four-year period from 2008-2011.

The initiative is one in a series of recent bilateral and private investments in Central Africa's very large bioenergy potential. Most recently, a Chinese state-owned company announced it is to invest $1 billion in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (Congo-Kinshasa) plantation sector (earlier post), whereas Spain-based Aurantia announced a large palm oil investment in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) last year (more here). Canada's MagIndustries' forestry division is establishing a 500,000 ton wood (energy) chip plant in Congo-Brazzaville, the feedstock of which will be eucalyptus (previous post). Finally, during Brazilian president Lula's latest African tour in October 2007, Congo-Brazzaville joined his call for a 'pan-African biofuel alliance' by signing biofuel and energy cooperation agreements (further reading). The vision is one in which investments in the bioenergy sector help spur the region's much needed rural development.

The Eni model combines the traditional activities of hydrocarbon exploration and production with sustainability and important initiatives with unconventional and renewable sources. Eni has developed its operations in the country thanks to close collaboration with the Congolese authorities, resulting in the new agreements. Throughout the shared program with Eni, the Republic of Congo will maximise its own potential as a major energy producing country and become a benchmark in Africa in the tar sands and biofuels field, as a further benefit of food farming development.

Hydrocarbons

Eni has reached agreement for the exploration and exploitation of non-conventional oil in tar sands in Tchikatanga and Tchikatanga-Makola, two areas covering a total of 1790 square km which show 'enormous potential'. According to preliminary studies undertaken on a 100 square km area, recoverable reserves are estimated at between 2,5 billion barrels unrisked and 500 million barrels risked.

The agreement will allow Eni to consolidate its unique skills in tar sands t aking advantage of proprietary Eni Slurry Technology (EST) for improvement of the quality of heavy oils.

The project will also benefit from synergies resulting from the close proximity of the M'Boundi oilfield. Gas associated with oil production in this area can also be used to supply the EST plant and enrich the heavy oil, while achieving the goal of reducing atmospheric emissions under the Kyoto protocol.

'Food Plus Biodiesel'

The Memorandum of Understanding on the Food Plus Biodiesel project outlines a framework for collaboration in the use of vegetable oils from palm tree cultivation on approximately 70,000 unfarmed hectares in the Niari region, in the North West of the country (see map). This land is expected to produce approximately 340 thousand tons/year of crude palm oil, enough to cover domestic demand for food uses and produce 250,000 tons/year of biodiesel.

The project will employ approximately 10,000 people and will establish a consortium which will cooperate with the best international organisations to optimise agricultural production and development in local communities operating on the basis of the principles of protection of environment and of biodiversity:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Crude vegetable oil that will not be used for food will be destined to biodiesel production using Eni'proprietary Ultra-Bio-Diesel technology. After a first pilot phase, the feasibility of building a bio-refinery in the Congo will be considered.

Power station

Construction of the new 450 electric Power Station nearby the Djeno oil terminal, which, by 2009, will contribute to the generation of electricity from gas for over 80% of the country's requirements, while reducing gas flaring. The station, which will be owned by a new joint-stock company 20% owned by Eni Congo and 80% by the Republic of Congo, will be fuelled by the natural gas associated with the M'Boundi oilfields and, later, by the offshore discoveries of Marine Permit XII.

This initiative will monetize 56 million boe of natural gas reserves and associated liquids, producing the equivalent of some 22 thousand barrels of oil every day in Eni's share. The initiative will benefit from the Clean Development Mechanism credits under the Kyoto protocol.

Social initiatives

The industrial plan is in line with important social initiatives aimed at enhancing infant healthcare in Congo's rural areas , promoted and developed by Eni Foundation, following the 2007 agreement with Congolese Health, Population and Family Ministry and local NGO foundation Congo Assistance.

The overall investment for the project amounts to approximately 8.5 million euros.

The project will implement several vaccination programs aimed at reducing the incidence of the most widespread infant diseases, involving more than 200,000 children (corresponding to about 30% of children in Congo).

The initiative also aims to raise the population's awareness of disease prevention staff in the remote districts of the Country and improve the skills of local healthcare staff. The project involves the rural district of Niari, Cuvette and Koilou, where it is envisaged that the foundation will completely redevelop and equip 30 Peripheral Healthcare Centres. In the case of particularly remote communities mobile road units are expected to operate. In the Cuvette region, river-sailing equipped boats will also be used for the transportation of healthcare team.

The integrated model shared between Eni and the Republic of Congo creates the basis for a new cooperative process with producing countries allowing the promotion of industrial and energy development while respecting the environment and business sustainability.

References:
Eni: Eni and the Republic of Congo launch a new integrated model of cooperation - May 19, 2008.

Biopact: Congo joins Brazil's call for a pan-African biofuels alliance, signs agreement as it faces 'Peak Oil' - October 17, 2007

Biopact: DR Congo: Chinese company to invest $1 billion in 3 million hectare oil palm plantation - July 28, 2007

Biopact: Spanish company Aurantia to invest in Congo's palm oil sector for biodiesel - March 02, 2007

Biopact: 500,000 tonne mill for energy wood chips in the Republic of Congo - November 17, 2006

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