Alternate Energy Sector Under Real Pressure

October 29, 2008

The ongoing disagreement about whether biofuels were effecting food availability, which 2nd generation biofuels offered most, whether wind farms polluted, if nuclear was a better option etc have become somewhat less significant.

 

Alternative Energy Suddenly Faces Headwinds - NYTimes.com.jpg

from: New York Times
(click image for full story online)

 


Now the economy is the unarguable brake on the development and implementation of alternate energies.

The economic downturn has forced the price of oil down which ends all investors and investees scrambling to the spreadsheet. It has further reduced the availability of capital in those cases where the venture capitalist is still interested in investing. The billions of dollars, euros etc of capital pumped into the banks to keep them afloat will inevitably lead to less money to be invested in subsidising alternate energy and probably more worrying into R&D.

The alternate energy movement runs the risk of faltering and again loosing momentum as it did after the fuel crisis in the 1980s.

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Biofuels in South Africa – Current Situation

October 8, 2008

Two recent stories are I think indicative of where South Africa is in the biofuel market.

Sasol recently discussed their succeeding in being listed in the Dow Jones sustainability world index and gave an overview of their focus.

 

Sasol studies ‘new energy’ technologies with lower environmental impacts-1.jpg

from: Engineering News
(click image for full story online)

 

On the biodiesel project they have been publicising with the Central Energy Fund for some years now they stated that “there is not a very certain government framework at this point in time, which makes finalising a decision not very easy” even though the crude price is multiples of what it was in the beginning!

A recent article highlighted the discontent of commercial maize growers with the South African Governments decision to only allow the production of ethanol from excess maize.

Business Day - News Worth Knowing-1.jpg


from: Business Day
(click image for full story online)

 

These two stories reinforce what was obvious at the time the Biofuels Strategy was being actively developed – no one was going to be able to make a profitable business out of it without significant subsidisation from government.

The concern is that South Africa can now move away from first generation biofuels, but Africa seems to be getting deeper involved although the constrains are obvious.

The article below by the US Department of Agriculture at the end of 2007 has a good overview, but concludes that maybe there is still room for government to adjust its position. This has apparently not happened to date.

Republic of South Africa Biofuels Situation Update – Get more Legal Forms


Africa Biofuel – Tanzanian biofuel company

October 8, 2008

Africa Biofuel and Emission Reduction Company is focussed on bringing a triple-bottom-line biofuel business model to Africa.

 

News.jpg

from: Africa Biofuels
(click image for full story online)

 

Africa Biofuels set out to find a biofuel process that did not compete for a food or use agricultural land. It looked for a product that could actually enhance the environment and benefit the people of the area.

It identified Croton megalocarpus, an indigenous tree, as its focus.

There is detailed discussion of the project under the explanatory and news section of the website that promotes its arguments in detail.

In a quick scan and search I was unable to identify how the byproducts (oil cake and glycerine) are to be used and what income they will generate. This “income” and the cost of manual collection from wild trees are critical to the viability of the process. In fact I not find any costing or economics on the site but am taking that up via email.


Little Logic in This Ethanol Support

September 21, 2008

In an interview with green2tech

 

10 Questions for Poet’s CEO Jeff Broin « Earth2Tech.jpg


from: Earth2Tech
(click image for full story online)

 

Jeff Broin of ethanol producer Poet said the following

8). In the great debate over how much corn ethanol is affecting food prices, what do you think about some newer reports that have said biofuels have affected food prices significantly?
Every study depends on the assumptions of its author, and the opponents of renewable fuels have been able to generate a few that say what they want. Almost every independent study I’ve seen has said that ethanol production has had a very small impact on the consumer’s price for food, especially in comparison to the impact of rising energy prices.

A study from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M said, “The underlying force driving changes in the agricultural industry, along with the economy as a whole, is overall higher energy costs, evidenced by $100 per barrel oil.” Just do the math. A semi can haul 4,200 boxes of corn flakes at a time, and with 10 ounces of corn in each box, that’s a total of 46.9 bushels of corn. At a $6 bushel, the corn in all 4,200 boxes has a value of $281.40. To haul those boxes 1,500 miles, however, would cost $881.25 with diesel priced at $4.70 per gallon. That means it takes 21 cents of diesel per box to get it to the store, yet the value of corn in that box is less than seven cents. What do you think is the real driver of higher food prices?

But this study surely has nothing to say about biofuels not pushing up the price of food? In fact what would the fuel cost have been if the truck was run on biodiesel?

Its also flawed in that the calculation is for $100 crude & $ 4.70 / gallon diesel – even at $50 crude and the corresponding diesel price of $ 2.86 / gallon (extrapolated from GasBuddy data) the diesel cost is still 13 cents. This is a of food retail and consumer demands not fuel costs!

 

Gas Price Historical Price Charts - GasBuddy.com.jpg


from: GasBuddy
(click image for full story online)

 

Lets not even start calculating the packaging cost and the wholesale and retail margins!


Biomass the Oldest Renewable Biofuel – Developments

September 18, 2008

This clip from Wikipedia explains the comment in the title. Today when we talk biomass in the biofuel context we might think of switchgrass grown for ethanol, saw milling waste or soya beans for biodiesel production – but in fact the wood fire was the first example of a biomass fuel and is still a very important fuel in developing countries.

 

Biomass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.jpg


from: WIKIPEDIA
(click image for full story online)

 

This defines biomass as

Biomass refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. Most commonly, biomass refers to plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce biofuel, but it also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.

Two recent stories illustrate what is happening in this area.

 

Biofuels brief_ Huge growth for UK biomass.jpg


from: Farmers Weekly Interactive
(click image for full story online)

 

This article considers biomass from recycled wood, processing co-products (palm kernel or distillers grains, for example), agricultural wastes (straw, chicken manure and so on) and energy crops.

It refers to announcements in recent months to develop more than 1,000MW of electricity generation from biomass. It also identifies increasing quantities of biomass being co-fired in large coal plants and used in industrial-sized operations. It expands on the activities of a number of companies.

 

Bioenergy pact between Europe and Africa.jpg


from: BIOPACT
(click image for full story online)

 

This is an amazing story of a €150 million project to produce enough electricity for 90,000 households, by burning chicken manure, that went online in the beginning of September.

The plant is owned and operated by utility company Delta, cooperative DET, ZLTO and Austrian Energy & Environment A.G. (a consortium including Siemens Nederland N.V.). It will use approximately 440,000 tons of chicken manure a year, roughly one third of the total amount produced in the Netherlands.

It is interesting that while producing electricity the project solves a number of problems from complaints by the UKto the smell produced when Holland spread manure on their fields, to the release of Methane and the high cost of alternate disposal.

The ash from the plant will be used in fertilisers. There are opportunities for the manure from the remainder of Holland’s chickens and from other countries of Europe.


Biogas in Californian Dairies

September 16, 2008

This presentation on the potential of biogas production from dairy waste in California is interesting and presents some useful data.


Challenges to Biogas Production and Use on California s Dairy Farms – Get more Legal Forms

I am able to email you this document if you require, please click here and leave the embedded text in the subject line.


Some Africa Relenvant Biofuels News Links – 2

July 24, 2008

DIGIVU- Dave Harcourt’s Blogs Combined.jpg

This post is a periodic one, that simply lists interesting Biofuel stories that I feel are relevant to Africa. The link will take you to an original article which will acknowledge my source of the story.

 

Nigerian company produces biofuel from sorghum – some details of a project in Nigeria that uses sweet sorghum as a feedstock for ethanol production.

The Mocambican National Government approves an EthanolProject– a bioenergy park will produce almost a billion litres of ethanol a year and create 2,600 jobs.

Cassava Ethanol Project in Nigeria – Kwara Casplex will produce 30.6 million tons of cassava ethanol at new production facilities planned for Oyo and Ekiti states. They appear to be looking at integrating many technologies to increase the overall system efficiency.

Oil Palm in the Congo – an Italian biodiesel producer has signed a 30 year agreement with the Congo national government to cultivate oil palm on 98,000 acres.