News and Trends

Many national polices related to biofuel production and use relate mostly to the large scale production of  biofuel for transport applications. The often-seen scenario is that of large-scale biofuel production facilities which process the bioenergy crops, which are either cultivated in large plantations, or are supplied by rural contract farmers. The benefits for rural development in this case, often arise when the rural farmers get added income when they cultivate the feedstock and sell the crops to large scale biofuel processing plants. The application of small scale bioenergy initiatives, focusing mostly on the village-scale production of the biofuel for direct beneficial use by the village (i.e., for cooking or rural electrification) can also provide an alternative route for improving the quality of life in the rural sector. A report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) and the Policy Innovation Systems for Clean Energy Security (PISCES), provides 15 interesting case studies where such small scale, local bioenergy inititiatives can help enhance the livelihoods of small communities in developing countries. The initiatives can be shown to sustainably boost the natural, financial, human, social and physical resources of the communities. The report also gives insights on the lessons learned from the case studies and analyzes the elements for successful implementation. This makes interesting reading for those from developing countries who wish to undertake similar small scale bioenergy initiatives in their own local settings. Among the case studies mentioned in the report are: Ethiopia Ethanol Stoves, India Jatropha Electrification, and Biodiesel Water Pumping Program in Rural Tribal Villages..

Researchers from the Arctic Technology Center (in Sisimiuth, Greenland) are looking into the utilization of waste Greenland-shark meat as a raw material for biofuel, in the form of biogas. Biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide which is produced from the anaerobic (oxygen-free) fermentation of any biodegradable organic matter. Biogas is also primarily used for heating, cooking, or for electrical power generation. Greenland sharks are said to be "nuisance" species to fishermen, and their meat is non-edible (even toxic) for human consumption. Thousands of these sharks are often caught and die in fishermen's nets off Greenland every year. Greenland shark meat is also a major by-product of the Greenland fishing industry, according to the Biofuels International website. Marianne Willemoes Joergensen of ARTEK's branch at the Technical University of Denmark, and project manager, says that the shark meat, when mixed with macro-algae and household wastewater, could "serve as biomass for biofuel production." The by-product shark-meat biofuel is estimated to have the capability to power 13 % of energy consumption in the village of Uummannaq with its 2,450 inhabitants. Test runs at an organic waste treatment plant is scheduled for next year. If successful, the project "could help the many isolated villages on the vast island to become self-sufficient in terms of energy"..

Energy Crops and Feedstocks for Biofuels Production
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A review article by S. Pinzi and colleagues from the University of Cordoba, Spain mentions that the composition of the following "sustainable" oils can be processed into biodiesel which pass the European EN 14214 and United States ASTM D 6751 02 standards: Calophyllum inophyllum, Azadirachta indica, Terminalia catappa, Madhuca indica, Pongamia pinnata, and Jatropha curcas. However, none of these oils can be considered to be the "ideal" alternative that matches all the main important fuel properties which can give the best diesel engine behavior. According to the authors, a high presence of monounsaturated fatty acids (as oleic and palmitoleic acids), reduced presence of polyunsaturated acids, and controlled saturated acids content are recommended as attributes for a good biodiesel composition. In terms of oxidative stability and cold weather properties, the "best fitting fatty acids" are said to be C18:1 and C16:1 fatty acids. The complete review of the paper appears in a recent issue of the journal, Energy and Fuels (URL above)..

Biofuels Policy and Economics

From the 2009 country biofuel reports of the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the highlights of the biofuels situation in Malaysia are: (1) Malaysia's biofuel policies are hinged on its large and growing palm oil industry; the country is determined to promote the production and use of palm biodiesel; although the 2007 Biofuel Industry Act will allow the orderly development of the biodiesel industry, the mandatory blend of 5% biodiesel (B5) in regular diesel has been put on hold to address issues related to logistics and infrastructure, (2) There is no significant ethanol production industry in Malaysia, although there are (still largely untapped) opportunities for the utilization of palm oil biomass, (3) About 12 biodiesel plants have been completed, with a combined capacity of 1.5 million tons; the biodiesel output increased by only 5% in 2008 due to high feedstock prices, but a 30% jump in 2009 is expected, (4) EU concerns regarding the negative sustainability issues related to palm oil for biodiesel production "have raised fears of emerging barriers for palm oil biodiesel exports to the EU, (5) Jatropha is being seen as an alternative biodiesel source, and the government has allocated funds for research and development for crop development and performance tests; the impact of Jatropha on the biofuel sector is not seen to be significant within the next two years..

From the 2009 country biofuel reports of the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the highlights of the biofuels situation in India are: (1) The main drivers for India's national biofuels policy are: energy security, use of environment-friendly biofuels (low greenhouse gas emissions), utilization of marginalized, unproductive land for feedstock cultivation, alternative usage of crops for biofuel feedstocks and rural development; (2) The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas launched its mandate for 5% ethanol blends in gasoline (E5), in 9 out of 29 states and in 4 out of 6 Union Territories; for biodiesel, a "biodiesel purchase policy" requires oil companies to purchase biodiesel at a predetermined price, for (5%) blending into high-speed diesel; (3) As the world's leading producer of sugarcane and sugar, India is promoting the use of molasses (a by-product of sugar production) as feedstock for biofuel ethanol production; (4) In line with its April 2003 National Mission on Biodiesel which identifies Jatropha as the most suitable biodiesel feestock, the government's Planning Comission set an ambitious target to plant Jatropha on 11.2 to 13.4 million hectares of land (presumably "wastelands"). The objective is to produce sufficient biodiesel for a target B20 (20% biodiesel blend) mandate; (5) A new draft National Biofuel Policy formulated by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was approved by the Cabinet Committee in September 2008..

From the 2009 country biofuel reports of the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the highlights of the biofuels situation in Argentina are: (1) The Biofuels Law in Argentina mandates a 5% biofuel blend (ethanol for gasoline and biodiesel for regular diesel) by January 2010.To meet these mandates, about 270 million liters of ethanol and 700 million liters of biodiesel are required; (2) The main biofuel feedstocks are sugarcane and molasses for ethanol and soybean oil for biodiesel. However, there are small plants which use recycled vegetable oil/sunflower/rapeseed for biodiesel, and corn/sweet sorghum for ethanol; and  (3) Argentina is a top global biodiesel producer/exporter, with most of the produced biodiesel exported to the European Union..

From the 2009 country biofuel reports of the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the highlights of the biofuels situation in Sweden are: (1) Sweden is reported to have one of the most ambitious policies for renewable energy. It presently obtains about 28% of its energy supply from renewable sources, and is targeting 50% by 2020, and eventually 100% by 2050;  (2) The use of ethanol and biodiesel is promoted through tax incentives, as well as other policy instruments, including increased biofuel blending mandates, initiatives for plug-in hybrids, and support for second generation biofuels; (3) The main biofuel feedstocks are cereal-based (80%) and wood-based (20%, from wood-processing waste streams) for ethanol, and rapeseed for biodiesel; (4) Biodiesel utilization in Sweden is not as rapid as ethanol utilization; (5) About 90% of bioenergy comes from the forestry sector ; and (6) In addition to liquid biofuels, biogas is also used as a transport biofuel in the country with many local buses and distribution vehicles running on biogas..

From the 2009 country biofuel reports of the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the highlights of the biofuels situation in South Africa are: (1) There is still no large scale biofuel industry in South Africa although many biofuel projects are in the pipeline. Large scale biofuel production is expected by 2011; (2) The new "Biofuels Industrial Strategy" now recommends sugar cane/sugar beet for ethanol, and soybean/canola/sunflower for biodiesel; the proposed biofuel blending mandate is E8 (or 8% ethanol blended in gasoline), and B2 (or 2% biodiesel blended in conventional biodiesel); and  (3) A 5-Year Biofuels Research Program (with research funds amounting to about US$240,000) was established at the University of Stellenbosch. The objective of the program is to develop "completely new" biofuel technologies, particularly for ethanol..