UN Data Shows No Food Price Rise from Ethanol

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) has released new data showing that global food prices in August experienced the steepest monthly drop since 2008, which casts doubt upon concerns about the impact of ethanol production in food price increases.

global-rfaAccording the the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA), the recent decline in food prices coincided with a period of record ethanol production expansion, reaching a high of 94 billion litres in 2014 from 83.5 billion litres in 2012, a 10% increase over this period.

The UN FAO Food Price Index averaged 155.7 points in August, down 5.2% from July, representing the steepest monthly drop since December 2008 with virtually all major food commodities registering marked dips. This drop coincides with a fall in crude oil prices in July of 19%, closing at $48.25USD per barrel on July 31.

The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) has for several years argued that the price of oil and energy inputs are the single most influential drivers of food and commodity prices. A number of international institutions including the World Bank, International Energy Agency (IEA) and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) have also recognised the strong relationship between oil prices and food prices.

Read more from GRFA.

German Biodiesel Quality Group Starts Glycerol Test

AGQMA German group that maintains quality standards for biodiesel will carry out round-robin tests for pharmaceutical glycerol. This news release from AGQM (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Qualitaetsmanagement Biodiesel) says this will be the first time for the tests, and registrations will still be accepted until Sept. 20, 2015.

Round Robin Tests to check test methods and the proper handling of professional laboratories have a long and successful history. That is why AGQM has also carried out round robin tests for Biodiesel analytics as part of its quality management system since being founded in 1999.

Apart from Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) which is mainly used as fuel (Biodiesel) and which must comply with high quality standards, glycerol – a by-product of the Biodiesel production – is also gaining continuously in importance. In the past it was used primarily in the fields of cosmetics and technology but nowadays it is used more and more as high-quality pharmaceutical glycerol which is gained by refining raw glycerol.

With this Round Robin Test we wish to enable both company laboratories as well as commercial service laboratories to carry out external quality assurance for selected parameters of the analytics of pharmaceutical glycerol.

Iluméxico to Bring Solar to Rural Communities

Iluméxico, the Mexican social enterprise focused on solar power, has made a commitment through the Business Call to Action (BCtA) to offer its Solar Home Systems to 50,000 off-the-grid rural homes. By 2020, more than 300,000 people will have access to solar power and along the way, Iluméxico will help create 180 new jobs, of which 90 will be designed for women and 70 will be based in rural communities.

The company plans to increase its “ILU Centros” support network from 5 to 50 locations nationwide and strengthen alliances with both public and private institutions. Anticipating up to 70 percent growth within the next five years, Iluméxico also plans to expand its business into two new Latin American countries by 2020.

Ilumexico solar power“Delivering affordable, sustainable solar power to off-grid rural communities brings Iluméxico one step closer to realizing its vision of ensuring access to electricity for all Mexicans by 2040,” said Manuel Wiechers, Iluméxico’s CEO. “Bringing clean, long-lasting illumination to people at the bottom of the economic pyramid is furthering the country’s development through income generation and learning opportunities for client families, along with cleaner, more sustainable energy use. We are pleased that our work has been recognized by the Business Call to Action and look forward to working with the organization and fellow members to advance our mission.”

More than three million Mexicans – 600,000 households – live in remote, rural locations. Their geographic location and isolation make it difficult and expensive for government infrastructure and electrification projects to reach them. Iluméxico’s business model taps into this unmet need through the design and manufacture of a wide range of solar systems for bottom-of-the-economic pyramid markets. Approximately 60 percent of Iluméxico’s customers are indigenous and all live in isolated areas in communities of less than 100 households.

Suba Sivakumaran, BCtA’s Programme Manager, added, “Consistent access to clean, efficient energy can transform lives and livelihoods, with wide-spread impacts on a country’s development agenda. This includes income-generating opportunities, reduced use of biomass and other unsustainable solid fuels, greater opportunities for education and healthcare, and more engaged, productive households and communities.”

U2’s Bono Helps Celebrate Solar in Africa

U2's Bono with Gigawatt Global co-founders Yosef Abramowitz and Chaim Motzen, plus Electrify Africa Act co-sponsor US Senator Chris Coons at East Africa's first solar field near Kigali, Rwanda. Bono and Abramowitz are both Nobel Prize candidates for 2015. (PRNewsFoto/Gigawatt Global)

U2’s Bono with Gigawatt Global co-founders Yosef Abramowitz and Chaim Motzen, plus Electrify Africa Act co-sponsor US Senator Chris Coons at East Africa’s first solar field near Kigali, Rwanda. Bono and Abramowitz are both Nobel Prize candidates for 2015. (PRNewsFoto/Gigawatt Global)

Bono of U2 fame joined a delegation of U.S. Government representatives to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the first completed solar field under the White House’s Power Africa program. The 8.5 MW project, developed by Gigawatt Global and built by Scatec Solar, is on the grounds of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village near Kigali, Rwanda. Bono’s One.org backs the Electrify Africa Act, which is co-sponsored by Senator Chris Coons (far right) and advances power production as a strategy to combat poverty. Yosef Abramowitz and Chaim Motzen, co-founders of Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch solar and social development enterprise, led the tour of the field.  Bono and Gigawatt Global are both candidates for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced next month.

Swedish Mill Dumps LPG to Put in Biomass Boiler

Waggeryd1A pulp mill in Sweden is ending its use of non-renewable LPG in favor of a biomass boiler. This news release from Waggeryd Cell says it will invest about $7 million to run the flash dryer on biomass, expected to be up and running next March and reducing the mill’s fossil carbon dioxide emissions by 85 percent.

Waggeryd Cell produces bleached CTMP and ever since start-up in 1989 the whole production has been flash dried using LPG as heat source. When the new boiler has started in September 2016, LPG will be totally replaced by bioenergy. It is a grate boiler with an effect of about 12 MW. The supplier is Urbas, an Austrian company specialising in systems designed to extract energy from wet and coarse wood fuels from sawmills, woodworking factories and general forestry thinning. It is a turnkey project and Urbas is responsible for the whole delivery, including projecting, mounting and start-up.

“This is yet another of the environmental investments we have done since we began modernising the mill fifteen years ago,” says Ulf Karlsson, MD Waggeryd Cell. “By replacing LPG for our flash dryer with heat from the new biomass boiler we will reduce our emissions of fossil carbon dioxide by 85 % at the same time as we reduce our costs. The boiler will be fuelled by sawdust, oversized wood chips and fibre residuals from our process as well as bark and fuel wood mainly supplied from our owner ATA Group’s sawmills.”

Urbas has been designing, building and pioneering energy systems for use of biomass fuels for more than 20 years.

Olleco Acquisition Expands Biodiesel Abilities

ollecoc2gUK-based Olleco has acquired another company that also converts used cooking oil and food waste into biodiesel. This company news release says it bought Convert2Green Ltd.

Bringing together Convert2Green and Olleco increases our number of depots to 17 across the UK and enables us to improve efficiencies and coverage to enhance the used cooking oil collection service offered to our customers. The work done by Convert2Green on producing carbon efficient fuels is an exciting addition to Olleco’s range of low carbon bio-liquid fuels and they look forward to developing the possibilities of these fuels in the future.

Commercial Director Adam Baisley said: “We are delighted to welcome Convert2Green customers and staff to Olleco. We aim to build on the strong foundation they have established and extend our reliable and award winning services to our new customers.”

Olleco is fully committed to helping its customers waste nothing from their foodservice business. Olleco ensures that all of the organic waste it collects is converted into renewable energy and compost; nothing goes to landfill.

Brazil Sets Record for Ethanol Consumption

unicaBrazil hit a record high in ethanol consumption in July. The country’s ethanol industry group, the Union of Sugar Cane Industry Association (UNICA), says Brazilians used 1.55 billion liters, or about 400 million gallons, breaking a previous record of 1.51 billion liters in December 2009.

The national demand for light fuels increased 3.4% compared with July 2014 and 2.75% as compared to the previous month (June / 2015). Meanwhile, C gasoline consumption increased only 2.3% between June and July 2015.

According to UNICA Technical Director, Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, this continued expansion of biofuel consumption reflects the competitive price of the renewable front of its fossil competitor, gasoline.

“In many states, the price parity between hydrous ethanol and gasoline follows at levels lower than the technical ratio of 70% of vehicle efficiency. I draw attention to São Paulo, where the parity stood at around 62% and Mato Grosso with 60%, “noted Rodrigues.

Geothermal May be Africa’s Energy Solution

Representatives from 12 African countries gathered in Nairobi recently to discuss the feasibility of establishing the Africa Geothermal Centre of Excellence (AGCE). The center would work to improve the continent’s institutional and infrastructural capacities including bringing and training geothermal scientists an engineers.

Oklaria Geothermal Plant in Kenya.

Oklaria Geothermal Plant in Kenya.

Around 600 million people in Africa lack access to grid electricity, with the number expected to rise to 700 million by 2030. As a result, the continent is increasingly looking to alternative energy sources to bridge that gap especially geothermal opportunities. With an estimated potential of 20,000 MW, geothermal energy could provide an answer to the continent’s energy shortage.

The majority of the potential energy source remains largely untapped in part due to a lack of skilled workforce. AGCE would address this issue and become the vehicle to training a talented geothermal energy workforce and thus open the doors to sustainable geothermal development.

During the workshop, the attendees reviewed a feasibility study that catalgoues the region’s needs and potential for geothermal. In addition, the group also created AGCE’s vision and developed its long-term sustainability.

The meeting was organized by the United Nation Environment Programme’s (UNEP) African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) and brought together country representatives, African governments, development partners, donors, civil society, private developers, technical institutions and academia. AGCE is expected to be established in Kenya, which is the main hub for geothermal technology on the continent, with a natural laboratory and a major geothermal agency.

Scottish Scientists Identify Algae Best for Biofuels

stephenslocombe1Scientists in Scotland have identified which algae are the best for biofuels. This article from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) says the researchers used a new technique to figure out which ocean-based strains had the highest oil content.

The screening revealed two marine strains, Nannochloropis oceanica and Chlorella vulgaris, which had a dry-weight oil content of more than 50 per cent. This makes them ideal sources of biofuel for vehicles and aircraft.

The results of the screening, part of the BioMara project, have been published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports and are likely to help bring forward research into algae as a source of biodiesel and other biofuels by a number of years.

SAMS scientists have demonstrated that Nannochloropsis, for example, is very efficient at converting nutrients, so it has the perfect combination of high levels of oil and high productivity.

The report’s lead author, Dr Stephen Slocombe, SAMS research associate in molecular biology, said: “In order to produce biofuels from micro-algae we will have to generate high yields, so we need to know which strains will produce the most oil.

“While there is a lot of work being done on micro-algae biotechnology – currently around 10,000 researchers across the world – no-one has identified a shortlist of the best performing strains and how their properties could be used.”

The research also identified algae varieties best for the health food industry.

Biodiesel Helps Boost Europe’s Biofuels Use

EUflag1Transportation biofuels use in Europe is up again, thanks in large part to biodiesel. This article from the Brussels Times says biofuels for transport increased by 6.1 percent in 2014 in Europe, following a decrease in the previous year.

It still remains lower than in 2012. Consumption of sustainable biofuels reached its highest level with 12.5 million tep (Mtep – million-ton equivalent of petroleum). The increase in the use of biofuels for European transport is mostly due to biodiesel (+7.8%), whereas consumption of bioethanol remained stable (+0.1%). Biodiesel represented 79.7% of biofuels consumption, and bioethanol 19.1%, when taking into account the energy content (instead of the metric volume).

In Belgium, total biofuels consumption reached 387,599 tep. Biodiesel represented 90.5% of total consumption in 2014, and bioethanol the remaining 9.5%. Like in other EU28 countries, Belgian biofuels were certified 100% sustainable. In Spain and in Estonia this percentage was 0%.

Thus it seems that use of certified sustainable biofuels following criteria established by the European directive Renewable Energies, reached its highest level in 2014, with 12.5 Mtep, 89.4% of total biofuels consumption in the European Union, and 4.3% of EU fuel consumption.

The article went on to point out that oil companies will be some of the biggest drivers in the biofuels market, and they are already the biggest producers of biodiesel.