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Multinationals turn to biomass energy in the developing world

Posted on July 19, 2011 by Charles Nearly one third of worlds energy is produced for industrial purposes, an increasing share of which is occurring in the developing world. This raised industrial output, however, has come at the cost of more pollution. Less stringent environmental standards are one factor for the developing worlds attractiveness for such highly carbon-emitting industries as cement, chemicals, and pulp and paper. Yet outside of the developed world, some multinational companies are taking steps to curb the environmental impact of their businesses, and are often able to cut costs, by utilizing biomass energy. Dow, a manufacturer of chemicals, is one such company. In December of last year it announced the construction of a biomass cogeneration plant at the companys chlorine and caustic soda (chlor-alkali) plant in Aratu, Brazil. By burning eucalyptus wood to produce steam and electricity, the company expects to conserve 200,000 cubic meters of natural gas each day. In the process it will also greatly cut its expenses, as steam and electricity account for around half of the chlor-alkali production process.

Dow's facility in Bahia, Brazil In the pulp and paper industry there is Mondi. The company has installed biomass facilities in places as diverse as South Africa, Bulgaria and Poland to generate electricity for its operations. In fact, nearly four-fths of its power is produced at its own plants, with more than half from biomass sources primarily residues from pulp and paper manufacturing. Then there is cement, which is notorious for its carbon emissions. Yet in this industry too, some producers are gradually realizing the benets of biomass energy. Cemex, a company based in Mexico, has responded to incentives given by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, substituting biomass for fossil fuels at two of its facilities. Its plants in Caraclolito, Colombia and Colorado, Costa Rica now generate process heat using rice and coffee husks, sawdust, and palm residues. ACC, an Indian subsidiary of the Swiss-based Holcim, is developing a unique biomass system that utilizes algae. The algae not only sequester emitted carbon dioxide, but in turn recycle these emissions by producing oil which can be utilized as fuel. Even food and beverage makers are incorporating biomass in their manufacturing processes. This year Pepsi announced plans to build two cogeneration facilities in the Philippines. The 1.2 and 2.2 megawatt plants will likely utilize rice husks and wood chips to produce both heat and electricity for making beverages. The company expects to build a total of 11 such biomass plants in the Philippines alone. Pepsi is also known to use biomass boilers at its manufacturing facilities in India. Preceding Pepsis delve into biomass was AmBev, now the worlds largest brewer. In 2004 the company began incorporating biomass energy into its Brazilian plants. Through the combustion of wood chips and rice and coconut husks, seven of its breweries are now able to generate process steam in a more environmentally-friendly manner. As the leaders in their respective industries, the success of these companies in the utilization of biomass energy will inuence others to follow. Although industry is shifting to the developing world, environmental degradation need not. Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chinas Biomass Energy Potential


Posted on July 7, 2011 by Charles China is, or will soon become, the worlds largest consumer of energy. As the nations living standards rise with its expanding economy, Chinas energy consumption will continue to multiply. Although this energy is overwhelmingly produced with coal, the Chinese government has taken aggressive actions to diversify its power supply using nuclear, hydro, wind and solar means. Alongside these alternative energy sources, biomass fuel too looks as if it will play a signicant role in Chinas future energy supply. One accommodating factor for the increased use of biomass energy in China is the availability of raw materials. To feed the worlds largest population, China generates the worlds largest agricultural output. With such output comes the corollary: an abundance of agricultural waste. One estimate places the availability of straw for biomass fuel purposes at 700 million tons, largely as a byproduct of riceChinas top yielding cropand cornits number two crop. However, challenges exist in this regard in that the straw made from rice husks has a high ash content and is less dense than other materials. Nonetheless, China may be able to duplicate some of the success that Denmark has had in generating biomass energy using straw. To realize this primarily straw-based biomass energy potential, Chinas government has recently implemented favorable legislation. In early 2006 the Renewable Energy Law was passed. This made legal the use of a wide range of biomass materials for power generation, although was accompanied with little nancial support. Nationwide standards in the industry were adopted as recently as 2009 through the efforts of China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation, a company wholly owned by the state. Coinciding with this was the most promising government initiative for the adoption of biomass energy: Chinas Medium- and Long-term National Plan for the Development of Renewable Energy, in effect through 2020. This plan calls for the increased use of a number of renewable energy sources, including 30 gigawatts of biomass power capacity by 2020equal to the amount of wind power envisaged. But have businesses responded? Are enterprises capitalizing on the combination of Chinas voracious demand for energy, its biomass material endowment and government incentives? Indeed some are. One of the earliest players was China Power Inc., a subsidiary of the U.S.-based China Holdings, which is constructing 250 megawatts of biomass power generation capacity in four Chinese provinces. Shenzhen Energy Group announced the construction of a biomass plant worth USD 365 million in 2009, then in 2010 National Bio Energy received a USD 4 billion loan to create 100 plants across the country. This year Everbright International set forth its plans to build three biomass power stations in Jiangsu province. Chinas interest in biomass power has even extended overseas. At the end of last year, Shenzhen Full Dimension Sustainable Energy Investment of China, along with IMS Holdings, invested USD 15 million to construct a 12 megawatt biomass power plant in Sri Lanka. This June in Russia, Chinas National Bio Energy entered into a joint venture with Inter RAO Unied Energy Systems. The operation will largely focus on research and development to enhance Chinas biomass energy capacity. To assess Chinas biomass energy potential, consider: In 2009 it surpassed the United States to become the largest international investor in clean energy. China then extended its lead in 2010 by investing a world-record USD 54.4 billion in the industry. Given the nations need for energy, and the number of factors supporting its development, China is set to retain its position as one of the biomass industrys most active for years to come.