Wednesday, April 16, 2008

2nd Generation Bio-Energy--Moving Away from the Needless Scapegoating of Biofuels

When faced with high energy costs you can either waste your time on irrelevant diversions and scapegoating, or you can spend your time more productively in solving the problems. Bio-energy can be an important solution to local and regional energy needs--without using food-for-fuel, or otherwise causing food shortages or price hikes.
Toward the end of the year, the plant at Freiberg will go into operation, fed primarily with old, untreated bits of lumber and other scrap wood. It will take approximately five tons of dry material to produce one ton of fuel. The small refinery will consume nearly 70,000 tons of waste wood a year. “It should be pretty easy for us to get our hands on this amount,” says Michael Deutmeyer, who is responsible for supplying biomass to Choren.

It will be considerably more challenging to keep up with the needs for raw materials at the full-scale refineries Choren is planning to build. The first of these larger plants should go into service in 2012 in the eastern German city of Schwedt, right near the border with Poland. The planned facility will produce 200,000 tons of BTL diesel a year - and devour a million tons of wood and other dry material. Waste products alone won’t be enough to satisfy this hearty appetite.

To meet this increased demand, Deutmeyer is planning to plant trees. Wood is the most suitable raw material for biofuel processing. Three years ago, just east of Schwerin, the capital of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Choren converted 20 hectares (50 acres) into experimental “rapid sapling-to-sawmill plantations,” where willows and other fast-growing trees are flourishing.Such cultivation, says Deutmeyer, requires significantly smaller amounts of pesticides and fertilizers than crops like rapeseed. This type of forestry also reaps considerable public subsidies. The Ministry of Agriculture in the state of Brandenburg has already indicated that it will provide government funds for the plantations destined to supply the wood for a plant to be built in Schwedt. Up to 45 percent of the investments for saplings, preparations and soil-improvement measures will derive their financing from state coffers.

The experimental fields in Mecklenburg have already been harvested once, the trees reduced to wood chips by a special chopper from Sweden. The results look very promising. Annual yields of up to 20 tons of dry material per hectare can be harvested from good soils. This would work out to a top production rate of four metric tons - or 5,000 liters - of BTL diesel. Until now, rapeseed fields that are comparable in area have only yielded 1,500 liters. Spiegel
Clearly, bioenergy

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