January 12, 2007

CHINA: Choosing wood over corn for biofuels production

China is the elephant in just about every room but especially in the house of bioenergy. Its rapid rate of industrialization, its immense population, its consumer potential, its greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions, etc., are all contributing to a skyrocketing demand for biofuels. How will they balance this demand with their other needs - raw materials, food, pollution control, national security, political control? The answer to this will have a major impact the our future.

Wisely, they are making great efforts to diversify their feedstock, invest in new technologies, and decentralize their power generating and fuel refining activities. Here is an abridged version of an article I found on Resource Investor's website that originated at Interfax China Commodities Dail.

PetroChina to Use Forest Bioenergy as Ethanol Feedstock Alternative
by David Harman at Interfax China Commodities Daily

Xiao Hui, an analyst at United Securities, said ethanol produced from corn can't satisfy China's demand, especially with the country's recent restrictions, and will require new methods to produce alternative energy.

"Bio-energy has vast prospects in China, as we're looking for new alternative energy when traditional energy like oil is not sufficient," Xiao added.

In a statement, PetroChina said forestry bio-energy, a key part of China alternative energy development strategy, will achieve a win-win for industry and ecology, and ease energy supply shortages.

PetroChina plans to build more than 2 million metric tonnes of forest bio-energy ethanol production capacity per year, and account for more than 40 percent of the national capacity by 2010. The company also aims to construct 200,000 metric tonnes of bio-diesel capacity per year by then.

China has more than 6 million hectares of oleaginous forest with fruit output of more than 4 million metric tonnes. China can produce up to 500,000 metric tonnes of bio-diesel if they use one third of the plants, said Wang Tao, from China Academy of Engineering in Beijing in Nov 2006.

On Wednesday, China oil major China National Offshore Oil Co. [NYSE:CEO] announced it would join palm oil producer PT SMART Tbk and a Hong Kong energy firm to invest $5.5 billion in producing biofuel in Indonesia.

SMART, state-owned CNOOC and Hong Kong Energy Ltd. will spend $5.5 billion in three phases over eight years to develop crude palm oil-based biodiesel and sugarcane- or cassava-based bioethanol.

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