Top 10 Asia Bioeconomy Trends

December 24, 2017 |

With apologies to every other region around the world. we continue to see Asia as the epicenter of the biobased revolution over the next 20 years. The reasons are three and relatively straightforward:

1. Continued and robust economic growth.
2. Massive biomass resource.
3. Lack of fossil energy reserves.

Among Asia-watchers we are far less bullish on China and far more so on India. There, we see the larger long-term demand, the messy but more creative democratic structure, and a more constructive and less costly vision for India’s place in the international sphere. The expensive militarism which typically seduces far too much diversion of capital in the United States, Russia and China is less present in India.

Here are the top trends in 10 key markets as we have seen them from The Digest’s conning tower.

Cambodia

In May we reported that, as part of China’s “The Belt and Road Initiative”, Hong Kong-based North Asia Resources will buy 14,000ha in Pursat Province for more than $52 million in order to produce cassava that will supply a 100,000 metric ton per year ethanol plant. Methane, carbon dioxide, bio-solid organic fertilizers and bio-power generation will also be produced at the facility. The company that had previously been involved heavily in the coal industry but was pushed out by government policies has been doing cassava trials since last year.

China

Last week we reported that China Airlines is participating in the biofuel program jointly developed by Airbus and Air TOTAL, with the 10th new A350 aircraft ferried back to Taiwan on Friday containing Sustainable Aviation/Alternative Fuels (SAF) added to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by around 20,000 kg. The move makes China Airlines the first carrier in Taiwan to use SAF. The fuel received the international certificate of sustainability for its ability to effectively reduce GHG emissions and environmental impact. Its use on China Airlines’ A350-900 energy-saving aircraft will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30% and set a new milestone for Taiwanese carriers.

China Airlines Chairman Nuan-hsuan Ho said that carbon reduction has long been an area of concern for China Airlines and that they hope the experience gained this time will encourage the development of environmentally sustainable and high-efficiency energy policies in Taiwan, serve as a reference for industry, government and academic research in the future, set an example for other domestic carriers and contribute to the development of SAF by the global aviation industry.

Last month we reported that the State Development & Investment Corporation plans to invest $452 million in a 600,000 metric ton per year ethanol facility in Heilongjiang that will consume 1.85 million metric tons of corn annually. The company plans to boost its ethanol production to 5 million tons in the next five years, doubling current national production, as the country moves towards its E10 goal for 2020. Though there has been talk that advanced biofuels will be the focus for 2025, conventional ethanol production will fill the gap well after then.

In September we reported that the government announced it will implement an E10 blending mandate by 2020 as part of its strategy to work through 200 million metric tons of corn stocks, giving the country just three years to ramp up production and get the infrastructure in place to supply nationwide. With 10 new 300,000 ton ethanol factories set to come online next year, but with as many as 36 plants required to supply as much as 15 million tons of ethanol demand from an E10 mandate, the push could attract billions in investment.

India

In November we reported that during the release of the new draft biofuels policy this week would, the oil minister said that oil marketing companies must be required to offtake 2G ethanol ensure the viability of production, secure sufficient supplies and reduce pollution. OMCs have agreed to sign 15-year offtake agreements with second-generation ethanol producers to provide the required guarantees to get production up and running. Burning of crop residues creates significant pollution this time of year, which helps to encourage uptake of the policy.

Indonesia

In November we reported that the government is considering filing a suit in US courts and a complaint with the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement body over the anti-dumping duties lobbed onto its biodiesel exports to the US if they aren’t canceled. On December 21, the US International Trade Commission is set to announce whether the 34.45 to 64.73 percent duties confirmed by the Department of Commerce will be put into effect. Indonesia has called the duties overprotective and arbitrary.

Japan

In May we reported that efforts have been made by researchers to reduce the cost of biodiesel production by using pulsed electric fields (PEF) to extract hydrocarbons from microalgae. A milli- or microsecond PEF is typically used to weaken cell walls and increase permeability allowing for extraction of elements inside the cell. Kumamoto University researchers, on the other hand, used a nanosecond PEF (nsPEF) to focus on the microalgae matrix instead of the cells. A nsPEF generally uses less energy than the μs/msPEFs even at high voltages, and is not as destructive or costly as the traditional drying method of oil extraction.

“The advantage with this extraction mechanism is that it separates hydrocarbons from a matrix, rather than extracts them from cells. Other microalgae do not secrete a matrix so the cell membranes must be damaged or destroyed to get at the hydrocarbons, which both takes more energy and is less efficient than our method,” said lead researcher, Professor Hamid Hosseini of the Institute of Pulsed Power Science at Kumamoto University. “On top of that, many extraction processes practiced today use a drying method to extract oil which ends in the destruction of the algae. Our method is relatively non-destructive and the microalgae are able to rebuild their colonies after extraction has finished.”

Korea

Last November we reported that researchers at UNIST uncovered new ways to make biofuel from carbon dioxide (CO2), the most troublesome greenhouse gas. In their paper published in the journal Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, the team presented direct CO2 conversion to liquid transportation fuels by reacting with renewable hydrogen (H2) generated by solar water splitting.

The currently existing catalysts, used for the reactions of H2 with CO2 are limited mostly to low molecular weight substances, such as methane or methanol. Besides, due to the low value of these catalysts, the reduction effects of CO2 is generally low. However, the new delafossite-based catalyst, presented by UNIST research team converts CO2 into liquid hydrocarbon-based fuels (e.g., diesel fuel) in one single step. These fuel samples can be, then, used by existing diesel vehicles, like trucks and buses.

This new delafossite-based catalyst, composed of inexpensive, earth-abundant copper and steel is used in a reaction between CO2 emissions of industrial plants and H2 generated from solar hydrogen plant to produce diesel.

This direct CO2-FT synthesis is different from the German car maker Audi’s CO2-to-dielsel conversion process, which actually involves two steps – reverse water gas shift (RWGS) reaction to CO followed by CO Fisher-Tropsch (FT) synthesis.

Malaysia

In November we reported that the plantation and commodities minister criticized the European Parliament’s industry and energy committee’s support for a ban on palm oil-based biofuels as proposed by the environment committee as a step backwards for EU-Malaysian trade relations. The country sees the votes as a protectionist barrier because European oilseed-based biodiesel would still be allowed, though subject to the 3.8% cap on crop-based biofuels by 2030. They say palm oil exporters meet European sustainability criteria and as such should be allowed access to the market.

Myanmar

In October we reported that a local company is getting some Australian agronomy support to grow hombayniya on the banks of the Yangon River as feedstock for biodiesel production. Farmers will grow the plants and supply them to the company for processing. The biodiesel will be used to fuel the water buses that travel along the river. Production could be up and running within about two years. Only Myanmar and India are said to have the appropriate soils to grow hombayniya plants.

Thailand

In November we reported that Japan’s IHI is seeking to have commercial microalgae-to-aviation fuel technology ready in time to supply the 2020 Tokyo Olympics so is preparing a large-scale trial in conjunction with Siam Cement Group at SCG’s land in Saraburi Province in central Thailand. The project aims to scale up technology developed by Japan’s New Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization with support from the University of Kobe, growing algae outdoors in 10,000 m2 facilities, seven times larger than where it is currently being trialed Kagoshima.

Vietnam

In September we reported that a vessel of 3,000 cu m of ethanol will soon be on its way from Vietnam with its arrival expected in September thanks to an arbitrage window that opened up following the start of plant maintenance season in China. A subsidy for ethanol plants also expired while some plants ran up against environmental challenges that caused slowdowns, all of which helped to boost domestic prices to $879/mt on Thursday, up more than 13% in the past two months. With stronger prices, the shipment will bring in more imports in one go than the entire 2,792 cu m the country imported this year through July

 

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