Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SG Biofuels secures 250,000 acres for hybrids

Jim Lane | May 16, 2011 |

SG Biofuels announces 250K acres secured for with JMax jatropha hybrids – 1MM acres in pipeline. What’s different about jatropha 2.0?

In California, SG Biofuels announced it has signed customers for the deployment of 250,000 acres of Jatropha using its JMax hybrid seeds. According to SG, “the JMax hybrid seeds on average provide double the yield of existing commercial varieties planted in similar conditions, resulting in greater uniformity and vigor while significantly reducing seed handling and deployment costs.”

The company is adding to its Jatropha crop improvement network by deploying JMax development centers in multiple locations around the world where SG Biofuels will optimize hybrid varieties of Jatropha that are adapted to the specific growing conditions of its customers. The centers feature hybrid material from the company’s germplasm library totaling more than 12,000 unique genotypes.

Executives at such as Syngenta, Monsanto and others have indicated privately that jatropha will enter the ranks of “major crops” when it passes the 1 million acre barrier. Accordingly, it was significant that SG Biofuels CEO Kirk Haney indicated that “In addition to our signed customers, we have a large global pipeline totaling more than 1 million acres of planned Jatropha projects worldwide.”

“Jatropha is here to stay,” commented Haney. “This validates the commercial market for jatropha, which has eight times the yield of soybeans, four times rapeseed, just on the volome of oil.”

Hybrid seeds have historically been responsible for significant increases in agricultural production and profitability. Since the introduction of hybrid corn in the 1940’s, along with improved agronomic practices, the average U.S. yield has increased by more than 400 percent from 30 bushels per acre to 150+.

The company said that its customer list would become more clear by year end – for now, the customers remain secret, although Haney did confirm that the minimum acreage for this round of announcements was in the 10,000 hectare (25,000 acre) range, and that the company has not shifted from its strategic focus on Latin America and Asia.

Jatropha 1.0 vs Jatropha 2.0

SG Biofuels jatropha JMax hybrid

Seeds. There are notable differences between jatropha 1.0 and jatropha 2.0 – the most significant of which is the seed itself, and the sophistication with which jatropha 2.0 companies are offering a range of seeds optimized for specific geographies and climactic conditions.

Partners. With genetics pioneer Life Technologies, processing partner Bunge, and offtake partner Flint Hills Resources (a division of Koch Industries), SG has created an ecosystem of serious players with which to surround jatropha development.

Development services. Also notable is the focus on establishment of the JMax development center, which will test numerous seed types for a given geography and proceed forward with those that show the best yield and cost characteristics. These are Centers established around multi-year contracts that will test between 200-500 hybrids, to narrow to a few, and scale up from there. The plant yield data will be correlated with SG Biofuels’ 5-year data in Guatemala and in other countries over the past 12 months.

“We can be their Monsanto,” said Haney, “here are your seeds and best practices. Or we can build out an entire ecosystem with quality management and partners like Koch FHR and Bunge. We can refere to companies like Bunge, our bring them in ourselves as a general partnership.

Markets. For now, energy customers – primarily biodiesel and biojet, with other jatropha growers indicating strong offtake interest from power gen customers as well. “Not too much renewable diesel, so far,” Haney observed, “and similarly, its early days in terms of companies with renewable chemicals operations.”

Pricing and yields. Depends on the cusomer and contract, but SG Biofuels is discussing its jatropha oil in terms of being competitive with $58/barrel oil, or $1.40 fuel. “We are not saying that we are going back to jatropha 1.0,” commented Haney, “and saying that on horrible land with insufficient soil quality, rainfall or fertilizer that these numbers can be achieved. Jatropha needs inputs. Plus, rainfall and slope variations – microclimates – have to be considered; we will have multiple seeds for a given large-scale farm.”

The Biofuel's Digest’s Take

The good news: “Spray and pray” jatropha seed distribution strategies are a thing of the past.

We have seen companies like SG Biofuels bring back jatropha from the brink of biofuels oblivion or, rather, bringing forward a new jatropha business model based on sound agronomics and plant development. Last year, SG cracked the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy after developing and launching its JMax platform. With these deployment milestones, jatropha 2.0 appears to be well on the way.

The cautionary note. Jatropha 2.0 has a long ways to go – even at double the yields realized under conventional planting, the current announced global acreage would produce around 100 million gallons of crude jatropha oil, reaching 400 million gallons or so as the crop passed the 1 million acre installed base.

Opportunity. We also will look forward to development of de-toxification genetics in jatropha that would lower the cost of making the jatropha residual seedcake available for high-value animal feed in the $400/tonne range, as opposed to low-value combustion for power generation or organic fertilizer at around $200 per tonne.

Click here to read the full story in the biofuels digest

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New bungalow designs for Carara National Eco Lodge Hotel at NatureWalk

2 Story Lock Off Condos

Single Story Bungalows

To find out more about the Carara National Eco Lodge Hotel at NatureWalk visit www.costaricainvest.ie or alternately e mail us at info@costaricainvest.ie

United Biofuels of America: “We are developing the next big Costa Rican export”

By Henriette Jacobsen, TheCostaRicaNews.com

uba president, daniel yepez

UBA President, Daniel Yepez.

United Biofuels of America (UBA) has developed a program to sell renewable energy farms to potential green tech investors, the first of its kind in the world. The President of UBA explains why he thinks this is the next big export for Costa Rica in an exclusive interview.

The President of UBA, Daniel Yépez, says his company along with the partners Day Group and International Energy Advisors (IEA), are developing a biofuel project and green investment idea that’s so unique that he believes it can become bigger than Costa Rica’s three main exports combined. It includes sustainable farms that grow UBA’s biofuel cash cow or “cash crop,” jatropha.

In such a demanding industry, there’s no competition. The sky is the limit,” Yépez says in all seriousness. We’ll never be able to fulfill the demand for fuel on this planet. But we will try.”

jatropha oil

Jatropha oil and seeds.

Many green tech companies have experimented with different sorts of crops like maize, rice, wheat and sugar to come up with a suitable bioethanol. They have often been criticized of using food for fuel; food that could have benefitted starving children in Third World countries around the world. Yépez says jatropha will give all its investors a green conscience. For many reasons. Jatropha is a non-edible feed stock and has the highest qualities of properties in oil, around 40%. It grows in marginal land, regenerates the soil and can be intercropped with food crops.

The biggest culprits are the cattle rangers. Their land has become unproductive, but we recover that land. We recover unproductive marginal land, capture carbon, reforest the fields and introduce nitrogen, which is one of the most important elements for food to grow,” Yépez states.

Jatropha plant.

Jatropha plant.

Jatropha is indigenous to Central America, but when Portuguese colonists came to conquer Costa Rica, they discovered the energetic opportunities of the plant and propagated it throughout Africa and Asia. Now we can even talk about a “jatropha belt” as it grows 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator.

For a long time jatropha was only used as a green fence around farms and houses in Costa Rica because it’s toxic and animals won’t eat it. Though it has been well-known for more than one hundred years that vegetable oil could be a source of biofuel. Now the great challenge awaits jatropha.

jatropha fruit

Green jatropha fruit, not quite ripe yet.

Almost four years ago, Applied Research Association (ARA), who works for the United States’ government, contacted UBA because they were looking for a new fuel for the United States’ air force. ARA had a new technology and UBA delivered jatropha oil to be converted into jet fuel. Since then, numerous airlines including Virgin and Continental Airlines have tested jatropha and flown with up to a 50% based jatropha combined with 50% petroleum based jet fuel.

jatropha field

One of the jatropha fields used in research and development.

With governments around the world trying to become energy independent and committed to reducing CO2 emissions, airlines have come under pressure as they are primary contaminants of CO2 emissions in the transport sector. Aircrafts can’t use solar energy, and jatropha has proven to be the best solution because of its high quality oil with caloric and burning values. By 2015, aircrafts will be flying with biofuel blends that consist of 50% jatropha and 50% petroleum-based jet fuel.

This is the million gallon challenge. ARA now has a technology that can convert jatropha oil into jet fuel, which will require a million gallons per day of cjo (crude jatropha oil). Producing a million gallons of oil per day requires 300,000 hectares of land.

How can we do this within the next four years? We can’t just do it in Costa Rica because there’s not enough land. Therefore, we’ll have to do it around the region. And that’s why UBA was born; to develop renewable energy farms with the help of micro and macro investors,” says the President of UBA.

Though there’s no patent on selling jatropha oil, Yépez says no other company has the same extent of knowledge about the plant than UBA. However, UBA will seek to collaborate with as many companies from around the world to help achieve the million gallon challenge.

uba logo

UBA is the first regional biofuel consultancy and development consortium in Central America. The company has expertise in facilitating sustainable results in private and government led development and has been conducting research and development for five years with agro field plantations. Together with Day Group, UBA has come up with the idea for multi-purpose real estate, bringing added value to real estate such as agro fuel production. Day Group, which is a real estate advisory consulting company founded in 2001, searches for hot spots, which are areas in Costa Rica where it’s suitable to grow biofuel plantations according to UBA standards. IEA joined the group last year and sells and promotes the renewable energy farms.

So far, Day Group has located a hot spot in the southern zone of Costa Rica in Buenos Aires. The hotspot is close to Costa Rica’s next international airport and the second largest investment in Central America after the expansion of the Panama Canal – a hydro electric dam that will generate electricity to the whole of Costa Rica and neighboring countries. This is where the first real renewable energy farms will be located by the end of this year. So far UBA has had over 20 test farms in Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Colombia and Florida.

farmer with jatropha plant

Working closely with the farmers to promote production on a local level as well as regulate and control quality.

UBA is not listed on any stock exchange, but IEA, which markets and sells renewable energy farms, is seeking to get listed on the BNV share index or in the United States within three years. So a potential green investor can either wait for IEA to become an IPO (initial public offering) or purchase one of the renewable energy farms. One farm is 124 hectares of planted parcel real estate property that is segregated and costs $35,000. The purchase includes 800 – 1,000 jatropha and palm trees, a Costa Rican corporation (the investor owns that for tax and transfer advantages), irrigation, management, road, water and electricity. UBA will sell the jatropha oil produced on the farm and give all revenues to the investor minus a 10% management fee. The oil will be sold to a guaranteed buyer, Recope, which is the national petroleum company of Costa Rica. They have a mandate to put a 10% blend in their fuel by next year.

Based on crude prices of $90 or less a barrel, Yépez says, infrastructure that is developed has an added value of $35,000 because the price of the farm doubles when facilities are added. After ten years the value will be over $120,000, giving the investor a 380% return on investment. The investor will also have $50,000 produced in revenues from the biofuel plantation. It’s a ten-year investment where you can opt out any time.

But there might be unforeseen obstacles on the horizon, so what can go wrong with this investment and for UBA?

Natural disasters because of climate changes can destroy a lot. There are no guarantees. New plagues and diseases that we are still unaware of could also become a factor,” says Yépez.

For more information, visit Costa Rica Invest's website www.costaricainvest.ie