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Monday, August 24, 2009

One Person's Chicken Waste Is Another Person's Clean Energy

There is a new technology on the horizon to help meet Ukraine’s energy challenges, and it comes from chickens.

Swiss company Alter Energy Group AG ( is working to implement a sophisticated waste to energy process in Ukraine that converts poultry manure into clean, environmentally safe, industrial scale electricity and heat.

This is a highly uncommon type of energy project, and upon completion Alter Energy Group’s Ukrainian projects will join a tiny handful of similar projects worldwide.

The company’s technical approach involves burning chicken manure to create large amounts of electricity and heat. This heat and electricity then is supplied to Ukraine’s wholesale energy market and the surrounding population. It all sounds simple enough, however the process is in fact highly complex due to poultry manure’s tricky ammonia content and ash problems.

Poultry manure contains so much ammonia that it routinely destroys normal project equipment. It also causes toxic pollutants to be released into the air during the incineration process unless handled in a very delicate manner. The ash resulting from burned poultry manure also is uniquely disruptive. For this reason, only about seven commercial scale poultry waste to energy projects have been completed anywhere in the world thus far.

Alter Energy Group claims to have carefully dealt with all these chicken challenges by using a waste to energy methodology with a proven poultry-specific track record. In addition to heat and electricity, their projects will also produce large quantities of nutrient rich bio-fertilizers and animal feed for sale.

Ukraine is a country of large Soviet style poultry farms, and Ukrainian farmers presently have limited commercial use for their livestock waste. An opportunity therefore exists, with the right technology, for Ukrainian farmers to work with companies like Alter Energy Group to create a profitable new renewable energy niche market. Alter Energy Group’s first Ukrainian chicken projects could be completed sometime during early 2010, if all goes well. These types of projects qualify for Ukraine’s Green Tariff as biomass energy and also for carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol.

Making clean energy from chicken manure is a relatively uncommon thing. Even in the most advanced renewable energy countries these projects are relatively unknown. It will be interesting to observe how things unfold in Ukraine with Alter Energy Group's chicken projects, and to watch whether similar projects are undertaken in neighboring CIS countries.

I will continue to monitor this area and report new developments as they arise.

Ukraine Plans To Privatize 15 Energy Distribution "Oblenergos" (With Detailed Chart)

In a move perhaps motivated in part by the desire to raise pre-January election funds for the government, Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers has recently taken steps to open the way for near term privatization and auctioning of 15 regional power distribution companies (“oblenergos”). See Cabinet Resolution Number 894-р of July 29, 2009.

Specifically, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has instructed the Ministry of Fuel and Energy to transfer controlling stakes in these state owned oblenergos from the National Energy Company to the State Property Fund – which thereby opens the way for subsequent privatization through auctions.

So far there has been no positive or negative feedback from President Viktor Yushchenko on this recent Cabinet Resolution. Earlier in the year President Yushchenko had attempted block a similar resolution allowing privatization of the state owned power generating companies Dniproenergo, Donbasenergo, Zakhidenergo and Centrenergo – only to have his decree overruled by Ukraine’s Constitutional Court on April 30, 2009.

If there is no blocking attempt by the President then controlling shares of the 15 oblenergos in the table below could be set for auction before year end. The government has specified controlling share amounts for auctioning in order to maximize potential investor interest. However, market analysts nonetheless have expressed no estimation about whether these shares actually can or will be purchased by investors prior to the Presidential elections in 2010.

Cabinet Resolution Number 894-р specifies the following 15 oblenergos for privatization:

Regardless of its timing, the further privatization Ukraine’s aging and outdated energy infrastructure is a positive and important step for Ukraine. Ukraine has roughly one third the energy efficiency of its European neighbors, and it even trails Russia in this regard. Privatizing the regional power distribution companies and raising them to market efficiency will benefit Ukraine’s commercial and private sectors, and it can also pave the way for the country’s future ability to become an energy exporter.

I will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates as they occur.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cool Fuel

A bioengineering company called Joule Biotechnologies, Inc. ( has recently unveiled a bold new possible means to create fuel from the sun and carbon dioxide. If commercially successful, this type of process could revolutionize the world of fuels.

Alternative fuels have always been an attractive option from an environmental point of view. However, they have never really become competitive with fossil fuels on cost and ease of production. They are generally more expensive and harder to generate than oil, coal and gas – or they require massive expensive new infrastructure to operate in society. But now, according to this month’s Reuters and Business Wire, Joule Biotechnologies may have solved all of that in a completely different way than previously contemplated.

They have developed an innovative energy solution called Helioculture™ technology. This technology harnesses sunlight to directly convert carbon dioxide into liquid energy that works just like fossil fuels, can be distributed from a station pump in the same manner as gas or diesel, on the same production level as gas, oil or coal and probably even at a slightly cheaper cost. According to Business Wire, “This eco-friendly, direct-to-fuel conversion requires no agricultural land or fresh water, and leverages a highly scalable system capable of producing more than 20,000 gallons of renewable ethanol or hydrocarbons per acre annually—far eclipsing productivity levels of current alternatives while rivaling the costs of fossil fuels.”

Joule Biotechnology’s new liquid energy supposedly meets today’s vehicle fuel specifications and infrastructure, and the company anticipates cheap commercial production costs at less than $50 per barrel. The company’s first product offering, SolarEthanol™ fuel, should be ready for commercial production sometime in 2010.

I look at this and think, “Wow, could this be a major alternative fuel breakthrough?” I guess that we will wait and see what happens next year!