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    Covanta Holding Corp., a developer and operator of large-scale renewable energy projects, has agreed to purchase two biomass energy facilities and a biomass energy fuel management business from The AES Corp. According to the companies, the facilities are located in California's Central Valley and will add 75 MW to Covanta's portfolio of renewable energy plants. Alternative Energy Retailer - May 31, 2007.

    Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation are proposing a study designed to increase the availability of ethanol across the country. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he has introduced a bill in the U.S. House, asking for a US$2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Des Moines Register - May 30, 2007.

    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

EU and OPEC discuss energy policies, biofuels and CCS

The European Union (EU) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held a joint Roundtable on Energy Policies in Brussels, Belgium, yesterday. The event was co-chaired by Mr Heinz Hilbrecht, Director of the European Commission’s Directorate for Conventional Energies, and Dr Hasan M. Qabazard, Director of OPEC Secretariat's Research Division.

The roundtable was part of the formal EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue, which was established in December 2004, to exchange views on energy issues of common interest, including oil market developments — and the potential this has for contributing to stability, transparency and predictability in the market.

Notable successes have already been achieved with the energy dialogue, in enhancing understanding between the two groups on key topical issues, as well as setting-up joint roundtables, workshops and studies to gain deeper insights into such issues. The Roundtable on Energy Policies in Brussels was the latest such action. It included sessions on: the energy outlook over time-horizons to 2030; the EU’s energy, transport and climate policies; and OPEC’s capacity-expansion objectives and market-stabilisation measures.

It recognised the importance of the Millennium Development Goals and the fact that access by the poor to modern energy services facilitates the achievement of these goals.

Both parties welcomed the growing diversity in the energy mix, in both the EU and OPEC countries, including renewables and biofuels. The sustainability of biofuels was discussed, in particular the potential impacts of the large-scale trade and use of biomass for energy purposes, in terms of land-use changes, competition with food supply and other biomass uses, biodiversity, and competition for water resources. The scope to tackle these problems through an appropriate EU policy framework was also discussed.

Nevertheless, while both parties welcomed an enhanced diversification of the energy mix, they also noted that, under all reputable scenarios, the world would continue to rely on oil as its dominant source of energy, to foster economic growth and social progress. They also noted that, according to most reputable international institutions, there are enough conventional and non-conventional oil resources to meet demand.

'Clean' fossil fuels

Environmental protection, on both the local and global scales, was also a prominent topic of discussion. Both the EU and OPEC believed that cleaner fossil fuels technologies should be promoted. In particular, recalling the joint OPEC - EU Roundtable on carbon capture and storage (CCS, see previous post and references there) held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September 2006, they underlined the need to make this technology commercially viable, it having a vital role to play in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. In the framework of their energy dialogue, both parties are exploring concrete means for enhancing cooperation in this field:
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OPEC and some of its Member Countries made presentations about capacity expansion. In this connection, the risk of unneeded idle capacity stemming, inter alia, from the uncertainties over future levels of oil demand, was discussed.

It was noted that government policies related to the environment and the production of cleaner fuels, also had an impact on the downstream sector. A joint EU-OPEC study on investment needs in the refining sector and the role of the oil refining industry in oil markets is now in progress.

The parties concluded that continued dialogue and exchanges of views between the EU and OPEC constituted an important element in improving understanding among all parties and that this was in line with the mutual interests of supporting oil market stability and predictability, for the benefit of the world at large.

The next event under the EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue will be the 4th Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, Austria on 21 June 2007.

More information:
OPEC: EU-OPEC Roundtable on Energy Policies - May 31, 2007.

OPEC: EU-OPEC Roundtable on Carbon Dioxide Capture & Storage - Sept. 21, 2006.


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