Monday, July 16, 2012

Agrisoma Biosciences to evaluate biojet fuel derived from Saskatchewan-grown crops

Working in collaboration with Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is validating biofuels in the world’s first comprehensive flight program using biojet fuel.

The Canadian firm Agrisoma Biosciences has developed the Resonance™ oilseed crop; a non-food feedstock crop derived from Brassica carinata, commonly known as Ethiopian mustard, which has an oil profile optimized for use in the biofuel industry, specifically for biojet fuel. The crop is extremely well suited to production in semi-arid areas such as Saskatchewan and offers good resistance to biotic stressors, such as insects and disease, as well as abiotic stressors, such as heat and drought. Carinata is a vigorous crop with a highly branching growth pattern and large seed size. It also has excellent harvestability, with good lodging and shatter resistance.

Test flights took place in Ottawa, Canada, in May and June 2012, where the biojet fuel was tested in the NRC Falcon 20 twin-engine jet at a 50/50 ratio blend with Jet A1 fuel, and then at a 60/40 ratio blend – a first ever flight with higher than certified fuel blend. A second aircraft, NRC’s T33 jet, flew behind the Falcon 20 to measure the engine emissions during both biofuel and conventional fossil fuel operation of the aircraft engines. Systems onboard the Falcon 20 allowed the team to switch back and forth between the two fuel types throughout the flight series.

Preliminary results are positive and indicate that particulate emissions, including aerosols of black carbon, sulphates and by-products of the combustion of aromatic compounds, are significantly lower from biofuels than from Jet A1 fuel.

The crop for the test flights  was grown in Saskatchewan, Canada, in the summer of 2011 and commercial production of Resonance™ is now underway in Saskatchewan and across Western Canada, providing a secure and scalable source of feedstock for biojet manufacturing.

Source: National Research Council of Canada Press Release, Agrisoma website

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mining giant Vale SA embracing renewable energy to power mines: investment in 2 wind farms and biodiesel production move forward

Vale SA, the world’s biggest iron- ore producer, is turning to palm-tree oil and wind turbines to insulate earnings from surging energy costs.

The company plans to produce 420,000 tons of fuel from palm oil annually by 2019 and will build two wind farms with Australia’s Pacific Hydro Pty by 2014, Giane Zimmer, Vale’s director of sustainable development, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg from the company’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

Rising power prices have pared margins for Vale, whose fuel and energy expenses accounted for 13 percent of costs of goods sold in 2011, or about $3.15 billion USD. Electricity prices for industrial users in Brazil have risen 89 percent since 2003, the nation’s power regulator estimates. That compares with a 35 percent gain in electricity prices in the U.S.

“Our big challenge is to align sustainability with lower costs,” Zimmer said. “We have an obligation to our shareholders to give results.”

Vale fell 1 percent, to 39.48 reais at 11:16 a.m. in Sao Paulo. The shares had gained 5.4 percent this year before today, compared with 8.5 percent and 2.9 percent drops for BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, the world’s biggest and third-biggest miners by market value, respectively.

Power Investments

Vale has invested more than $1.3 billion USD in power generation in Brazil since 1995, about 2 percent of its revenue last year. While 49 percent of its power comes from hydroelectric plants, it also owns natural-gas reservoirs. The palm-oil and wind-farm programs represent an effort to diversify energy supplies.

Producing fuel and power on site is especially important for mining companies, which need to shift large quantities of material in remote areas, said Laurence Balter, a money manager at Oracle Investment, which is based in Fox Island, Washington, and oversees $100 million USD.

The company will produce palm-oil fuel known as biodiesel in the Amazon state of Para where it has mining operations and use the fuel to power its trains and heavy vehicles. The wind farms will be in Rio Grande do Norte state.

“It’s nice to see a company like Vale embarking on these forward-thinking projects,” Balter said in a telephone interview on July 5. “They’re going to come out smelling like a rose.”

Vale is seeking to replace a fifth of its Brazilian diesel with biodiesel by 2015, the company said in its 2011 sustainability report. All diesel sold at the pump in Brazil must contain 5 percent biodiesel.

Curtailing Production

“If we are unable to secure reliable access to electricity at acceptable prices, we may be forced to curtail production or may experience higher production costs,” Vale said April 17 in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Vale is planting palm crops on cleared land in an area in the Amazon the size of Barcelona and will turn the fruit into fuel, Zimmer said. Last year, the company bought a controlling stake in Biopalma, which built an oil extraction plant in the city of Moju and planted 50,000 hectares of palm, the company said in a statement. A biodiesel refinery will come online in 2015.

Biodiesel made from palm oil is more expensive than diesel in countries that blend the two fuels and the same may apply to Brazil, Roberto Rodriguez Labastida, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s London office, said by telephone.

Biodiesel produced in Brazil’s north sold for 2.28 reais. or $1.12 USD, a liter before transport costs in a May auction for supply contracts, the nation’s oil regulator said. Brazilian diesel sold for an average 2.05 reais a liter at the pump in June.

Price Comparison

“A comparison of the prices of diesel and palm oil biodiesel can’t be done without considering other factors” like social and environmental benefits, Joao Coral, global energy director for Vale, said in an e-mail.

Diesel sells for 1.40 euros ($1.72 USD) in Germany and 143.90 Japanese yen ($1.81 USD) a liter in Japan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. About 77 percent of biodiesel sold in auctions is made from soybean oil, according to fuel regulator Agencia Nacional do Petroleo, Gas Natural e Biocombustiveis.

Vale is interested in wind energy because it’s low-cost, Marcos Severine, an analyst at Sao Paulo-based Itau Unibanco Holding SA, said in a telephone interview. Wind farms were the cheapest form of energy in an August government-organized auction for contracts to supply energy that included natural gas-fired thermoelectric plants and a large hydroelectric dam project.

“There’s a definite economic advantage to using wind energy,” especially because those projects get 50 percent exemptions on fees to use transmission and distribution lines, Severine said.
Vale has a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020, or 5 percent of the total projected that year, the company said June 28 in a statement.

“We’re going to have rising energy demand,” Zimmer said. “We need further projects to fulfill this need.”

Source: Bloomberg

Thursday, July 5, 2012

1350 MW wind farm spanning 111,200 acres in Argentina to be financed with $3 billion loan from China Development Bank

An Argentinean renewable-energy developer is planning Latin America's biggest wind-power project, saying it expects to obtain $3 billion in financing from China Development Bank Corp. Generadora Eolica Argentina del Sur said it will receive the funds to install 1350 megawatts of Chinese turbines across 45,000 hectares (111,200 acres) in the Chubut province in the nation's south, Eduardo Restuccia, executive vice president of the Buenos Aires-based company known as Geassa, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Latin American developers are buying Chinese wind turbines that are packaged with financing that's less expensive and easier to arrange than loans from local banks, which aren't familiar with the economics of wind farms. Such deal are especially attractive in Argentina, which has been blocked from international bond markets since it defaulted on $95 billion of debt during a financial crisis in 2001 and 2002.

"Argentina can't get finance from Europe or the U.S.," Restuccia said. "That gives the Chinese a unique exclusivity tool" for financing energy projects in the region.

The 12-year loan will have an annual interest rate of 6.25 percent above Libor, the London Interbank Offer Rate, and a two- year grace period, he said. Other than some government credit programs for housing, long-term debt loans are rarely offered in Argentina and commercial rates for short-term debt exceed 20 percent.

"We not only hope, but have good grounds to believe that the financial closing will be around December this year," Restuccia said in an email Wednesday.

China's Beijing Construction Engineering Group, which will build the project, and the Chinese turbine supplier, which hasn't been identified, will jointly own 25 percent.

"There are very few financing lines for large infrastructure projects" in the region, Eduardo Tabbush, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London, said in a telephone interview. Lenders including the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank and International Finance Corp. are still reluctant to lend to Argentina following the default.

The $3.5 billion wind project will furnish 4 percent of the nation's power once fully operational in 2017, Restuccia said. The first 150 megawatts is expected to start producing power in February 2015, he said. It will be larger than a 306-megawatt cluster of wind farms in Mexico that's currently Latin America's biggest wind-energy cluster, according to New Energy Finance.

Geassa expects to receive an initial $1 billion tranche in January 2013 to build the first 300 megawatts and a 295- kilometer (183-mile) transmission line linking it to the grid, he said. Corporacion Andina de Fomento, the Caracas-based development lender, is helping to structure the debt, which will be guaranteed by China's state-owned export credit insurance owner Sinosure.

Geassa expects to sign this month a 15-year contract to sell power from the project to the wholesale energy administrator Cia. Administradora del Mercado Mayorista Electrico, he said. The company was created in 2008 to develop the project and then shelved it after the global banking crisis.

Located 400 kilometers from the nearest port, it will be a "tremendous project," Restuccia said. "There's no infrastructure nearby. A city will have to be built at the site" to cater for the workers.

Source: Bloomberg

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Areva 250 MW solar venture in Australia seeks Power Purchase Agreement after losing government funds for $1 billion CAD project

A venture led by Areva SA planning a A$1 billion (c.a $1 billion CAD) solar-thermal project in Australia is in talks to supply power to potential customers after failing to meet a June 30, 2012 deadline to complete an agreement.

The venture is committed to moving ahead with the 250 megawatt Solar Dawn plant even after the Queensland state government pulled A$75 million in funding, project director Anthony Wiseman said in a phone interview today from Melbourne. Queensland’s withdrawal puts the project in jeopardy, Australian Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said earlier today.

“Solar Dawn is Australia’s best prospect for a large-scale solar-thermal plant, and we’re going to continue to work hard to be able to make it happen,” Wiseman said.

Paris-based Areva and its partner, Wind Prospect Group Ltd., won A$464 million from Australia in 2011 to develop the solar plant and received an extension until the end of June to complete financing. The federal government referred the project to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, established last year to spur investment in the industry, Ferguson said today.

Areva wants to develop the venture as Australia moves toward a target of generating 20 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by the end of the decade.

The market for Power Purchase Agreements in Australia is “quite competitive,” Wiseman said. “Offtakers are understandably being duly diligent prior to entering into what are very long- term commitments. However, Solar Dawn is offering promising benefits previously not available in Australia.”

The venture intends to sign a power agreement “as soon as possible,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be weeks. I think it will be more than that. It depends on how those parties move their way through a complex process of analysis but we have made substantial progress.”

Starting the project near Chinchilla, about 290 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of Brisbane, by the end of 2015 is still achievable, Wiseman said. The venture plans to approach the Queensland government to find ways to develop the plant, he said.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will determine what happens to Solar Dawn, according to Ferguson. “The fate of the project now hangs in the balance,” he added.

Source: Bloomberg

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) to finance 22.5 MW hydropower plant in Greenland

The NIB and the Greenland Self-Rule Government have signed a 15 year maturity loan agreement totalling 350 million DKK (47 million EUR) for the construction of a new hydropower plant in Greenland. The plant, with an installed capacity of 22.5 MW, is under construction outside the town of Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland.

The new power plant will harness the water discharge from two natural glacial lakes. The project includes building a 5.5 kilometre tunnel to direct water to three 7.5 MW turbines in an underground power station. The project supporting infrastructure includes a 60 kV overhead transmission line, running from the power plant to the town of Ilulissat, as well as roads and a small harbour. The first turbine is planned to be commissioned in November 2012 and full operation is planned from September 2013.

NIB is a multilateral financial institution owned by eight member countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. The Bank finances private and public projects in and outside the member countries. NIB has the highest possible credit rating, AAA/Aaa, with the leading rating agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

Source: NIB NORDIC INVESTMENT BANK via Thomson Reuters ONE