Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Miller Thomson LLP, Penningtons Solicitors LLP and Polsinelli Shughart PC work together on a series of international deals for BRITA GmbH, one of the world’s leading companies in the drinking water optimisation sector

The Multilaw firms were all acting for BRITA in the purchase of an equal stake in Vivreau’s North American sister companies, Vivreau USA, LP and Vivreau USA GP, LLC in the USA and Vivreau Canada, Inc in Canada.

The BRITA Group, which achieved total sales of 320.7 million EUR in the 2011 fiscal year, is based in Taunusstein near Wiesbaden in Germany. It is represented by 15 national and international subsidiaries, and distribution and industrial partners in over 60 countries on all five continents, with production facilities in Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland and India. Since inventing the water filter jug over 40 years ago, it has developed into one of the lead players in the global water filter market.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Soros Fund Invests in Mozambique Ethanol Project

Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros's nonprofit group has invested $6 million USD in an ethanol project in Mozambique that will offer families in the Southern African country an alternative to charcoal.

The Soros Economic Development Fund released information today that its investment will give it a 19% stake in the $20 million USD project, started by food-and-energy company CleanStar Mozambique. Executives say the investment is in line with the fund's aim of backing businesses that provide a return on capital and spur broader economic development.

CleanStar launched its Mozambique project a year ago to introduce a new cooking model for households in the country. Like much of Africa, Mozambican households tend to cook with charcoal, which produces smoke that when inhaled carries health risks. The company, based out of New York and Mozambican capital Maputo, has designed a low-cost stove that runs on cleaner ethanol, produced from cassava grown by farmers that the company has signed up. Since its launch, CleanStar has sold 3,000 stoves and plans to sell thousands more from November.

The project has also received a $3 million USD investment from the Denmark-backed Industrialization Fund for Developing Countries, while Danish industrial enzymes company Novozymes A/S has provided $1 million USD and a number of loans. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is also assisting with the selling of carbon credits.

With the new funding, the company plans to ramp up its production of both cassava and stoves and have its model in 20% of Maputo's households by 2015, said Novozymes executive vice president Thomas Nagy.

The investors want to roll the project out in another 45 cities across Africa, in what they say is a unique business model. The goal is to sell 100,000 stoves in the next two to three years in Mozambique, according to the Soros fund's Africa director, Cedric de Beer. "If that can happen, then the opportunity to sell in large cities across the continent is dramatic," Mr. de Beer said.

The fund also has investments in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Profits derived from its investments are redeployed to new projects. Stewart Paperin, president of the fund, said most of its investments in Africa are still in the early stages.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chinese-owned corporation files law suit against US government for barring wind farm transaction (Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., 1:12-cv-01513, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia)

A US company owned by executives of China-based Sany Group Co. accused a US treasury-led national security panel in Washington in a lawsuit of barring it from windfarm projects without explanation or proper legal process.

Ralls Corp., a holding company that controls wind farm assets, alleged the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, known as CFIUS, exceeded its authority when it ordered Ralls Corp. to cease operations and keep out of windfarm development sites it purchased, according to a lawsuit filed September 12,2 012 in federal court in Washington.

CFIUS is an interagency committee headed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that reviews the national security implications of transactions that could lead to a non-U.S. citizen controlling a U.S. business. The heads of the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State, and Energy, among others, sit on the committee. The panel’s recommendations can be enforced only by the president under the law.

“Ralls has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with CFIUS, although Ralls felt strongly it had been treated unfairly and selectively,” Tim Tingkang Xia, a lawyer for Ralls, said in an e-mail. Natalie Wyeth Earnest, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Treasury Department, declined to comment on the suit, saying information filed with CFIUS by law may not be publicly disclosed.

Security Risks

CFIUS issued an order on July 25, 2012 citing “national security risks” raised by the sale of the windfarm assets to Ralls Corp., according to the filing.

An amended order on August 2, 2012 added more prohibitions, including the sale or transfer of the assets to any third party for the “use or installation at the properties of any items made or otherwise produced by the Sany Group.”

Closely held Sany Group is the owner of China’s biggest machinery maker. Dawei Duan, Sany’s chief financial officer and Jialiang Wu, a vice president of the group and general manager of Sany Electric Co., a group unit, are the owners of Ralls Corp., according to the complaint.

Ralls Corp. is seeking to develop wind energy projects in the US, where Sany Electric’s wind turbine generators can be used, according to the filing.

Ralls Corp. is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would permit the company to resume construction of the wind farms by September 20, 2012. If the wind farms are not in service by December 31, 2012 then the company won't be able to obtain $25 million USD in federal investment tax incentives, according to a court filing yesterday.

Ralls Corp. said that shortly after it acquired land for a wind- farm in Oregon earlier this year, the U.S. Navy voiced concerns about the location of one of the projects. The Navy said it wanted to “reduce air-space conflicts” between the wind turbines and “low-level military aircraft training,” and asked the company to move the planned wind farm. Ralls complied, according to the complaint.

Ralls said it submitted a voluntary notice to CFIUS disclosing the acquisition on June 28, 2012. The next month, the company was told the deal posed national security risks and it must shut operations, according to the lawsuit. CFIUS offered no “evidence or explanation for its determination” that there were national security concerns and didn’t say why the transaction was even subject to review by the committee, Ralls Corp. alleged.

Development Rights

“Draconian obligations” were imposed in connection with Ralls’s purchase of “four small Oregon companies whose assets consisted solely of wind-farm development rights,” according to the complaint.

The company accused CFIUS of violating the Administrative Procedure Act by making an arbitrary and capricious decision and asked the court to find the panel lacked authority to block the deal. Companies, which typically file information with CFIUS voluntarily to address any early issues, submitted 313 notices for review with the committee from 2008 to 2010, according to the panel’s most recent annual report to Congress.

Withdrawn Applications

In 42 cases, companies withdrew applications during or after CFIUS review, according to the report. None went to the president.

Acquisitions by other Chinese companies have been blocked by CFIUS. Chinese telephone-equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. and Bain Capital Partners LLC dropped a bid to buy computer- equipment maker 3Com Corp. in 2008 after U.S. officials opposed the transaction. Last year, Huawei unwound the purchase of patents from a computer-services company, 3Leaf Systems Inc., after U.S. objections.

Executives from Huawei and another telephone-equipment maker, ZTE Corp. (000063), were questioned by lawmakers in Washington yesterday about their efforts to expand in the U.S.

The case is Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., 1:12-cv-01513, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

Source: Bloomberg

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saskatchewan coal-fired power plants fuel pollution

Interesting article by Peter Prebble in The Leader-Post today:

When federal Environment Minister Peter Kent came to Saskatchewan earlier this month to announce Canada's new greenhouse gas emission regulations for coal-fired power plants, the results were disappointing for anyone concerned about the well-being of our environment.

The new regulations are a significant weakening of what was originally presented to the public in draft form 13 months ago. Over the next 18 years, they will result in greenhouse gas pollution at Canada's coal-fired generating stations being cut by less than half the amount originally proposed by Ottawa.

That announcement might have been satisfactory for SaskPower and the operators of Alberta's coal-fired power plants, but it is not in the larger public interest. Greenhouse gas pollutants from coal-fired power plants are the single most important reason why climate change on our planet is accelerating.

At a time when we have record sea-ice melt in the Arctic, devastating drought in more than 60 per cent of U.S. crop lands and record extreme weather events around the globe, it should be clear to policy makers that the heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollutants from burning coal need to be strictly regulated.

Unfortunately, it appears Ottawa's new regulations are heavily focused on accommodating the desire of governments in Saskatchewan and Alberta to keep burning coal. Meanwhile, in the rest of Canada, coal-fired power plants are steadily being shut down.

Two interesting examples are Ontario and Nova Scotia. In Ontario, the government has closed six of its 15 coal-fired power units over the past two years to curb pollution. It has done this by increasing electricity generation from natural gas, tripling wind power since 2008, building several solar power plants, and introducing conservation measures aimed at cutting electricity use during peak periods of the day.

Nova Scotia historically has been even more coal dependent than Saskatchewan. However, it has now cut its use of coal from 80 per cent of electricity production in 2006 to 57 per cent today. More large reductions are planned. To accomplish this, Nova Scotia is requiring that 40 per cent of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020, up from 17 per cent in 2011. Its government has put in place generous financial incentives to encourage small-scale, community-owned renewable energy production. It has also established Efficiency Nova Scotia to promote electricity conservation.

Ontario and Nova Scotia's work means they are already doing much better than the new federal regulations on coal-fired power plants will require.

In contrast, for our population size, Saskatchewan is dedicating fewer resources to electricity efficiency and renewable energy development. Saskatchewan's greenhouse gas pollution from electricity production is unchanged from 2006. Coal accounts for 58 per cent of the electricity we consume, while wind accounts for only three per cent.

To date, the Saskatchewan plan is to keep using coal and to rely heavily on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That approach might work, but there is uncertainty, as CCS technology at a commercial scale is in its infancy. Moreover, at $1.2 billion for the first unit, CCS installation is very expensive, thus slowing down the pace of pollution reduction.

Saskatchewan will no doubt be able to meet Ottawa's weak greenhouse gas emission regulations, but our province would be wise to aim higher. A more proven course of action would be to invest heavily in renewable energy and electricity conservation, as a complement to our CCS initiative.

With a greenhouse gas pollution footprint more than three times the Canadian average (per million people), Saskatchewan can no longer delay the task of reducing our dependence on coal.
Peter Prebble is director of environmental policy for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. He has authored and co-authored publications on climate change and renewable energy potential in Saskatchewan.

Source: The Regina Leader-Post, september 17, 2012 edition

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jilin New Energy of China to Invest 130 million EUR in Estonia

Jilin New Energy Investment Co. Ltd. plans to invest 130 million euros ($168 million USD) in renewable energy projects in Estonia, the biggest Chinese investment in the Baltic country to date.

Investments will be made mainly in the production of wooden pellets and wind energy equipment, Tallinn-based EAS said in an e-mailed statement today, citing an agreement signed between the parties on September 7, 2012. Financing for the projects will come from China Development Bank, it added.

Jilin New Energy will also set up its European headquarters in Estonia, citing its favorable geographic location, strong renewable energy industry and political stability, EAS said.

Source: Bloomberg

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

3000 MW of new power generation to come online in Ontario in the next 18 months - 4800 MW of wind and solar PV by February 2014

Ontario's power grid operator issued a statement today that generators will add more than 3000 MW of capacity to the system over the next 18 months, including about 1500 MW of nuclear and 1500 MW of renewable generation.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) said in a statement that total wind and solar PV generation connected to the grid will reach about 4800 MW by February 2014.

Bruce Power is restoring two 750 MW reactors at the giant 6300 MW Bruce nuclear power station. At least one (and possibly both) of those units was on track to enter service in 2012.

Bruce Power is a partnership owned by Alberta-based energy company TransCanada Corp, Saskatchewan-based uranium miner Cameco Corp, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), the Power Workers' Union and the Society of Energy Professionals.

The IESO said the new generation resources and transmission projects have been brought into service to ensure Ontario can meet future supply needs and to support the government's planned removal of the province's remaining 3300 MW of coal-fired capacity by the end of 2014.

The IESO said once the refurbished Bruce nuclear units and other new generation and transmission projects enter service, Ontario will be in a good position to continue eliminating coal-fired generation from the system.

Sources: IESO, Reuters

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Valard secures first greenfield wind farm construction project of Gesner Wind Farm for Saturn Power

Valard has secured its first greenfield wind farm project, having been awarded the complete construction of the Gesner Wind Farm by project owner Saturn Power. Located near Muirkirk, Ontario, construction began in June 2012. Approximately 15 employees are currently on site building foundations for each of the five 100-metre turbines comprising this project.

“We are thrilled to be constructing the Gesner Wind Farm in Ontario,” says Vicki Marks, Valard Vice President of Ontario and Eastern Canada operations. “Valard believes in the viability and longevity of the wind sector, and we’re looking to build our capacity and capabilities in it.”

Within the next month, Valard will begin installing the turbines in parallel with constructing the 34.5 kV collector system, accepting delivery of the e-house, constructing the substation and completing the interconnection to the provincial distribution grid.

The Gesner Wind Farm is expected to be in service by December 2012. When complete, it will produce 10 megawatts of power. Each turbine will have a two-megawatt output capable of providing power for up to 3,500 homes.

Valard offers a full menu of services for wind projects including design, equipment specification, procurement, foundations and civil works, installations, substations, transmission and distribution interconnects, commissioning and operations and maintenance. Clients can choose a single service or a full engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) solution. The company also offers competitive financing to qualifying projects.

Valard is a construction company based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Source: Valard Press Release

Monday, September 10, 2012

Canada releases final regulations to curtail greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector - Saskatchewan seeks separate arrangement with Federal government

"If we want to make headway at reducing emissions we have to take a hard look at coal-fired plants and that's exactly what we have been doing, what we are doing, and what we will do," the Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent told a press conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan recently.

The federal government is proposing new coal plants only be allowed if they can emit less than 375 tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt hour of electricity generated. In the final version, that standard is 420 tonnes. The draft regulations proposed that old coal-fired units would have to meet the targets at 45 years old, which has been moved to 50.
Guy Bruce, vice-president of planning, environment and regulatory affairs for SaskPower, the crown utility in the province of Saskatchewan said the announced regulations are a "good balance." The move to 50 years allows SaskPower time to determine if carbon capture is feasible, Bruce said.
The Saskatchewan government is seeking a separate deal with Ottawa to handle coal in its own way, while meeting the same end goals set by the federal government. The deal is expected to account for the Boundary Dam plant, where Unit 3 is undergoing a $1.24 billion CAD conversion for carbon capture and storage by 2014. It's expected to be the first commercial scale power plant with a fully integrated carbon capture system, which should help it meet tougher emission rules.

The federal government is taking a sector-by-sector approach to reducing greenhouse gases. Instead of imposing a tax on carbon emissions, or developing a cap-and-trade market that would reward clean energy over high emissions, Ottawa is gradually imposing rules and restrictions on emissions in each polluting sector of the economy. So far, it has rolled out limits for the auto sector and renewable fuels. Coal has been the trickiest sector so far.

But the remaining sectors, especially oil and gas, are expected to be even more thorny, with Alberta's oilpatch already resisting federal attempts to regulate. Draft regulations pertaining to oil and gas are expected next year, possibly in the spring.

Canada has committed to reducing its emissions by 607 megatonnes by 2020, and Kent frequently touts his sector-by-sector approach as the main way for Canada to meet that goal.

Sources: The Star Phoenix, Canadian Press

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shell to proceed with carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Alberta oilsands: likely to rely on Saskatchewan experience with CCS at the SaskPower Boundary Dam Project

Shell announced this morning that it will go ahead with the world's first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project for an oil sands operation in Canada. The Quest project will be built on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project joint venture owners (Shell, Chevron and Marathon Oil) and with support from the Governments of Canada and Alberta.

The Athabasca Oil Sands project produces bitumen, which is piped to Shell's Scotford Upgrader near Edmonton, Alberta. Quest will capture and store deep underground more than one million tonnes a year of CO2 produced in bitumen processing. Quest will reduce direct emissions from the Scotford Upgrader by up to 35%.

Both the Canadian federal and Albertan provincial governments have identified CCS as an important technology in their strategies to reduce CO2 emissions. The Alberta government will invest $745 million CAD in Quest from a $2 billion CAD fund to support CCS, while the Government of Canada will invest $120 million CAD through its Clean Energy Fund.

"Today's announcement reaffirms Alberta's position as a global leader in carbon capture and storage," said Energy Minister Ken Hughes. "Technologies like CCS will play an instrumental role in helping to lower greenhouse gas intensity from the oil sands and demonstrate to the world Alberta's commitment to responsible energy development."

There was some question as to Alberta's commitment to CCS technology, when other CCS projects in Alberta were delayed earlier this year.

Construction is currently underway on the SaskPower Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Project in Saskatchewan. The Boundary Dam Project will transform Unit 3 at Boundary Dam Power Station into a reliable, long-term producer of 100 MW of clean base-load electricity, while enhancing oil production in Saskatchewan and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by capturing 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year. SaskPower has been developing CCS technology and projects for several decades. The Government of Saskatchewan approved the Boundary Dam project in April, 2011.

SNC Lavalin is undertaking engineering, procurement and construction at the Boundary Dam project and Hitachi is providing the turbine. Cansolv, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell, will supply the carbon capture process. It is expected that Shell will rely on their experience in Saskatchewan to build the Quest project in Alberta.

The $1.24 billion CAD SaskPower Boundary Dam project in Saskatchewan is expected to reach commercial operation in late 2013. The $865 million CAD Quest project in Alberta is expected to reach commercial operation in late 2015.  

Sources: Shell Canada Press Release, SaskPower, Government of Saskatchewan, Government of Alberta

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

RFP Opportunity - Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM) Services for Queen Elizabeth Power Station - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

The RFP is intended to obtain the resources of an established, multi-discipline engineering, project management, construction management, and commissioning management firm with a proven record of success in carrying out the functions of a Balance of Plant (BOP) Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM) contract (the "Engineer").

Associated with this project, SaskPower is responsible for the procurement and delivery to the Site of the following equipment:

  • Three Hitachi H25 Gas Turbines (GTG) complete with Generators, and Static Excitation;
  • Two 138-13.8 KV step-up transformers (GSUT);
  • Six Once through Steam Generators (OTSG);
  • One 95MW to 105MW induction condensing steam turbine (STG) complete with generator, static exciter system, control system, gland seal system, oil conditioning system and instrumentation.
Collectively, the above equipment is named “SaskPower Equipment”.

The Engineer will be required to review and provide comments to drawings, manuals and project related documents received from the above SaskPower Equipment suppliers to coordinate interface design. The Engineer will be responsible for the design of all interfaces required to integrate the Balance of Plant (BOP) Equipment with the SaskPower Equipment. The Engineer will be responsible for the performance of all designs and equipment selected to meet the interface conditions provided by the SaskPower Equipment suppliers.

The Engineer will be responsible for the sizing, specification preparation, tendering, bid evaluation, recommendation for purchase, quality control, delivery and warranty of the BOP Equipment (“Engineer Supplied Equipment”). This service will include the provision of OEM technical advisors (TA) to interface with SaskPower’s Works Contractors during installation and the Engineer’s commissioning team during commissioning.

The RFP closes September 28, 2012.

Growth in Saskatchewan means removal of Federal environmental assessment requirement impacts projects in the province most significantly

The federal Canadian government has removed the requirement for environmental assessments (EAs) on nearly 3000 projects across Canada. The EA requirement has been removed because the federal government changed the rules on what projects require an environmental assessment when the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act came into effect on July 6, 2012. This in itself is not particularly remarkable and was widely anticipated. What did surprise me is the large number of projects in Saskatchewan impacted by this change - the most in Canada by a fair margin.

Number of Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency EA requirements removed on July 6, 2012 by province:

Saskatchewan: 764
Ontario: 561
British Columbia: 492
Alberta: 348
Quebec: 295
Newfoundland and Labrador: 152
Nova Scotia: 151
New Brunswick: 141
Manitoba: 87
PEI: 24
Northwest Territories: 6
Nunavut: 1
Yukon: 1

EA requirements for more projects were removed in Saskatchewan than in 5 other provinces and 3 territories combined. There were 203 more EA requirements removed in Saskatchewan than Ontario, the next largest province impacted by the changes.

The cancelled Federal assessments include a review of a proposed run-of-river hydro facility at Fond du Lac in Northern Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Research Council's plans to rehabilitate the former Lorado Uranium Mill in the northern part of the province and Prairie Green Renewable Energy's proposal to build an ethanol manufacturing facility near Hudson Bay.

The provincial government and other stakeholders will assume responsibility for environmental assessments, thereby reducing duplication of certain procedures.