Energy Industry

April 12, 2007

Chevron teams with Dow on large plastics venture

“A joint venture of San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips is teaming up with Dow Chemical Co. to create the largest producer of styrene and polystyrene plastics in the Americas. Cost savings from the 50-50 venture between Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and Dow Chemical will exceed 10 percent of sales. That’s because Dow is a net buyer of styrene in North America and Chevron Phillips is a seller, Andrew Liveris, Dow’s chief executive officer, said in an interview with Bloomberg. The joint venture would reduce costs in a low-margin industry. The venture hopes to bolster profit margins by matching larger styrene production from Chevron Phillips with a bigger polystyrene output from Dow. Styrene is made from benzene and is used to produce polystyrene, a hard plastic used in packaging and disposable cutlery. Chevron and its partner Phillips will contribute two U.S. factories to the joint venture. Dow will contribute seven plants, including five in the United States, to the new operation. The only California plant being contributed is a Dow factory in Torrance.”

Filed under Energy Industry, Joint Ventures, Manufacturing by

March 27, 2007

State Controller wants review of Chevron, BP because of Russia risks

“California’s State Controller is calling for Calpers, the huge Californian state pension fund, to review its investments in Chevron and BP over their potential participation in the sell-off of Yukos, the now bankrupt Russian oil major whose owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been jailed. John Chiang, also a Calpers board member, said in a letter dated March 22 to the fund he was concerned about the legal risks attached to Chevron’s possible participation in the Yukos auctions, which Yukos’ owners have slammed as the biggest expropriation in history.”

Filed under California Government, Energy Industry, Russia by

Upstate California Economic Agency Council launches new jobs strategy

“Greg O’Sullivan, president of the Upstate California Economic Development Council, said UCEDC will launch a new strategy to create jobs in the renewable energy industry cluster. “Our economy is changing in terms of growth opportunities” said O’Sullivan. “We need to create a collaborative advantage to expand existing companies and attract new firms to the region.” The 20-county Upstate region is home to the majority of cogeneration facilities and small hydro electric generators. O’Sullivan said the region could become a “hot spot” for solar energy companies in research and development, new technology, manufacturing, and sales.”

Filed under Economic Development, Energy Industry by

March 15, 2007

Chevron wins partial dismissal in Nigeria case

The International Herold Tribune reports that a racketeering claim against Chevron Corp. filed by Nigerians who claimed the oil company conspired with the military and police in Nigeria to gun down demonstrators protesting their operations:

Nine Nigerians, represented by lawyers from EarthRights International and other nonprofit groups, sued Chevron in a San Francisco federal court in 1999 after Nigerian soldiers and police shot protesters who opposed drilling by a Chevron subsidiary and destroyed villages where they lived.

The plaintiffs failed ‘to present evidence that defendants gained a competitive advantage in the United States or impacted the U.S. economy, by engaging in the alleged racketeering activity,’ U.S. District Judge Susan Illston wrote in the decision announced Wednesday.

While the racketeering charge did not apply, Illston acknowledged evidence showed that Chevron played a role in the subsidiary’s security policies, approved payments to the military and attempted to cover up the subsidiary’s involvement in the attacks… The Nigerians allege soldiers, supported by Chevron Nigeria Ltd., destroyed homes and killed or injured dozens of people. They also claim Chevron provided helicopters, boats and planes to Nigerian soldiers who fired at demonstrators in 1998 on an offshore oil platform and in 1999 at two villages where protesters lived.

Chevron lawyers have said the protesters were armed youths who demanded money and took more than 200 workers hostage. They were shot during an attempt to rescue the hostages. The company has argued the case belongs in African courts.

Filed under Energy Industry, Legal and Criminal Issues, Nigeria by

March 10, 2007

U.S. Department of Energy awards $168 million to solar start-ups

“The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $168 million to 13 solar companies, many of them Silicon Valley start-ups, in what is the equivalent of manna falling from heaven for these companies. It is cut-throat industry, where solar projects are expensive and difficult to get off the ground, but once at high-levels of production can prove efficient and profitable. Just last week, a group of ethanol companies were awarded similar grants, to help create alternative fuels. These are the most valuable awards yet for the start-up community’s push to create alternative energy sources to gasoline and natural gas. The awards are part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative. The latest awardees include Berkeley’s PowerLight, and its parent company, San Jose’s SunPower. Particular noteworthy are the awards to Palo Alto’s Nanosolar and Santa Clara’s Miasole, two companies that are producing really thin sheets of solar cells that can be spread efficiently across vast areas, such as parking lots or roofs of large companies.”

Filed under Energy Industry, U.S. Government by

March 9, 2007

Texas company wants to build floating LNG plant off Long Beach

“A small San Antonio oil and gas company has plans to jump into a big business — building a liquefied natural gas facility off the coast of Southern California. Esperanza Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Tidelands Oil & Gas of San Antonio, said Wednesday that it plans to file applications with state and federal agencies to build a floating LNG plant about 15 miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif.
‘People say you can’t hope to build an LNP facility in California’, said Esperanza Vice President Terry Mitchell. ‘I’m out to prove them wrong’. “

Filed under California Ports, Energy Industry by

Will Silicon Valley’s VC money hurt the energy industry?

That’s what the NYT seems to be asking in an article, “For Internet Barons, Uncharted Investment Territory”:

There lies a conundrum for the Internet barons who have turned, of late and en masse, to investing in solar, wind, biofuel and other energy startups. Does their expertise with technology qualify them to take on the world of alternative fuel and power? When it comes to Energy 2.0, are some of the nation’s most successful investors in over their heads? … The key to success, they say, is the Silicon Valley investment vetting process. The venture capital model, they contend, pits great entrepreneurs against one another, invests in the best technologies and creates focused, streamlined companies and new industries.

But their certainty, which can spill into bravado, has stirred criticism even within their own ranks. ‘They’re completely wandering in with no clear idea’ of how the energy industry works, said Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and the executive director of the von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the University of California at San Diego.

He argued that the party line — that good investment strategists can apply their principles across industries — did not acknowledge the peculiarities and complexities of energy technology. “The downside? They’re going to blow up this sector before it has a chance to get established,” Mr. Kedrosky said.

It is not as unlikely a possibility as it may seem. Before the dot-com boom “business incubators” were sometimes used to help small business grow. This economic development approach was all but destroyed when the venture capital companies got a hold of it. Companies like idealab in Pasadena used it to pump up multi-millions in investor funding until the entire concept of “business incubation” meant something entirely different. In all likelyhood, the recent flood of VC money into alternative energy projects will be a good thing, but the danger does exist that they could ignore smaller, more innovative but less profitable technologies and companies in the never ending quest for the big bucks.

Filed under Energy Industry, Opinion, Venture Capital by

March 7, 2007

Port of Long Beach losing money on oil operations

“Despite high oil prices, strong demand and surging production levels, the Port of Long Beach’s oil budget may end the fiscal year nearly $5 million in the red. Drilling costs, coupled with the enormous expense of cleaning up an old Pier A oil waste disposal site, will result in a net loss for the year if prices for local crude continue hovering around $50 per barrel. Last year, when local crude sold as high as $67 per barrel, the harbor’s oil operations produced profits of more than $15 million. This year, losses are attributed primarily to one-time costs – exceeding $20 million – which include the cleanup of a former oil disposal site known as the ‘bug farm’. The 10-acre farm, shut down more than a year ago, was a series of dark mud-like pits on Pier A where billions of tiny microbes devoured oil production by-products. “

Filed under California Ports, Energy Industry by

Pacific Ethanol to start building fourth plant

“Pacific Ethanol Inc. will start construction within the next month on a 50-million-gallon per year ethanol plant in Calipatria, a small community about 150 miles east of San Diego. Once completed, the Sacramento-based company will have four plants with the goal of making 220 million gallons of fuel ethanol a year by 2008 — or almost a fourth of the 900-million gallons expected to be used this year in the state”

Filed under Agriculture and Food, Energy Industry by

March 1, 2007

U.S. Department of Energy Awards cellulose ethanol plant $76 million

“Range Fuels announced today that the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the company up to $76 million to build the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S. The plant will produce ethanol from wood chips from unmerchanteable Georgia pine trees and forest residues. The plant will be located in Soperton, Georgia, approximately 100 miles west of Savannah. The grant was awarded to Range Fuels, which was founded by Menlo Park, California-based Khosla Ventures”

Filed under Energy Industry, Venture Capital by

February 24, 2007

NYT Economist praises California energy conservation

Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for the New York Times, has written a editorial praising California’s leadership role in energy conservation:

Colorless Green Ideas, by Paul Krugman,

The factual debate about whether global warming is real is, or at least should be, over. The question now is what to do about it.

Aside from a few dead-enders on the political right, climate change skeptics seem to be making a seamless transition from denial to fatalism. In the past, they rejected the science. Now, with the scientific evidence pretty much irrefutable, they insist that it doesn’t matter because any serious attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions is politically and economically impossible.

Behind this claim lies the assumption, … that any substantial cut in energy use would require a drastic change in the way we live. To be fair, some people in the conservation movement seem to share that assumption.

But the assumption is false. Let me tell you about … an advanced economy that has managed to combine rising living standards with a substantial decline in per capita energy consumption, and managed to keep total carbon dioxide emissions more or less flat for two decades, even as both its economy and its population grew rapidly. And it achieved all this without fundamentally changing a lifestyle centered on automobiles and single-family houses.

The name of the economy? California.

There’s nothing heroic about California’s energy policy… [T]he state has adopted … conservation measures that are … the kind of drab, colorless stuff that excites only real policy wonks. Yet the cumulative effect has been impressive…

The energy divergence between California and the rest of the United States dates from the 1970s. Both the nation and the state initially engaged in significant energy conservation after that decade’s energy crisis. But conservation in most of America soon stalled…

In California, by contrast, the state continued to push policies designed to encourage conservation, especially of electricity. And these policies worked.

People in California have always used a bit less energy … because of the mild climate. But the difference has grown much larger since the 1970s. Today, the average Californian uses about a third less total energy than the average American, uses less than 60 percent as much electricity, and … emit[s] only about 55 percent as much carbon dioxide.

How did the state do it? In some cases conservation was mandated directly, through energy efficiency standards for appliances and rules governing new construction. Also, regulated power companies were given new incentives to promote conservation…

And yes, a variety of state actions had the effect of raising energy prices. In the early 1970s, the price of electricity in California was close to the national average. Today, it’s about 50 percent higher. … As the higher price of power indicates, conservation didn’t come free. Still, it’s striking how invisible California’s energy policy remains…

So is California a role model for climate policy? No and yes. Even if America as a whole had matched California…, we’d still be emitting about as much carbon dioxide now as we were in 1990. That’s too much.

But California’s experience shows that serious conservation is a lot less disruptive, imposes much less of a burden, than the skeptics would have it. And the fact that a state government, with far more limited powers than those at Washington’s disposal, has been able to achieve so much is a good omen for our ability to do a lot to limit climate change, if and when we find the political will.

_____

Filed under Energy Industry, Environment and Climate by

February 22, 2007

Kazakhstan threatens to suspend Chevron production

“Kazakhstan threatened Wednesday to suspend Chevron Corp.’s license for operations at a giant Caspian Sea oil field and gave the U.S. energy giant a month to come up with a plan to remove hazardous waste. Environmental Minister Nurlan Iskakov said in televised remarks that the Chevron-led Tengizchevroil consortium developing the Tengiz field in western Kazakhstan has stockpiled nearly 10 U.S. tons of sulfur extracted from the crude… Iskakov gave Chevron a month to present an action plan to remove the hazardous sulfur waste, or face suspension of operations.”

Filed under Energy Industry, Environment and Climate, Kazakhstan by

Jacobs scores two new overseas contracts

“Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (of Pasadena) has received two new contracts, one from the Indian Oil Corp. Limited and a second from POWEO Production… In its contract from Indian Oil Corp. Limited, a Jacobs subsidiary will provide project management consultancy services for a 400,000 tons per year Motor Spirit Quality project at its Panipat Refinery in the state of Haryana, India…

Separately, Jacobs announced that it will provide owner engineer support for a new 400 MWe combined cycle Gas turbine power plant at Pont-sur-Sambre, France…The facility will be the first production unit operated by POWEO Group who has been an electricity trader on the French energy market for almost four years.”

Filed under Energy Industry, France, India by

February 20, 2007

Chevron wins new exploration rights off Australia

“Oil giant Chevron Corp. said Monday that one of its subsidiaries won exploration rights in an area off northwest Australia. Chevron Australia won the rights in part of the Greater Gorgon Area, a section of Carnarvon Basin, an area rich in petroleum and gas reserves. This award covers about 1,150 square miles about 60 miles offshore… Chevron Australia is based in Perth, on Australia’s west coast. Chevron Corp. is based in San Ramon.”

Filed under Australia, Energy Industry by

February 18, 2007

L.A. and Long Beach Ports Issue RFP for LNG Trucks

“The San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — the nation’s two leading containerports — have issued a joint Request for Proposals (RFP) to seek qualified applicants for a new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Truck Program. All vehicles funded under the LNG Truck Program are required to have electronic monitoring units with global positioning system (GPS) capability installed prior to delivery of the vehicle, and verification must be provided to the Port of Los Angeles prior to releasing the vehicle. The effort is a component of the milestone San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan approved last November.”

Filed under California Ports, Energy Industry by

February 14, 2007

Is Solar the New Dot-Com?

That’s what the California Energy Blog is asking: “Solar is an $11 billion worldwide market now and California has pledged $3.2 billion for its Million Solar Rooftops initiative. Those numbers will turn more than a few heads are causing solar to leave other alternative energy sources in the dust from a capital infusion standpoint.”

Filed under Energy Industry by

February 11, 2007

Ethanol plant planned for Wasco

“A $200 million ethanol plant is planned for Wasco. Construction is expected to begin this fall on the plant, which is projected to open in late 2008 or early 2009. Ron Mittag, director of the City of Wasco Economic Development Corp., said his company and the Kern Economic Development Corp. worked with New York-based US Ethanol Holdings LLC to find an amenable location in Kern County. ‘They told us they needed railroad access, and we were able to find that for them in Wasco,’ Mittag said. The planned facility could bring as many as 65 jobs in the area. Besides as many as 500 jobs created during construction of the facility, additional jobs will appear for area truck companies once the plant opens, Mittag said. The Wasco plant will be the second California facility built by US Ethanol.”

Filed under Energy Industry by

Oil breaks $60 After Occidental Shuts California Oil Field

“Crude oil rose above $60 a barrel for the first time in five weeks after an explosion shut down a California field owned by Occidental Petroleum Corp., the fourth- biggest U.S. oil company… Occidental said about 120,000 barrels of oil and gas liquids a day has been lost after a fire at its Elk Hills site. It is the seventh-largest field on the U.S. mainland.”

Filed under Energy Industry by

February 9, 2007

Lawmakers propose new clean-fuel fund

“A group of California lawmakers hope that a bill to create a $45 million clean-fuel technology fund will be just the thing for California to keep — and attract — companies like San Carlos’ Tesla Motors. The electric car maker, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, wants to expand and is considering building an electric car plant in Pittsburg. It’s also weighing offers out of state. Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Martinez, a co-author of the bill, said he held meetings with company and city officials Monday at his Capitol office and hopes such a fund would encourage Tesla to stay.”

Filed under California Legislature, Economic Development, Energy Industry by

February 7, 2007

Lawrence Berkeley Lab designs low-tech stove for Sudan Refugees

CHF International has teamed up with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley to research, design and manufacture more energy efficient stoves for use in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in Sudan. To execute the first phase of this program, Visiting International Professional (VIP) Brian Tachibana traveled to Khartoum, Sudan, to oversee production of the first 50 stoves. With an education and work experience as an engineer, Brian was able to work with CHF Sudanese staff to simplify the initial stove design, to account for material availability and allow greater productivity during the manufacturing process. In just two weeks, the initial 50 stoves were constructed and then transported to locations in North and South Sudan for testing.

Filed under Energy Industry, Philanthropy, Sudan by

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