The head of the International Monetary Fund urged Arab countries to discontinue subsidizing energy because such subsidies come at the expense of much needed investment in health, education and other public services. Arab countries accounted for more than a quarter of global energy subsidies in 2015, estimated at $117 billion out of $436 billion world-wide, according to IMF statistics. Arab oil exporters accounted for $94 billion of those subsidies, or about 5.5% of their GDP. Mme Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said at a meeting of Arab finance ministers in Dubai this week:

“Energy subsidies are extremely costly – averaging 4.5 per cent of GDP among oil exporters and 3 per cent of GDP among oil importers, despite lower oil prices. They lack transparency – subsidies are often implicit and off budget. They are vastly inequitable – favoring the wealthy who consume a lot of energy.”

The European Investment Bank has approved its largest ever single loan to an energy project: the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The €1.5 billion loan will be used to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea in Central Asia to the Mediterranean. TAP will form the European leg of the Southern Gas Corridor, a large-scale pipeline project that will cross the Anatolian plain from Azerbaijan, before cutting through northern Greece, Albania and ending in southern Italy. The project will help to offset declining European gas production, providing a diversified source of gas, and displace coal-fired electric power generation in central and south eastern Europe.

US liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer Cheniere Energy has negotiated the first direct, long-term supply contract between a Chinese company and a US LNG producer. The purchaser is China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). Chinese demand for LNG is expected to grow sharply as the Asian country cuts back on burning coal (its main source of heating) in order to reduce pollution. China is poised to become the world’s largest LNG importer by 2030. CNPC will purchase about 1.2 million tonnes annually, starting this year and running through 2043. Cheniere has sold spot LNG cargoes to China since it began US exports in 2016.

The South African Ministry of Public Enterprises has given state-owned electricity utility Eskom the approval to procure additional renewable energy by auctions. This approval comes 3 years after the SA government announced plans to tender for an additional 6.3 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity. At that time Eskom claimed it could not connect renewable energy to the grid because of lack of infrastructure, putting the brakes on nearly $4.7 billion worth of investment and creation of 15,000 jobs. Subsequently the African Development Bank provided a $1.3 billion loan to Eskom to strengthen and expand the transmission network, which has enabled it to commence the renewable auction process. See here and here for Eskom’s problems with inadequate infrastructure.

Hong Kong’s first integrated waste-to-energy facility will  be built on a reclaimed islandoff the coast of Shek Kwu Chau. Waste to energy and infrastructure firm Keppel Seghers and its Chinese partner, Zhen Hu, have been awarded the 15 year,  HKD 31 billion (US$4 billion) to design, build and operate the project. This will be Hong Kong’s first integrated facility for municipal solid waste which will be able to reduce the total volume of waste treated at the facility by more than 90%, thus extending the lifespan of local landfills. 3000 tonnes per day of mixed municipal solid waste will be converted into 480 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year for the Hong Kong grid.

The world’s largest waste-to-energy plant will be fully operational in 2020 in the city of Dubai. The facility is expected to process up to two million tons of solid waste every year or 60% of the city’s output. When it comes online in 2020 it will produce 185 megawatts of electricity daily, enough to power 120,000 homes.

In January Australian airline Qantas made the world’s first dedicated biofuel flight between the US and Australia, (A Boeing Dreamliner 787-9). The 15-hour trans-Pacific flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne operated with approximately 24,000 kg of 10% biofuel blend, Fuel for the flight was produced from Carinata seeds, a non-edible industrial mustard seed. The seeds are pressed and yield half their weight in oils that are then refined into jet fuel. Qantas is promoting Carinata as a crop for Australian farmers, specifically as a renewable feedstock for making commercial aviation biofuel. The first such commercial seed crop is expected to harvest in 2020. One hectare of Carinata seed yields 2,000 liters of oil, which produces 400 liters of biofuel, 1,400 liters of renewable diesel and 10% renewable by-products.

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