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busrep.co.za: Western oil companies diversify with investment in renewable power resources

April 4, 2007: From Reuters

London – The following are details of the main investments of the largest, fully publicly traded oil companies in the world by market capitalisation, in wind power, solar, hydrogen, geothermal energy and biofuels:

Exxon Mobil

The world’s largest non-government-controlled oil firm by market value sold its solar power business in the 1980s and now has no investments in renewable energy.

Exxon does not believe renewables are commercially viable on a significant scale without government incentives, and opposes such incentives.

Exxon executives privately accuse rivals BP and Shell of exaggerating their commitment to renewable energy.

Total 2006 capital expenditure (capex): $19.9 billion (R144.8 billion).

Royal Dutch Shell

A spokesperson for Shell said it had invested $1 billion in renewables, excluding biodiesel and hydrogen activities, in the past five years. The Netherlands-based company has the 17th largest wind power business in the world, according to Emerging Energy Research.

The second-largest western oil company by market value sold its old solar business in 2006 and now has another, based on a different technology, which plans to start manufacturing a new generation of solar panels in 2008.

Additionally, Shell has extensive investments in green transport fuels, aimed at developing “second generation” biofuels – products produced from waste biomass, rather than food crops such as maize and rape seed.

Total since 1999: about $1.25 billion. 2006 Capital investment: $23.1 billion.

BP

The world’s third-largest fully publicly traded company by market value had built one of the largest solar panel manufacturing businesses in the world since 1980, with about $500 million invested between 1999 and 2005, BP said.

The oil major is ramping up its wind business with about $300 million invested in wind generation and turbine manufacturing businesses in the past 15 months.

BP plans later this year to launch a biofuel that can be mixed with petrol, known as biobutanol.

It is building facilities at its Bulwer Refinery in Queensland, Australia, to produce 110 million litres a year of renewable diesel from tallow, beginning later this year.

BP is also funding a 10-year, $9.4 million project in India to examine the possibilities of using Jatropha, a non-edible, oil-bearing crop that can be grown on marginal land, as a biofuels component.

Total: about $900 million. 2006 capex: $16.9 billion.

Total

The fourth-largest western oil company has modest investments in renewable energy, with a five-turbine wind farm near its Les Flandres refinery complex in northern France.

Total has a joint venture with French utility EDF, called Tenesol, that has a solar panel factory in South Africa that manufactures 35 megawatts of capacity a year.

Analysts estimate the company has invested less than $100 million, a figure that Total did not dispute.

2006 Capex: e11.85 billion (R115 billion).

Chevron

Chevron promotional documents say the company spent $2 billion between 2002 and 2006 on renewable and alternative energy projects and energy efficiency schemes.

Chevron says it is the largest producer of renewable power among the big oil firms, with geothermal projects in Indonesia and the Philippines.

The fifth-largest “super major”, as the five biggest western oil firms are known, is investing in biofuels research.

Total: 1999-2006, about $200 million.

2006 capital investment: $16.6 billion.

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