US, EU policy goals spur France's Total to hike biofuel budget

15 February 2011 19:06  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN DIEGO, California (ICIS)--French oil and petrochemicals major Total’s 2011 biofuels budget is close to three times its 2009 levels as the company is seeking to capitalise on short-term government policy initiatives, an executive said on Tuesday.

“For now, we want to be players,” Vincent Schachter, vice president of research and development (R&D) for Total Gas & Power, said in the keynote address at the Next Generation Bio-Based Chemicals Summit in San Diego.

In the long term, Schachter said he was uncertain of the role of biofuels, because they could be replaced by electric cars with batteries.

But for the short- and medium term, Total views biofuels as a vital part of the fuel mix, he said.

To that end, the company’s 2011 biofuels budget is 2.7 times higher than in 2009, Schachter said, without giving specific figures. He did not mention a figure for 2010.

Schachter cited biofuels mandates in the US and EU, as well as the increasing role of diesel in Europe’s fuel consumption, as driving forces.

“Mandates set the stage for the industry,” he said. “Even when there is no way they can be met, they still define the industry to an extent.”

In addition, Total anticipates growing tensions throughout the global vegetable oil supply chain, Schachter said.

To meet rising biofuel demand, the industry must develop and enhance drop-in fuel production technology based on widely available feedstocks, he added.

Such projects are being examined by Total’s R&D unit, Schachter noted.

“We’re an oil company, but we’re trying,” he said.

The conference ends on Thursday.

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By: Ben DuBose
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