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IOC's $500-m bond issue oversubscribed  

Indian Oil Corporation Ltd's (IOC) maiden $500 million, five-year bond has received an overwhelming response from investors in the international market with an order book of $6.5 billion, representing an oversubscription of 13 times, a company statement said. The bond, priced at 205 basis points over dollar mid-swaps, will be used by IOC to fund capital expenditure for its vast portfolio of ongoing projects, the statement said. Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank acted as the joint lead managers and joint book runners in the offering of the bond which was placed under "Regulation S" format in the international market on January 14. - Our Bureau

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Golden jubilee of Nanotechnology  

 Nanotechnology turns fifty

The predictions of Feynman, to a large extent, have been realized today
The power: Nanotechnology implies the power to manipulate matter at the atomic level.

On December 29, 2009, we celebrated the golden jubilee of Nanotechnology. It was on this day, fifty years ago Professor Richard P. Feynman (Nobel Laureate, 1965) delivered the celebrated talk, 'There's plenty of room at the bottom,' which predicted the era of nanotechnology - the technology of nanometre scale objects. He proposed a new kind of technology by assembling things atom by atom, in today's terms, 'molecular nanotechnology'. The terminology, nanotechnology itself came into being in 1974, due to Professor Norio Taniguchi.
Feynman talked about writing the entire Encyclopedia Britannica on the tip of a needle; he envisioned that one day the entire information of the world could be contained in an envelope! He forecasted that little motors could move within blood vessels and do surgeries, as if the surgeon has gone. No talk was talked about so extensively as this one in the history of science, except probably the 'Candle light lectures' of Faraday. The predictions of Feynman, to a large extent, have been realized today. Since 1991, we arrange atoms one at a time to create well-defined structures. Feynman said, "The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of manoeuvring things atom by atom." A new methodology to see and place atoms called scanning tunnelling microscopy came in 1981 and numerous modifications of this tool revolutionized all branches of science.
It is possible to direct tiny diagnostic and therapeutic objects into the body and even into specific cells. Although such 'surgeons' do not travel through the blood vessels as of now, diagnostic and therapeutic agents do. Single elements of electronic storage are now in nanoscale so that entire libraries can be written in hand-held devices. Molecules have been shown to store information.
The evolution :::  It is now possible to see the evolution in size, shape and properties of pieces of matter, atom by atom - as the object is made. As a result, we can probe questions such as the electrical conductivity of a single DNA strand or strength of single chemical bonds. When one looks at matter closely, new phenomena are discovered. For example, one can make gold emitting light in all colours - from blue to red! New phenomena have made natural sciences most exciting.
Global nanotechnology research budget is substantial. In the U.S. alone, the projected budget for FY 2010 is $1.6 billion. A sum of $10.1 billion was spent in this area in the U.S. during 2001-2009. Indian efforts have been small, the government started a Nano Mission two years ago with an investment of Rs.1,000 crores in five years. Nanotechnology is expected to produce goods and services worth $2.6 trillion in the year 2014 globally. A total of about 400,000 research papers and 100,000 patents have already come out in the area. Annual research publications are nearly 59,000 in 2009. It grew five fold in 2000-2009.
Another peak? :::  What would nano do to the world? Will it be another peak in the unending chain of scientific excitements? Nanotechnology implies the power to manipulate matter at the atomic level. It is the power of the creator, as all are constructed with atoms. Once this capability is comprehended fully, nothing that matter can deliver is impossible. Naturally, promises are plenty. It may appear like science fiction when topics such as single cell therapy are proposed. It is possible to repair the molecular machinery of life and thereby control, prevent and extend biological functions. Materials can be made super tough, super light, etc; after all carbon is the toughest and still quite light. It may one day be possible to harvest all the energy needed for the planet from the sun and if more is needed, there is the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen forming water. The world may be clean and green again. Well, nanotechnology does give hopes.
Thinking of such possibilities, this is what is going on in nature. All the carbohydrate which plants cook in their leaves, to keep us going, is made atom by atom, from carbon dioxide and water, using sunlight. In the way we convert that food to energy and then to work, very little wastage occurs. If biological machinery were to be as inefficient as our motors, the food we produce cannot even sustain one-tenth of the population. Thus, biology is nanotechnology in perfection. Similarly best chemistry is nanotechnology. It converts atoms to molecules in a clean and green manner, chemists say with high atom efficiency. All physics is ultimately that is done at the atomic level. This convergence of disciplines at the nanometre level is probably one of the biggest benefits of nanotechnology........... PRADEEP in THE HINDU newspaper

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OIL PSUs' to get compensation for selling fuel at government-controlled prices  

Public sector oil companies IOC, HPCL and BPCL may end up getting a maximum cash compensation of Rs 15,000 crore in fiscal 2009-10 from the government for the losses incurred by them for selling fuel at government-controlled prices, even as the compensation formula may be re-examined, a senior government official said. "We can revisit the compensation formula though the finance ministry would prefer to bear only up to one-third of the total burden," a finance ministry official said. The finance and oil ministries are yet to come to a consensus over the actual amount of compensation due to the oil companies as there are differences over on the total losses incurred by them.

The pricing of petro products includes notional costs like freight charges or insurance that should not be included as far as loss calculations are concerned, another senior government official said. Prime minister Manmohan Singh is expected to discuss this issue at a meeting next week with both finance and oil minister. The finance ministry has been pushing for reforming the pricing of fuel products in the country but nothing has moved forward on this count despite reports from several expert committees. The latest Kirit Parikh committee is expected to give in its report by the end of this month.

"We would like to limit the compensation to Rs 12,000 to 15,000 crore which we could provide in cash. We would prefer not to issue oil bonds," finance secretary Ashok Chawla said. The view now is that the government should compensate OMCs for the losses they have incurred on selling cooking fuel LPG and kerosene. The remaining compensation on autofuel - petrol and diesel - will have to be met by ONGC and OIL who have to take a hit on their bottomlines as they sell crude to the domestic government refineries at discounted prices.

This a clear departure from the past practice where the government doled out oil bonds instead of cash compensation to the oil companies in lieu of their losses. Oil bonds are a way of deferred payments where the government puts off its cash outgo for the current year for a later year. Oil companies trade these bonds in secondary markets to raise capital and ease their liquidity problems. Since, these bonds were deferred payment they did not show up in government accounts and thereby helped it in showing lower fiscal deficit in keeping with the targets set in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. 

Deepshikha Sikarwar, New Delhi....The Economic Times

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scientific terms in Indian languages  

Develop equivalents of scientific terms in Indian languages
The former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair has stressed the need for developing Indian language equivalents of scientific terms in English.The former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) G. Madhavan Nair has stressed the need for developing Indian language equivalents of scientific terms in English. This, to a large extent would help the common man to understand the language and working of science, he said in his inaugural address at the Science Communicators' Meet organized as part of the ongoing 97th Indian Science Congress hosted by the University of Kerala at its Kariavattom campus. The media and science communicators should strive to systematically showcase the achievements being made in small laboratories and in universities. Only then can success be achieved in propagating a scientific temperament in the country.
The media should also highlight the dedicated work of individual scientists so that they become role models for young minds wishing to be scientists. It is equally important to project the team behind an invention when the invention itself is being highlighted, he explained. In his presidential address the vice chancellor of the University of Kerala A. Jayakrishnan said the common people were more interested in the fruits of science than in the working of science. It is necessary, therefore, to communicate to them clearly the benefits of a particular scientific process.
Science communicators, by chronicling in a systematic manner, the processes and people behind science, can also help fight and eradicate superstitions from society. All the same it must also be remembered that some trends in science get media attention for some length of time. When Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister the 'in-thing' in science was superconductivity. Now that position is being occupied by nano-technology, Dr. Jayakrishnan pointed out. Scientists who have the ability to communicate well should do their bit in taking science to the masses, he added. 

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The central government, which has stepped up efforts for the blending of ethanol in a 5 percent proportion with petrol, has threatened to blacklist ethanol manufacturers if they fail to supply the commodity to oil marketing companies (OMCs).

Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has asked the ethanol producers not to dilly-dally over the supply and soon enter into an arrangement with the OMCs at Rs 27 per litre (at ex-mill rates). OMCs have offered to keep the ethanol price stable at Rs 27 per litre for three years. However, this rate does not include excise duty, transportation cost and other expenses. The zone-wise price of ethanol will differ after adding all these costs.

Pawar's warning comes at a time when a large number of ethanol manufacturers, especially cooperative sugar mills, are reluctant to supply, on the grounds that this would incur loss in the first year at the proposed procurement price of Rs 27 per litre. Instead, they are eager to sell molasses, currently priced at Rs 5,500 per tonne. Informed sources said today that OMCs, including Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petrolum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, are expected to hold talks with ethanol manufacturers this week to chalk out a final roadmap on this issue.

According to the oil ministry data, the 5 percent ethanol blending programme (EBP) is being carried out in 16 states and 3 Union Territories (UTs) out of 20 states and 4 UTs identified for implementing the programme. The requirement of ethanol for the three-year period is 1.8 billion litres. The OMCs have been able to contract 1.46 billion litres. They had procured 573.3 million litres under the programme as on August 2009. Under this programme, ethanol releases are yet to start in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand and Puducherry, where the programme has not taken shape due to non-resolution of issues like procedural problem and taxation policy, affecting the commercial viability in the implementation of the programme.

The parliamentary standing committee on petroleum and natural gas recommended that, "Considering the present constraints and the fact that oil companies have been able to procure only 573.3 million litre of ethanol, the Committee desires that 5 percent EBP may be implemented in a curtailed form in a few states to make it more relevant and effective and the government to come up with a strategy to increase ethanol supply in a time-bound manner instead of leaving the matter open- ended without any time frame."
Richa Mishra, New Delhi....The Hindu Business Line
The public sector oil refiners, already hard pressed to meet the growing diesel demand, now face another hurdle, as they get ready to switch towards producing cleaner fuel from April 1. Imports of diesel look inevitable, to bridge the gap arising from the fall in output over the six months, industry sources said. According to estimates, in January-June, the domestic diesel output will fall short by 10 percent, in the range of 0.6-0.8 million tones a month.

From April 1, the Government plans to introduce Euro IV-compliant fuel in 13 cities, namely Delhi/NCR, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Pune, Lucknow, Surat, Ahmedabad, Agra, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Solapur, while the rest of the country will switch over to Euro III-compliant fuel. Asked how ready are the IOC refineries to meet the April 1deadline, Bankapur said the major refineries - Panipat and Mathura - are going according to schedule, but there is a slight delay in implementation of the Gujarat refinery project. Mathura will be ready by the end of this month and IOC is expecting to commission the Gujarat refinery by the end of this fiscal (2009-10).
Sanjay Jog, Mumbai .....Business Standard...newspaper

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