Low Coal Prices Fuel Demand as Trading Volumes Soar 46%

coal-trains

Image Source:  Power Plant Men

Coal leads surge in European energy exchange trading in first half 2016 -study

Wholesale trading of coal on the exchanges soared 46 percent from a year earlier to 3.5 billion tonnes

FRANKFURT: Coal lead a surge in trading volumes on west European energy exchanges in the first half of this year as traders took advantage of low commodity prices, research company Prospex said on Monday.

Wholesale trading of coal on the exchanges soared 46 percent from a year earlier to 3.5 billion tonnes, according to Prospex.

“Low coal prices mean a fixed amount of trading capital will buy higher volumes than it did in the past,” said Prospex Research director Ben Tait.

“In fact, many traders seeking to hit absolute profit targets have indeed ramped up volumes,” he said.

Prospex’s data covers volumes on what traders call the paper market, where two parties agree deals in the over-the-counter (OTC) market and have them cleared by an exchange.

In coal, this type of business accounts for 98 percent of volumes changing hands in Europe.

Prospex said commodity trading houses remain keen on coal, with some holding extensive physical coal interests that play out on the dominant Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) region of ports that serve Europe’s power stations and steelmakers with raw material.  Read more:  Full Article

 

Alberta Air Pollution Levels High in Sulphur and Nitrogen Reports Environment Canada

Environment Canada recently released images showing air emissions modelling results across Alberta. These images are a reminder of how a small number of large sources mix together to pollute the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.pembina.org

“[…] SO2 and NOx emissions impact human health not only because they can cause direct harm, but also because they can react in the atmosphere to create fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The Alberta government has found that NOx and SO2 are the main causes of past incidents where PM2.5­ concentrations have exceeded Canada’s air quality standards.

PM2.5 can cause asthma attacks, hospitalizations and even premature death, as we’ve summarized before. It’s a particular concern in Alberta, where PM2.5 is putting us on track to have the worst air quality in Canada, and Edmonton’s pollution levels are exceeding Toronto’s.

These images underscore the cumulative impacts of a small number of very large industrial emissions sources — particularly coal plants, the oilsands and refineries — in addition to distributed industrial activities such as oil and gas operations. Those may all be separate sources, but their emissions end up in the same air. Pollutants from these different sources mix together in the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health. […]

Alberta is unique in the western half of North America for its mid- and high-level readings. The province more closely resembles the densely populated mid-Atlantic region of the United States, or the coal-burning Midwest, than our western neighbours.

Problem spots near coal plants, refineries and the oilsands

Another image shows how SO2 and NOX that is released into the atmosphere returns to ground level, or “deposits.” The image reveals a clear concentration (the orange and red spots) of the two pollutants being deposited around both Edmonton and the oilsands in northeast Alberta.

Edmonton is sandwiched between three large coal-burning power plants, which are clustered near Wabamun Lake west of Edmonton, and refineries on the east side of the city.

The video that AEMERA posted shows modelled SO2 plumes from large emitters across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The three-dimensional plumes reflect SO2 concentrations of at least three parts per billion. How the plumes travel was modelled using real weather conditions from a four-week period in the fall of 2013.

The video visually represents where SO2 is generated, how it moves through the atmosphere and where it eventually lands. As SO2 deposits on the ground, the land surface in the video changes colour to indicate where higher depositions are modelled. Although the specifics will differ for other pollutants, the video is representative of how airborne pollutants generally are dispersed and deposited.

It’s not particularly surprising to see that SO2 pollution originates from oil and gas production, coal plants and the oilsands — Alberta’s three largest-emitting sectors, by far. But seeing how much of the province is affected by these plumes may come as a shock.

The video shows that major industrial emissions do not blow in the direction of the prevailing wind pattern. Rather, they shift directions and can be combined with pollutants emitted in different areas. This raises concerns about environmental evaluations for new industrial emitters, since those evaluations focus on a much smaller area around the polluter — and focus on prevailing winds — rather than these dynamic wind patterns.

The data used for the oilsands is from 2010, so it discounts the emissions growth in that region over the last five years. The data for the rest of the sources is from 2006. In terms of coal emissions, these images correspond closely to today’s reality: NOx and SO2 in 2014 are at nearly the same levels as in 2006. […]”

 

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IMF Reports Global Energy Subsidies are Unmanageable, Inefficient and Reinforce Inequality

A new report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged policymakers the world over to reform subsidies for products from coal to gasoline, arguing that this could translate into major gains both for economic growth and the environment.

Image Source:  http://bit.ly/1LO0yQb

Source: www.imf.org

>” […] In a speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington D.C., marking the release of the paper, IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton noted that “subsidy reform can lead to a more efficient allocation of resources, which will help spur higher economic growth over the longer term.” Removing energy subsidies can also strengthen incentives for “research and development in energy-saving and alternative technologies,” he said. He also noted that, while intended to benefit consumers, subsidies are often inefficient and “could be replaced with better means of protecting the most vulnerable parts of the population.”

“The paper shows that for some countries the fiscal weight of energy subsidies is growing so large that budget deficits are becoming unmanageable and threaten the stability of the economy,” Mr. Lipton said, adding that IMF research shows that 20 countries maintain pre-tax energy subsidies that exceed 5 percent of GDP. For other emerging and developing countries, he said, the share of the scarce government resources spent on subsidies remains “a stumbling block” to higher growth and fundamentally impairs their future. “Because of low prices, there is little investment in much-needed infrastructure. More is spent on subsidies than on public health and education, undermining the development of human capital.”

Energy subsidies also reinforce inequality because they mostly benefit upper-income groups, which are the biggest consumers of energy. “On average, the richest 20 percent of households in low- and middle-income countries capture 43 percent of fuel subsidies,” said Mr. Lipton.

At the same time, Mr. Lipton warned that an increase in prices which can result from subsidy reform can have a significant impact on the poor and that “mitigating measures to protect them as subsidy reform is implemented” must be an integral part of any successful and equitable reform program.

In addition, Mr. Lipton noted that “subsidies aggravate climate change and worsen local pollution and congestion.” The study finds that eliminating pre-tax subsidies would reduce global CO2 emissions by about 1-2 percent which would, by itself, represent “a significant first step in reducing emissions by delivering about 15-30 percent of the Copenhagen Accord’s goal.” As for advanced economies, he noted that subsidies most often take the form of taxes that are too low to capture the true costs to society of energy use (“tax subsidies”), including pollution and road congestion. “Eliminating energy tax subsidies would deliver even more significant emissions reductions said Mr. Lipton, reducing “CO2 emissions by 4.5 billion tons, a 13 percent reduction.” […]”<

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China’s Switch to LNG From Coal Will Cut Global Pollution

To many people, natural gas seems to be more of the same, a continuation of the old fossil fuel path that has driven industrialization, air pollution and global warming.

Source: www.vancouversun.com

“> […]  China is currently producing twice the greenhouse gases of the United States. And its emissions are growing rapidly. Its emissions surpassed those of the U.S. in 2006, reached double the U.S. in 2014, and are expected to rise by seven per cent per year for the foreseeable future. China obtains 70 per cent of its electricity from burning coal, by far the worst polluter. China has plans for doubling its use of coal in the next 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, the emissions from the U.S. have stabilized, partly from a slowing economy, but the biggest effect came from a switch from coal to natural gas. If you replace an old coal power plant with a modern natural gas one, you can cut carbon dioxide emissions by a factor of three.

Natural gas doesn’t cut emissions to zero; it is still a fossil fuel. But it obtains much of its energy from hydrogen, an atom that out numbers the carbon atoms in methane (the key component of natural gas) by 4:1. Natural gas can be burned with much higher efficiency than coal, by use of a combined cycle turbine that harnesses both gas and steam power generation.

China wants to move away from coal, to natural gas, nuclear, and solar. Their chief concern is not global warming, but the horrific air pollution that is killing an estimated 4,000 people per day in China, 1.6 million per year. […]”<

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The 50 Year Underground Coal Mine Fire

By the early 1980s, the mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania was growing worse and increasingly threatening the people who lived there. GAI, Inc., a private geotechnical engineering company, was hired to review the situation and propose a solution to finally contain the fire. What they eventually came up with was so drastic, it might easily have been called Centralia’s “Nuclear Option.”

Source: www.centraliapa.org

Additional Information:  Zip Code 00000 (Washington Post) http://wapo.st/1eMhdGq

>” […]

GAI’s review and associated containment plan took months to complete. It analyzed mountains of data about Centralia PA, its abandoned mines, and the geology of the surrounding area. GAI also explored the beginnings of the fire, the current location of the burn, and the previous, failed attempts to stop it.

Finally on July 12, 1983 the findings were announced to the public. At that time, the mine fire was determined to be under 195 acres and burning in the Skidmore, Seven Foot, and Buck Leader coal veins. It was suggested that the fire could eventually grow to a maximum size of 3,700 acres of land.

GAI’s report made it clear that containing the Centralia mine fire would neither be easy nor cheap. The plan to contain the fire would require excavating a trench of massive proportions. This would need to be 3,700 feet long and 450 feet in depth – deep enough to hold a 45 story office building!

Worse yet, the trench would cut through the middle of the town. Although it would eventually be filled in with incombustible material to prevent the mine fire from moving further west, half of the borough of Centralia Pennsylvania would be destroyed while excavating it. The whole project would take years to complete.

If the damage caused by GAI’s plan wasn’t “nuclear” enough, there was always the price tag. GAI estimated it would cost a jaw-dropping $660 million to complete the project. This was over 100 times more expensive than the 1965 rejected plan to contain the mine fire. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, $660 million in 1983 is roughly equivalent to $1.5 billion in 2015. Today these cost estimates are still shocking.

It is no wonder that in August of 1983 the majority of Centralia PA’s residents voted to be relocated. After years of struggling with the mine fire, the “nuclear option” proposed by GAI to stop the fire and level half of the town was more than most could bear.”<

 

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Power plant closures quench demand for Pennsylvania’s coal

More than 100 coal-fired power plants nationwide either plan to shut down or already closed their doors in 2014, as the market responds to stricter environmental regulations, cheap natural gas and lackluster electricity demand growth, according to a survey done by the Energy Information Administration. Behind all those closures sit coal mines — many of them in Appalachia — coping with the loss of customers for the fuel that reigned supreme for many decades. Click the image above for a more detai

Source: powersource.post-gazette.com

>” […] More than 17 million tons of coal from Appalachia went to plants slated to shut down in 2013 alone, the latest full year for which such data are available. And the impact is likely to be even bigger, since the EIA’s list of recent or coming closures doesn’t include generators planning a transition from burning coal to burning natural gas.

Companies have been bracing for this change for years, but many have indicated that it’s coming faster and blunter than expected, driven in part by a slew of environmental regulations.

“That’s an unprecedented change to America’s power system in what constitutes the blink of an eye in energy markets — creating enormous potential for market disruptions, supply shortages and rate spikes,” Deck Slone, senior vice president of strategy and public policy at St. Louis-based Arch Coal, wrote in December.

Like its peers, Arch’s stock price reflects the gloom. At $1.30 per share, Tuesday’s closing price represented a one-year low. Virginia-based coal producer Alpha Natural Resources’ also saw its 52-week bottom at $1.13.  […]

Central Appalachian coal mines stand to be big losers in the transition away from coal, Mr. Cosgrove wrote in November. That includes the historically prolific supplies in Virginia, southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

“Falling demand may hasten mine closings in the region, where coal production has dropped 32 percent since 2009,” he wrote.

Some companies have been bracing for the fall for years.  […]

Between 2012 and 2014, Alpha idled 64 mines, reduced its shipments in the eastern part of the country by 28 percent and got rid of more than 4,000 employees.  […]

The situation looks worse for suppliers such as Virginia-based James River Coal Co., which is in the middle of a restructuring, and Virginia-based James C. Justice Co., which has shed a significant portion of its mine portfolio in recent years. The producers stand to lose 28 percent and 48 percent of shipments, respectively, from mines serving affected plants.

For decades, contracts between coal companies and utilities have included force majeure clauses, according to Mr. Cardwell, who has reviewed hundreds of contracts and negotiated dozens during his 18-year tenure as a coal buyer for a Kentucky utility.

Such clauses typically protect power plants from having to take delivery of coal they no longer need if the power plant is prevented from running by some new environmental regulation or another unforeseen circumstance.

Yet lawsuits seem inevitable following current and projected mine closures. “I have a feeling that there’s going to be pretty significant litigation in the future,” Mr. Cardwell said.

One issue that may arise as power plants claim that environmental regulations pushed them out of business is how much of a role competition from cheap natural gas played in their decision either to shut down or use a different fuel.

Gas is all the rage at the moment. The commodity is trading at around $3 per million British thermal units, or Btus, down from more than $13 in the summer of 2008, towards the beginning of the shale revolution in Appalachia.

That’s why some operators, like Consol Energy, now boast flexibility in their contracts with utilities. Consol has refocused its company on a growing shale gas business, retaining only a handful of coal mines.

According to James McCaffrey, senior vice president of marketing at Consol, who spoke at Platts’ Coal Marketing Days in Downtown in September, “Customers want to flip between coal and gas.”

He said the company was actively negotiating a deal where a utility could choose its fuel depending on its preference.

“That’s a good marketing approach: ‘I’ll give you Btus, you tell me how you want them,’ ” Mr. Cardwell said. […]”<

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Michigan’s Consumers Energy to retire 9 coal plants by 2016

New EPA regulations are an opportunity to modernize the generating fleet, according to a Consumers Energy official.

Source: www.utilitydive.com

>”[…] Consumers Energy will shutter nine coal plants in Michigan as EPA air pollution regulations make them unprofitable to operate, MLive reports. And the Michigan utility won’t be the only one. A wave of coal retirements will roll across the Midwest by early 2016, shuttering more than 60 generating plants, a Consumers official told the “Greening of the Great Lakes” weekly radio program.In addition to the regulations under the Clean Power Plan and other EPA programs, Consumers says many of the nine coal plants were built in the 1950s and are simply at the end of their productive lives.  […]

Last year Consumers Energy announced it had selected AMEC to run the utility’s decommissioning program for the planned retirement of seven operating units at the utility’s three oldest coal-fired generating plants. Though there is still uncertainty over just what impact a slate of EPA regulations will have, Consumers last year said the power plants being decommissioned have an average operating life-span of more than 60 years and collectively represented approximately 950 MW of electric capacity.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, but as it stands the regulations could apply to 1,400 generators at more than 600 of the nation’s largest power plants.

Federal regulators believe the tighter controls could prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year by limiting mercury, particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants it says are hazardous to public health.”<

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Cove Point LNG Project Obtains Federal Approval and Opposition

Initially, Cove Point helped the United States overcome what was then an energy shortage. Now that our nation is developing a burgeoning surplus of natural gas, Cove Point can help send a small portion of that surplus to allied nation’s looking for stable supplies of clean energy, supporting economic development and replacing coal as a fuel.

Source: www.fierceenergy.com

>” […] The project offers significant economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits. The construction of the approximately $3.8 billion export project will create thousands of skilled construction jobs, an additional $40 million in annual tax revenue to Calvert County, and millions of dollars in new revenues for Maryland and the federal government, as well as a reduction in the nation’s trade deficit by billions of dollars annually.

Dominion’s project has faced and will continue to face significant and widespread grassroots opposition. Despite these benefits, environmental and community groups are denouncing FERC’s approval of the controversial project, claiming that the facility will incentivize environmental damage from fracking across the mid-Atlantic region and, according to federal data, would likely contribute more to global warming over the next two decades than if Asian countries burned their own coal.

Environmental groups, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club are poised to petition FERC and potentially to sue the agency to challenge on the basis of an inadequate environmental review. These groups are assessing the issue upon which to file a motion for a rehearing, which needs to occur before an appeal can happen.

The groups claim that in its Environmental Assessment, which was limited at best, FERC omitted credible analysis of the project’s lifecycle global warming pollution, including all the pollution associated with driving demand for upstream fracking and fracked gas infrastructure.

The Dominion Cove Point project would be the first LNG export facility to be sited so close to a residential area and in such close proximity to Marcellus Shale fracking operations, and could trigger more global warming pollution than all seven of Maryland’s existing coal-fired power plants combined, the groups contend.

“FERC’s decision to approve Cove Point is the result of a biased review process rigged in favor of approving gas industry projects no matter how great the environmental and safety concerns,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, in a statement. “FERC refused to even require an environmental impact statement for this $3.8 billion facility right on the Bay. We intend to challenge this ruling all the way to court if necessary…we will continue to fight this project until it is stopped.”

Dominion must now review and accept the order. Upon completion, Dominion will file an implementation plan describing how it plans to comply with the conditions set forth in the order. Dominion expects to ask the FERC for a “Notice to Proceed” at that time and plans to begin construction when the notice is received. This process – from Dominion review through FERC’s notice – is expected to take several weeks.

Cove Point is the fourth liquefied natural gas export project to receive approval to site, construct and operate and is the first LNG export project on the East Coast. “<

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Supercritical CO2 refines cogeneration for Industry

See on Scoop.itGreen Energy Technologies & Development

The first production unit of the EPS100 7.5 MWe heat engine is completing factory checkout tests at Dresser-Randbtd…

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>Energy-intensive manufacturing

In an increasingly competitive environment, manufacturers are seeking to cut their costs. Fluctuating energy prices often channel this investment into cost-effective energy-saving technologies and practices that will reduce operating costs while maintaining or increasing product quality and yield.

Energy-efficient technologies often bring other benefits, such as higher productivity or environmental gains, reducing the regulatory ‘burden’. Waste heat can be captured from many industrial processes through waste heat recovery technology. […]

Waste heat recovery represents the greatest opportunity for reducing energy loss in these industries while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint and associated greenhouse emissions with improved overall energy production efficiency.[…]

The outlook for scCO2

Supercritical CO2 heat engines are scalable across a broad system size range, from 250 kWe to 45 MWe and above, with net electrical output to support the widest possible variety of industrial and utility-scale applications.

The sCO2 Cycle is thermal source neutral − suitable with a wide range of heat sources from 200°C to 500°C with efficiencies up to 30%. New energy production can be offset with recovered energy without increasing greenhouse emissions while improving overall energy production efficiency. The scCO2 heat engine can add up to 35% more power to simple-cycle gas turbines, 10–15% more power to reciprocating engines, and can significantly improve the energy efficiency and bottom line performance at steel mills, cement kilns, glass furnaces and other fuel-fired industrial processes by converting previously wasted exhaust and flue gas energy into usable electricity.

Alex Kacludis is an Application Engineer at EPS LLC; www.echogen.com

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Supercritical CO2 turbine for Power Production & Waste Heat Energy Recovery

See on Scoop.itGreen Building Design – Architecture & Engineering

A former scientist at Sandia National Lab is bringing the technology to market

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>Because of its physical properties as a liquid, it has become a target fluid of opportunity to run turbines and thus make electricity. Steven Wright, Ph.D., who recently retired from Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), has set up a consulting company called Critical Energy LLC to bring this technology to a commercial level.

The objective of using supercritical CO2 (S-CO2) in a Brayton-Cycle turbine is to make it much more efficient in the transfer of heat. Wright points out that a steam turbine is about 33% efficient, but that an S-CO2 turbine could be as high as 48% efficient, a significant increase.

A closed loop supercritical CO2 system has the density of a liquid, but many of the properties of a gas. A turbine running on it, “is basically a jet engine running on a hot liquid,” says Wright.

“There is a tremendous amount of scientific and industrial interest in S-CO2 for power generation. All heat sources are involved…<

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