June 29, 2017
Issue 189  |  View Past Issues

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This week a Russian schoolboy complained to President Vladimir Putin on a live television show about coal dust pollution at the coal port of Nakhodka in Russia’s Far East. Since then, local regulators have started to take action. In India, a Chhattisgarh state regulator has acknowledged the legal requirement of power companies to re-use power station coal ash in construction materials has been ignored, resulting in a major pollution hazard. Meanwhile, villagers in Myanmar are calling for a human rights investigation of a Thai-backed mine while others are resisting a proposed new coal plant.

The prospects for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on coal plants have diminished even further over the last week. The long-troubled Kemper plant in the US is set to be ordered to run on gas only, ensuring the multi-billion dollar coal gasifier and CCS components will never run. In the Netherlands, Engie and Uniper have announced they are abandoning further work on the ROAD CCS project, the only CCS power plant project under development in Europe.

Bob Burton


Mississippi’s Kemper County experiment proves clean coal is a myth

The Mississippi Public Service Commission’s request that the Kemper Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project run on gas rather than gasified lignite is not only a blunt statement that the CCS plant is a failure but that coal is being left behind, writes Sandy Buchanan in The Hill.

Asia and the fall of coal

The prospect for coal power in Asia is looking shakier by the month, writes Nithin Coca in The Diplomat.

Top News

Schoolboy’s question on coal dust pollution gets Putin’s attention:  Authorities at the coal port of Nakhodka in Russia’s Far East are under pressure to cut coal dust pollution after a schoolboy raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin on his annual televised “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin”. Following the show, regulators have announced audits of seven companies operating in the port. The provincial governor has also ordered the use of dust suppression systems. While data from 11 newly-installed dust monitors can be tracked online, doubts have been raised about the “unusually clean” sample results. (Maritime Executive)

Indian power companies ignore coal ash law: Even though the city of Korba in Chhattisgarh – which hosts 14 power plants – has been listed as a critically-polluted area since 2010, no study of the health impacts from air pollution has been undertaken. Of particular concern to residents is pollution from the fly ash dumps near the power plants. While Indian law requires power companies to ensure all fly ash is reused in cement and other products, local activists estimate about 80 per cent is dumped in landfills. The Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board in Korba concedes the power plants operating in the area are not complying with the law. (Indian Express)

Villagers urge human rights probe into Myanmar mine companies: Two dozen villages have urged the Myanmar Government to respond to community opposition to Ban Chaung coal mine, operated and underwritten by Thai companies. Villagers have accused the companies of responsibility for land rights violations and have requested Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission investigate the companies. In a separate development, 147 civil society organisations have opposed a proposal by Toyo-Thai for a 1280 megawatt (MW) coal plant near Hpa-An township in Kayin State in Myanmar. (Frontier Myanmar, Eleven)

Death threats against defender of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans: Professor Anu Muhammad, a leader of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports and opponent of an Indian-backed coal plant near the Sundarbans World Heritage Site, has revealed he was targeted by death threats last year. The text messages sent to him reportedly originated from a member of the Awami Olama League, an Islamist group associated with the ruling Awami League. The owner of the phone denied responsibility for the text messages. Muhammad said he took heart from the support for the campaign from groups around the world. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Uniper and Engie abandon Rotterdam CCS project: Uniper and Engie have told the Minister of Economic Affairs that in September they plan to abandon plans for the 250 MW ROAD CCS project at Engie’s Maasvlakte plant in Rotterdam. The CCS retrofit project – which was proposed to be completed by 2020 – was a key element in Uniper and Engie respectively gaining approvals for the 1100 MW Maasvlakte 3 plant and the nearby 800 MW Maasvlakte plant. Without the CCS project, the Dutch Government will be under pressure to close existing coal plants to meet the target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent by 2020. (Ministry of Economic Affairs [Dutch], CoalSwarm)

Kemper CCS plant nears the end of the road: The Mississippi Public Service Commission has requested Mississippi Power develop a plan to run its US$7.5 billion Kemper plant on gas only, effectively ending the possibility of approval for operating the plant on fuel from the lignite gasification plant and its accompanying CCS unit. The commission, which is likely to make a formal ruling on the project on July 6, said it wants to eliminate the financial risk to ratepayers for the “unproven” coal gasification and carbon capture technology. (Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal [paywall])


Australia: Judge rejects New Hope Corporation bid to stay decision on New Acland mine expansion.

Czech Republic: Two hundred protest lifting mine limits which would destroy village of Horni Jiretin.

India: Railway closure due to Jharia coalfield fire disrupts coal supplies to power plants in five states.

Ukraine: Controversy over DTEK’s “Rotterdam +” coal contract which has tripled power prices since 2015.

US: Coal baron Robert Murray sues comedian John Oliver over TV segment critiquing coal claims.

US: Drug company Mylan runs coal processing plants at a loss to claim tax credits.

Vietnam: Regulator concedes audit of 19 power plants found many environmental violations.

Vietnam: Communist party official warned over legal violations in coal plant construction contracts.

“The private sector is not undertaking any new investment in thermal energy … There’s no sense in it,”

said Ashok Khurana, the director general of the Association of Power Producers in India.

Companies + Markets

Banks refuse to support Tata’s Mundra plant: Tata Power has offered to sell a 51 per cent share of its loss-making 4000 MW Tata Mundra project for two US cents to seven state distribution utilities which buy power from the plant. In return for the nominal purchase price, the utilities would take on 51 per cent of the plant’s debt but be exposed to future losses. Tata Power’s subsidiary has breached the conditions of its bank loans and is unable to raise short-term funding. Adani Power is also seeking to sell 51 per cent of its 4620 MW Mundra plant. (Nikkei Asian Review, Hindu Business Line)

New review hits Krabi construction companies: The Ital-Thai Marine Company has told the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) that, due to cost increases since 2015, it can’t fulfil the construction contract for the port facilities associated with the proposed Krabi coal project in southern Thailand. Following public protests in February 2017 against the proposed 800 MW plant the military government directed that a new environmental and health assessment, which could take up to two years, be undertaken. Uncertainty also surrounds the construction contract for the power plant which EGAT awarded to a consortium of Italian Thai Development Plc and the Power Construction Corporation of China. (Bangkok Post)

Guptas benefit from Eskom’s fine discount: In a settlement with the controversial Gupta family, Eskom slashed by 75 per cent a US$162 million fine it imposed on Glencore over the supply of sub-standard coal from the Optimum Coal mine. The fine was one of the factors which drove Glencore to put the mine into administration and, under pressure, sell it to the Guptas. Eskom indirectly assisted to finance the Guptas’ purchase of the mine by pre-paying for coal deliveries from another Gupta subsidiary. At the time Eskom insisted it would recover the entire fine. South Africa’s Minister for Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, has appointed four new Eskom board members and an acting CEO to the embattled utility. (Business Day, Eyewitness News)

Queensland Investment Corporation considering Adani funding:  Heavily redacted internal Queensland Treasury documents reveal the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) – which manages state public servant superannuation funds – has discussed the possibility of investing in Adani’s Galilee Basin coal project. While QIC stated it will not invest in Adani's Carmichael coal mine, it has not ruled out financing rail or port infrastructure. (ABC News)

Indian steel maker looks to cut BHP dependence: The Steel Authority of India (SAIL) has renewed its interest in increasing its supply of metallurgical coal from South Africa and Canada to reduce its reliance on BHP Billiton exports from Australia. India’s Steel Minister, Chaudhury Birendra Singh, has also flagged the need to cut imports by boosting metallurgical coal production from the Jharia coalfields in Jharkhand and constructing washeries to allow as much as 20 per cent of thermal coal to be upgraded. (Economic Times, Daijiworld)

Californian insurance divestment disclosure scheme stirs coal states: The California Insurance Department’s (CID) “Climate Risk Carbon Initiative”, a voluntary scheme requesting insurance companies registered in California divest from thermal coal and disclose other fossil fuel investment risks, has angered coal-state Republican leaders. In a letter to CID’s Commissioner Dave Jones, 13 state Attorneys-General or Governors threatened legal action would be “a certainty” unless the initiative was dropped. (Ohio Valley ReSource, California Insurance Department)


Lessons from previous coal transitions, Coal Transitions project, June 2017. (Pdf)

This 24-page report provides a high-level summary of key issues which emerge from previous coal transitions. Accompanying the report are country profiles on the Czech Republic, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US.

Advancing Past “Baseload” to a Flexible Grid, Brattle Group, June 2017. (Pdf)

This 42-page report for the Natural Resources Defense Council outlines why the use of the term “baseload” generation promoted by the coal and nuclear industry is no longer helpful for planning and running a rapidly evolving electricity system. (A Twitter synopsis is here.)

Communicating climate change in India, Climate Action Network International / Climate Action Network South Asia, June 2017. (Pdf)

This 45-page study details the results of communications workshops exploring effective communication messages in India on climate and related issues such as coal and pollution.