The elephant in Adani’s room
The status of a new elephant reserve in the biodiverse Hasdeo forests in central India, also home to tribal people, such as the Gond, could determine whether dozens of coal projects go ahead, writes Geoff Law in Adani Watch.
“Hard-to-abate” must not become code for delaying steel decarbonisation
Some steel companies’ decarbonisation efforts over the next decade are often little more than tinkering with existing coal-based technology, with the majority of decarbonisation efforts earmarked for the longer term, writes Simon Nicholas from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis.
Botswana’s mining titles database reveals fossil fuels interest in the Kalahari game reserve
There is a scramble for coal, oil and gas in Botswana, much of it centred on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, writes [registration required] Ed Stoddard in the Daily Maverick.
Power cuts in South Africa are playing havoc with the country’s water system
One of the biggest casualties of more than a decade of severe power outages has been the country’s water processing and distribution networks, writes Anja du Plessis from the University of South Africa in The Conversation.
Colombia rules out issuing new permits for open-cut mines: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Colombia’s Minister for Mines and Energy, Irene Velez, said that no new permits would be granted for open-cut mines or oil and gas exploration licenses. Velez said that the government expected that coal importers are likely to reduce orders in the near term. Alvaro Pardo, the head of Agencia Nacional de Mineria, Colombia’s mining regulator, said it is expected that the current high international thermal coal prices will decline in the next few years. Velez said there is a need to urgently develop alternative industries, with President Gustavo Petro endorsing her comments and backing an emphasis on tourism and clean energy. Colombia is the world’s fifth largest exporter of thermal coal, with the sector dominated by production from Glencore’s Cerrejon mines. (BNAmericas, Guardian)
International coalition calls for release of Vietnamese NGO leader: Global Witness and a coalition of international NGOs have called on the Vietnamese Government to release prominent environmental lawyer Dang Dinh Bach from prison. Bach has served one year of a five-year sentence on “tax evasion” charges. Bach was the founder of the Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Centre and led a campaign to reduce Vietnam’s reliance on coal power. The coalition has called on the G7 governments providing financial support for Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership to support the release of Bach and other imprisoned environmental leaders. (Global Witness)
Trial of former Ohio Republicans begins over secret utility funds: Federal prosecutors allege that the US$61 million scheme hatched between former Republican MP Larry Householder and FirstEnergy executives to pass a bailout bill in return for campaign funding was devised in January 2017 on a trip to Washington to attend the inauguration of President Trump. “They sat down, and they discussed Householder’s Speaker plans, his financial needs and then to assess what FirstEnergy needed,” said Emily Glatfelter, the lead federal prosecutor. She told the court that FirstEnergy executives insisted that “the money had to be non-disclosable.” Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges have been charged with racketeering. Both have plead not guilty. At the centre of the scandal is FirstEnergy’s funding to Householder-linked groups in return for pushing through a bill that provided over US$1 billion bailout to two nuclear plants, two coal plants and gutted the state’s energy efficiency standards. A pre-trial submission by federal prosecutors revealed that funds from FirstEnergy were routed through two dark-money groups but were ultimately used to fund Householder’s campaign to help defeat Kevin Black, his Republican primary opponent. (Cleveland.com, Guardian, Energy and Policy Institute)
China persuades Pakistan to backflip on Gwadar coal plant: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has agreed to reverse his government’s decision to change the proposed 300 megawatt (MW) Gwadar coal power plant from using expensive imported coal to lignite from Thar province. The Chinese government, which had agreed to fund the coal plant as a project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor scheme, opposed changing the project to run on domestic coal. The Pakistan Government had also proposed providing power to the proposed Gwadar Port industrial development zone from a solar project, but this was opposed by the China Communication Construction Group (CCC), a Chinese state-owned firm developing the coal plant. On a trip to Beijing in early November to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Sharif agreed to support CCC’s plan to proceed with the original plan. Pakistan coal plants reliant on imported coal were hit by soaring coal prices in 2022, leading to curtailed operations and triggering blackouts. (Business Recorder) Global Energy Monitor)
Eskom says new coal plant problems have exacerbated load shedding: Eskom has revealed that the October 2022 collapse of a flue duct at the World Bank-backed Kusile coal plant was due to a design flaw in a boiler that led to the excessive build-up of slurry and also affected the operation of the flue gas desulphurization unit. Eskom said the collapse also compromised the adjoining units 2 and 3, rendering them all inoperable. Eskom said that the utility has lost 2160 MW of capacity due to the flaw. Eskom’s capacity to meet demand has also been affected by an August 2021 explosion at Unit 4 of the 720 MW Medupi 4. The damage is not scheduled to be rectified until August 2024. Eskom said the problems at the two plants has made load-shedding restrictions three stages worse than would otherwise be the case. Under Eskom’s load-shedding schedule, each stage represents an additional 1000 MW cut from supply with increased duration and frequency until generation can cater for demand. Under stage 3 load-shedding, the electricity supply can be cut nine times over four days for two hours or nine times over eight days for four hours. Eskom is proposing to build temporary flues for the three units at the Kusile plant over the next year while the common chimney is repaired. It will seek approval from the Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Forestry to operate the temporary diversion without requiring the operation of the flue gas desulphurisation unit. (Eskom, Global Energy Monitor)
Queensland coal mines discharge untreated mine water after heavy rains: Lock the Gate, a group defending farmlands against coal mining and coal seam gas projects, has accused the Queensland Government of allowing major Central Queensland coal mines to release billions of litres of water with elevated salt levels into the catchment of the Great Barrier Reef. The group said the Kestrel coal mine, owned by EMR Capital and the Indonesian PT Adaro Energy, discharged mine water with a salt content of 5580 micro siemens per centimetre (μS/cm) into Crinum Creek. It said the creek’s background salinity level was just 250μS/cm. Six coal mines are currently discharging polluted mine water into the Fitzroy River catchment after recent heavy rainfall. Lock the Gate said the government should force the companies to reuse their water onsite after significant rainfall events rather than dump untreated mine water into the river systems. (Lock the Gate, Department of Environment and Science)
Romania backtracks on decarbonisation plan: The Romanian Government has approved plans by the state-owned power utility CE Oltenia to expand production at its Timișeni-Pinoasa lignite mine to 8 million tons per year and clear a further 106 hectares of forest. CEE Bankwatch Network argues the mid-January decision is contrary to the decarbonisation commitments Romania committed to in December in its National Recovery and Resilience Plan to gain approval for European Union (EU) funding. Two weeks after amending the plan to address EU concerns, the government decided to delay the closure of the Rovinari 3 and Turceni 7 lignite units from 31 December 2022 to 30 October 2023. The units have a combined capacity of 660 MW. Neighbouring Bulgaria has also recently delayed the closure of polluting coal plants after receiving EU funding under the provisions of its National Recovery and Resilience Plan. (Balkan Green Energy News, Bankwatch)
US lignite industry group pushes to gut Minnesota transition bill: The Lignite Energy Council (LEC), a lobby group for lignite mining companies and power utilities, is campaigning to weaken a Minnesota bill requiring the state’s utilities to transition to 100 per cent clean electricity by 2040. A LEC front group, the “Coalition for a Secure Energy Future”, is promoting the inclusion of carbon capture and storage, large hydro and nuclear in the bill, projects that could undercut the deployment of wind and solar. The coalition has in recent years received over US$4 million from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, a government agency, with the funding provided to “enhance the image of lignite-based power.” Public records indicate that the LEC has continued to receive funding for the public affairs campaign. In 2022 LEC’s Political Fund provided contributions to 35 political candidates, all of them Republican. (Energy and Policy Institute)
Indian Government approves expansion of Goa coal port: Community activists have reacted with dismay after the Ministry of Environment and Forests granted an environmental clearance certificate for South West Port’s proposed expansion of the Mormugao Port in Goa. The expansion was previously banned in 2017 by the National Green Tribunal until the Goa state government finalised a coastal zone management plan for the area. The plan was recently completed. Over the last decade, there has been strong community resistance to proposals by Jindal Group and Adani subsidiaries to expand coal operations through the port and pollution from current operations. A spokesperson for Goa Against Coal, Olencio Simoes, said pollution in Vasco da Gama near the port district is already unacceptable and called for the permit to be revoked. (Hindustan Times, Global Energy Monitor)
Australia: Data from the national energy regulator reveals the wholesale power prices in the most coal-dependent states of NSW and Queensland were almost twice the level of South Australia and Victoria, where renewables pushed prices down.
Australia: The Panamanian coal ship Frontier Unity had seven metres of water flood its engine room while at anchor off the Hay Point Coal terminal after repair work by commercial divers.
Philippines: NGOs have filed a petition with the Supreme Court to overturn a 2017 Executive Order by former President Rodrigo Dueterte that allowed the fast-tracking of proposed coal and gas plants as “projects of national significance”.
Slovenia: Premogovnik Velenje has requested a 20-year extension of the mining rights of the Velenje lignite mine.
South Africa: Coal-to-liquids company has signed two power purchase agreements for 220 MW of wind capacity for its Secunda operations and 69 MW of wind capacity for green hydrogen production Sasolburg plant.
UK Government offers funds to shift UK steel industry away from coal: The UK Government has proposed £600 million (US$743 million) in grant funding for Tata Steel and British Steel to replace coal-based blast furnaces with electric arc furnaces processing scrap steel. The two companies have reportedly requested £2 billion (US$2.48 billion) in government support to assist in converting the four blast furnaces. The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has agreed to consult with the industry on the possibility of implementing a carbon border tax on the carbon emissions of steel imported from countries with lower environmental standards. In December, the UK government approved West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven metallurgical coal mine partly because it would supply the local steel industry, a claim disputed by environmental groups. (BBC, Financial Times)
Data reveals Indian renewables expansion will avoid coal costs: Data from Global Energy Monitor’s (GEM) solar and wind power trackers reveals that India’s plan to build 76,000 MW of utility-scale solar and wind power by 2025 could lead to a saving of US$19.5 billion a year on avoided costs of coal. The data indicate that the construction of the proposed renewable capacity would displace the consumption of about 78 million tonnes of coal and replace about 32,000 MW of coal capacity. India has proposed the construction of 420,000 MW of new renewables by 2030. (Business Today, Global Energy Monitor)
Another major Japanese utility seeks to increase power prices: The Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) is seeking approval from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for a 29.31 per cent power price increase for households from June 1, 2023. TEPCO blames the “sharp rise in the price of coal, particularly compared to other fuels” as a significant cause of the dramatic increase in its fuel costs. TEPCO expects it will report a 505 billion yen loss for the 2022 financial year to the end of March for its electricity retailing arm, with the parent company providing 300 billion yen in capital to shore up its financial position. Compounding the impact of rising fossil fuel costs has been the depreciation of the Japanese yen against the US dollar. Five other major Japanese utilities have applied for power price increases between 28 per cent and 48 per cent. (Reuters, TEPCO)
Report urges steel industry to press miners to cut methane emissions: Ember, a UK-based climate policy think tank, has called on steel companies globally to only source coal from mining companies with a net-zero compatible plan to reduce coal mine methane. The report argues the coal from the highest emitting coal seams can double the climate impact of steel compared to steel produced with little or no coal. Ember argues some coal seams are so methane rich they should not be mined. The International Energy Agency estimates metallurgical coal mines produced about 11.98 million tonnes of methane in 2021. Ember states this is equivalent to 988 million tonnes of carbon dioxide using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 82.5 multiplier for methane’s 20-year climate impact compared to carbon dioxide. Ember estimates that accounting for coal mine methane adds about 27 per cent to the global heating impact of steel production. The report notes that China’s low adoption of steel production from scrap-based electric arc furnaces, which uses about 64 times less coal than blast furnace production, is one of the key factors keeping coal mine methane emissions at high levels. (Ember)
South African President pushes Eskom to axe power price rise: Speaking at an African National Congress party conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had asked Eskom to cancel an 18.65 per cent tariff hike. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) approved an 18.6 per cent increase in Eskom power prices from April 1, with a further 12.74 per cent increase in 2024. The NERSA decision has led to protests and threats of legal action. Ramaphosa said the power price increase should not proceed while customers suffer from prolonged load-shedding that the utility says could run for another two years. “Many people are reporting that their businesses are failing because of load shedding,” Ramaphosa told the conference. Eskom sought the power price increase to cover the increased fuel costs and maintenance on its fleet of unreliable coal plants. Ramaphosa is also under pressure to block the bid to shift responsibility for Eskom to the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. The agency’s minister, Gwede Mantashe, complained that there are moves to split the ministry and leave him with the mining portfolio and appoint a new minister for energy with responsibility for Eskom. Mantashe is well known for his pro-coal views and criticisms of the need to transition to renewables. (News24, Daily Maverick, News24)
Turkey unveils a hydrogen plan that touts lignite gasification: The Turkish Government has released a Hydrogen Technology Strategy and Roadmap that includes support for the production of hydrogen and synthetic methane from the country’s low-grade lignite resources. The strategy includes support for developing hydrogen projects based on gas and lignite and suggests that despite coal having the highest emissions of competing technologies, it could be one of the cheapest sources of hydrogen and could be deployed to almost 2040. (Hydrogen Insight, Hydrogen Technology Strategy and Roadmap [Turkish, Pdf])
US electricity generation from coal keeps falling: The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates coal generation will decline from 20 per cent in 2022 to 17 per cent in 2024 as solar and wind generation increases, with an estimated 14,000 MW of coal plant capacity slated for retirement over the period. The EIA estimates utility-scale solar and wind generation will increase from 14 per cent of electricity generation in 2022 to 18 per cent in 2024. In 2018 utility-scale wind and solar accounted for just eight per cent of electricity generation. The agency estimates the increase in renewable generation will cut the share of electricity from gas by two per cent by 2024, as much of the growth in utility-scale renewables is in California and Texas, where gas is the primary source of generation. It also estimates that US coal production will decline from 588 million US short tons (533 million tonnes) to about 500 million US short tons (454 million tonnes. (S & P Global, US Energy Information Administration [Pdf])
The Sacrificial Valley: Coal’s legacy to the Hunter, Bad Apple Press, 2022. A$25. (The Kindle version is available via Amazon for A$7.99).
This 242-page book by longtime resident John Drinan provides an overview of the rapid growth and impacts of coal mining in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia and envisages a future after the mines have closed.