Wednesday, June 7, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: New Coal Revolution May Change Everything

The New-Generation Coal Boom

In this newsletter:

1) New Coal Revolution May Change Everything
Nikkei Asian Review, 6 June 2017 
2) The New-Generation Coal Boom
The Australian, 25 January 2017 
3) Forget Paris: India Halves Tax On Coal, Increases Tax On Solar Panels
Reuters, 25 May 2017 

4) Energy Superpower USA: More Than 500 Years Worth Of Coal Reserves
U.S. Energy Information Administration
5) CCS Doesn’t Work: Expensive Technology Suffers New Setback
Fox Business News, 5 June 2017
6) Energy Superpower USA:  World’s Top Producer Of Petroleum And Natural Gas Hydrocarbons
U.S. Energy Information Administration, 7 June 2017
7) Reality Check: Ocean Life More Resistant To Global Warming Than Thought
University of Aberdeen, 6 June 2017

Full details:

1) New Coal Revolution May Change Everything
Nikkei Asian Review, 6 June 2017 
Ken Sakakibara

TOKYO — Fresh technology developed in Japan may be about to swing the global energy pendulum back toward coal, by turning the old fossil fuel into a much cleaner energy source.

With India and other emerging economies expected to increase their use of the still-abundant black rock, the new technology could help keep their carbon dioxide emissions in check.

Extra efficiency

A 75-meter-tall iron structure on Osakikamijima, an island with a population of less than 8,000 and full of blueberry and tangerine fields in western Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, is a demonstration plant for coal-fired power generation featuring the world’s least environmental load. It was built by Osaki CoolGen, a joint venture equally owned by Electric Power Development, known as J-Power, and Chugoku Electric Power, adopting an integrated coal gasification fuel cell combined cycle, dubbed IGFC, for the first time in the world.

While there already are coal-fired power generation plants boasting high efficiency, the demonstration plant, which Osaki CoolGen began operating at the end of March, far outpaces the competition.

The plant “is 30% more efficient in power generation than the most advanced coal-fired power generation plant in Japan and reduces the generation of CO2 by 30%,” Kenji Aiso, president of Osaki CoolGen, said.

Compared with typical coal-fired power plants in the world, the demonstration plant cuts the emission of CO2 per power output by about 40%.

Here is how it works.

For conventional coal-fired power generation, heat from coal burned at a temperature of around 700 C produces steam, which rotates a turbine.

CoolGen’s plant is totally different as it roasts coal at above 1,300 C while simultaneously blowing oxygen over it in order to convert the solid fuel into a gas. The system can drastically cut the discharge of CO2 because it uses gas from the roasted coal to generate power instead of burning the rock.

The plant also makes use of exhaust heat, generated when power is produced, for power generation. In addition, it has a fuel cell power generation facility that extracts hydrogen from some of the gas and forces a reaction with oxygen to create electricity.

Using three energy sources — gas, exhaust heat and hydrogen — the plant can maximize some 55% of coal’s energy for power generation, compared with up to 40% for conventional coal-fired power generation stations.

Renewed look

Coal is much cheaper than other fossil fuels. Compared with liquefied natural gas and oil, it is priced roughly half and one-third per caloric unit, respectively.

The cost of building a CoolGen plant is estimated to be about 20% higher than that for conventional coal-fired plants. But it will be economically more advantageous than plants using LNG or oil for power generation as long as the price gaps continue.

In addition, a CoolGen plant can use low-quality coal, which is cheaper than standard coal, because it gasifies the fuel.

Existing coal-fired power plants are estimated to emit twice as much CO2 as standard LNG-based plants. Although coal is cheaper, the construction of conventional coal-fired plants is prohibited in principle in Japan for the sake of curbing CO2 emissions.

But the situation is different overseas. The International Energy Agency forecasts that coal-fired power plants in the world will generate a total of 2.4 billion kilowatts in 2040, up from nearly 1.9 billion in 2014.

Coal-fired power generation is forecast to rise sharply because the use of inexpensive coal is expected to increase in emerging economies and other developing countries to meet growing demand for electricity, although the use of natural gas, which emits less CO2, and renewable energy sources in place of coal is expanding in advanced economies. The use of coal in India is expected to treble during the period.

IGFC is the “fruit of Japan’s coal technologies,” CoolGen’s Aiso said.
In fact, the system is the result of technological developments achieved by Japanese companies in a bid to grab new business opportunities overseas, such as gasification furnaces and power generation facilities by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, gas purification systems by JGC and pretreatment of coal by Diamond Engineering in Uozu, in Toyama Prefecture in central Japan.

Osaki CoolGen will operate the demonstration plant on Osakikamijima for more than 5,000 hours. If the demonstration proves successful, it will make commercial use of the technology in the first half of the 2020s.

The plant is already attracting interest from abroad. The small island is busy hosting inspection tours to the plant from coal-producing nations like Poland and Australia and Southeast Asian, African and other countries where demand for energy is soaring.

Full story

2) The New-Generation Coal Boom
The Australian, 25 January 2017
Graham Lloyd

The new-generation, high-efficiency coal plants produce half the carbon dioxide emissions of existing ones, making them comparable with gas.



When the power went out in South Australia in September, linking renewable energy to concerns about electricity reliability, it lit the fuse on something unthinkable only a short time before — a return of coal.

As governments grow frustrated by tight gas supplies because of new exports and moratoriums on exploration, the numbers are being done on a new generation of supercritical coal plants of the sort being built by the thousands overseas.

In what has become a pincer movement on renewables, Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has been hammering state governments to abolish parochial renewable energy targets and lift moratoriums on conventional and unconventional gas exploration. Mining Minister Matt Canavan has followed up with calls that Australia stick with coal.

By all reasonable projections, coal will remain the backbone of Australia’s, indeed the world’s, electricity supply for decades to come. With the debate framed, Malcolm Turnbull said Australia should be a world leader in demonstrating that carbon emissions can be lowered by replacing ageing electricity generators with new technologies to produce cleaner coal.

As the world’s largest coal exporter, it would be in Australia’s economic interest to do so.

Until now, few have publicly championed the construction of new-generation coal plants of the type being built to tackle pollution in China and to bring the first reliable supplies of electricity to many parts of South Asia and ­Africa.

New-generation coal plants are also being built in Germany and Japan as both battle to replace generation lost from nuclear.

And the number of projects could increase if US President Donald Trump delivers on his pledge to lift restrictions on US agencies funding new coal plants in other parts of the world.

Trump has highlighted gas and clean coal as the backbone of his energy policies, designed to reduce costs for manufacturing and break the US dependence on oil supplies from the Middle East.

The new-generation, high-efficiency coal plants produce half the carbon dioxide emissions of existing ones, making them comparable with gas.

If the emissions can be captured and stored, they are 90 per cent more efficient than the plants reaching the end of their productive life around the country. […]

The latest world outlook from the International Energy Agency has tipped annual Australian coal production to rise from 408 million tonnes two years ago to 467 million tonnes in 2040.

Slowing demand for coal in ­Europe and the US would be offset by increased demand in Asia and the developing world.

According to the IEA, this would fuel $104 billion worth of investment in coal supply in Australia to 2040, to cater to the expanding Asian demand.

The Minerals Council of Australia says there are more than 725 high-efficiency, low-emissions plants already in operation in East Asia alone.

A further 1100 plants are under construction or in the pipeline.

Full story

3) Forget Paris: India Halves Tax On Coal, Increases Tax On Solar Panels
Reuters, 25 May 2017

State-run Coal India Ltd, saddled with millions of tonnes of unsold coal, is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of a controversial government decision to more than halve the local sales tax on the fuel after a jump in local supplies.

The world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitting country said last Friday it would lower the duty on domestic coal from July 1 and impose a new 18 percent tax on solar cells and modules as part of a broader tax overhaul.

The moves are seen as helping boost sales of the fossil fuel mined locally and used mainly in thermal power plants. But imports of high-quality coal which are scarce in India and used in the steel making process by companies such as JSW Steel and Tata Steel will become expensive following changes to the duty structure.

The duty revamp under the national India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) could also hurt the young and booming solar power industry, which relies heavily on cells and modules imported from China.

Output by Coal India, the world’s largest coal miner that mainly produces low-grade coal for power companies, has expanded rapidly as the government speeds up environmental and other approvals as part of its efforts to provide electricity across the country. However, highly indebted power companies struggled to match the same growth rates.

Full story

4) Energy Superpower USA: US Holds More Than 500 Years Worth Of Coal Reserves
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Coal reserves at producing mines

Coal mining companies report to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) the amount of recoverable reserves at their U.S. coal mines that produced at least 25,000 short tons of coal (or 10,000 short tons of anthracite coal) in a year.

As of January 1, 2016, about 18.3 billion short tons of recoverable reserves were at producing mines.

The amount of coal reserves at producing mines is a small portion of the total amount of coal that exists in the United States.

How much coal is there?

The amount of much coal that exists in the United States is difficult to estimate because it is buried underground.

Total resources is EIA's best estimate of the total amount of coal (including undiscovered coal) in the United States. Total resources are estimated to be about 3.9 trillion short tons. Total resources includes several categories of coal with various degrees of geologic assurance and data reliability.

The Demonstrated Reserve Base (DRB) is the sum of coal in both measured and indicated resource categories of reliability. The DRB represents 100% of the in-place coal that could be mined commercially at a given time. EIA estimates that the DRB in 2015 was 477.1 billion short tons.

Estimated recoverable reserves include only the coal that can be mined with today's mining technology after considering accessibility constraints and recovery factors. EIA estimates that the United States has 254.9 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, about 53% of the DRB.

Based on U.S. coal production in 2015 of about 0.9 billion short tons, the U.S. estimated recoverable coal reserves would last about 283 years. The actual number of years that those reserves will last depends on changes in production and reserves estimates.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Coal Reserves, March 2017

What are international coal reserves?

As of December 31, 2014, estimates of total world proved recoverable reserves of coal were about 1,237 billion short tons, (or 1.2 trillion short tons).

Five countries had about 75% of the world's coal reserves:

United States—21%

5) CCS Doesn’t Work: Expensive Technology Suffers New Setback
Fox Business News, 5 June 2017

Southern Co.'s dream of a fully functional "clean coal" power plant is facing another setback.

The company said Monday that it would need to redesign and replace a critical component in its Kemper County, Miss., power plant in order for the plant to achieve "long-term sustained operations." The related engineering and construction could take 18 to 24 months, it said.

Southern is trying to build the first power plant of its kind, one able to burn coal and capture about 65% of the carbon-dioxide emissions. But the project has faced repeated delays and cost overruns, and since last year, as the facility began to test the equipment, it has experienced leaks and other problems that have pushed back when the facility would be fully operational.

The company's Mississippi Power unit, which is building the facility, said it has spent $5.9 billion on the power plant so far, and $7.5 billion on the plant, coal mines and pipelines to carry the captured carbon dioxide to oil companies, which would pump it underground to extract more crude oil from wells. In 2010, the facility was forecast to cost $3 billion to build.

Full story

6) Energy Superpower USA: The World’s Top Producer Of Petroleum And Natural Gas Hydrocarbons
U.S. Energy Information Administration, 7 June 2017

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

The United States remained the world's top producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2016 for the fifth straight year despite production declines for both petroleum and natural gas relative to their 2015 levels. The United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas since 2009, when U.S. natural gas production surpassed that of Russia, and it has been the world's top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013, when its production exceeded Saudi Arabia’s.

For the United States and Russia, total petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbon production in energy content terms is almost evenly split between petroleum and natural gas, while Saudi Arabia's production heavily favors petroleum. Total petroleum production is made up of several different types of liquid fuels, including crude oil and lease condensate, tight oil, extra-heavy oil, and bitumen. In addition, various processes produce natural gas plant liquids (NGPL), biofuels, and refinery processing gain, among other liquid fuels.

In the United States, crude oil and lease condensate accounted for roughly 60% of total petroleum hydrocarbon production in 2016. In Saudi Arabia and Russia, this share is much greater, as those countries produce lesser amounts of natural gas plant liquids, and they also have much smaller volumes of refinery gain and biofuels production. U.S. petroleum production fell by 300,000 barrels per day in 2016, as a result of relatively low oil prices.

Full post

7) Reality Check: Ocean Life More Resistant To Global Warming Than Thought
University of Aberdeen, 6 June 2017

A study by scientists at the University of Aberdeen has found that invertebrate life in the deep Arctic Ocean is more resilient to the effects of climate change than previously thought.

The shrinking sea ice cover in the Arctic has led to fears that the associated loss of ice algae - tiny algae growing in large numbers in and under the ice - would pose a serious risk to deep sea invertebrates such as clams, crustaceans and polychaete worms, that rely on them as an important food source.

However, research carried out in the Canadian Arctic has found that the creatures will happily feed on phytoplankton as an alternative food source, despite previous research suggesting a preference for ice algae.

The study, which has been published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS) journal, was co-authored by Anni Mäkelä and Professor Ursula Witte from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, and Professor Philippe Archambault from Laval University in Quebec.

Professor Witte said: “Arctic deep sea seafloor communities rely on ice algae and phytoplankton sinking from the surface waters for food.

“Summer sea ice loss is predicted to increase phytoplankton but reduce ice algal production, but ice algae are a higher quality food source and reach the seafloor communities earlier in the year when other food is scarce.

“Previous research has indicated that the animals preferentially eat the high quality ice algae, which would make them very vulnerable if this main food source was lost.

“However, by feeding the deep-sea fauna of the Canadian Arctic with both ice algae and phytoplankton, we have been able to show that they will happily feed on both, with no group exclusively preferring ice algae.

“Our research shows that Arctic deep sea animals are more resilient to changes in their food supply than previously thought – an unexpected finding that suggests they are adaptable to the challenges imposed by climate change.”

The study - Ice algae vs. phytoplankton: resource utilization by Arctic deep sea macroinfauna revealed through isotope labelling experiments – is available here

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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