Thursday, April 29, 2021

GWPF Newsletter: As US Democrats ban fracking in California, China's shale industry it taking off


Surprise: China doubles down on coal plants abroad despite carbon pledge at home

In this newsletter:

1) China doubles down on coal plants abroad despite carbon pledge at home
AFP, 27 April 2021

2) China’s shale industry is finally taking off, 17 April 2021

3) Russia, Iran & China jubilant as US Democrats ban fracking in California
GWPF & San Fransisco Chronicle, 25 April 2021

4) Russia tightens its grip on Europe's natural gas markets, 12 April 2021
5) Merkel vs Biden: Europe's new gas wars 
Associated Press, 27 April 2021

6) Dispute over Russian pipeline tests Biden’s Europe outreach
AP News, 24 April 2021
7) EU admits it can’t go 'Net Zero' without natural gas, 26 April 2021
8) And finally: Boris Johnson's transport plans threatened by his own climate agenda & the Paris Agreement
The Times, 27 April 2021

Full details:

1) Surprise: China doubles down on coal plants abroad despite carbon pledge at home
AFP, 27 April 2021

China will press ahead with its multi-billion-dollar financing of coal plants in developing countries, a top climate official said Tuesday, despite Beijing's stated aim of slashing carbon emissions.


In 2020, China opened three-quarters of the world's newly funded coal plants, according to the UK-based monitor CarbonBrief, and accounted for more than 80 percent of newly announced coal power projects.

At home, however, President Xi Jinping has pledged to wean China off coal with a peak carbon emissions target of 2030 - and achieve carbon neutrality thirty years later.
Those ambitious targets have been met with international praise.

But China's overseas drive shows the complexity of untwining the economic drivers of coal power from environmental concerns.

"We cannot simply say that we'll stop supporting coal-fired electricity plants in developing countries," Li Gao, head of the climate change office at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told reporters.

"Combating climate change is also about letting people in developing countries live good lives."
Echoing Xi's comments at a recent climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden, Li said poorer nations still need coal to power their economies.

"This is wholly in response to (foreign countries') actual needs, and we use very high standards (to build the plants)," he said.
Li also suggested that these countries were not sufficiently developed to be able to use renewable energy as their main sources of power.
China is the world's biggest polluter and emits a third of greenhouse gases globally.

It has also continued to fund dozens of coal plants abroad, from Zimbabwe to Indonesia, and environmentalists say they are set to produce more emissions than major developed nations.

China is making the overseas coal play as part of its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to fund infrastructure projects and increase its influence overseas.
Full story

2) China’s shale industry is finally taking off, 17 April 2021

During the first two months of 2021, the Chinese oil and gas giant Sinopec managed to bring 28 new shale gas wells on stream in the country. The company also announced that the shale gas production from its major Fuling field jumped by 20% compared to last year.



And despite the recent collapse in oil and gas prices, as well as the uncertainty brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, Sinopec remains optimistic on the future of shale gas. Its latest achievement was the completion of the first phase of a new shale field in Weirong, adding 1 billion cubic meters per day of shale capacity.  This series of breakthroughs reveal a more global trend: a possible revolution in the Chinese shale gas sector. But in a country traditionally relying on conventional gas resources, how realistic is this “shale boom”? 

A “coal to shale gas” switch? 
The share of natural gas in China’s total energy consumption reached a modest 8% in 2019. However, this figure is expected to climb as a result of China’s strategy to move away from coal, resulting in rising industrial and residential gas consumption. One of the drivers of the rise in gas production is likely to be shale gas, which represented 6% of total gas production in the country in 2019. 

Inspired by the fracking boom of the 2000s in the United States, China is eager to reproduce a similar trend domestically. Its proven geological reserves amount to 31 trillion cubic meters and are the world’s largest shale gas reserves, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Being the second country in the world to achieve shale gas commercialization, China expects its shale gas production to grow in the coming years, and already plans a 34 billion cubic meters output in 2021. To do so, it will rely on its main asset: the Sichuan basin, where it has bet on doubling shale gas production through 2025. 

After releasing a “Development Plan for Shale Gas'' in 2013, the Chinese government multiplied incentives to make the shale gas sector take off. Beijing did not hesitate to heavily invest in exploration projects: in total, $3,7 billion was dedicated to shale exploration projects. More recently, Beijing has also simplified regulations in the shale gas sector to attract investment flows and gave tax breaks of 30% to shale gas producers until 2023. 
Full post
3) Russia, Iran & China jubilant as US Democrats ban fracking in California
GWPF & San Fransisco Chronicle, 25 April 2021

The Democrat’s left-wing Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has announced to ban fracking, bowing to notorious campaigns by Russia and red-green activists who are opposed to shale development in the US. Russia's president Vladimir Putin must be laughing all the way to Gazprom and its bank.
California issues fracking ban from 2024

The move is set to make California the ‘first’ US state to set a date to phase out all oil extraction
New oil extraction will be banned from January 2024 in California.
Under the new regulation, the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management is expected to immediately set out the rules to halt the issuance of new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who announced the end in the issuance of new permits for fracturing, has also urged the California Air Resources Board to analyse pathways to phase out oil extraction across the state by no later than 2045.
Mr Newsom said: “The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day.
“As we move to swiftly decarbonise our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”

Full story
4) Russia tightens its grip on Europe's natural gas markets, 12 April 2021

Currently, 30 percent of the gas consumed in Europe comes from Russia. It is predicted that this could rise to 40 percent by 2040.

A much-used proverb says: a good neighbor is better than a distant friend. Nowhere is it more suitable than the EU’s position vis-a-vis its largest and most important neighbor: the Russian Federation. Current relations are the worst since the end of the Cold War. Despite the often rocky interaction, the European and Russian economies are highly complementary. This has led to a level of dependence that has become a problem for certain countries.
The complementarity of the economies has been mutually advantageous for decades: Russia exports vast volumes of raw materials and imports finished, often high-tech, machines. These exports primarily include energy products such as oil and natural gas. Also, after the annexation of Crimea sanctions were introduced that reduced Russia’s access to Europe's financial sector. Energy imports, however, have remained stable, except for the pandemic period, which is worrying to many European countries.
The level of dependence differs for each country. Due to historic reasons, Gazprom’s market share is the highest in Eastern Europe. The west and north, in contrast, have a far lower level of dependency where domestic production is higher (North Sea region) or nuclear is used in more abundance (France). Eastern Europe is, therefore, usually more vocal in its opposition to Russian energy deals.


Therefore, the EU has set out to strengthen the resilience of the market and reduce dependence on a single producer. First, new rules and legislation have been introduced to lessen the influence of energy companies and protect customers. Second, physical measures have been taken such as reverse flow capabilities and additional cross-border infrastructure between member states. Third, diversification has been another important tool to strengthen Europe’s position concerning producers. Despite these intentions, Russia will remain the most important exporter to Europe for decades.
According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, Russia's exports to the continent will remain growing and its market share will rise even further. Currently, 30 percent of the gas consumed in Europe can be traced to production locations in Siberia. The report predicts that this could rise to 40 percent by 2040.
The most important reason behind this rise is Europe’s rapidly decreasing domestic production that needs to be substituted. Also, Norway, the no. 2 exporter, will gradually reduce exports due to the natural decline of its fields. The country currently exports 110 bcm annually that will reduce to 100 bcm in 2025, and even 60 bcm by 2040.
Meanwhile, Russia's resource base is expanding partly due to global warming. The Arctic region, which is thought to contain $35 trillion of untapped oil and gas reserves, is increasingly accessible for exploration and production. Currently, an average of 650 bcm/year is produced that could rise to 750 bcm in 2025 and an astonishing 850 bcm by 2040. Of this amount 390 bcm, more than half could be destined for exports.

However, the path to energy dominance is not a certainty for Russia. There are several threats to its current position and future outlook that cannot be controlled by Moscow. First, Europe’s diversification policy has fostered some results notably in southeast Europe where gas from the Caspian is being pumped through the Southern Gas Corridor. Russia has been quick to respond with the construction of the Turk Stream pipeline.

Also, energy transition and decarbonization initiatives are rapidly gaining traction which could lessen demand for fossil fuels and hurt Russian exports to the continent. Despite the inauguration of the Power of Siberia pipeline to China, Europe remains Russia’s largest and most important customer by far. Therefore, Moscow is negotiating a second pipeline to China, this time from the Yamal region as insurance against dropping demand from Europe.

Nevertheless, Russia will do everything in its power to maintain its position as the income from energy is too important. Already its gas is the most competitive in Europe which means that in a race to the bottom Gazprom always wins. Furthermore, Moscow is not sitting idle as its looking for new export opportunities for products such as hydrogen. Therefore, Russia will remain an important exporter of energy for quite some time despite Europe’s best intentions.
5) Merkel vs Biden: Europe's new gas wars 
Associated Press, 27 April 2021

Nord Stream 2 has been the centre of a long-running dispute between the United States and Germany. Washington has criticised Nordstream 2 for potentially increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas but at the same time seeing it as reducing opportunities for US liquid natural gas exports to Europe.
Whilst eastern European states, especially Ukraine, fear the loss of pipeline transit taxes on Russian gas exports to Western and Central Europe via their transmission pipeline grids.Not surprisingly, Moscow’s treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and recent aggression towards Ukraine has not helped stem criticism of the Nordstream pipeline which is nearing completion.
German Chancellor Merkel defended the pipeline in a recent Council of Europe virtual conference noting that Nord Stream 2 is yet to be completed and that Russian natural gas exports arrive in Europe through other pipelines. These include the existing subsea Nord Stream One which brings Russian gas to Germany as well as pipelines passing through Poland, the Czech Republic and the Ukraine to German markets.
A defiant Merkel said “the gas delivered through Nord Stream 2, which isn’t yet flowing, is no worse than the gas from Nord Stream 1, that which flows through Ukraine and that which comes across Turkey from Russia.”

6) Dispute over Russian pipeline tests Biden’s Europe outreach
AP News, 24 April 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pressure is growing on President Joe Biden to take action to prevent the completion of a Russian gas pipeline to Europe that many fear will give the Kremlin significant leverage over U.S. partners and allies. 

Yet such action could provoke an enormous rift in trans-Atlantic relations, notably with Germany, at a time when Biden has made restoring good ties with Europe a priority.
As the Nord Stream 2 pipeline nears completion, U.S. lawmakers from both parties have stepped up demands on a reluctant White House to impose new sanctions on Russian and European companies to halt the project. But prospects of that happening would seem slim: Germany continues to support the project as it steps up consumption of natural gas, and the pipeline is roughly 95% finished.

Biden has said he opposes the pipeline, which is owned by Russian state company Gazprom, with investment from several European companies. He has been keen to portray himself as tough on Russian President Vladimir Putin while being a strong supporter of Eastern European countries like Poland and Ukraine that are dead set against it as it bypasses both.

Of potentially greater concern to the U.S., the Russia-to-Germany pipeline would increase Western Europe’s already heavy dependence on Russian energy while U.S.-Russian tensions are soaring over a number of issues, including Ukraine, election interference, cyber intrusions and the crackdown on opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his supporters.

At the same time, the administration is seeking broad European support, especially from Germany, the continent’s economic powerhouse, for its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, climate change measures and efforts to counter China’s increasingly global assertiveness. It’s not clear if sanctions targeting businesses from Germany and elsewhere would undermine efforts to advance those goals and repair relations that were frayed during Donald Trump’s presidency.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously signed off on legislation that would require the administration to either impose sanctions on 20 companies involved in the pipeline’s financing and construction or explain why they deserve exemptions. In January, the Trump administration hit several Russian firms and ships with penalties for their involvement, but Biden has not expanded the list.

The legislation was sponsored by vocal administration critic Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. But it also won support from some of Biden’s strongest Democratic foreign policy supporters in the Senate, like committee chair Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Chris Coons of Delaware and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

“I think, right now, as we see Putin trying to eliminate his biggest opposition leader, Navalny, in prison, the best shot we can make is to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, if we are going to get his attention,” Shaheen said.
Full story
7) EU admits it can’t go 'Net Zero' without natural gas, 26 April 2021
EU legislation will restore natural gas to its bridge-fuel status. This is an admission that it won’t be that easy for the EU to wean itself off fossil fuels completely.
Last week saw some much-needed good news for natural gas. The European Union signaled that it would include natural gas in its energy plans for the future, emissions and all. The not-so-good news is that speaking of emissions, the EU might oblige suppliers to minimize these as much as is possible.
In the early days of the rush to cut emissions, natural gas was hailed as what many called a bridge fuel, the bridge being between fossil fuels and renewable energy. Then, as the rush accelerated, the bridge-fuel status of natural gas began to be questioned, increasingly loudly.
While a lower emitter than coal or oil, gas was still an emitter, and many of the proponents of a net zero energy world became increasingly radical with the help of statistics that showed, for example, that U.S. emissions did not decline with the replacement of coal power plants with gas-fired plants because the output of these gas-fired plants—and their numbers—increased.

Gradually, gas became the third focal point of emissions-cutting efforts, almost on par with coal and oil. This is why the European Union’s decision to include natural gas in its brand new EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act. The weird-sounding document basically spells out what is green and what isn’t in a list for businesses and investors to peruse with a view to helping the EU along with its plans to become a net-zero emitter by 2050.

The piece of legislation, according to the EU, “introduces clear performance criteria for determining which economic activities make a substantial contribution to the Green Deal objectives. These criteria create a common language for businesses and investors, allowing them to communicate about green activities with increased credibility and helping them to navigate the transition already under way.”

While gas was not included in the list of green economic activities, the EU said it would be included in a separate document treating—and this is the important part—transitional activities. Put simply, the EU legislation will restore natural gas to its bridge-fuel status.

This is, in essence, an admission that it won’t be that easy for the EU to wean itself off fossil fuels completely. It is also a confirmation of what the vice president of the EU and person in charge of the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said earlier this year about gas and other fossil fuels.
Full story
8) And finally: Boris Johnson's transport plans threatened by his own climate agenda & the Paris Agreement
The Times, 27 April 2021

Major road building schemes including a tunnel close to Stonehenge are threatened by a new legal challenge that claims ministers are ignoring commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

High Court papers have been filed against the Department for Transport that could force the government to scale back plans to spend £27 billion on motorways and A-roads.

The challenge argues that existing roads policy — agreed in 2014 — fails to consider more recent legally binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This includes a commitment made under the Paris Agreement to cut carbon by 68 per cent by 2030 based on 1990 levels.

Last month Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, ruled out a formal review of the policy, with government lawyers arguing that changes were not needed. However, Transport Action Network, a campaign group, has lodged a new application for a judicial review in the High Court. Papers filed last Friday claim that Shapps’s decision was “unlawful” and are seeking to force the government into a review of the policy.

If the move succeeds it will place huge doubt over what the Conservatives have dubbed the country’s “largest ever” road building programme. The government has promised £27 billion for 52 major upgrades of the motorway and A-road network in England between 2020 and 2025.

Full story

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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