USA and China beat the EU to ratifying Paris Climate Accord
The USA and China have jointly ratified the Paris Climate Accord. Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping delivered their ratifications to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 3 before a meeting of the Group of 20 in China in a major step forward for the global agreement, which requires 55 countries (accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions) to ratify it before it comes into force. Mr Ki-moon says he is now optimistic that will take place by as early as the end of this year. China emits around 25% of anthropocentric greenhouse gas emissions, and the US 15%, making them the two biggest emitters of the pollutants, and therefore especially important. Environmental groups welcomed the ratifications, agreeing with Mr Obama’s statement that it was “the moment we finally decided to save our planet.” But implementation of the agreement, and its further ratification by other countries, will not be plain sailing. In the US there is uncertainty as to whether the goals of the Accord can be met without legislation (the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is already having some trouble being implemented through regulations to existing legislation), and the results of this years’ presidential elections are certain to influence the Accord’s implementation. Meanwhile, the EU faces some difficulty in ratifying the Accord, with Poland seeking an allowance for free emissions permits for its power sector – which fires coal for 90% of its electricity – before agreeing to ratification of a parallel agreement reached in Doha in 2012 regarding emissions limits for between 2013 and 2020. This may influence its ratification of the Paris Accord, though Poland has said it wants it ratified as soon as possible. Such a ‘soon as possible’ ratification is also the UK’s position, although the new Minister of Climate Change, Nick Hurd, has said that the government may not release its plan on reducing carbon emissions up to 2030 until next year, instead of the originally-intended release this year.
G20 pledges to address steelmaking overcapacity
Another story emanating from the G20 was the leaders’ pledge to manage the world’s excess steelmaking capacity, which stands at an incredible ~44%. Tensions have been simmering between significant steelmaking countries in recent years, with China, which has around half of the world’s steelmaking capacity, accused of dumping subsidised steel at very low prices on the world market, mounting severe economic pressure on non-Chinese steel firms. Although global steel production fell by 2.8% last year, there is still an estimated 700 million tonnes of excess annual capacity out of the world’s 1.6 billion tonnes of annual potential output. A proposal was put to the meeting to set up a global forum on the overcapacity issue that would report to the meeting of the G20 next year, but the proposal has not yet been agreed, with steelmakers saying that any forum would require the presence of Chinese companies. Nevertheless, global steelmakers welcomed the idea of a global forum, but with such huge overcapacity, it appears doubtful that consensus will be able to be reached on action to fully address the problem. Some progress may be achieved, but it seems inevitable that countries will mix such progress with trade protections of their domestic industries.
US DOE stands behind CCS and coal gasification development
The U.S. Department of Energy last month reaffirmed its commitment to clean coal technology development, after Mississippi Power, which is building the CCS-equipped, coal-fired Kemper County plant, announced that it was delaying its full start-up by a month, in doing so raising the capital cost by US$43 million (€38 million). The plant is now to be opened 31 October this year, around two years after its original intended starting date in 2014, while the original budget of US$2.2 billion (€1.96 billion) has ballooned out to US$6.5 billion (€5.78 billion). Such blowouts inevitably raise questions about the final potential of new technologies, but the DOE has said this is to be expected, stating “First-of-a-kind projects, like Kemper and other CCS projects, are more likely to exceed original estimates because there are no comparisons available at the onset of planning.” Kemper is doubly innovative, using coal gasification technology to produce a syngas, and coupling it with down-stream carbon capture and storage. The gasification component allows for the capturing of ammonia and sulphuric acid, while the captured CO2 will be used for enhanced oil recovery, giving the plant three additional income streams (which one would think are going to be needed). The whole system (which is already producing electricity, without CCS, by firing natural gas) is expected to produce 65% lower CO2 emissions than a standard coal-fired plant. In a positive development, Southern Company, which owns Mississippi Power, has already signed six agreements with other companies looking to develop clean coal technologies, a sign that, despite the scheduling and cost blowouts, there is worldwide demand for such technology.
Japanese city of Saga reusing captured waste incineration carbon dioxide in farming
A different approach to carbon dioxide has been taken by the city of Saga, Japan, where carbon capture technology has been integrated into a municipal waste incineration plant for the purpose of utilizing the by-product as a fertilizer in nearby farmlands. Using Toshiba’s CCS technology, which employs a low-temperature amine-based absorbent tower to capture the CO2 from flue gas, followed by a high-temperature stripper to extract purified CO2, the plant captures 9.1 tonnes of CO2/d (10 US tons). The city has built a special pipeline to carry the gas to the farmlands, and reportedly charges around US$300/ton (€294/metric tonne) for the CO2. With the entire project costing US$15 million (€13.3 million), this would equate to a 13.7-year payoff period (with no consideration of interest rates or the discounting the future value of money), although operational costs have not been taken into account (nor, on the positive side, the price of carbon emissions). The project stands as an innovative development which is sure to attract the attention of municipalities around the world.
Circulating fluidized bed technology turns 40
This year marks 40 years since the filing of the most important patents in the development of circulating fluidized bed technology, and back in June, Doosan Lentjes celebrated the milestone with lectures and panel discussions featuring many of the world’s leading CFB engineering and operations experts. One of Doosan Lentjes’ predecessor companies, LURGI GmbH, was where Prof Dr Lothar Reh was working as director of R&D when he pioneered the technology, hence Doosan’s special celebration of the anniversary. Prof Dr Reh himself attended the event, which also discussed the future of CFBs, expected to be bright due to the technology’s ability to flexibly fire a range of fuels with low emissions. Prof Dr Reh was closely involved with IFRF in the 1970s as Lurgi developed other industrial processes and became President of the German National Committee (DVV) from 1978 to 1981.
E.ON successfully spins off traditional power generation through Uniper
E.ON has completed the spin-off of its commodity trading, conventional power generation and Russian energy exploration and production business into the company Uniper, which debuted on the German stock exchange on 12 September, on schedule. Uniper began operating independently in January this year, after E.ON took the strategic decision that it would focus on renewable energies, following the German shift away from fossil fuel firing and nuclear power. Uniper, based in Dusseldorf as opposed to E.ON’s Essen, had a solid start to trading, being valued at €3.95 billion ($US4.43 billion) around an hour after being listed, and attracting interest from a broad range of investors, to the extent that Uniper CEO Klaus Schaefer said: “We’ve seen enough demand over the last week that we know that we’ll have our investor base on a stable basis going forward.” E.ON holds a 47% stake in Uniper.
Zorlu Energy in discussions to build 6 GW of generation capacity in Iran
Turkish power company Zorlu Enerji is in talks with the Iranian government regarding the building of a sizeable amount of gas-fired generation capacity in Iran, according to Bloomberg. Following the lead of Unit International, the Turkish company which earlier this year agreed a deal with the Iranian government to build around 6 GW of gas-fired power, Zorlu Enerji is considering a similar investment around the US$4 billion mark (€3.56 billion) for a similar amount of generation capacity. A firmer plan may be released later this year after further negotiation, and when and if a minor partner is found. For Iran, it would be another major step forward in domestic development after economic sanctions were lifted in January this year.
Eggborough plans for new gas-fired plant
Eggborough Power Ltd has announced plans to build a new 2,000 MW combined cycle gas turbine plant on the site of its existing coal-fired plant in Eggborough, East Yorkshire, UK. The current 1,960 MW plant, which is capable of co-firing biomass, was opened in 1966, and will be demolished to make way for the new plant. Eggborough Power must first apply for and receive development consent order for the new plant, which if constructed is expected to be complete in 2022.