Petra Nova, world’s largest post-combustion CCS project, officially opens
The world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture and storage project, Petra Nova, has officially opened at NRG’s WA Parish generating station southwest of Houston, Texas, USA. The 50/50 joint venture between NRG and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration retrofit the CCS technology to a 240 MW coal-fired unit, and captures 90% of CO2 from the flue gas, piping it 130 kilometres to the West Ranch oil field for use in enhanced oil recovery. Testing of the facility began in September last year and ran until the end of December, meeting all performance criteria. The facility uses Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and Kansai Electric Power Co’s KM-CDR process and its proprietary KS-1 high-performance solvent, and can capture up to around 4,500 tonnes of CO2/day. The project was completed on-budget and on-schedule. Hilcorp, the operator of West Ranch oilfield, and the University Of Texas Bureau Of Economic Geology will monitor the movement of the stored CO2, as well as groundwater, in the oil reservoir over time. Altogether, the project is a boost for CCS worldwide.
Extreme cold in Europe disrupts power systems
Extended extreme cold weather across Europe has given power utilities major headaches and left consumers facing a lack of power and heating. In Bulgaria, hydropower output fell steeply after the Danube partly froze, which also forced the suspension of oil tanker traffic in Germany and Hungary, while a blizzard damaged the 700-megawatt Cernavoda-1 reactor in Romania, causing it to be shut down twice. In Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania, villages without power were evacuated by emergency services. Meanwhile, demand for electricity across South-East Europe was around 15-20% higher than average for the time of year, sending prices spiralling, as fuel prices also surged. Romania warned it had only two weeks of coal reserves. As Bloomberg reports, utilities have been caught off guard by the cold weather, being much colder and more extended than long-range forecasts predicted. Zach Allen, president of Pan Eurasian Enterprises, which consults to the power industry, said of the forecasts “The Black Swan is your constant companion,” referring to the theory of surprise events proposed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Harvard-Greenpeace study finds new Asian coal plants will add 50,000 deaths per year
A study by Harvard University and Greenpeace International has found that, if South-East Asia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan were to open no new coal-fired power plants between now and 2030, 50,000 deaths would be averted per year. It is estimated that coal firing is currently responsible for around 20,000 deaths annually in the study area; the researchers used available information on planned power stations to come to their projection of additional deaths, utilising an atmospheric model. The study area is expected to see a rise in electricity demand of 83% (from 2011 levels) to 2030, much of it coming from coal-firing, raising emissions from coal firing by around three times. Indonesia and Vietnam are the two countries predicted to see the highest increases. It is presumed that the study did not take into account the possible life saving measures that the availability of electricity could bring, though other, cleaner, generation means might also provide such benefits.
Argentinian government pursuing shale gas development
Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, has declared a new era for the country’s energy sector, after agreeing a deal with oil companies (including Chevron, Dow, BP, Shell and Total, as well as Argentina’s own YPF) to encourage up to US$15 billion (€14 billion) per year in investment in shale gas exploration and extraction. The oddly named Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow) shale region, which covers an area about the size of Belgium in the south of Argentina, is the second largest shale gas reserve in the world, and the national government sees it as an opportunity to emulate the North American shale boom. The deal between the government and oil companies involves elimination of duties on exported oil and its products and the extension of subsidies which allow gas to be sold at three times the international price. Unions have also agreed to more business-friendly working conditions (i.e. lower wages), presumably with the shrinking economy (which contracted by 3.8% in the third quarter of last year) at the forefront in their thinking.
Gazan electricity crisis given temporary reprieve by Qatar
Reuters has reported on the electricity crisis that has been facing the Gaza Strip in recent weeks. Gaza’s sole, damaged and aging power plant generates around 30 MW of power (about 50% of its design capacity), while 30 MW is imported from Egypt and 120 MW from Israel. The 180 MW total is far below the 450-500 MW of demand from the ~1.8 million Gazans living in the area, meaning electricity is usually only supplied for part of the day, but in recent weeks that has been down to a few hours. Part of the problem could be described as financial: the local power plant cannot raise any credit to buy fuel, having around US$1 billion (€940 million) of unpaid consumer bills. The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority usually pays for the power supplied from Egypt and Israel, but is facing financial problems of its own, and has not been able to continue to pay the full amounts for power. Temporary relief has come from Qatar, which has donated US$12 million to buy fuel for a third generator at the local power plant, which will allow for electricity supply for eight hours a day for three months.
New tool launches to assess oil, gas and electricity companies’ carbon performance
A new tool developed by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics has been launched by investment arms of the Church of England, the UK’s Environment Agency Pension Fund, and five financial management companies, with the purpose of informing investors of the carbon performance of oil, gas, and electricity companies. The tool uses two ranking measures for a particular company: how management is dealing with climate change risks, and how effective measures to reduce carbon footprints are. The tool, called the Transition Pathway Initiative, gives Shell, Eni, Enel, Entergy Corp, XCEL Energy, Woodside Petroleum, and Iberdrola top rankings for managing climate change risks, while US shale producers are amongst the worst performers. Rankings for carbon reduction performance are not yet available. It will be interesting to see if the boardroom pressure the tool is supposed to elicit emerges and is effective.
Carbon capture and reuse system to be installed in Canadian pulp mill
At an altogether different scale to Petra Nova, a Canadian softwood kraft pulp mill owned by Resolute Forest Products Inc, a subsidiary of Fibrek General Partnership, has engaged CO2 Solutions to install a carbon capture system capable of capturing 30 tonnes of CO2 per day. The CAN$7.4 million (US$5.2 million/€5.3 million) system is partly funded by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (CAN$2.4 million) and Quebec’s Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (CAN$3.0 million), and will involve piping captured carbon dioxide to a nearby vegetable greenhouse, owned by Serres Toundra Inc, to enhance the vegetable yield. Consulting engineering firm BBA is also involved in the project, which is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Enel focusing on renewable power opportunities in Middle East
Bloomberg has reported on the strategic positioning of Enel, which last year reincorporated its renewable energy business, Enel Green Power, into the main power generation company. Francesco Starace, Enel’s CEO, has set a goal of cutting its fossil fuel-fired generation capacity by 39% by the end of 2019, and, like other major European power utilities, is concentrating the company on renewable energy. One geographical area for growth in renewables is the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia last month announcing that it plans to add 10 GW of renewable power generation in the next five years, and Enel is hoping to tap into the market, having recently signed a power grid upgrade deal with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. Of particular interest to Enel are the (currently) more stable Middle Eastern countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as Oman. Despite investment in green energy dropping 18% globally in 2016 (mainly due to reductions in China and Japan), the strategy appears a sound one.