• Combustion Industry News

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

New carbon tax plan presented to Trump administration

Bloomberg has reported on moves by the Climate Leadership Council think-tank to influence the Trump administration’s approach to climate change, with a delegation from the CLC meeting Mr Trump’s top economic advisor, Gary Cohn, on 8 February to discuss its idea of a carbon tax. The tax would be placed on fossil fuel consumption, but the revenue would not go to the US Treasury; instead, it would flow to a program of the Social Security Administration, which would then distribute the money to taxpayers. It is estimated that the bottom 70% of taxpayers would be better off because of the tax, and some analysts believe that it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by twice as much as the Obama administration’s regulation-based approach to reducing emissions. While the tax may not on the surface appear a likely policy for the Trump administration, it was presented by seasoned Republicans to Mr Cohn, and is being seen as the accepted conservative approach to tackling climate change for those Republicans who recognise climate change as a problem. The CEO of the CLC, Ted Halstead, has been at pains to frame the idea in a way palatable to the Trump administration, saying “This is not creating a tax. This is a dividend back to the American people.” However, while Mr Cohn had some positive things to say about the idea, other Republicans are in stark opposition to it, with Representative Peter Roskam saying “Absolutely not. Not even a topic of conversation.” On the surface, the tax appears similar to that used in Australia for a number of years, a tax that helped lead to the downfall of the then government. Such history may lend weight to sentiments such as Mr Roskam’s.

AGL Energy profits rise because of renewables, but lack of conventional backup generation causing headaches for Australian Energy Market Operator

A lift in the profits of Australia’s second largest utility, AGL Energy, despite rising gas prices has come amidst worries about the wider Australian energy sector. AGL generates power from coal, conventional natural gas, coal seam gas, and a variety of renewable sources, but although gas generation operating costs have risen, the rising price of electricity in Australia as more wind and solar power generation capacity is installed has meant that overall profits have been healthy. In a counter-intuitive move, the company is considering building an LNG import terminal in the south-east of the country, even while Australia is projected to become the world’s largest exporter of LNG by 2019 (the reason being that most export is from Western Australia). Meanwhile, there is concern that partial power outages may become more frequent, as the intermittency of renewable power is not sufficiently backed-up by conventional power generation sources. After a blackout across the whole of the state of South Australia last year, there was a partial power outage this month in the same state, when the Australian Energy Market Operator called on power stations to offer more electricity and received no response, even at the maximum price of AUD$14,000/megawatt-hour (US$10,673/€10,015). The problem is expected to spread to other states over the coming years as further conventional generation capacity is shut down. There is talk of building more interconnectors between states to help ease the problems, and of South Australia offering a contract for standby capacity.

Siemens successfully tests first 3D printed blades for gas turbine

Siemens has achieved a world first in successfully testing under full load conditions a gas turbine with 3D printed blades. The ‘additive manufacturing’ process, in which a laser beam melts metal powder in place in order to build up the turbine blade, is seen as more efficient than conventional methods of casting or forging. Using the method, the team of Siemens engineers, working with the company Materials Solutions (which Siemens took majority ownership of last year), designed and produced the new turbine blade in two months, as opposed to what could previously be two years using conventional methods. The tests, carried out in Lincoln, UK, used the blades in a 13 MW SGT-400-type industrial gas turbine at 1,250°C and rotating at 1,600 km/h. The Siemens press release has some worthwhile video and pictorial content describing the new production process.

Stanford study finds carbon capture and storage progress biggest hurdle to meeting Paris Agreement

A new study by Stanford University has cast light on the flattening out of global carbon emissions over the past three years at around 32.7 gigatonnes of CO2. While additional wind and solar power generation has played a role in the trend, the study found that reduced coal use in the steel and cement industries in China (due to declining economic activity), and increased uptake of gas firing in the US were major factors in the plateauing of emissions. More efficient industrial energy use has also played a role, as has China’s efforts to reduce other forms of air pollution. The study has suggested that the biggest hurdle to achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement is the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage; it is estimated that tens of thousands of facilities will need to be installed by 2030, while there are currently only tens planned and/or installed.

BHP Billiton working with Peking University on CCS for steelmaking

BHP Billiton is one company investigating the use of CCS, in their case in the steelmaking sector. The company’s vice president of sustainability and climate change, Dr Fiona Wild, has recently thrown her weight behind global efforts to develop CCS, saying “The longer that action [on climate change] is delayed, the more critical CCS will become. This is particularly the case if we need to develop negative emissions technologies, of which CCS is an important potential contributor.” BHP Billiton is collaborating with Peking University to identify policy, technical and economic barriers to CCS deployment in the steel sector in China, and it would appear that such work would be at least partially transferrable to the rest of the world.

Gama Energy to be first Turkish company to install GE system for optimising power plants

General Electric has agreed a deal with Gama Energy to make the Anadolu Natural Gas Combined Cycle Power Plant in Kırıkkale, central Turkey, the first in the country to use GE’s industrial cloud software applications to optimise efficiency and predict asset failures before they occur. The installation of the system, run on GE’s Predix operating software (which GE describes as “the operating system for the Industrial Internet”), is to occur in the first quarter of this year. The deal increases the ties between GE and Gama Energy following a deal last year for GE to supply planned and unplanned maintenance services for two GE 9F.05 gas turbines and a GE D11 steam turbine. The industrial cloud software aims to reduce operational downtime, which on average is something between 3-8% of possible operating time. GE is aiming to be the leading provider of digital solutions for  heavyindustry, the power generation portion estimated to be worth US$1.3 trillion (€1.2 trillion). The effectiveness of cybersecurity may strongly influence GE’s success if cloud services form the backbone of its offerings.

Hitachi shares fall over Mitsubishi claim over South African power stations

Shares in Hitachi have fallen by more than 6% following Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ request to it pay 89.7 billion rand (US$6.68 billion/€6.28 billion) in relation to the supply of 12 boilers for the enormous 4,800 MW Medupi and Kusile power plants which are currently in advanced stages of construction. It is unclear what the precise nature of the dispute is, although it assumedly has something to do with the formation in 2014 of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd, a combination the two companies’ thermal power generation units, but majority controlled by MHI. Hitachi said it would reject the request but continue to talk to MHI about the matter.

Job losses to come for Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe

In further news about Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, the CEO of the company’s European division has said that job losses are inevitable in the division, as the market in Western Europe for thermal power generation capacity has almost completely disappeared, and that work in Poland and South-East Europe has not adequately compensated. Talks between management and staff have begun, seeking to alleviate hardship from job losses as far as possible. MHPS Europe will in future be focusing on plant optimisation, power plant service, air quality control systems, and carbon emissions reductions, while continuing to build new plants in Poland and South-East Europe.