Research, Development and Technology
The European Commission has announced its shortlist for the awarding of €1.5 billion/$US 1.83 billion of funding for carbon-capture and storage projects. In total, eight proposals made the shortlist, though the EC stated that it expected only two or three projects to be awarded funding. The top ranked project is 2CO’s Don Valley Power project in Yorkshire, UK, followed by the Belchatow project in Poland, and the Green Hydrogen project in Holland. Fourth was Progressive Energy’s planned Teeside (UK) project, while the White Rose project, backed by Boc, Drax, Alstom and the UK’s National Grid was in fifth. Now only financing problems or a lack of confirmation by a member state of the EC could mean deselection from the shortlist, according to the Guardian.
The UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, has announced a €3.5 million/$US 4.3 million grant for the creation of Supergen Bioenergy Hub, a research program into the cleaner combustion of biomass. Five universities – Aston University, the University of Bath, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, and Newcastle University – as well as Rothamsted Research will lead the hub’s activities. Ten research partners – Drax, Progressive Energy, Renewable Energy Association, North Energy Associates, Sustainable Energy Ltd., Renewable Energy Systems Carbon, Greenacres, Biomass Energy Centre, Danish Tecnologik Instituit and Dalkia will also participate, and work is to begin on 1 August.
Akermin has signed an agreement with Southern Company Services to test a biocatalyst delivery system at the US National Carbon Capture Centre over a two-year period. The research, which is partially funded by a Department of Energy grant, will commence in the fourth quarter of this year, and aims to demonstrate the sustained effectiveness of the biocatalyst for use in capturing carbon emissions from the flue gas of a coal-fired power plant. Data to be collected will include biocatalyst performance, energy consumption, CO2 removal efficiency, residual NOx and SOx capture, and by-product quality. The enzyme which forms the biocatalyst is to be supplied by the Danish company Novozymes. Lab-scale tests have so far yielded a consistent 90% capture of CO2.
Xinhua has reported that the coal-rich northern Chinese province of Shanxi has launched a greenhouse gas monitoring system, designed to provide data for determining provincial climate change strategies. Construction of the system began in November 2011, and there are now three sub-stations in addition to a central monitoring station. The stations monitor atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, methane, ozone, oxynitride and particulate matter.
Meanwhile, the vice minister of environmental protection in China, Zhang Lijun, has warned that pollution control has not progressed well in China in the first half of the year. New control facilities have not performed to expectation, and the construction of new facilities has taken longer than envisaged. A national pollution control facility inspection programme is to be carried out. China aims to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide by 2% and not to increase emissions of NOx.
New Zealand is to cut senior science staff numbers at its National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research station in its 50-year old Lauder office in the South Island region of Otago. The past president of the New Zealand Association of Scientists, Professor James Renwick, described the station as one of the few climate observing stations in the southern hemisphere, and said “Reducing the Lauder laboratory to a shell, without the resources to continue the science that has made it internationally famous, is a travesty.”
The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board has ruled that the Quest oil-sands carbon capture and storage project, in which Shell owns a 60 per cent stake, is in the public interest, allowing the project to go ahead. It is to be situated near Edmonton, Canada, and involves land-based sequestration after the use of ‘upgrader’ processing of bitumen into synthetic crude, a highly carbon-intensive process, and hence of particular importance to Shell’s environmental reputation. The project must meet 23 conditions before it proceeds.
Bill Johnson, who was ousted as CEO of Duke Energy only hours after it completed a merger with Progress Energy on 2 July, has told the North Carolina Utilities Commission that Duke had long been trying to scuttle the deal. Mr Johnson had been CEO of Progress Energy, and testified that before the merger he had rebuffed Duke’s then (and now present) CEO, Jim Rogers, when Mr Rogers had requested a renegotiation of the merger. He also detailed other instances which he felt illustrated Duke’s reluctance to hold to their merger agreement. The merger had been agreed in January 2011, when it was decided that Mr Johnson would be CEO and Mr Rogers would be executive chairman when the merger was complete. Mr Rogers, meanwhile, told the Commission that he did not orchestrate the ousting of Mr Johnson, and that it was Mr Johnson’s autocratic managerial style which led to his sacking. The Commission has the power to amend the merger, but analysts believe it is unlikely to do so.
Japanese firm Marubeni has won what is believed to be the first foreign infrastructure order placed by the government of Myanmar under relaxed trade arrangements following the shift towards democracy. Marubeni is to refurbish the 34 MW Yawma thermal power plant, situated 20 km from the former capital Yangon, which it built in partnership with Hitachi in 2005, but which has sat idle for the last two years due to parts shortages. The $US 3.8 million/€3.11 million deal is small, but is seen as a victory for Marubeni as many Japanese firms compete for a foothold in what many believe will be a new centre for economic growth. In May, there were protests in the country over power shortages.
Indian steelmaker Jindal Steel and Power has given the Bolivian government more time to resolve issues surrounding an iron ore mining and steel producing project it hopes to construct in the country. A deal had been done in 2007 for Jindal to source iron ore and build a steel mill in a $SU 2.1 billion/€1.72 billion project, but the Bolivian government later announced it could not supply the agreed amount of natural gas. Jindal proposed a new, smaller scale $US 1 billion/€820 million project, with a deadline for a decision by the Bolivian government by 15 July this year, but without a response have now extended the deadline until 10 August. Indian steelmakers have increasingly looked internationally for projects because of planning and environmental barriers in India.
The Hangzhou Low Carbon Science and Technology Museum has opened in Hangzhou, capital of the eastern Zhejiang province, China. There are seven exhibition centres in the very high-tech looking museum, some photos from which can be seen here.