The Financial Times has carried an interesting report about moves by Chinese steel mills to diversify their businesses. As the Chinese economy slows its growth, the demand for steel has also slowed, reducing profits for the steel mills, and some unusual alternative investments are being made. Wuhan Iron and Steel, for instance, has invested in pig, fish and vegetable farming, as well as logistics and chemicals. The FT believes that this diversification will mean Chinese steel mills, which account for around 40% of global steel production, will be able to make losses on the steel parts of their business in times to come, putting added pressure on steel businesses in other countries.
Such pressure seems unlikely to affect US steel mills for the time being, for which The Wall Street Journal has reported boom times. A glut of cheap gas from shale deposits has meant cheaper operating costs, while, serendipitously, the race to extract shale gas has led to heightened demand for steel piping for drilling and transport of the gas. Gas prices are down 35% from the price twelve months previous, and are leading to a general industrial upswing in the US, the report stated.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bill Gates has stated his view that cheap, clean power is not going to come ‘soon’, and that instead it would take something like 75 years. Gates is an investor in three power related companies (a nuclear power company, an algae/biofuel company and a battery company), but believes that people erroneously look at subsidised alternative energy and suppose that such a level of subsidisation can be spread across the world.
Legislation and Regulation
The US government has proposed new CO2 rules for power plants. The proposal, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would not apply to any existing plants or plants to start construction over the next 12 months, and will go through a public comment period before finalisation. It is unclear whether such finalisation will occur before the American presidential elections in November 2012. The rules as they stand would limit new plants to average emissions, over 30 years, of 454 kg (1000 pounds) of CO2 per MWh of electricity produced. As this limit is around half a typical US coal-fired power plant’s CO2 emissions, the new rules, if implemented, are likely to require carbon capture technology for such plants.
The city of Beijing has announced plans to cut PM 2.5 emissions over the 2012-2020 period, according to the Xinhua news agency. A range of measures are to be employed, including increasing the public transport network to reduce the use of cars, providing subsidies for clean cars, and capping annual coal consumption at 15 million tonnes by 2015. The aim is to reduce PM 2.5 levels to 85% of 2010 levels by 2015.
Research and Development
Great Southern Flameless has been granted patent 8128399 by the US Patent Office for “Method and apparatus for controlling gas flow patterns inside a heater chamber and equalizing radiant heat flux to a double fired coil”. The grant was made on 6 March. The patent can be viewed by typing the patent number into the search box here.
Scientists at the ‘Planet Under Pressure’ conference in London have been warning that the world is close to reaching some global warming tipping points, Reuters reports. One speaker, Will Steffen of the Australian National University, was quoted as saying “This is the critical decade. If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines.” Some of the tipping points identified have been rainforest loss, the melting of polar ice sheets, and the thawing of the Siberian permafrost.
Samsung Construction and Trading will take a 15 per cent stake in 2Co Energy (Yorkshire)’s 650 MW coal-fired power plant with carbon capture and storage in the Don Valley, Yorkshire, UK, the two companies have jointly announced. The $US 4.8 billion project aims to capture 90% of its carbon dioxide emissions and use the carbon to recover oil from the North Sea. Further planning is being undertaken in advance of a final investment decision mid-2013; if the project goes ahead, it is to be commissioned in 2016, Reuters reports. Samsung is to carry out engineering, procurement and construction for the onshore part of the project, which was awarded a €180 million grant from the European Commission in 2009.
Fuel Tech has been awarded $US 2.2 million of air pollution control orders, the company announced last month. The largest amongst the orders was placed by a new domestic utility in the US Midwest, and was for a separated over-fire air (SOFA) system for a coal-fired boiler to reduce the production of NOx. Another of the orders was to a company in Mexico for a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, using ammonia as a reagent, for a gas-fired unit. Both of these orders are to be delivered in 2012.
Hinduja Energy India has formed a joint venture with STEAG Energy Services of Germany to offer operations and maintenance services for power plants in India. STEAG has also taken a 5% stake in Hinduja National Power Corporation, allowing it the option to invest in new power plants the power corporation develops, the Times of India reports.
E.ON has announced that it is to shut its 1,940 MW coal-fired power plant at Kingsnorth, UK, by March 2013, as European Union legislation will prohibit its continued operation. It has also withdrawn its application to build two new units equipped with carbon capture and storage technology at the site, which together would have been rated at 1,600 MW.