IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2013 identifies range of trends
The International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook 2013 last month. Trends highlighted in the summary include renewables accounting for nearly half of all new generation capacity to 2035, some countries switching from export to import (and vice versa), increasing developing world demand (especially China and India) and the Middle East shifting trading patterns, continued low energy consumption per person in Africa, the pivotal role of the energy sector in greenhouse gas emissions reduction, the effect of energy prices on the economic development and competitiveness of nations, the role of energy transport in reducing those effects on nations, and the worldwide focus on energy efficiency.
In the oil sector, there are projections of increasing short-term oil reserves as a result of unconventional sources such as ‘ultra-deepwater’ fields, the continued centrality of Middle East countries in oil production, declining oil demand being buoyed somewhat by the appeal of oil’s mobility, and challenges posed to oil refiners by the rise of natural gas liquids, biofuels, and coal- and gas-to-liquids technologies. The IEA also points to policy environments being key to the outlook for gas and coal use (particularly in China), and estimates that coal use (in terms of mass/year) will rise worldwide by 17% by 2035. Most of the rise will occur by 2020, but gas is expected to prosper even more.
The summary also points to Brazil becoming a major oil exporter due to recently discovered offshore deepwater oil deposits and increasing its domestic power generation in a low-carbon manner. Concurrently, Petrobras is expected to become a leading expert in deepwater oil production.
European pulp and paper companies collaborate in ‘pre-competitive’ research to reduce energy consumption
The Economist has reported on the efforts of the paper and pulp industry to reduce carbon emissions through reducing energy consumption. The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) engaged two teams of scientists, one led by a former Smurfit Kappa CEO, and one led by a former Mondi CEO, to come up with ideas to reduce emissions while adding value. Each team presented four ideas. The two teams consulted with other industries (such as Tata Steel) while formulating their ideas.
The winning idea, chosen in late November, involves a change in the way lignins are extracted from wood, moving from mechanical grinding or chemical cooking to the use of deep eutectic solvents (naturally found in plants). It is estimated that this biochemical process would reduce primary energy consumption by 40%. Other ideas included reducing water consumption in drying paper sheets by using steam rather than water to separate fibres, and separating fibres using changes in viscosity.
A spokesman from CEPI said they had been amazed at the findings. The Economist noted that the project demonstrated the usefulness of collaboration between companies in the “pre-competitive concepts” stage.
Eurofer advocates temporary exemptions from carbon costs for European steelmakers
In a position paper issued in the lead up to European regulators, lawmakers, steelmakers and trade unions meeting to discuss the EU ‘steel action plan’, which is aimed at preserving European competitiveness on the global stage, the European steelmakers’ organisation, EUROFER, has said that the plan does not go far enough. The plan has been in place since June this year, and aims to reduce the regulatory burden on steelmakers. EUOFER also believes that EC moves to shore up the carbon price under the Emissions Trading System by reducing the number of free permits issued will make it even more difficult for the steel industry to compete.
Gordon Moffat, EUROFER Director General is quoted as saying, “The real emergency is the climate and energy policy in Europe. We need realistic policies and solutions to decrease the gap in energy prices and costs between the EU and its main competitors.” Research by the Centre for European Policy Studies has shown that regulation cost around 10-30% of raw profits (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) between 2002 and 2008 (‘normal good years’), and more than 30% during 2009-2011 (‘economic crisis years’). Mr Moffat declared that whilst the European steel industry is not against ambitious climate objectives, certainty was needed that “our most carbon-lean steel installations, which are the best performers worldwide, will have no additional costs from [EU climate policy] until such costs are also being borne by our global competitors.”
At the EU’s High Level Group on the European Steel Industry which took place on 4 December, the EC announced that it could see no Europe without a strong steelmaking industry.
Mixed Opinions on future of coal-firing
The Financial Times has carried an interesting review piece into the future of coal firing, mixing the opinions of a range of experts. On one hand, world coal consumption is growing at 1.3% per year, might surpass oil as the world’s top energy source by the end of the decade, and is projected to account for 25-30% of power generation in 25 years’ time, about the same amount it accounted for 25 years ago (which was 25%). On the other hand, institutional investors (such as pension funds) have begun a pull-out from coal, seeing a decline in the return on investment from it, and pointing to its environmental legacy (climate, air pollution, and water consumption). The World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the US and UK governments no longer invest in foreign coal-fired power plants except in special circumstances. As the UK Energy and Climate Secretary, Ed Davey, put it: “It undermines global efforts to prevent dangerous climate change and stores up a future financial time bomb for those countries who would have to undo their reliance on coal-fired generation in the decades ahead, as we are having to do today.” There will also be increased technological competition from renewables, and of course competition from gas where it is cheaper.
US DoE awards high-temperature sensor development contract to PARC
The Crosscutting Research Division of National Energy Technology Laboratory of the US Department of Energy has awarded PARC a contract to develop its existing Harsh Environment Adaptable Thermionic (HEAT) sensor for long-term operation in environments between 750–1600 oC and pressures up to around 6.9 MPa, made up of gaseous compounds including hydrocarbons, oxygen, water vapour, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, SOx, and NOx. The DoE sees the need for the sensor in assisting the further development of high-efficiency, low- and zero-emissions power generation technologies. “When looking to gain insight into high temperature, high pressure, and potentially combustible environments, such as gasifiers, it’s very difficult to find the right combination of materials and wiring that won’t perish or compromise the safety and integrity of the system,” said the DoE manager in charge of the project, Robie Lewis, afterward offering his confidence in PARC. If the new technology is developed successfully, it will be of keen interest to combustion researchers.
Researchers test basalt for carbon storage
An article in the Scientific American has highlighted ongoing research into the use of basalt as a storage medium for carbon dioxide. Basalt contains magnesium, calcium, iron and other minerals that under pressure can bind with CO2 to form solid crystals, a potentially more stable means of storage than injection into porous sedimentary rock formations such as sandstone, which has been the primary means of storage in carbon capture and storage projects to date. Moreover, engineers in the US have found in early results that the binding process takes decades rather than centuries or millennia. With basalt forming a part of the Earth’s crust, the potential number of storage sites is large, making basaltic storage more attractive still. The research (also being conducted in Iceland) is in its early stages, and further data will be made available in coming months and years, meaning caution must be applied to optimism. In addition, there is scepticism from some scientists who believe that the carbon crystals might dissolve in contact with water and the gas seep back into the atmosphere, meaning further research will have to examine this potential drawback.
ACWA Power International and Samsung C&T awarded contract for huge Rabigh gas-fired plant
The contract to finance, build and operate the 2.06 GW gas-fired Rabigh 2 power plant in Saudi Arabia has been awarded to a consortium led by ACWA Power International and including Samsung C&T, as well as a range of international and Saudi banks. The operating period of the agreed contract is 20 years, with a scheduled commercial start date in June, 2017. Saudi Electricity Company made the announcement in early December, having changed the requirements of the $US 2.6 billion (€1.9 billion) project from being heavy fuel-oil fired to being gas-fired in May, resulting in a retender. SEC had previously announced the ACWA-Samsung consortium as the preferred bidder in January of this year.
IC Power strengthens hold in Peru
IC Power, a subsidiary of Israel Corp, has also received a 20 year contract, having won a $US 1 billion (€735 million) government contract to build and operate a 590 MW diesel-fired power plant near Mollendo, in the south of Peru. IC Power has a strong existing presence in Peru, already being involved in the production of 35% of the country’s 5.5 GW of electrical power consumption. It is in the middle of building a 520 MW hydro-electric power plant, and furthermore owns 21% of Edegel, Peru’s largest power generator. It is planned that the Mollendo plant will be converted to gas-firing in the future, when Peru is expected to be a larger gas producer.
BHP Billiton awards Chilean gas-fired plant contract to South Korean consortium
In other South American news, mining company BHP Billiton has awarded a South Korean consortium of Korea Southern Power Co and Samsung C&T Corp a contract to build a $US 600 million (€439 million), 517 MW gas-fired power plant to supply power for its mining activities in the north of Chile. Construction of the Kelar plant is to begin next year, is due to be complete in 2016, and is designed to ensure power supply in a country where it is not always assured. One of the mines it will supply power to is Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine.
RWE Supply and Trading opens India office
RWE Supply and Trading opened a coal, LNG and fertiliser trading office in India in late November, as part of the German utility’s plans to grow in the Asia Pacific region. “Besides the business focusing on coal trading and freight in India and Indonesia, RWE Supply & Trading is also directly supplying coal to consumers like cement and fertilizer producers globally,” the company said. The opening of the office came after 14 years of experience trading in the region, the company being involved in 25% of tonnage traded during that period.