US DoE suspends funding for FutureGen 2.0 CCS-equipped project
The US Department of Energy has announced the suspension of federal funding for the FutureGen 2.0 project, citing its belief that the project could not be completed before the federal funding program expired in September of this year. As the federal funding constituted $US 1 billion of the $US 1.65 billion (€1.46 billion) budget, the project has now been shelved. The FutureGen 2.0 Alliance, composed of Alpha Natural Resources, Anglo American, Glencore, Joy Global and Peabody Energy, in conjunction with Ameren Energy Sources, Babcock & Wilcox, and Air Liquide Process and Construction, had argued that the project could be completed on time, but the DoE rejected the claim. The project was to retrofit the 200 MW coal-fired Unit 4 of Ameren’s power plant in Meredosia, Illinois, with CCS technology capturing around 90% of CO2 and piping it to a geological storage site. The retrofit was to have included oxy-combustion technology. The DoE’s announcement has been used by critics of the EPA’s carbon rules for fossil-fuel power plants as evidence that CCS technology has not been “adequately demonstrated”, a requirement for any technology advocated by the EPA. Indeed, the EPA had cited FutureGen in its carbon performance rule. It remains to be seen if the fact that several of the Alliance members had been critical of the EPA’s carbon rules will prompt speculation that there may have been mixed incentives effecting progress of FutureGen, but such speculation may be too Machiavellian.
Shell CEO calls for more involvement in public debate by oil and gas industry
The CEO of Shell, Ben van Beurden, delivered a speech to the International Petroleum Week annual dinner on 12 February arguing that the importance of the role of fossil fuels in the future energy mix is being understated in public debate. Setting out the case, he said “For a sustainable energy future, we need a more balanced debate. Fossil fuels out, renewables in — too often, that’s what it boils down to. Yet in my view, that’s simply naïve. Yes, climate change is real. And yes, renewables are an indispensable part of the future energy mix. But no, provoking a sudden death of fossil fuels isn’t a plausible plan. Today, 3 billion people still lack access to the modern energy many of us take for granted.” He went on to say that with rising demand, there will have to be more supply. “The issue is how to balance one moral obligation, energy access for all, against the other: fighting climate change. We still need fossil fuels for a lower-carbon, higher-energy future.” Shell’s outline of that is through a shift from coal to natural gas firing, carbon capture and storage, and a well-executed carbon pricing system. He believes that the oil and gas industry must become more assertive in debate, which is currently dominated by NGOs, with the hope of being heard in the run-up to the Paris climate change conference this year.
Laborelec releases water footprinting study for combined cycle gas turbines
Late January saw researchers at Laborelec release a study into the water consumed in generating electricity by combined cycle gas turbines. The study looks at three techniques for calculating the total water footprint of such electricity, taking a practitioner’s approach. With water an increasingly precious resource, the study should be a good resource for utilities looking to assess their water performance.
Siemens commissions its Clean Energy Centre in Ludwigsfelde, Germany
Siemens has commissioned its new gas burner test centre in Ludwigsfelde, near Berlin. Named the Clean Energy Centre, the €100 million ($US 114 million) centre has the goal of making Siemen’s burners more efficient and flexible in the use of both liquid and gas fuels, and is part of Siemens’ larger burner manufacturing site. Large Gas Turbine business division head Christopher Steinwachs has said of the centre that it will enable the business to “conduct more intensive research into burner technology independently of external test facilities, which enables us to be even more innovative.”
Tepco and Chubu Electric considering merging power plant operations
Two of Japan’s largest utilities, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) and Chubu Electric Power Co, who last year announced plans to buy fuel in a joint venture to gain better negotiating power, have this month announced they are considering combining their fossil-fuel fired power plants under a joint venture. The potential move is seen as one of what may be a series of mergers in the Japanese power industry following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and subsequent government intervention to restructure the sector, which will formally begin in April 2016. The two companies see the power generation joint venture as a step in the evolution of their closer collaboration; they want to have combined their plant operations by 2017, if they are to do so. If the two companies do decide to join their conventional thermal generation capacity, the total capacity will be around 68 GW, making the venture one of the largest utilities in the world. Discussions will continue through the coming months.
Bids for gas-fired power plants lower than Centrica’s expectations
British utility Centrica is weighing up three bids for two of its large gas-fired power plants, according to Reuters. The offered prices are “a world below” what Centrica was expecting, even though both plants (Langage and South Humber) have won one-year contracts for the supply of stand-by power capacity, albeit at rates lower than expected (£19.40/kW, €26.42, $US 29.83). The push for the sale of the plants was in line with Centrica’s strategic plan to focus on smaller gas-fired plants, but it may be that they keep Langage and South Humber, if the offered prices are simply unacceptable.
Tennessee Valley Authority to modernise coal-fired plant to fire gas
GE has been awarded a contract to supply two of its high efficiency 7HA.02 gas turbine generators to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Thomas H Allen Fossil Plant, which until now has been coal-fired. The TVA is planning to have the new generators up and running by 2018, transforming the plant into a combined cycle plant of 1,000 MW capacity, emitting 95% less SOx and NOx and 65% less CO2. The generators are to be delivered in 2016. The plant was first built in the 1950s, with major upgrades in the 1970s and selective catalytic reduction added in 2011.
1MDB pulls out of bond issue which was to fund 2 GW plant
1MDB, the state-owned Malaysian investment fund, has cancelled its plans to raise 8.4 billion ringgit ($US 2.3 billion, €2.0 billion) through a bond issue for a new 2,000 MW coal-fired power plant, according to sources who have spoken to Reuters. The move appears to be the result of a shake-up of 1MDB following the appointment of a new president last year. 1MDB had won the bidding with its partner Mitsui & Co Ltd to develop the power plant, known as 3B, and it is now expected that 1MDB will withdraw entirely from the project. An announcement is to come ‘soon’. It is unclear if the 3B project, which was to come online by 2018, will be awarded to another developer.