• Combustion Industry News

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

UK government releases roadmaps for decarbonising industry

Late March saw the release by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills of several roadmaps for decarbonising the UK industrial sector. The range of reports is impressive, spanning from oil refining to food and drink processing, and including metal, glass, cement and other industries. Bellona has provided a short summary of the cement roadmap, which offers two scenarios – one without carbon capture and storage, and one with it. In the non-CCS  scenario, a 25% reduction of CO2 emissions is achieved through firing exclusively biomass, and the complete introduction of oxygen enrichment, cementitious substitution, and the use of alternative cements by 2050. In the CCS option, which assumes complete introduction of CCS, firing exclusively biomass, and complete introduction of cementitious substitution by 2050, a 54% reduction is achieved. These scenarios point to the centrality of carbon capture and storage for reducing carbon emissions in the cement industry. The reports all together provide a valuable resource.

Shell to buy BG Group

Royal Dutch Shell is to buy BG Group for $US 70 billion (€65.6 billion), the move being triggered by low oil (and hence share) prices and Shell’s desire to become the preeminent LNG player in the world. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the deal is a gamble by Shell that natural gas firing will grow in developing countries as export infrastructure from the world’s major producers improves over the coming years, and as the world attempts to reduce carbon emissions from coal firing. It is also a move that will cushion Shell from lower oil prices by further diversifying its activities, tipping them slightly in favour of gas over oil. The WSJ speculates that the move, which will make Shell the largest natural gas company in the world, will spark countermoves by its rival ExxonMobil. BG Group was what was formed from British Gas after it divested Centrica in 1997.

Texas Clean Energy Project construction to begin in northern hemisphere summer

The Fuel Fix blog has carried a short post on the Texas Clean Energy Project, which is being undertaken by Summit Power, to the west of Odessa, Texas, USA on a 600 acre site. Part-funded by the US Department of Energy, the project is an integrated combined cycle gasification plant with carbon capture and storage technology, with a total generation capacity of 400 MW and typical output of 377 MW. As well as power, the plant will produce compressed CO2 for use in enhanced oil recovery and urea for use as a fertilizer. Of the typical power output, 105.7 MW will be consumed by major plant equipment, 15.7 MW will be used to compress carbon dioxide, and 42.2 MW will be used to produce the urea, leaving 214 MW to be sent to the grid. Siemens is to supply the gasification equipment and turbine, while Linde will supply the flue gas cleaning and carbon capture equipment. The CEO of Summit Power, Jason Crew, told the blog that “We’re not actually burning coal; we’re unlocking hydrocarbons.” The project seems certain to achieve the final financial green light this month, with construction to begin in the northern hemisphere summer, and commercial operation in 2018.

E.ON to close new gas fired units in southern Germany as lack of compensation for standby generation bites

E.ON is to close units 4 and 5, with a combined 1,400 MW of generation capacity, at the Irsching gas-fired power plant, near the city of Vohburg in southern Germany. While the units are amongst the newest in Europe, the preference given to solar and wind energy in the German national grid means that the units do not produce a profit. Rather than keep ng them on standby and continuing to lose money, E.ON (and the other part owners) have made the decision to close the units down, thus denying the grid standby capacity which might sometimes be needed. The decision will thus put pressure on the German government and the national grid manager (TenneT) to introduce a mechanism to compensate utilities for keeping generation capacity online, as is being done in other European countries, for example the UK. The units will not close for another year, however, as German law requires that utilities give a year’s notice before removing capacity from the grid.

Planned Batang power plant given push by Indonesian president

Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, has said that construction of the 2,000 MW coal-fired Batang power plant in Central Java will begin this month. The plant has been delayed numerous times because of a land dispute with farmers who currently farm 30 hectares of land that the plant is due to be built on. The farmers (and environmental groups) have not given up hope that they may stop the plant being built, although the presidential push may prove too powerful for them. Batang is a joint venture between PT Adaro Energy Tbk, Itochu Corp and Electric Power Development Co Ltd (J-Power), and may be operation by 2018 if it does indeed go ahead.

Montenegro’s EPCG receives bids for new coal-fired unit

Montenegrin utility EPCG has received two final bids for the construction of an additional coal-fired unit that it plans to add to its Pljevlja power plant. China Machinery Engineering Corp submitted a bid for a 250 MW unit at a price of €326 million ($US 351 million), while Skoda Praha, the Czech engineering group owned by utility CEZ, entered a bid for a 254 MW unit at €338.5 million ($US 365 million). A second Chinese firm, Hubei Electric Power Survey & Design Institute, pulled out of the bidding. The board of EPCG is expected to receive a recommendation on the best bid (in terms of quality and price) by the end of this month as it moves to reduce the power shortage in the country.

Eskom plant construction site temporarily shut down

In further bad news for South African utility Eskom, the company has been forced to close the construction site of its enormous new coal-fired Medupi power plant after a dispute with construction workers. According to Eskom, striking workers damaged buildings in late March, forcing a closure of the site to assess the damage. The one-day strike was held by 21,000 workers unhappy at poor living conditions and pay. Medupi is due to have a capacity of 4.76 GW when complete; the first unit of 794 MW is due to come online in July, the first new generation capacity in South Africa for 20 years, which the country is desperately in need of as it tries to reduce blackouts. Earlier in March, four Eskom executives were suspended following the company’s poor performance.

Last large oil-fired plant in UK closes

The last large oil-fired power station in the UK, Littlebrook D, in Dartford, Kent, closed on 31 March after 35 years of operation. According to the report from Reuters, the plant played a key role (along with four other oil-fired plants) in ‘keeping the lights on’ during the coal miners’ strike of 1984-5 in Britain, during which time oil firing rose from 131,000 tonnes per week to 650,000 tonnes per week, averting the firing of around 40 million tonnes of coal. The plant owners, RWE, opted to close the plant rather than to upgrade it to meet the environmental requirements of the EC’s Large Combustion Plant Directive. The site has hosted power plants since 1939, but may now be converted to an alternative use.