• Combustion Industry News

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

New African Development Bank chief aiming to bring power to all Africans by 2025

Akinwumi Adesina, former agriculture minister of Nigeria and the new president of the African Development Bank, has declared that he intends to use his tenure to address Africa’s energy deficit, which he sees as the biggest hindrance to economic development in the continent. His aim is to raise $US 55 billion (€48 billion) for various projects, working with existing multinational initiatives to drive projects and to liberalise national energy sectors. The admirable overall aim is to have universal access to power by 2025, which, considering that it is estimated that 90 GW of additional capacity is required to provide access to the 600 million sub-Saharan Africans which do not have it, and that the ADB helped develop only 650 MW of new capacity last year, will be a huge undertaking. Mr Adesina anticipates that changing energy policy in member states will be the first step required in achieving his aims, and says that it is this rather than a lack of funding that is holding development back. Even if half the desired progress is made, it will be a huge achievement.

US electricity companies falling into two groups in response to EPA carbon rules

The Wall Street Journal has run a piece on the two fundamentally different approaches that US electricity production companies are taking to the US EPA’s new carbon emissions rules. One approach is that taken by several coal companies and coal-reliant states: to legally challenge the rules. The other is to simply comply, a strategy made easy by it being in line with the general direction of many electricity companies, in firing gas rather than coal and deploying more renewable energy production capacity. This has been due to economic rather than regulatory forces, as one of the analysts featured in the article described: “Price is a larger force in electricity markets today than what Washington is doing with regulations.” Long term prices for electricity produced by wind turbines fell 66% from 2009 to 2014. At the same time, because of the shale-gas boom and consequent low gas prices, gas firing is more lucrative than coal firing, and because gas is cleaner, producing 50-60% less carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour, this has led to lower emissions. Because of such plentiful amounts of gas, the EPA’s new rules actually contain clauses that electricity companies cannot rely solely on one source, which is an encouragement to install renewable energy capacity. Coal-firing has fallen so much this year that it is heading towards a 25-year low, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which is part of the reason why, for the bulk of electricity companies in the country, the new carbon rules are of little burden. However, for the ‘coal faction’, they present a significant obstacle which the faction hopes to dismantle. The EPA is to publish the new rule in the Federal Register this month, which will then open the way for legal challenges to it to proceed.

UK energy policy questioned after subsidies fail to add net power generation

A polemical article in the Financial Times has highlighted the seeming ineffectiveness of UK energy policy over the last decade or so to add net power generation capacity to the grid. Over the past five years, 21,400 MW of capacity has been shut down (mostly for environmental reasons), while 6,000 MW of (mostly renewable) capacity has been installed, meaning that the spare capacity has dropped from around 17% to a prediction of as low as 1.5% this northern hemisphere winter, a level which has prompted the head of Scottish Power, Keith Anderson, to warn that businesses in Britain may have their power switched off if some major power station is forced into a shutdown, or if there is a particularly severe cold snap. At the same time, domestic electricity prices have risen at 7% per annum, and the government is considering installing nuclear power generation capacity by assuring electricity purchases at twice the current price. This has led the author of the Financial Times piece to argue that energy policy is misguided if a £4.5 billion ($US 6.9 billion/€6 billion) annual subsidy bill, mostly spent on renewable energies, but also on the maintenance standby capacity, has led the industry to such a position. While the article fails to acknowledge any of the benefits of lower greenhouse gas emissions, or that 17% spare capacity was probably too high in the first place, or that previous under-investment may have contributed to the current situation, or that Keith Anderson argues that electricity prices are currently too low to incentivise new gas-fired capacity, there is still some measure of truth in his words.

EU Climate Commissioner positive ahead of Paris Climate Conference, while energy companies write joint letter asking for clear long-term policies

The BBC has reported on the positive mood of the EU Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, in the lead up to the Paris Climate Conference, with 149 nations covering 90% of global emissions having now announced their climate goals. Though the pledges would be in line with a maximum 3oC average global temperature rise instead of the agreed target of 2oC, Mr Arias Cañete has compared it to the Kyoto Protocol, which included only 35 countries and 14% of emissions. The more ‘grassroots’ approach of countries developing their own comprehensive plans, rather than the UN setting top-down targets, has been the key to the progress, and has also resulted in countries raising their ambitions to align more closely to other countries’ targets. Mr Arias Cañete stressed that the current plans were starting points, rather than end points.

The positivity comes as the chiefs of 11 of the world’s largest power utilities urged governments at the Paris conference to set “secure, stable, clear, consistent and long-term policies” to shift towards a lower carbon future. The companies were not specific about the policies they want in place, which is understandable considering that if policies were indeed secure, stable, clear, consistent and long-term, they would be already be highly useful.

GE hoping to establish itself as spine of industrial apps market

A Financial Times article has looked at the rise of the ‘industrial app’ – mobile applications for use in industry, such as one to help tune a turbine. According to the chief executive of GE, “The industrial internet will be much bigger than the consumer internet,” and GE is looking to become the ‘digital backbone’ of industry by developing a platform that software developers can use when creating individual apps. GE also intends to develop apps itself. The company has begun to exhibit some of its apps, for instance Digital Power Plant, which, according to the Financial Times, “analyses data from sensors embedded throughout power plants in order to suggest ways of running the equipment more efficiently.” It marks an interesting development in the industrial world, though perhaps somewhat less revolutionary than the article makes out, given that software is already quite widespread.

ION Engineering achieves 99% CO2 removal from flue gas at pilot scale

ION Engineering, based in Boulder, Colorado, USA, has completed a 1,200 hour pilot-scale trial of its solvent and process technology at Southern Company’s 0.6 MWe Pilot Solvent Test Unit at the National Carbon Capture Center in Alabama, which is funded by the Department of Energy. In encouraging results, ION Engineering’s technology captured 99% of CO2 from the coal-fired flue gas while maintaining stable operation. ION also collected data to enable modelling, and will move to testing at above 10 MWe beginning in mid-2016 at an international test facility.

Elecnor and Duro Felguera to build gas-fired plant for Mexico’s CFE

CFE, the Mexican national power company, has awarded a concession for the building and operation of a combined-cycle gas-fired plant to a joint venture between Spain’s Elecnor and Duro Felguera. The plant will be built in the north-west of Mexico, in the state of Sonora, and the project is worth $396 million (€348 million). The fuel gas will be piped from the US.

Capture Power to press on with White Rose Project without Drax

Following on from the news in the last edition of the Combustion Industry News that Drax is to pull out of the White Rose CCS project in Yorkshire, UK, the company in charge of the project, Capture Power, has announced that it will continue to pursue development. Presumably, Capture Power will be looking for other partners to join the project alongside the remaining partners Alstom and BOC.

Hollywood circling VW emissions scandal film

While not quite industrial combustion, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Paramount Pictures has bought the option on the rights to make a film about the Volkswagen emissions scandal. A book is currently being written about the scandal, and the option allows Paramount the ability to make the film if they so wish. Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company is also involved in the project.