• Combustion Industry News

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Patrick Lavery pic.jpgNew Canadian Prime Minister may accept rejection of Keystone XL pipeline

Energy Global has carried a short article on the ramifications of the election of Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on the Keystone XL pipeline. Mr Trudeau has expressed a wish for his government to act in a less environmentally damaging manner than that of his predecessor, Stephen Harper. Although Mr Trudeau supports the Keystone XL proposal, which would add a new, larger diameter pipeline from the Alberta tar-sands region of Canada to Nebraska in the USA, where it would then join up with existing pipelines to Texas for refining, it is speculated that he would accept a rejection of the pipeline by the Obama administration, which is currently indefinitely delaying a decision on approval of the pipeline. It is believed that the Obama administration does intend to reject the decision, and Energy Global suggests that Mr Trudeau would wish for a decision to be made early in his term, so that it might be blamed on the previous government. It appears the next year will carry major news on the project.

Boundary Dam’s first year of operation promising, but CCS struggling elsewhere

National Geographic has carried a review piece on CCS on the first anniversary of the opening of the CCS-equipped Boundary Dam project in Saskatchewan, Canada. The first year of operation, completed in October, has been promising, with 90% CO2 removal, though SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh has said that there is a lot of fine-tuning underway. At the start of next year, the capacity of the capture facility will increase 2.5 times, which will provide a further test. More generally, however, there is more uncertainty about the commercial deployment of the technology, as the problems facing Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi, USA, illustrate. Perhaps more technically ambitious, utilising coal gasification combined with CSS, it is now two years behind schedule and more than $US 4 billion (€3.66 billion) over budget. Howard Herzog, of the Energy Initiative at MIT, is of the opinion that larger CO2 reduction targets and more financial support will be required to push CCS forward, with the current situation being insufficiently encouraging. He is quoted as saying “It all comes down to economics, it’s very simple. The markets aren’t there for CCS.” Whether this changes we will have to see.

PhD thesis demonstrates need for CCS for heavy industries

The need for CCS outside the power generation sector is also pressing. Last month saw the publication of a PhD thesis, ‘Pathways to deep decarbonisation of carbon-intensive industry in the European Union’ by Johan Rootzén of Chalmers University in Sweden, which points to the need for carbon capture and storage technologies by heavy industries such as steelmaking, refining, and cement manufacturing. Dr Rootzén estimates that the successful application of CCS will allow the reduction of 65-70% of emissions from such industries by 2050, which would be necessary, in the absence of alternatives, for the EU to meet carbon reduction targets, given that around 10% of European emissions are currently from these industries. The thesis argues that long plant lifetimes mean that there are relatively few investment cycles before 2050 in which to ensure that plants become equipped with CCS, making the need to develop cost-effective technology more urgent.

West Virginia coal union advocates co-firing plants to preserve some part of coal industry

In the US state of West Virginia, the president of the United Mine Workers of America, Cecil Roberts, has told a conference hosted by the state’s governor that, whatever happens with federal Environmental Protection Agency limits on carbon emissions from power plants, the state should move to preserve what it can of its coal industry by building power plants that co-fire gas and coal. The union has partnered with the state government in legally challenging the federal EPA’s new carbon rules, which set limits of 1400 lb CO2/MWh from new power plants (the most efficient US plant being at around 1800 lb CO2/MWh), but the union is evidently planning for any eventuality. It is anticipated that the state would have to provide some measure of support for new co-firing plants through public-private partnerships. Mr Roberts appears to accept that there will be lower demand for coal in the future; the bankruptcies of coal mining companies Alpha Natural Resources and Patriot Coal Corp this year certainly support this belief.

Preferred bidder selected for Dubai’s Hassyan clean coal power plant project

Other areas of the world continue to push ahead with coal, however. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has selected a preferred bidder for its Hassyan clean coal power plant project, which is to be a 1.2 GW ultra-supercritical plant commencing operation in 2022. The preferred bidder is a consortium of Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, China’s Harbin Electric, Alstom, and the US’s NRG Energy, and the group will build and then operate the plant. Alstom will be the lead engineering, procurement and construction contractor alongside Harbin, and will provide ultra-supercritical boiler and steam-generator technology, with the plant being capable of firing either sub-bituminous coal or natural gas. NOx and SOx emissions will be at half of current EU guidelines, and the plant will be carbon capture ready. The consortium will be working to secure finance for the $US 1.8 billion (€1.64 billion) first phase of the plant by finding a $US 1.4 billion loan.

PSEG to expand gas-firing capacity in preference to nuclear power

In a sign of the continued rise in the appeal of gas-firing, October saw an announcement by Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, which has traditionally relied on nuclear power generation, that it will invest around $US 3.5 billion (€3.19 billion) in modernising its fleet of power generation plants, the majority being spent on new gas plants in the states of New Jersey and Maryland. Increases in shale gas production in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have brought prices down to $US 1.57/MBtu (€1.43), down from the 2010-2014 five-year average of $US 3.66. PSEG also fires some coal, and is making money from it, but it is with gas that the best profits are to be made, even above established nuclear plants.

Marubeni and partners to build 1 GW coal-fired plant in Indonesia

Japan’s Marubeni Corp is to build a 1 GW coal-fired plant in Cirebon, Java, Indonesia (where what has been called the worst ecological disaster in the 21st century is underway), along with its partners PT Indika Energy Tbk (Indonesia), Samtan Co and Korea Midland Power Co (South Korea), and Chubu Electric Power (Japan). The $US 2 billion (€1.8 billion) ultra-supercritical plant is to start operation in 2020, and follows a 660 MW coal-fired plant completed in Cirebon by Marubeni in 2012. Turbines are to be supplied by Toshiba, while boilers will come from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems. The land for the project, an issue of some delicacy for Indonesian projects, has been secured, and finance is to be secured next year.

Czech firms to bid for Vattenfall’s German assets

Reuters has reported that Czech energy company EPH is to partner with PPF, the largest Czech investment group, to bid for the German lignite-fired and hydro power stations being sold by Sweden’s Vattenfall. Czech public utility CEZ has also expressed interest in bidding.