• Combustry Industry News round-up

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Business Trends

Spiegel Online reports that Germany’s Energy and Climate Fund, set up to fund the transition away from nuclear power, has fallen dramatically short of its first year targets. It was to raise €300 million in its first year and distribute the same amount, but raised only a quarter of that amount, and distributed only €46.6 million. The fund was set up in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, and the funding was to come mostly from the sale of carbon emissions certificates, but the carbon price and the volume sold were both below expectations. The 2012 outlook is not optimistic, but the Finance Ministry is considering boosting funding through other means.

In the US, President Obama’s 2013 budget request has included a raft of clean energy initiatives, the Wall Street Journal reports. Oil and gas industry subsidies are to go, R&D funding for vehicle technologies is to be increased, funding for renewable energy research (including biomass) is to increase, and funding for far-out future technology research is to be maintained at present levels. Clean coal research funding, including for CCS, is to be cut. However, the report notes that the request has “zero chance” of being accepted. This is due to the November 2012 presidential elections, but Congress’s history of refusing some measures would in any case inhibit its acceptance.

Shale gas is being seen as a way to achieve energy independence in Poland, reports Spiegel Online. A rush of companies have been competing to drill for the gas, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, as well as local companies, such as the Polish national Polish Petroleum and Gas Mining. As with shale gas across the world, citizens have raised health risk concerns. Gas is expected to flow from 2014.

Legislation and Regulation

Reuters reports that the Obama administration is expected to soon release new rules for limits on CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants. Both the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget has delayed setting the new limits, which will have a profound effect on the investment decisions of power companies. If the new rules are delayed past the November 2012 presidential elections, and the Republican Party was to win, they may not make it into law. The report mentions that recent cheap natural gas prices have led to investment in gas-fired plants rather than coal-fired plants in recent years, with no new coal-fired plants started in 2011.

Meanwhile, The Times of India reports that the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission is likely to implement renewable power obligations (RPOs) for the city’s distribution companies (discoms) from the start of the 2012-13 financial year, which begins 1 April in India. The discoms, including Tata Delhi Power, BSES Rajdhani and DSES Yamuna, will have to source a fixed percentage of their power from renewable sources, or buy renewable energy certificates. Delhi is one of the few states in India not to have already implemented RPOs.

The China Daily USA gives a rather flattering report of the Chinese government’s moves to develop standards for fine particulates (PM 2.5) and enforce tighter air quality monitoring. Air quality has been decreasing in China, due, indirectly, to increases in living standards. The PM 2.5 standards are not due to be implemented until 2016, and the report does not give any details on expected emissions limits from various sources.

Research, Exploration and Technology

The Sunday Times reports that recent exploration has suggested that there may be enough shale gas in England to supply the country for 70 years. The richest resources are in the north of England, and are of a quality similar to those already being exploited in North America.

Research by Bio Architecture Lab in California has engineered a microbe to turn seaweed sugar into ethanol, according to News24. The company hopes that its technology will be able to provide a non-land based biofuel production pathway, and is currently trialling sites in Chilean waters. The development has been reported in Science.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that exploratory drilling for methane hydrates has begun off the coast of Atsumi Peninsula, Japan. The hydrates are thought to be locked underneath the ocean floor, and are hoped in some quarters to become the next generation energy source for Japan.

Company News

Iberdrola, the Financial Times writes, has backed the Spanish government’s subsidy freeze for renewable energy production. Ignacio Galán, Iberdrola’s chairman, said there was already twice as much electricity as needed in times of peak demand, meaning “what we were doing [in terms of subsidies] was irrational”, according to the report. It suggests that Iberdrola’s support for the government move may be designed to head off the retrospective removal of subsidies. Solar power, the report further stated, accounts for 13 per cent of Spain’s electricity production, but only supplies 3 per cent of demand.

The Prime Minister of Cambodia has given permission for a new 1800 MW coal-fired power plant to be built in the southwest of the country in a joint venture between the Thai Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc. and the Cambodian Koh Kong Electricity, reports the ASEAN-China Center. An environmental impact assessment is to be conducted. Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc. is a leading Thai power generation company and has recently invested in plants in Laos.