Archive for the ‘Coal’ Category

Death of coal slightly exaggerated

February 4, 2017

Come 2100, I expect the world will still be using fossil fuels for around 70% of its energy needs.

19th January 2017: German court issues permit for Uniper’s Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant

The German Muenster district court on Thursday granted an emission-control permit to Datteln 4, a hard-coal fired power station under construction by utility Uniper that has been held up by an intense legal battle with environmentalists.

Uniper said it aims to begin supplying electricity and district heating from the 1,050 megawatts plant in western Germany in the first half of 2018.

Datteln 4 under construction image uniper

Datteln 4 under construction image uniper

25th January, 2017: Loy Yang B project approved

A major generator of Victoria’s coal-fired electricity is set to be expanded.

ENGIE has welcomed the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) recommended approach to granting statutory approval for the turbine upgrade project at the Loy Yang B power station. The approved project will see the retrofit of two turbines with a higher efficiency design to improve the station’s thermal efficiency and increase operating flexibility. The works will occur in 2019 and 2020 during planned outages.

February 1st, 2017: Japanese government planning to build 45 new coal fired power stations to diversify supply

The Japanese government is moving ahead with its plans to build up to 45 new coal fired power stations. The power plants will utilise high energy, low emissions (HELE) technology that use high-quality black coal. Japan is the largest overseas market for Australian coal producers, taking more than a third of all exports. 

February 3rd, 2017: German coal, gas plant output at 5-year high in January

  • January average coal output at 17.3 GW, highest since Feb 2012 
  • Coal, gas ramped up to offset nuclear outages, low wind, demand gains  
  • Day-ahead power average at 59-month high, spot spikes to 2008-high 

German coal and gas-fired power plant output in January rose to its highest in almost five years as cold weather boosted demand while below average wind and record-low winter nuclear availability reduced supply.

February 3rd, 2017: GE helping modernise Serbia’s largest coal-fired power plant

GE’s Power Services will complete the modernisation of Elektro Privreda Srbije’s (EPS) TPP Nikola Tesla, the largest coal-fired power plant in Serbia. 

The power plant features two, 210 MW LMZ steam turbines and four (A3-A6), 308 MW GE units. GE will provide a steam turbine full shaft line retrofit solution for high-pressure, intermediate-pressure and low-pressure turbine modules, as well as a new turbine governing controller system. In addition to the controller, the project includes GE’s advanced 3-D blades, new rotors, rotary blades, stationary blades, inner and outer casings and other associated parts. As part of the agreement, GE will commission a WT23S-106 generator unit – the largest ever installed in Serbia – at the TPP Nikola Tesla B2 site to help improve availability and reliability of the plant. …….. The operating life of the steam turbine unit – an estimated 250 000 working hours – will be extended for an additional 100 000 operating hours, and the maintenance intervals between major overhauls will be extended to nearly 10 years.


Cold weather in Alberta gives record electricity consumption (thank goodness for coal)

December 11, 2016

Canada has been experiencing some rather cold weather with windchill factors down to -40°C.

Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning starting in northwestern B.C., going west through central and northern Alberta, central and southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Manitoba. By Friday afternoon, the extreme cold warning extended to most of central and northern Alberta, including High Level and Fort Chipewyan and as far south as Airdrie and Cochrane.

The Alberta Electric System Operator AESO reports record electricity consumption due to the cold spell.

Extremely cold weather across Alberta this week contributed to the province setting three records in a row for electricity consumption.

On December 8, 2016 between 5-6 p.m., Alberta was using a record hourly average amount of electricity at 11,442 MW. This surpassed the December 7 record of 11,404 MW, and the December 5 record of 11,400 MW.

The new winter peak usage was set due to cold weather, reduced daylight hours and the convergence of Christmas lighting load at homes, businesses, malls and buildings across the province. Another factor that contributed was the low market price for electricity – this prevented price sensitive industrial facilities from going offline during peak hours. The average wholesale price for electricity during that peak hour was approximately $30/MWh.

In Alberta the installed capacity and energy generation shows the reliance on fossil fuels in general and coal in particular. It’s a good thing they have coal to fall back on.




The Paris Agreement sanctions a dash for coal

February 25, 2016

Now that the Paris Climate Agreement is out of the way (having actually achieved nothing while seeming to have solved everything), sensible countries that wish to implement their plans to utilise coal can do so without being castigated for it (since Paris has now solved everything). The non-sensible and sanctimonious countries – and Sweden leads all the rest – can refrain from using coal and other fossil fuels to their own self-inflicted disadvantage.

The real winners from the Paris Agreement are, of course, India and China. By using carbon emissions per unit of GDP as the measure, India has ensured that it can treble its coal consumption by 2030 (while GDP increases by a factor of 4) and still show a 30% decrease in emissions/GDP. Similarly China can double its coal consumption by 2030 while GDP increases by a factor of 2.65 and still show a 20% reduction in carbon emissions (based on my calculation from the Indian and Chinese INDC submissions for the Paris conference).

The 2012 global coal consumption (IEA report) was about 8.186 billion short tons of which China consumed 3.887 billion short tons and India consumed 0.745 billion short tons. By 2030, India alone would consume 2.235 billion short tons and still meet their Paris obligations. Similarly China would consume about 7.774 billion short tons and still meet their Paris promises. Effectively the Paris Climate Agreement sanctions that coal consumption in India and China alone will be about 10 billion short tons and exceed today’s global consumption. The global coal consumption in 2030 will then be above 14 billion short tons which is about 70% higher than the 2012 global consumption.

And now Reuters informs us that

A decision by Japan’s environment ministry to abandon its opposition to building new coal-fired power stations casts doubt on the industry’s ability to meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, experts and environmental activists said …..

As Japan gets ready to open up its power retail market in April, companies are rushing to build 43 coal-fired plants or 20.5 gigawatt of capacity in coming years, about a 50 percent increase. ……. Coal is attractive because it is the cheapest fossil fuel source and prices have slumped in recent years. Japan has turned to the energy source in record amounts since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 led to the shutdown of reactors.

A group of 36 power companies, which supply 99 percent of the country’s electricity, have also formed a new body to take measures to trim emissions and meet the industry’s voluntary goal to cut emissions by 35 percent in 2030, compared with 2013.

The Paris Agreement has ensured that all those who wish to use coal can continue to do so.


Those who consume more than the world average of 1.78 toe/individual should shut up and not comment on those who consume less

November 6, 2015

The numbers tell the story.

Taking the data available in the BP 2015 Statistical Review of World Energy and the UN’s World Population Prospects – 2015 revision, it is simple arithmetic to see the current disparity in the energy consumed at the individual level. Per capita energy consumption in tons of oil equivalent varies from less than 0.2 in sub-Saharan Africa to over 7 in the US.

Energy per capita 2014

Energy per capita 2014

China has already developed to consume 2.17 toe per capita,  a little above the world average of 1.78 toe. The sharp growth came around 15 years ago. India is still at 0.49 toe/capita and the sharp growth is just beginning now. Probably India will exceed the world average in about 15 years. Sweden is at over 5 toe/capita and the US lies over 7 toe. The per capita energy consumption is a good reflection of the state of development. The developed countries flattened out after the 1970s. There ought to be a slight reduction in developed countries as energy efficiency effects kick in, and this effect is just starting to be apparent.

Energy consumption per capita 1965 - 2014

Energy consumption per capita 1965 – 2014

Suppose now that an average per capita consumption of around 3.5 toe is a reasonable goal to meet the aspirations of the global population by 2100. The global population will then be about 10.5 billion compared to the 7.2 billion in 2014. The total energy consumption will then increase by a factor of 2.9.

Currently 86% of global energy consumption is from fossil fuels. Suppose that by increased use of nuclear power and a much greater use of hydro, wind and solar power, the dependence upon fossil fuels can be reduced to – say – 70%. This is overly optimistic as to the potential of these other sources and does not seem very likely, but I use 70% to make the calculation.

0.7 *2.9/0.86 = 2.36

That would then require a fossil fuel consumption level around 2.3 times the present consumption by 2100. That in turn requires just a 1% growth of fossil fuel consumption per annum for the next 85 years. This is eminently doable – unless the alarmists, most of who already enjoy a consumption level of greater than 5 toe/ individual, manage to hold down the billions now trying to improve from levels less than 1 toe/capita.

Nobody who consumes more than the world average of 1.78 toe/individual should be allowed to comment on the energy use of all those who lie below that average. 

Forty years of subsidy and wind and solar provide all of 1.3% of global energy

November 6, 2015

The 2015 BP Statistical Review of World Energy is out.

It is an excellent reality check for those who care to subject their religious views about energy and climate to some sanity checks.

Subsidies for solar and wind and even bio-mass began around 1975. They took off after about 1985. I just note that after 40 years of subsidising wind and solar power, these two sources of energy provide all of 1.3% of the global energy consumption in 2014. I note also that the global energy need that people aspire to is almost double that actually consumed.

Energy consumption 1975 and 2014

Energy consumption 1975 and 2014

Fossil fuels contributed 86.3% of global energy in 2014 and have more than doubled since 1975. While carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels had increased by 110%, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose from 330 ppm in 1975 to reach 398 ppm in October 2015, an increase of about 20%. The man-made emissions are still less than 5% of all carbon dioxide emissions and there is still no certainty as to how much – if any – of the man-made emissions contribute to the carbon concentration in the atmosphere. And the satellite record shows that there has been no significant increase in global temperature over the last 19 years.

It is not that solar and wind power do not have their niches where they make sense. But without energy storage, the need for back-up capacity always adds a hidden cost. The intermittent nature of the source then means that they can never make more than a marginal contribution. The problem with subsidies is that they can’t make the wind to blow or the sun to shine. And even when the sun is shining, the subsidies can’t control cloud cover. What I dislike even more about subsidies is that they have not been used to develop energy storage. Instead they have distorted the market, put large sums of money into the pockets of “cowboy” developers and have provided no benefits to the consumers. Solar and wind hardly show up when looking at global energy consumption since 1965.

Global energy consumption 1965 - 2014. Data from 2015 BP Statistical Energy Review

Global energy consumption 1965 – 2014. Data from 2015 BP Statistical Energy Review

To see the growth in wind and solar on the same diagram as fossil fuel consumption, it is necessary to use a log scale.

Global Energy Consumption log scale 1965 - 2014. Data source 2015 BP Statistical review of Energy

Global Energy Consumption log scale 1965 – 2014. Data source 2015 BP Statistical review of Energy

Which makes one wonder why the Paris conference is taking place at all. A more pointless exercise, and one which has no real measurable objectives , is hard to imagine.

China has been burning more coal than reported – and any Paris “agreement” will have no significance

November 4, 2015

The NYT reports that in the last 10 years China has admitted it has been burning about 17% more coal than has been reported. The extra one billion tons burned every year is equivalent to what is consumed by Germany. But the global temperature (the satellite measurement based calculated temperature, not the calculated land based measurements which are fudged every year to keep cooling the past) has been flat for over 18 years. Antarctica is gaining ice mass. Ice cover in the Arctic is at the highest level for the last 10 years. Sea levels are not rising any faster than they have been for the last 500 years. Apart from shifting money between countries it is difficult to see what Paris is all about.

Irrespective of what Paris may “agree”, it will be non-binding and will allow India to treble its coal consumption and China to double its coal burn. Both will however “reduce” their carbon emission intensity per unit of GDP (how not?). Energy growth exceeds GDP growth at low levels of development (and fuels GDP growth) but then flattens out as the GDP increases. Thus reducing carbon emission intensity per unit of GDP is easy (and virtually impossible to avoid) when GDP is growing and development has reached the point where growth in electricity (or energy) consumption is lower than GDP growth.

energy to gdp growth as function of gdp

energy to gdp growth as function of gdp

The trebling and doubling respectively of India and China’s coal consumption over the next 20 or so years is an inevitability. Carbon emissions will follow no matter how they are packaged to seem to be “a reduction of emissions per unit of gdp”.

What European countries do to cut their fossil fuel use – and increase their electricity costs – is pointless and with no measurable objectives. European actions are no longer of any significance in terms of global emissions. Moreover nothing “agreed to” in Paris will give any measurable impact on any climate parameter over the next 50 years. The only measurable results of any Paris deal are the inputs – money flows between countries and the changes in fuel use. None of the desired “climate changes” are measurable. Truly policies without any measurable objectives.

china - revised coal consumption - graphic NYT

china – revised coal consumption – graphic NYT


China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.

Even for a country of China’s size, the scale of the correction is immense. The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated.

The increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels.

Idiotic Greenpeace barred from bidding zero for Vattenfall’s brown coal

November 3, 2015

It’s no secret that I find Greenpeace to have deteriorated into an organisation that is lacking both in intelligence and ethics. So it is a bit of a relief to find their planned bid of zero to buy and shut down Vattenfalls brown coal assets has been barred.

TheLocalGreenpeace said on Monday that it has been barred from bidding for the German coal operations of Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, which the environmental activists intended to shut down. …..

Citigroup, which had been in charge of the sale, had informed Greenpeace of its decision on Friday, arguing that the environmental protection group had no intention of standing as a bidder. Neither Citigroup nor Vattenfall were willing to comment.

“We treat all potential bidders equally,” said a Vattenfall spokesman.

Vattenfall is hoping to find a buyer for the open-cast coal mines and two power plants close to the German-Polish border amid growing resistance to fossil fuels in Germany, while public subsidies of renewable sources of energy makes coal-fired energy less profitable.

Greenpeace offered no money to purchase the activities, arguing that the lignite mines and power plants in eastern Germany were in fact a liability. It hoped to transfer the operations into a charitable foundation, paid for by Vattenfall and the German and Swedish governments, in order to phase them out by 2030.

Greenpeace started with good intentions but since the fall of communism has just become a haven for the homeless hard left. They know best what is good for others and look to impose their truths. Unfortunately they have done more to keep people in poverty than most others. It is not just that they are misguided, they have become malicious under the cloak of do-gooding.


A feudal culture of sexual harassment at Greenpeace India

“Greenpeace’s crime against humanity” – Patrick Moore

Science and advocacy do not mix (the “Greenpeace syndrome”?)

India to more than double coal production in next 5 years

August 26, 2015

Coal production in India is not keeping up with consumption. One of the bottlenecks has been the private production of coal which was expected to grow much faster but has been hampered by scams and bureaucratic regulation. Now the Coal Mines Special Provision Bill was passed in March and is meant to encourage the private sector and allows foreign investment through an Indian subsidiary.

The government is very ambitious and targets a domestic annual production of 1.5 billion metric tons by 2020 which is 2.5 times larger than the current 600 million metric tons.

India coal production target

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports:

Coal consumption in India, particularly in the electric power sector, is outpacing India’s domestic production. From 2005 to 2012, India’s coal production grew by only 4.7% per year to about 600 million metric tons while the country’s coal-fired electric power capacity grew by a much faster rate (about 9.4% per year), reaching 150 gigawatts. To help resolve the shortfall in coal supply and to support expanded coal-fired generation, India has set a coal production target of 1.5 billion metric tons by 2020. Recent shifts in government policies and practices may play a key role in India’s ability to meet this coal production goal.

Increasing coal production from its national coal producer. Coal India Limited (CIL), the national coal producer responsible for more than 80% of India’s current production, initially planned to produce 1 billion metric tons of coal by FY2020, almost double its FY2015 production. Although CIL revised its current expectations downward to about 900 million metric tons, its annual production must still rise faster than the current rate of increase to achieve its new goal. Since 2012, CIL has increased coal production by outsourcing production operations to private and foreign companies in an effort to improve mechanization and mining expertise and by working to adhere to detailed mine plans for achieving its 2020 production target.

Encouraging greater private and foreign participation. In August 2014, allegations of impropriety, hoarding of coal resources, lost government revenue, and a lack of transparency led India’s Supreme Court to cancel 214 coal licenses allocated to the private and public sector, representing 9% of FY2013’s production. The Ministry of Coal quickly reauctioned many of these properties to help minimize the disruption from the cancellation, but the impact of this redistribution of coal properties on production is uncertain.

Private mining may be expanded further as a result of the Coal Mines Special Provision Bill passed in March. This law opens the door to commercial coal mining by both private companies and foreign companies having an Indian subsidiary. The government is now evaluating the effect of a coal block auction to allocate properties for commercial development—a significant change for a coal industry that has been nationalized for 40 years.

The simple reality is that coal is essential – and irreplaceable – for Indian development and growth.

Time to invest in fossil fuels as China discovers vast new reserves

April 21, 2015

There is a campaign in the western “do-gooding” and deluded “green” community (exemplified by The Guardian) to pressurise investors to disinvest from fossil fuels. Fortunately there is no shortage of investors in Asia who would be only too happy to see the European financial institutions and pension funds selling off their shares in oil, shale and coal producing and using companies. There are few better investments than snapping up artificially depressed energy shares. I am watching closely to pick up any bargains that might appear if this campaign has any impact. So far it has had little effect.

In the 1970s and 1980s the alarmist view was that coal, oil and gas would run out catastrophically. Now that peak-oil and peak-gas have been pushed out into the indeterminate future and further new shale reserves are found, the alarmism has shifted to the use of these resources being catastrophic! The campaign itself is rather idiotic (“leave it in the ground”) and counter-productive, since any success can only shift ownership of energy companies eastwards. Supposedly – but misguidedly – it is about climate but the campaign has no measurable or relevant objectives. (Note that no “climate policy”  ever has a climate parameter as an objective and which can be measured.) It will certainly not reduce the consumption of fossil fuels at all – which will instead continue to grow as developing countries develop. In fact the competitiveness of the fossil fuel using countries will be further emphasised as the “do-gooding” countries entrap themselves into a very high-cost electricity production regime based on intermittent solar and wind energy. (It is worth noting that Germany which has installed more renewable energy than any other European country now has an electricity cost which is the highest in Europe and more than twice that of the US. And yet Germany burned more coal last year than they have ever done! The German Energiwende has been a fiasco for all other than those who have milked the subsidies available)

There is – again fortunately – no prospect of India, China and other developing countries in Asia and Africa reducing their use of all the fossil fuels they have available. If I could I would be investing directly in coal and oil and natural gas and shale gas in India and China and Indonesia. At present I must satisfy myself with some indirect investment.

History will be contemptuous of the irrational demonisation of fossil fuels by the alarmists and the “do-gooders” during the late 20th and early 21st century.

Xinhua reports:

China continued to be increasingly successful at discovering crude oil and natural gas reserves last year, new data from the Ministry of Land and Resources indicated on Thursday.

The country discovered nearly 1.06 billion tonnes of new crude oil deposits in 2014, up from 1.1 billion tonnes the previous year, marking a stable increase and the eighth consecutive year in which the amount discovered surpassed 1 billion tonnes. More than 1.1 trillion cubic meters of new natural gas reserves were also discovered in 2014, a record high.

Of the new discoveries, 187 million tonnes of oil and 474.9 billion cubic meters of natural gas can be exploited with current technology, according to the ministry.

New shale gas reserves discovered amount to 106.75 billion cubic meters, with 26.69 billion exploitable.

This is the first time that proven reserves of shale gas have been publicized since the Chinese government approved the listing of shale gas as an independent mineral resource in 2011.

Discoveries of coal-bed methane, an unconventional gas, amounted to 60.2 billion cubic meters, up 155.3 percent year on year.

shale basins China (The Diplomat)

shale basins China (The Diplomat)

The Indian sub-continent too has large shale reserves waiting to be exploited. The shale basins extend into Pakistan and Bangladesh and offers Pakistan the possibility of actually becoming self-sufficient for energy.

shale gas basins India

shale gas basins India

Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really)

March 17, 2015

Matt Ridley has an opinion piece in the WSJ which says many things far better than I can.

The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.

These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy. In fact, a more realistic assessment of our energy and environmental situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress. …….

The article is well worth reading. Fossil Fuels Will Save the World Ridley WSJ

Ground zero is that fossil fuels will eventually be replaced only when a cheaper, more reliable source of energy (electricity production) is found. There is no foreseeable “peak” for fossil fuels and availability is not a constraint. Solar and wind technologies have small, clear niches which they can well fill but practical and affordable energy storage is needed before they can be any significant source of our energy consumption. And Li-ion batteries will not cut it. As Ridley points out they provide about 1% of our energy consumption today while fossil fuels still reign supreme at about 87%. Nuclear power could make a severe dent in fossil fuel consumption, but only if the costs and the construction time due to the regulatory process can be drastically reduced – and that does not seem likely as long as alarmists and doom-sayers hold sway. (I estimate that around 30% of the capital cost of nuclear plants is unnecessary and due to CYA regulations which are driven by fear). Small, safe, pre-approved, modular, fifth-generation nuclear power plants could take-off but that requires many alarmists to give up their faith.

(As an aside, I observe that climate and energy politics have become the politics of fear, but I am an optimist and I expect the pendulum will swing to return to energy politics based on courage. It is a form of cowardice which drives energy politics today where I take cowardice to be actions subordinated to fear and courage to be fears subordinated to purposeful actions).

Perhaps fusion (probably hot rather than cold) will come – but a breakthrough is not in sight (though by definition breakthroughs are never generally in sight). We can fantasise that we will someday be able to tap into the gravitational energy of the solar system (which would be solar energy in another form). I don’t doubt that some new, cheap, energy source or energy conversion technique will appear – but until then fossil fuels will provide the basis for human development. And if we are on our way into a new ice age it is fossil fuel which will ensure our survival.

I dismiss the hypothesis – and it is still only a hypothesis – that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are of any significance for “global temperature”. In fact the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (and man-made emissions are a tiny contributor to that) has a very small effect on “global temperature”. Instead it is “global temperature” which has a very large effect on carbon dioxide concentration through the balance of absorption and emission from the oceans and from the biosphere. Carbon dioxide concentration lags rather than leads “global temperature”. The sun and clouds and ocean currents and winds (also driven by the sun) dwarf any effects of carbon dioxide. The hypothesis looks broken considering that over the last 18 years man-made carbon dioxide emissions have increased sharply but “global temperature” has been static. Even the assumed “global warming” that is supposed to have taken place over the last 100 years are to a significant extent “manufactured” by “adjusting” temperature data and choosing weighting and averaging algorithms which are biased to show a pre-determined result. There is a shortage of “science” and far too much confirmation bias in what passes for “climate science” these days.

%d bloggers like this: