July 24, 2014

Alarm over proposed Chinese coal-to-gas projects

“There is a potential storm on the horizon of China’s energy policy: coal-to-gas. There could be 50 coal-to-gas projects operational within the next decade, producing 225 billion cubic metres of synthetic natural gas [SNG] per year, if all of the planned ones go ahead, according to comprehensive new research by Greenpeace China … If China builds all 50 coal-to-gas plants without carbon capture and storage, and isn’t prevented from doing so by a global climate deal, the world’s largest emitter of CO2 will put out a significant amount of CO2 in the atmosphere … This comes as the NEA [National Energy Administration] warns operators against ‘blind development’ of coal-to-gas projects with disregard for the environment, highlighting the need for regulatory approval covering environmental and water standards,” writes Christine Ottery from Greenpeace.

Suggested Tweet: Massive CO2 emissions if 50 planned #coal-to-gas plants are built in #China bit.ly/1tumZ3I #climate

The long history of violence against labour leaders at Drummond’s Colombian mine

“Cesar Florez is often hesitant to answer his phone because there might be another death threat at the end of the line. Sometimes the threat comes in a phone call, other times in a text message or an email. In April, flyers were posted in the restroom stalls at Florez’s workplace, declaring him and his colleagues ‘permanent military targets.’ Until last month, Florez served as a local president of Sintramienergetica, a labor union in Colombia that represents the employees of Drummond Company, a US-based coal-mining firm, in a country known for some of the world’s most severe violence against union leaders,” writes Rosalind Adams for the Center for Public Integrity, in an article describing the historical and ongoing human rights violations at Drummond’s Colombian coal mine.

Suggested Tweet: @Publici investigates violent intimidation of union officials at Drummond #coal mine in #Colombia http://bit.ly/1p8N7NB

top news

Coal dust from port spread widely across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: James Cook University (JCU) Professor Terry Hughes, who is also the director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, has told a Senate inquiry that coal dust has spread hundreds of kilometres from coal ports into the Great Barrier Reef. “I think this new evidence is sufficient that recently issued permits to undertake dredging should be revoked,” he said. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Delay in assessment of new US coal railway: The US Government’s Surface Transportation Board has announced that its review of the proposed Tongue River Railroad in Montana will not be completed until April 2015 due to a strong community response. The railway – proposed by BNSF Railway, Arch Coal and billionaire Forrest Mars Jr – is intended to allow the proposed Otter Creek mine and other potential mines to export coal through ports on the US West Coast to the Pacific market. (Seattle Times)

POSCO contracted to build Adani’s Australian rail link: The South Korean steelmaking company POSCO has agreed to be the construction contractor for Adani’s proposed 388-kilometre railway from the proposed Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal. While Posco has agreed to participate in financing the US$2.8 billion project, Adani does not yet have finance for the remaining US$9.4 billion for the export terminal and mine. (Sydney Morning Herald, Renew Economy)

Japan announces policy emphasising support for overseas coal lending: A Japanese government panel of energy experts has approved a policy emphasising the importance of financing overseas coal projects. “Encouraging the adoption of the most efficient coal technology as possible is a realistic way to cut CO2,” the policy stated. “Without public loans and insurance from rich countries, emerging countries would turn to less costly, inefficient technologies,” said Takafumi Kakudo, coal director at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. (Wall Street Journal)
Indian coal company seeks dismissal of court case based on leaked intelligence document: Citing a recently leaked Intelligence Bureau report which argued for curbs on Indian anti-coal activism, Mahan Coal has asked the National Green Tribunal to dismiss a legal action challenging the approval of the Mahan mine. In an affidavit Mahan Coal argued that “in light of the serious facts mentioned in the report, the appellant [Mahan Sangharsh Samiti  (MSS)] cannot be allowed to play in the hands of its foreign masters to advance Western foreign policy interests and use the machinery of law to hurt the Indian economy.” (Business Standard)

Coal ship grounds in Canadian port: The side of a Japanese-owned coal ship was ripped open and will take two weeks to repair after striking rocks in the outer harbour of Prince Rupert in British Columbia. At the time of the accident the 228-metre Amakusa Island, which was loaded with 80,000 tonnes of coal, had a pilot on board and was being moved in good weather from a berth at the Ridley Terminal’s coal terminal to an anchorage. (Vancouver Sun, CJFWFM.com)

US government study reports coal mining’s impact on freshwater fish: A United States Geological Survey (USGS) study has found that mountaintop mining in an Appalachian river catchment resulted in a halving of the number of fish species and one-third less fish compared to streams without mining in their headwaters. “It’s telling us that the water quality is changing,” said Doug Chambers, a USGS biologist and water-quality specialist, who noted that it appeared that ten species had been eliminated from mined areas. (Columbus Dispatch, USGS)

“As governments globally seek to reduce their CO2 emissions, it looks increasingly likely that "King Coal" will lose its crown. A significant decline in coal production and consumption globally is becoming a much more realistic concept, in Standard & Poor's Ratings Services' view. However, the pace and scale of change within the coal industry is far from clear, and investors could potentially remain in the dark for some time,”

wrote Standard & Poor’s in a review of the prospects for the coal industry.


Australia: NSW department supports 100 million-tonne mine despite opposition from horse breeders.

India: Government aims to open coal mining sector to private producers.

India: Supreme Court directs establishment of special court for ‘Coalgate’ cases.
North Korea: Rajin coal port commissioned, opening new outlet for Russian coal.

US: ELegal challenge lodged against proposed Oregon export terminal.

US: 56 million litres of water used in attempt to put out fire in disused section of Deer Run mine.

“The repeal [of the carbon tax] could leave Australia more isolated over the long term as growth in demand for its carbon (mainly coal) exports could weaken … Carbon isolation may challenge Australia’s international standing and its ability to negotiate in other areas,”

wrote investment bank HSBC after the Australian parliament voted to repeal the carbon tax.

companies + markets

Indian steel producers aim to block met coal import tax: The Indian steel industry has flagged that it wants the Finance Ministry to drop the proposed 2.5 per cent tax on metallurgical coal imports. Producers claim that the import tax would push up the cost of a tonne of steel by approximately US$3.20. The steel industry is hoping to press one of the industry lobby groups Ficci or Assocham to take up their cause and lobby the government to “incentivise steel makers for importing the raw material” instead of taxing it. (Business Standard)

Liquidators report discovers new risks of Scottish Coal mines: The liquidators of Scottish Coal have reported that one of the company’s closed mines is likely to flood and overflow into the surrounding countryside while there is a “growing risk of an incident” at another mine site. Following the collapse of Scottish Coal and another company it was revealed that the East Ayrshire Council faced a US$225 million shortfall between bonds posted by the company and actual rehabilitation costs. Last week the council sacked its former chief planner over the shortfall. (Carluke Gazette, BBC)
Indian tribunal overrides power agreement and orders power price hike: The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity has determined that Adani and Tata Power can recover the increased costs of Indonesian coal for their ‘ultra-mega’ power projects at Mundra from state distribution companies. However, the tribunal said that the companies can only claim the arrears from March 2013 not March 2012 as requested. The decision is worth an estimated US$4.2 billion to Tata Power and US$3.1 billion to Adani over the remaining life of the projects. (Economic Times)

Hong Kong ponders coal plant replacements: With Hong Kong’s two coal-fired power stations scheduled to close by 2017 Environment Bureau officials are considering increasing electricity imports from mainland China rather than permitting the construction of new local gas-fired plants due to pollution concerns. However, this would require the construction of a connection to the China Southern Power Grid, which is predominantly supplied by coal-plants. (Reuters)

“The [US] coal sector continues to be unloved with met coal prices close to bottom while steam coal prices are slightly cooling off after a strong rally during 1Q14 … Similar to 1Q14, the two major challenges for coal producers remain weak met coal pricing and rail service limiting steam coal volume uptick,”

wrote FBR Capital Markets analyst Mitesh Thakkar in a preview of coal company quarterly announcements.

resources                      take action

Briefing note: Fossil fuels, energy transition & risk, July 2014, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), July 21, 2014. (Pdf)

This IEEFA briefing note provides a comprehensive overview of some of the key factors weighing on the prospects for coal especially in the Pacific market.

Europe’s Dirty 30: How the EU’s coal-fired power plants are undermining its climate efforts, Climate Action Network Europe, WWF European Policy Office, Health and Environment Alliance, the European Environmental Bureau and Climate Alliance Germany, July 2014.

This report details the 30 dirtiest power stations in the European Union and the policies needed to phase them out.

The storage necessity myth: how to choreograph high-renewables electricity systems, Rocky Mountain Institute, YouTube, July 2014.

This five minute video by Amory Lovins shows how a high level of renewables can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power without the need for the development of major storage systems.

Join the 8km long anti-coal chain

A coalition of European groups is planning an 8-kilometre-long human chain on August 23 between Kerkwitz in Germany and Grabice in Poland to protest against the proposed new Vattenfall and PGE coal mines in the German-Polish Lausitz region. The mines threaten to displace 20 villages and 6,000 residents and, if they proceed, will undermine progress towards the European Union’s climate targets.

Full details on the human chain and the associated festival are here.


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