March 24, 2016
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editor's note

Coal and water don’t mix, or at least they shouldn’t. This week another coal ship sank in Bangladesh in the Sundarbans World Heritage site, nearby the sites of two proposed coal plants. In India the widespread drought is taking its toll on the country’s power system, with some coal plants already shut for lack of water, and more at risk. A new report from Greenpeace warns that what is happening in India is symptomatic of a coal-induced water crisis; also happening in many other countries including South Africa, China, Poland and Turkey. 

Bob Burton
CoalWire Editor


Drought hits Indian coal plants and plans

Despite the Indian Government’s determination to double or even triple domestic coal production, the power sector is now being hit by water scarcity, write Bob Burton & Ashish Fernandes in EndCoal.
Tweet: Drought hits #India’s #coal plants and plans @bobburtonoz & @ashishfernandes

Coal plants risk global water shortage

The world’s 8359 coal power plant units consume enough water each year to meet the basic needs of one billion people, writes Joe Sandler Clarke in EnergyDesk.

Tweet: #Coal plants risk global #water shortage @JSandlerClarke @EnergyDesk

South African coal plans collide wit water scarcity, financial turmoil

The giant Medupi and Kusile coal plants are examples of the “calamities that occur when projects designed for 20th-century conditions are brought online in the 21st,” writes Keith Schneider in Circle of Blue.
Tweet: #SouthAfrica #Coal projects collide with water scarcity, financial turmoil @circleofblue

top news

Coal ship sinks near Bangladesh’s Sundarbans World Heritage site: On March 19 a ship carrying 1245 tonnes of coal sank in the Shela River inside the Sundarbans World Heritage site. In October 2015 another ship carrying coal sank in the Sundarbans. The Bangladesh government is pushing ahead with plans for two coal power plants reliant on transporting coal through the Sundarbans. (Waterkeeper,

US judge rejects coal mine water permit: A district judge has ruled the renewal of a water pollution permit issued by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for the Western Energy Company’s Rosebud Mine is invalid. District Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in favour of the Environmental Information Center and Sierra Club and directed the agency reconsider the permit application in line with her judgement. The Rosebud mine supplies about 11 million tonnes of coal a year to the Colstrip Power Plant in Montana. (Great Falls Tribune, Western Environmental Law Center)
Proposed US terminal may be ruled out: SSA Marine’s proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Washington state may be ruled out by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) before environmental assessment due to the impact of the project on the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights and protected fishing grounds. (Bellingham Herald, SNL)

Germany mulls coal phase-out options: Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has signalled that for Germany to honour its obligations under the Paris Agreement by 2050 it would need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent from 1990 levels. While all sectors of the economy would need to be addressed “above all, we must switch electricity completely to renewable energy,” she said. (CarbonPulse)

“There are always going to be periods of boom and bust … But what is happening in coal is a downward shift that is permanent,”
said Chiza Vitta, an analyst with the credit rating firm Standard & Poor’s.

Tweet: “What is happening in #coal is a downward shift that is permanent” says Chiza Vitta from Standard & Poor’s


Australia: High methane emissions from NSW coal mines mapped.

Germany: Vattenfall attracts only two Czech company bids for German mines and power plants.

Mongolia: Five herders detained for ten days over blockade of coal plants polluting grazing lands.
South Africa: Minister requires climate assessment on proposed 1200 megawatt (MW) Thabametsi power station.

US: Lawyer who sues climate scientists revealed as “Regulatory Counsel” for Alpha Natural Resources.

US: Call for federal inquiry into Utah’s US$53 million deal for California port … and links to campaign donations.

companies + markets

Vietnam projects doubling of coal consumption by 2020: The Vietnamese Government’s revised Power Development Plan projects coal demand could grow from about 47.5 million tonnes in 2016 to 156.6 million tonnes by 2030, with over three-quarters used in the power sector. The report projects domestic coal production could expand from 41.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 57 million tonnes in 2030. The government is also looking to expand the just-completed Duyen Hai coal terminal in the southern province of Tra Vinh from 12 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) capacity to 40 Mtpa. (Platts)

Zambia & Mozambique sign deal for coal plant: The governments of Mozambique and Zambia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a 1200 MW plant at the port of Nacala to supply power to both countries. Vale recently completed the construction of a coal railway from the Moatize mine to Nacala. A 110 MW diesel-fuelled ship-based generation plant moored at Nacala is due to be commissioned in March to supply both countries for a two-year period. (Lusaka Times, Macauhub)

Pressure increases on Peabody Energy over self-bonding: After Peabody Energy missed US$71 million bond payments due on March 15 pressure has increased on the company over its estimated US$1.4 billion rehabilitation liability. The Powder River Basin Resource Council has filed a complaint with Wyoming regulators arguing the company is in breach of mining laws over its inability to cover US$790 million in self-bonds, while Illinois Attorney-General Lisa Madigan is demanding proof the company can meet its US$92 million rehabilitation liabilities in the state. (WyoFile, Daily Journal)
Coal companies take hit on Australian coal port: Glencore and five other coal companies are facing an extra US$114 million a year in costs on the US$2 billion Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal in Queensland.  Two of the original joint-venture companies, Cockatoo Coal and Bandanna Energy, entered into take-or-pay contracts on 27 million tonnes a year capacity. With the collapse of the two companies the remaining partners have to cover the cost of the unused capacity. (Reuters)

US power plant stockpiles climb: Stockpiles of thermal coal at US power plants climbed to 179 million tonnes by the end of 2015, the highest end-of-year inventory in at least 25 years. In the last three months of the year the stockpiles grew by 36 million tonnes. The US Energy Information Administration attributes the dramatic increase in coal stockpiles to declining coal power generation and a warmer than normal winter. (Energy Information Administration)

Polish utilities press for capacity market subsidies: With increasing write-offs on coal plants and falling share prices, Polish power utilities are stepping up pressure on the government to introduce a ‘capacity market’ subsidy scheme to keep loss-making coal power plants online. ZE PAK, the worst performing utility, which faces the need to retire 4000 MW of coal and gas-plants by 2018, complained its plan for a new lignite plant would not proceed without further support. (Bloomberg, Bloomberg)


The Great Water Grab: How the Coal Industry is Deepening the Global Water Crisis, Greenpeace, March 2016. (Pdf)

This 40-page report details the increasing demands being placed on water resources by coal power and mining, with case studies on China, India, South Africa, Turkey and Poland.

Corporate Welfare for Coal, Greenpeace, March 2016. (Pdf)

This 41-page report details the heavy reliance of the three largest US coal producers – Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy – on subsidised coal from federal lands.

A Reporter’s Guide to Energiewende, Clean Energy Wire, March 2016. (Pdf)

This 48-page guide provides a concise overview of each of the key elements of the Germen Energiewende (energy transition) along with key contacts and links to background reading.

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