CoalWire 115, December 18, 2015

December 18, 2015

editor’s note

The recent Paris Agreement envisages a decarbonised world this century, signals the end is in sight for the coal sector. Despite the finalisation of the agreement, in communities around the world the to-and-fro over coal continues. A US court has rejected a coal industry bid to block new pollution rules, Indian imports keep falling, a Canadian exporter says it may scale back a port upgrade while a Queensland court has recommended Adani’s Carmichael mine be approved. Two steps forward, one step back and another sideways.

CoalWire will be taking a short break and will resume publication on January 14. Best wishes for the festive season and the start of the New Year.

Bob Burton
CoalWire Editor

features

2015: The year the coal industry woke up from a nightmare … and found it was real.

2015 really couldn’t have been much worse for the coal industry, writes Bob Burton in EndCoal.

Tweet: The year the #coal industry woke up from a nightmare … and found it was real @bobburtonoz

Next Steps for China on Paris Climate Agreement

There are eight important next steps which will determine China’s impact on both the coal market and global climate policy, writes Barbara Finamore, from the Beijing office of the US-headquartered Natural Resources Defense Council.

Tweet: Next Steps for #China on #ParisAgreement http://on.nrdc.org/1QrmMwQ #climate

The Paris Agreement – what does it mean for coal?

The Paris Agreement will have huge implications for the global coal industry but the exact impacts will take time to tease out. In the meantime David Roberts provides a good overview of what the deal can and can’t do, former Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope provides a brief overview of the agreement and Jake Schmidt from NRDC a more detailed one. Tom Sanzillo and Tim Buckley from IEEFA point to the increased risk of stranded assets after the agreement while Bill McKibben from 350.org argues now is not the time to relax but to step up the pressure on governments and corporations.

top news

Mercury standards survive coal industry challenge: In a rebuff to the National Mining Association and a coalition of states and utilities a US Court of Appeals has rejected a bid to suspend the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. In April the standards came into effect, forcing some coal plants to close. However, in June the Supreme Court directed the EPA review its assessment of the cost of the rules. The EPA, which estimates the new rules will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, will complete its review of costs by April 2016. (Reuters, Sierra Club)


Adani mine clears one hurdle, more loom:Despite finding Adani exaggerated the economic benefits of its proposed Carmichael coal mine, the Queensland Land Court has recommended the project be approved subject to new conditions. In what will be their first post-Paris Agreement decision, two Queensland Government ministers will decide whether to grant Adani an environment licence and a mining licence. The project is subject to a separate legal appeal against federal approval of the project. (Brisbane Times, Environmental Defenders Office)

Euracoal head fears coal industry reputation trashed: After the Paris climate conference Brian Ricketts, Secretary-General of the European Association for Coal and Lignite (Euracoal), a coal industry lobby group, wrote to member companies stating “the climate bandwagon is rolling and gathering speed such that the fossil fuel industry will spend the coming years and decades in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.” Ricketts also complained the coal industry “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified.” (Euractiv)

“The [US] power industry is not your friend … They’re not trying to save their coal plants anymore. We are losing the politics,”

said Seth Schwartz, the principal at Energy Ventures Analysis at the recent Coal Trading Association annual conference in New York.

news

Israel: Environmental regulator orders 8-10 per cent cut in coal use at Orot Rabin plant in 2016.


Philippines: Commission on Human Rights plans inquiry into 50 global companies’ climate damage.


Poland: Government pins hopes on coal sales to Ukraine to clear stockpiles and raise cash.

South Africa: Glencore sells Optimum mine to Gupta family which is close to President Zuma.


Sri Lanka: All three units at troubled Chinese-built Lakvijaya plant offline due to failures and repairs.


US: Morgan Stanley estimates low gas prices could end Central Appalachian thermal coal in 2016.

companies + markets

Canadian coal terminal likely to be downsized: Westshore Terminals, which expanded its coal export terminal near Vancouver in 2013 to 33 million tonnes a year, will export only 24 to 24.5 million tonnes in 2016 due to coal companies cutting export volumes. Westshore Terminals’ US$197 million upgrade – which also expands capacity by 3 million tonnes – may be affected with the possible cancellation of one of three new stackers on order if the market doesn’t improve by late 2016. (Westshore Terminals, CoalSwarm)


Arch Coal tries to stave off bankruptcy:The anticipated bankruptcy filing of Arch Coal has been delayed after the company deferred a US$90 million interest payment for 30 days. Arch Coal, the second largest US coal producer, had a market value of US$3.78 billion a year ago but is now valued at just $19 million. The company operates 11 mining sites and produced 120 million tonnes of coal in 2014. (Reuters, Arch Coal)


Australian bank goes into damage control after Adani announcement: A leaked email has revealed the National Australia Bank (NAB) public announcement in September it would not fund Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine triggered complaints from coal company clients. In the email James MacGinley, the director of natural resources at NAB, apologised to clients for “any ­additional pressure that comes your way as a result of our misguided attempt to distance ourselves from Adani.” He also stated “no one is happy about NAB bowing to NGO pressure.” (The Australian)

Metallurgical coal contract price falls for 2016: The benchmark metallurgical coal price for Japanese steelmakers in the first quarter of 2016 has been set at US$81 a tonne, the lowest price since 2010. With Chinese steel production falling in each of the last 10 months, the commissioning of new mines and expansions of existing ones has flooded the market. China has also forced the closure of some steel mills in a bid to reduce surplus steel capacity and improve air quality. (Nikkei Asian Review)


Indian coal imports keep falling: Indian coal imports halved in November compared to a year earlier due to increased domestic production. Coal Secretary Anil Swarup estimates imports for the financial year to March 2016 could be 170 million tonnes, down from 212 million tonnes last financial year. (Reuters)


China funds overseas coal boom: Since 2010 Chinese state-owned companies have been involved in plans for the construction of 92 coal plants in 27 countries. The plants, if all are built, would have a total capacity of 107,000 megawatts (MW), the equivalent of all the US coal plants proposed to be shut by 2020. Many of the plants rely on finance from the China Export-Import Bank and China Development Bank. (New York Times)

resources

China-Australia trade deal: Mixed views over impact on coal markets, Platts, December 15, 2015.

This 7-minute podcast canvasses the implications of the Chinese Government’s announcement that import taxes on both Australian thermal and metallurgical coal will be reduced this week.