CoalWire 116, January 14, 2016

January 14, 2016

editor’s note

Welcome to the New Year. Just a few weeks into the New Year and the coal industry has suffered a series of further blows: a court win by opponents against a new power plant in Poland, China announcing a freeze on new mine approvals and a massive bankruptcy in the US.

Bob Burton
CoalWire Editor

features

Why China’s new coal mine moratorium matters

The late December announcement by the head of China’s National Energy Agency that no new coal mines would be approved in the next three years is of great significance, writes Greenpeace’s Lauri Myllyvirta.

Tweet: Why #China’s new #coal mine moratorium matters @laurimyllyvirta @Energydesk

India’s coal imports keep on falling

The latest Indian data reveals a dramatic drop in coal imports with profound implications for the seaborne coal market and proposed new projects such as Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, write Tim Buckley and Jai Sharda from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis.

Tweet: The end of #India’s #coal imports looms write Tim Buckley & Jai Sharda @ieefa_institute

campaigns

Court overturns approval of Polish coal plant

On December 30, 2015, the Pomeranian Governor in Poland reversed the decision on the construction permit for the 1600 megawatt (MW) Polnoc power station near the village of Rajkowy. The governor found the permit process limited public participation and overlooked information submitted on the plant’s negative environmental impacts. The plant is proposed by Polenergia, a subsidiary of Kulczyk Investments Group. An Environmental Impact Assessment for the plant was issued in 2011 and partially overturned in 2013. The recent decision by the governor remits the case to the Tczewskie Prefect, starting the construction permit process over again. (Greenpeace Poland, CoalSwarm)

Tweet: Court overturns approval of #Polnoc #coal plant in #Poland bit.ly/22YTGJt

top news

Vietnam aims to move thousands at risk from coal: Quang Ninh provincial authorities are seeking to relocate residents from over 2000 houses deemed to be at risk from landslides associated with coal mining. The relocation project was proposed after heavy rainfall in July last year triggered the collapse of tailings dams at mines, with 17 people killed and an estimated US$120 million in property damage. The relocation project is estimated to cost US$84.5 million. (ThanhNien News)


Indonesian human rights commission cautions Japan: The National Human Rights Commission, an independent Indonesian Government agency, has written to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese parliament noting that human rights violations and abuses have occurred in the land acquisition process for the 2000 MW Central Java Power Project. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation is considering supporting the power project proposed by a consortium including two Japanese companies, J-Power and Itochu. (Japan Times)


Polish Government confronts costs of saving coal: In late December the new Polish Government signed into law a bill allowing government-owned coal companies to continue operating until 2019 despite growing losses. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has also vowed to defend “every” coal mining job. However, the European Commission is adamant that the government can’t subsidise the ongoing operation of mines. Meri Pukarinen from Greenpeace Poland argues that government support for the sector is untenable and it should instead plan for an orderly transition away from coal. (Politico, VisegradRevue)

Tailings dam fails at NSW Peabody mine: The tailings dam at Peabody Energy’s Wambo mine in the NSW Hunter Valley collapsed after heavy rain and may have spilled as much as 3 million litres of sediment-laden water into the environment. The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority said that it wasn’t informed of the collapse until almost a week after the event. Peabody Energy staff said while the dam may have collapsed on January 5 it wasn’t noticed until January 11 when it was reported to the EPA. (Environmental Protection Agency, Sydney Morning Herald)


New German coal plant may not be commissioned: With the increase in solar and wind power pushing wholesale prices to decade-low levels, RWE has signalled that it is not “economically viable” to complete the construction and commissioning of the 764 MW US$1.1 billion Westfalen-D plant. Twenty-three municipal utilities announced in mid-2015 they each wanted to sell their one per cent stake in the proposed unit D and unit E which was commissioned in 2014. (Bloomberg)


Osaka Gas abandons coal plant plan: Osaka Gas has abandoned plans to build a 100 MW coal plant due to Environment Ministry concern about increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increased competition from the recommissioning of nuclear power plants. In mid-2015 the Kiko Network, a network of climate NGOs, identified one-third of the 45 proposed coal plants – including the Osaka Gas plant – were smaller than 112.5 MW, the threshold below which no environmental assessment is required. (Japan Times)

“There is no growth in our sector outside of clean energy; only slow but irreversible contraction following the path of fixed line telephony,”

wrote David Crane, the departing CEO of the US energy utility NRG, in a final letter to employees.

news

Chile: New 1410 MW coal plant and coal terminal proposed at Luz de Atacama.


China: Ex-deputy chief of National Energy Administration’s coal bureau admits taking US$32.5 million in bribes.


Egypt: Lawsuit filed by families over gas-to-coal switch for cement production in residential area.


UK: Campaigners cheer Cluff decision to shelve Firth of Forth underground coal gasification plan.

UK: In January to November 2015 period coal imports down 47 per cent on year before.


US: DKRW’s Wyoming coal-to-liquids plan stalls as company concedes project not viable.


US: President Obama calls for restructuring the federal coal leasing program to accelerate clean energy transition.


Zambia: Two UK firms express interest in building two 300 MW power plants.

companies + markets

China coal imports plummet in 2015: Chinese customs data indicate that in 2015 coal imports fell by 30 per cent to 204 million tonnes, the lowest amount since 2011. Further falls in imports are expected in 2016 as curbs on pollution are imposed, a switch away from coal power progresses and the economy shifts to less energy intensive services. The China Academy of Sciences estimates domestic coal production could fall by 4.2 per cent in 2016 to 3.6 billion tonnes, down from an estimated 3.76 billion tonnes in 2015. (Reuters, Bloomberg)


Arch Coal bankruptcy weakens export plans: The second largest US coal producer, Arch Coal, has filed for bankruptcy protection to allow it to restructure its debt but has not announced any mine closures. However, the downturn in both the domestic and export coal markets make it increasingly unlikely Arch will proceed with plans to build the Otter Creek mine and associated Tongue River Railroad in Montana. The company planned to export the coal through the Millenium Bulk Terminal in Washington proposed by a consortium in which Arch Coal has a 38 per cent stake. Arch Coal estimates it will produce 118 million tonnes in the 2015 financial year. (SNL, Sierra Club)


US coal production down: The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects US coal production in 2015 to have fallen by about 10 per cent to 816 million tonnes, the “the lowest level since 1986.” The fall in domestic coal consumption is due to tighter environmental standards for coal plants, increased renewable generation and lower gas prices. The EIA estimates that US coal exports in 2015 will fall 21 per cent to 70 million tonnes due to falling international demand and prices. (Energy Information Administration)

Vale struggles to finance Mozambique project: The Brazilian company Vale has been forced to draw US$3 billion from a line of credit due to its failure to raise project finance for its new coal mine, railway and port operations in Mozambique. In December 2014 Vale announced a plan to sell stakes in the projects to Mitsui for US$763 million, subject to raising US$2.7 billion in project finance to complete the projects. While the African Development Bank agreed in December 2015 to loan Vale “up to” US$300 million “subject to conditions” for the railway and port project, the company’s inability to raise the remainder has stalled the sale to Mitsui. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)


India delays coal auctions, seeks to revive ‘ultra-mega’ projects: In late December the Coal Secretary, Anil Swarup, cancelled the auction of nine coal blocks for captive power, steel and cement plants as only 15 bids had been received. The Indian Government has also flagged plans to call for bids for up to five 4000 MW ‘Ultra-Mega Power Projects’ in the first half of 2016. (The Hindu, Economic Times)


Egypt approves coal plan: The Egyptian military regime has conditionally approved two Chinese-financed power plant proposals with a combined capacity of 6600 MW. The approval is subject to finalisation of tariffs and financing. Shanghai Electric has proposed the construction of a 2640 MW plant and Dongfang Electric Corporation a 3960 MW plant, both in the Hamrawein area in the east of the country. (Ahram Online)


resources

The Cost of Coal: Impact of Russian coal mining on the environment, local communities and indigenous peoples, Ecodefense, December 2015. (Pdf)

This 16-page report provides a good overview of Russian coal mining and its impacts.


 

The Proposed New Kosovo Power Plant: An Unnecessary Burden at an Unreasonable Price, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, January 2016. (Pdf)

This 46-page report provides a detailed financial critique of the proposed 500 MW New Kosovo Power Plant in Kosovo, concluding the project will push up power prices and require significant subsidies. While the World Bank has endorsed the project, the final decision on financing has not yet been made.

 

 

Eleven principles for a coal consensus: A concept for the step-by-step decarbonisation of the German power sector, Agora Energiewende, January 2016. (Media release in English; the proposal, in German, is available here.)

This report proposes a framework for achieving a consensus on phasing-out Germany’s coal power plants by 2040.


“Five Key Facts about Collapsing Coal Exports,” Sightline Institute, January 2016.

This article provides a good overview of the ever-growing problems for coal exports from the US.