September 23, 2016
Issue 151  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

While rising global coal prices have rekindled some struggling coal export projects, the revelation of a new record low price of US2.42c/kilowatt hour electricity from a utility-scale solar plant in Abu Dhabi reinforces the point that renewables are winning the race against more expensive coal hands down. The US Export-Import Bank, however, needs some persuading as internal documents reveal senior officials met to discuss Bangladesh’s plans for new coal plants.

Meanwhile US coal production has fallen by over a quarter in the first half of the year and for the first time in 15 years, coal exports from NSW fell.

Bob Burton

Features

An Alaskan tribe backs salmon over Chuitna coal project
The proposed Chuitna coal mine in Alaska would have profound effects on the fishing and hunting grounds of the Tyonek tribe but community leaders remain hopeful the project pushed by a Texas-based oil and gas company never eventuates, writes Melissa Cronin in Grist.

The last coal plant in the Western Balkans?

The commissioning of the 300 megawatt (MW) Stanari lignite power plant in Bosnia and Herzogovina had better be the last one in the region if tackling climate change is taken seriously, writes Igor Kalaba in BalkanInsight.

Wood Mackenzie warns thermal coal use could plummet – but dodges questions

The coal consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates thermal coal use would have to fall by 40 per cent to meet the target of limiting global warming to a two-degree increase but is unwilling to answer key questions about its analysis, writes Bob Burton in EndCoal.

Top News

Documents reveal US Ex-Im Bank’s Bangladesh coal interest: Internal US government documents reveal the US Export-Import Bank may be considering financing the proposed 660  MW Orion-Khulna coal plant near the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. The documents reveal a high-level meeting between the Chairman of the Ex-Im Bank, Fred Hochberg, senior Bangladeshi officials and GE – which has been contracted to supply the turbine generators for the Orion-Khulna coal plant. One of the heavily redacted documents includes a handwritten notation in the side column “Adani coal project.” (EcoWatch)

Legal appeal delays US coal auction: An appeal by a coalition of environmental groups has forced the Bureau of Land Management to delay plans to auction a Utah lease containing about 50 million tonnes of coal. The Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals has 45 days to review the appeal, which argued the lease area should be set aside to ensure the protection of sage grouse habitat and avoid other adverse impacts. (Deseret News, Center for Biological Diversity)

Indian coal railway ignores elephants: Twenty-two of 24 underpasses proposed to allow elephants to cross a partly-built coal railway are nowhere near the known migration routes identified by Chhattisgarh’s Forest Department. A joint venture led by Coal India was given approval in May 2015 for a 180-kilometre long railway without finalising plans to ensure the safe transit of an estimated 125 elephants. Wildlife experts also argue the underpasses are too small. About half of Chhattisgarh’s elephants were displaced by coal mining from the forests in neighbouring states of Odisha and Jharkhand. (Indian Express)

Chinese company pays US$30m for Barrier Reef clean up: The owner of a Chinese coal ship which crashed into the Great Barrier Reef in 2010 has agreed to pay US$30 million to settle a legal action with the Australian Government, including US$26 million for cleaning up toxic paint over the 400,000-square-metre accident site. The Australian Government had estimated the clean-up cost at between $70 million to $194 million. The Australia Institute dubbed the difference between the settlement amount and the original estimate as “another subsidy to the coal industry.” (ABC News, The Australia Institute)

Thousands rally against Taiwanese coal plant: Over 3000 people rallied urging Changhua county government to refuse an extension of an operating permit for a coal power plant at Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corporations’ chemical plant complex which is due to expire on September 28. The protest against air pollution from the plant drew support across political boundaries with a petition launched on September 10 attracting 10,000 signatures. The company has applied for an extension on 28 previous occasions and been rejected each time. (Taipei Times)

“How can seaborne thermal coal compete with solar at $US24/MWh? [the winning price in an Abu Dhabi power tender] The direction and trend is clear and certain – wondering if grid parity in any particular region will hit in 2015 or 2025 is irrelevant when the alternative is building new 40-year-life coal plants that take 5 years to commission and then are only justifiable if you assume no carbon price, and no restrictions on water and air pollution, over the entire project life,” said Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

News

Australia: Appeal lodged against Federal Court decision on Adani’s proposed Galilee Basin mine.

Germany: Vattenfall flags plan to offload new Moorburg plant within five years.

Companies + Markets

Record low solar price poses challenge to coal: The winning price of US2.42c/kilowatt hour in a tender bid for a new utility-scale solar project in Abu Dhabi has set a new world-low-price record. The price, which is substantially lower than the previous record for a solar project which was set in Chile last month, indicates new coal projects in many locations are already uncompetitive with solar. (RenewEconomy, RenewEconomy)

US coal production plummets: US coal production fell by 26 per cent in the first half of 2016.  Powder River Basin mines in Wyoming and Montana produced 59 million tonnes, or almost one-third less, than in the same period in 2015. Declining domestic demand has been triggered by the retirement of old polluting coal plants. (SNL)

NSW coal exports fall: For the first time in 15 years coal exports from New South Wales fell, recording a 1.9 per cent decline to 170 million tonnes. Total coal production in the state fell by 2.5 per cent to 247 million tonnes, as coal plant closures affect domestic consumption and the export market declines. NSW accounts for the vast majority of Australia’s thermal coal exports. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Plans to retire India’s oldest plants move forward: With utilisation rates at coal plants at 60 per cent, an estimated 6000 MW of the country’s oldest and least efficient plants are likely to be retired by March 2017, with a further 24,000 MW of old plants slated for retirement subsequently. The 100 million tonnes of coal consumed by the retired plants is likely to be earmarked for newer, more efficient plants. (Platts)

Rebuff for Filipino plant developers: The Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected 11 power supply agreements – including those for proposed major coal plants – between retailers and generation companies on the grounds they were “legally defective.” The country’s 13 existing coal plants – along with a dozen under construction – will also soon be subject to an audit to determine compliance with their Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC). Thirteen proposed plants which have yet to receive their ECCs will also be reviewed. (The Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin)

High met coal price prompts restart of Mozambique mine: Jindal Steel & Power has announced it plans to re-open its mothballed Chirodzi coal mine in Mozambique in response to the recent rise in the metallurgical coal price. The company, which suspended mine operations in February 2016, plans to produce 300,000 tonnes of coal a month and recommence its export operations. The company is also pushing to build a 150 megawatt (MW) power plant to use thermal coal produced  from the mine. (Bloomberg, CoalSwarm)

Resources

Breathing in the Benefits, Pembina Institute and others, September 2016. (Pdf)

This 43-page report argues an accelerated coal phase-out before the Government of Alberta’s proposed 2030 deadline would avoid an estimated additional 600 premature deaths and billions in health costs.

Never Gonna Dig You Up!, Australia Institute, August 2016. (Pdf)

The 66-page report models the impact of a moratorium on new coal mines and mine expansions in Australia and finds it would have negligible economic impacts on the major coal states of New South Wales and Queensland or the national economy.