USA & China Bans New Coal PlantsPublished by MAC on 2013-09-14
Source: Mining.com, Forbes, Associated Press
Previous articles on MAC: Obama leaves climate-change fighting on shelf for now
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13 September 2013
King Coal seems to have its days numbered as two of the most important consumers, the U.S. and China, are ready to ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reportedly set to formally announce next week a proposed rule to block the opening of more coal-fired power plants in the country, says WSJ.com. The draft, however, will make exceptions for those built with innovative and expensive technology to capture greenhouse-gas emissions.
Though such carbon-capture technologies are available, they are extremely expensive in terms of capital costs, which is not a viable option for investors at the moment.
"If reports are true, the EPA is set to issue a rule that will completely halt the development of new coal-fuelled plants by requiring they meet unachievable carbon standards," American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity President Mike Duncan told The Daily Caller.
"The American people should not be fooled. If the EPA overreaches, its actions could drastically reduce our nation's fuel options, risk tens-of-thousands of jobs and destroy, not encourage, the development of new carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology," Duncan was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities announced Thursday they won't allow more coal-fuelled installations near Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, in an effort to curb air pollution in the country's most industrial regions.
China's dependence on coal is well known. Annual consumption exceeded 1 billion short tons per year in 1988 and has exploded since then, to an estimated 4 billion tons this year. This means the Asian giant gets about 70% of its energy from the fossil fuel, a number the government hopes to reduce to 65% by 2017.
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That's one way to do it. China's State Council has announced that it is banning the construction of new coal-fired power plants near Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. The goal is to cut air pollution in the country's eastern megalopolises. The hope is that by 2017 Beijing residents will be breathing in 25% less fine particulate matter than in 2012. China's annual coal consumption surpassed 1 billion short tons per year in 1988 and has exploded since then, to an estimated 4 billion tons this year.
By shifting new power plant construction to natural gas, nuclear and solar, China hopes to bring its reliance on coal down below 65% of total power generation, from about 70% today (the U.S. gets about 35% of its electricity from coal). That shift is underway, with dozens of nuclear plants under construction. The expectation is that China's nuclear capacity will grow from 12.5 gigawatts now to 50 GW by 2017.
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Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is seeking to mimic the Chinese playbook. The Environmental Protection Agency has reportedly drafted a proposal to block new coal power plants in the U.S. unless they are outfitted with technology to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. Such technology exists, but it is so prohibitively expensive in terms of capital costs that no investor would dream of taking the risk.
The proposed limits would be 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour for coal-fired plants and 1,000 pounds per mWh for natural gas-fired plants.
Natural gas technology would meet the proposed standards. The average "combined cycle gas turbine" emits just under 800 pounds of carbon dioxide per mWh.
But just how impractical are those emissions limits on coal? Hugh Wynne, analyst with Bernstein Research, writes in a note today that the most efficient coal-fired steam turbine generators put into service the past five years have average emissions rates of 1,900 pounds per mWh.
Trapping carbon dioxide and injecting it deep underground can be done, but according to Wynne it would nearly double the capital costs of a coal power plant to roughly $112 per mWh of capacity.
There's one coal plant with carbon capture technology being build in the U.S. right now. Southern Company's Kemper County plant in Mississippi will gasify pulverized coal into a mixture of carbon dioxide and synethic natural gas. The natgas it burns to power a turbine while the carbon dioxide will be injected down into an old oil field to help loosen and push up more crude oil. As the oil comes out, the carbon dioxide remains trapped in the interstices of the reservoir.
Naturally, this mode of carbon sequestration only makes economic sense when there's a big oil field nearby.
No doubt other novel technology will emerge to help reduce the carbon emissions of coal. One idea involves pumping smokestack emissions through beds of lime water. The chemical interaction of the carbon dioxide and the lime (calcium oxide) forms calcium carbonate.
The EPA rules haven't been finalized yet, but the draft proposals represent just the newest salvo in Washington‘s war on coal.
China Bans New Coal-Fired Plants in 3 Regions
By Louise Watt
Associated Press (AP)
12 September 2013
BEIJING - China announced Thursday that it will ban new coal-fired power plants in three key industrial regions around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in its latest bid to combat the country's notorious air pollution.
The action plan from the State Council, China's Cabinet, also aims to cut coal's share of the country's total primary energy use to below 65 percent by 2017 and increase the share of nuclear power, natural gas and renewable energy. According to Chinese government statistics, coal consumption accounted for 68.4 percent of total energy use in 2011.
New coal-fired power plants will be banned for new projects in the region surrounding Beijing, in the Yangtze Delta region near Shanghai and in the Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong province, the State Council said.
Martin Adams, Hong Kong-based energy editor for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said coal's share of China's energy consumption already was expected to fall below 65 percent by 2017 and that utility companies had noticed approvals for coal plants weren't being given.
Adams also noted that while coal would account for a smaller proportion of total energy production, the absolute amount of coal burning would continue to increase.
"There's less to it probably than meets the eye," Adams said of the new action plan.
"Of course, saying it out loud does send a signal that the government is serious about, at least, decreasing the rate at which coal consumption grows and about getting more renewables and natural gas and nuclear," he said. "I think possibly just as important, if not more important, is the signal that it sends to the Chinese people that, 'we are trying to control pollution levels on the eastern seaboard.'"
The government has come under increasing pressure from the growing middle class to clean up the country's air pollution, much of which comes from the burning of coal.
The State Council said the country's air pollution situation is "grim" and is "harming people's health and affecting social harmony and stability." The action plan calls for the density of fine particulate matter - a gauge of air pollution - in Beijing to drop by 25 percent by 2017 from 2012 levels and by at least 10 percent in cities nationally.
It aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuel energy such as solar and wind power to 13 percent by 2017. It was 9.1 percent last year.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace welcomed the plan, saying it would set an important precedent that should be extended throughout China and followed by other major countries.
"China's political leadership has set an ambitious timeline to solve China's air pollution crisis, responding to the mandate set by the Chinese public, especially in the heavily polluted cities around Beijing," Li Yan, climate and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace East Asia, said in a statement.
"The targets can only be met by tackling China's coal consumption growth and the plan takes very important steps in that direction," she said.