Markets

Prices for Australian thermal coal remain on a downward trajectory amid oversupplied global markets and tepid demand – not least due to Europe’s rapidly falling coal-fired power production. In Asian markets, lower coal imports from South Korea and Taiwan adds further to the supply overhang, Morgan Stanley Research finds.

Three days ahead of the UK General Election on December 12, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has pledged the Labour Party would kick-start the process of re-nationalizing Britain’s power and water companies within the first 100 days upon assuming office. Several UK utilities have already moved part of their ownership offshore to protect their assets.

Temperatures fell below freezing in 75 percent of the United States during a record cold-snap in early November, propelling up prices for both natural gas and electricity. In northeast Pennsylvania, gas prices at the Tetco M3 hub in surged from less than $2.00/MMBtu to $5.11/MMBtu while prices at Chicago Citygate hub in the MISO market zone reached $3.00/MMBtu.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is urging national governments to impose more stringent policies to raise energy efficiency. The rate of improvement slowed for the third year in a row, leaving it well below the 3% minimum that the IEA deems vital to global energy and climate goals.

Canada’s natural gas production is forecast to surge 30% through 2040, allowing for gas and renewables to displace coal in the power sector in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. In its long-term energy outlook, the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) also sees the energy use per capita fall over 15% by 2040, limiting growth in fossil fuel use to less than 1%.

Analysts at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) see an ongoing rush among utilities to retire coal power units, particularly those with high running costs and low operating flexibility. By the end of the next decade, the EIA projects almost 90 Gigawatt (GW) of coal-fired capacity will be shut down before the end of their lifetime.

French network operator GTRgaz says it sees “no supply problems” for the upcoming winter thanks to high storage levels and better ways to balance France’s new single market place, called Trading Region France (TRF). As of early November 2019, the volume of natural gas in storage stood at a record 129 terawatt hours (TWh).

Germany’s electricity production from wind and solar energy sources will overtake fossil power plants for the first time this year. From January to November 2019, renewables already generated 24 TWh more than coal- and gas-fired power units in the first eleven months of this year, said Fraunhofer ISE professor Bruno Burger.

Russia’s state gas major Gazprom has launched a landmark interconnector to China today – the Power of Siberia Pipeline. Built at a cost of $55 billion, it is the first of three ambitious Russian infrastructure projects intended to cement the country's role as a top gas exporter.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), has opened COP25 talks in Madrid today, warning "the point of no return is no longer over the horizon.” He urged all nations to increase efforts to reduce emissions at a faster pace in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

State-owned Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has awarded a tender to Petronas of Malaysia to supply 130,000 tonnes of LNG to Thailand, designated to fuel EGAT’s growing fleet of gas-fired power plants. The first cargo is due to arrive before December 31, followed by a second cargo in April 2020.

Npower, one of the UK’s Big Six energy companies and owned by E.ON, has announced it will shed up to 4,500 jobs in Britain and merge its domestic customer service operations with E.ON UK. A carve-out of Npower’s industrial and commercial customers is meant enhance profitability but the restructuring will cost the energy supplier an estimated £500 million.

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News in Brief

Denmark paves the way for Nord Stream 2

July 7– Denmark on late Monday gave the Nord Stream 2 consortium permission to utilize pipe-laying vessels with anchors in Danish waters, paving the way for the Gazprom-led consortium to complete the interconnector. Construction of the 1,230-kilometre pipeline is nearly complete, except for a final stretch of about 120-kilometers in Danish waters. The project was halted in December when the Swiss-Dutch pipe-laying company Allseas suspended works over threats of U.S. sanctions.

EPRI tests early warning system

July 6– The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is conducting trial tests with multiple utilities across the United States of an early warning system. It can detect an off-gassing event as a precursor to thermal runaway up to 30 minutes prior to a cascading failure. This gives plant operators time to mitigate the problem or shut down the system.

KKR buys stake in First Gen

July 3 – Valorous Asia Holdings, owned by KKR investment funds, has bought a 11.9% stake in First Gen through a voluntary tender offer. First Gen, one of the Philippines’ largest independent power producers with 3,492 MW installed capacity, is owned by First Philippine Holdings which is controlled by the Lopez family. KKR’s acquisition of the First Gen stake is worth nearly $192.3 million.

Gazprom’s ‘BBB’ rating affirmed

July 2 – S&P Global Ratings, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have affirmed Gazprom's long-term credit ratings as part of their annual reviews. The ‘BBB’ ratings for Gazprom from S&P and Fitch are in line with the sovereign credit rating of the Russian Federation, while Moody's ‘Baa2’ rating is a notch higher.

MHIEC to refurbish WtE plant in Kushiro

July 1 – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Environmental & Chemical Engineering Co (MHIEC) has received an order from the Kushiro Wide-Area Federation to repair and improve the core equipment at the local Waste-to-Energy plant in Takayama. The WtE plant has a capacity of 240 tonnes per day (tpd). Renovation will increase the energy efficiency of the fluidized bed type gasification and ash melting furnace facility, reducing emissions by around 15% annually. Works are due completed in September 2023.

Nigeria: Only two of six power projects on target

June 30 – Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises has disclosed that only two out of six privatized power plants were delivered on target. Only Transcorp Power Ltd and Geregu Power Ltd out of the six privatised electricity generation companies (GENCOs) were said to have met their performance targets since taking over.

German investors prefer solar over wind

June 29 – Energy infrastructure investors are keen to build solar power projects in Germany, but shun wind parks. In the latest solar power auction, investors offered to build almost 450 MW of capacity – more than four times the 96 MW of volume on offer– with the average successful bid at 5.27 cents per kilowatt-hour (ct/kWh). The wind auction, in contrast, was undersubscribed: The German network agency  (BNetzA) tendered around 826 MW, but successful bids only totalled 464 MW, at an average price of 6.14 ct/KWh.

MAN ventures into synthetic fuels

June 26 – MAN Energy Solutions has entered the hydrogen economy with the recent pro rata acquisition of H-TEC SYSTEMS, an electrolysis tech firm. The German OEM also committed itself to upgrading its gas turbines to run on 100% hydrogen by 2030.

Varegro starts using Cummins gas genset

June 25 – Belgian-based horticultural company Varegro, has started to use a Cummins HSK78G gas generator to power its greenhouses in Oostrozebeke, West Flanders. Varegro said it selected the Cummins HSK78G genset to produce combined heat and power (CHP) on its premises at a competitive cost for use in energy-intensive greenhouse facilities.

GE names Deloitte as independent auditor

June 24 – GE’s audit committee has selected Deloitte as the company’s independent auditor for the 2021 fiscal year, replacing KPMG. The selection of Deloitte concludes GE’s latest audit tender process.

Northern German states push for hydrogen pilot cluster

June 23 – Northern German states are pushing for greater hydrogen use with a pilot project cluster. Some 12 large demonstration plants for the production and use of green hydrogen are meant to be realised in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The aim is to demonstrate how 75% of CO2 emissions can be saved in the region by 2035.

Wärtsilä to design and equip battery-powered ferries

June 22– The Finish engine maker Wärtsilä has been awarded a contract to design and equip two new zero-emissions ferries on behalf of the Norwegian operator Boreal Sjö. For each ferry Wärtsilä will supply the thruster motors, batteries, onboard and shore-based battery charging equipment, the back-up generators, and various electrical systems. The equipment is scheduled for delivery to the yard in early 2021 for the ships to start commercial operations in autumn 2021.

Subsidy cut slashes Chinese wind turbine margins

June 19 – China’s wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could have their gross profit margins halved due to subsidy cuts, Wood Mackenzie forecasts. Commissioned onshore wind power capacity is expected to drop by more than 16% to 19 gigawatts (GW) from 2020 to 2021 as government subsidies were terminated. This could also lead to a 27% drop in turbine prices over the next five years, slashing OEMs’ gross profit margins by half.

PowerPHASE converts gas peakers into storage engine

June 18 – U.S. emergency power provider PowerPHASE has developed an upgrade to convert 7F gas turbine-based peaking plants (350 MW each) to a so-called Storage Engine (400 MW). The unit would be able to store 3500 MWh daily and discharge 4800 MWh daily. CEO Bob Kraft claims utility customers could dispatch the Storage Engine, despite its lower heat rate (4000), ahead of higher heat rate options (9000 for gas peakers) in a competitive market like ERCOT in Texas.

Cummins names Davis head of New Power unit

June 17 – Cummins has appointed Amy Davis as Vice President and President of the company’s New Power Segment, effective July 1. The new unit includes Cummins’ electrified powertrains, battery design and assembly, battery management, fuel cell and hydrogen generation.

GE powers USS Zumwalt

June 16 – The US Navy has taken delivery of the USS Zumwalt, its first full-electric power and propulsion ship, equipped by GE’s Power Conversion. The ship features a high-voltage system, propulsion drive trains with multi-phase VDM25000 power converters and advanced induction motors. Kevin Byrne, head of GE’s North America marine segment said “the full-electric power and propulsion ship has the flexibility to direct energy where it is needed on the platform.”

New England power prices down 40%

June 15 – Spot electricity prices in New England (NE) has fallen since winter 2019/20 when it stood at an average $28/MWh, down 40% from an average $47/MWh in the previous winter. Low natural gas prices, warmer-than-normal temperatures, lower loads, and reduced needs to run expensive peakload generators were the cause for the substantial drop in NE’s winter electricity prices, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds.