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"Disappointing gas power demand" and a "supply creep" have pushed US gas prices back to February 2013 levels, Morgan Stanley analysts said today, forecasting Henry Hub prices for natural gas will average $3.42/MMBtu for 3Q13 and $3.69/MMBtu for 4Q13.

Norway's incumbent utility Statkraft has stopped commercial operation of two loss-making gas-fired power plants in Germany with a combined capacity of 1,200 MW, putting the Knapsack and the Herdecke plant in a 'wet reserve'.

Malaysia's government has decided to abolish subsidies on domestic gas prices early next year, prompting analysts to forecast a hike in national electricity tariffs by up to 50 percent.

In the wake of gas shortages, India's largest power generator Essar Power gears up to increase coal import by a fifth to underpin plans to convert some of its gas-fired power plants to run on coal. The move may set a precedent for other utilities, and could herald an increase in India's majority share of coal generation.

RWE, Germany's second largest power producer by output capacity, has decided to close a total of 3,100MW, or around 6% of its total generation capacity of 52GW, as first-half year profits plunged 38% amid a recession-induced drop in electricity demand and competition from renewables.

Widening cost divergence between coal and gas generation and spark spreads becoming ever more negative amid rising renewable feed-in, has caused a 42 percent plunge in E.ON's first-half 2013 profit and heralds further power plant closures in Europe.

"A sober view of the situation indicates that, at least for 2013 and 2014, no recovery is in sight," said E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen when presenting the results.

EDF has handed over operation of three of its nuclear plants in the US, two in New York and one in Maryland, to its joint venture partner Exelon, citing higher profitability of generating electricity from gas and operational risks of nuclear reactors. 

South Korea's state-owned Kogas has forecast its domestic LNG sales in 2013 will jump 3.6 percent year-on-year to reach 36.548 mtpa amid rising demand from gas-fired power generators. A heat wave propelled up electricity consumption and squeezed reserve margins, prompting the energy ministry to ration energy use to avert the risk of blackouts.

Despite the growth in capacity, not all gas-fired plants are continuously used as Brazil's gas industry is going through a transition period and is adjusting to changes in the gas supply balance whereby lower imports of pipeline gas from Bolivia are balanced with rising LNG imports and new domestic gas reserves from upstream projects in Santos, Campos, and Espririto Santos basin.

This insight comes from a thought-provoking book released by the British Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Brazil (Britcham) entitled Doing Energy Business in Brazil.

 

Use of gas engines is expanding in Europe as industries invest in decentralised, independently-operated gas-fired power generation to mitigate the risk of power supply shortages. Global annual sales of gas engine with a capacity of over 500kW exceeded 6,000 MW last year, of which 64%, or over 3,800 MW, were sold in Europe, according to The Strategy Works' estimates based on a market survey.

The Egyptian government will invite bids from private sector investors for new gas-fired and renewable projects in a move intended to prop up domestic power generation capacity to avert the risk of blackouts. Amad Eman, the newly instated minister of electricity, announced this week the government will fast-track plans to add 6,250 MW of capacity by 2017.

Combined Heat and Power Generation (CHP) – long overlooked as the 'Cinderella' of UK energy generation – is now claiming its place in the energy mix. Britain's installed CHP capacity grew by almost 3% to 6.1GW between 2011 and 2012, meeting 6.4% of the country's total electricity needs, according to Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES).

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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.