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Accelerating its green energy transition, Xcel Energy has announced plans to retire its last coal power plants in the Upper Midwest a decade earlier than scheduled. Instead, the utility will expand renewables and operate its Monticello nuclear plant until at least 2040.

Singapore’s big three banks – DBS Group Holdings (DBS), United Overseas Bank (UOB) and the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) have each announced they are ceasing financing for new coal-fired power plants. With this move, the banks accelerate the region’s fuel switch to natural gas. Echoing an initially largely European phenomenon, the latest Asian financial exodus highlights growing regional concerns with stranded coal power asset and air pollution.

YPF, Argentine’s state-run oil and gas producer, is seeking to sell a partial cargo from its Tango floating liquefaction unit at Bahia Blanca in a first step to turn the country into a major shale gas exporter. Growing production from the Vaca Muerta shale gas play is meant to cover domestic demand and leave a surplus for export.

Stockpiles of thermal coal in the United States have fallen to the lowest level in a decade as more and more coal-fired power plants retire and the lost capacity is being replaced with gas-fired plants and renewables. Coal stockpiles decreased to 98.7 million tons in February 2019, their lowest value in more than a decade, and the EIA expects them to remain relatively low for the rest of this year.

Texas is at risk of power emergency alerts this summer, and may even face rotating blackouts, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warned, as the current 8.6% electric reserve margin may prove insufficient to meet strong electric demand growth. Power grid operators typically aim for reserve margins of 10% to 15% and ERCOT itself had set a target of 13.75%.

Two Czech billionaires and energy infrastructure investors are understood to have teamed up with state-run CEZ to bid or Alpiq’s gas- and coal-fired power plants in the Czech Republic. Having posted high losses in 2018, the Swiss firm Alpiq has been considering the sale of some power plants.

The Government of Morocco has made “positive efforts” to improve energy access for all citizens and end fossil fuel subsidies to establish a more competitive energy pricing regime, said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). With the exception of bottled butane, fuel prices are now linked to the international market.

The power sector is attracting more investment than the oil and gas industry, with developers having spent over $1.8 trillion globally in 2018 on energy-related projects. Though the overall spent has stabilized after three years of decline, investors increasingly focus on projects with shorter lead times, the IEA’s World Energy Investment 2019 report finds.

General Electric has outperformed its rivals Siemens and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) by winning the most orders for HA-class gas turbines in Q1-2019, according to the latest McCoy Power Report. GE booked six orders, up from zero a year ago – MHPS won five orders, while Siemens booked four.

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has said it expects to produce enough natural gas from its new Assa North/Ohaji South development to provide fuel for generating about 2,400 MW of electricity. The move is part of Shell’s strategy to shift to a more gas-orientated business, said SPDC’s general manager, Igo Weli.

The coal-to-gas switch is gathering pace in the United States. Natural gas will provide the largest share of U.S. generation this summer at 40%, up from 39% last summer, EIA projections show. Coal, meanwhile, is seen losing market share to 25%, down from 28% a year earlier.

The intensifying trade war between the US and China is starting to impact shipments of US LNG to China and slows Beijing’s efforts to switch from coal to gas use in the power sector. Only four US LNG cargoes have been delivered to China since September, when a 10% tariffs came into effect. Now, Beijing hiked this levy to 25% - in retaliation to Washington’s move to expand import tariffs on Chinese goods.

Energy giant E.ON has delivered a strong operating performance in the first quarter of this year in all markets except the UK. The Essen-based company blamed Britain’s new regulatory cap on energy price for the €90 million decline in its earnings there.

Germany-based MAN Energy Solution has opened its new U.S. headquarters in Brookshire, some 30 miles west of Houston, Texas. The new workshop and office complex combines engine and turbomachinery repair operations, which were formerly located at two different Gulf Coast sites.

Falling gas prices in Europe and Asia pose no risk of reducing US LNG exports, the Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco told analysts. “There haven’t been any spot cargos that haven’t cleared the US and made a margin,” he said in his company’s Q1-2019 earnings call.

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News in Brief

Tohoku Electric tenders for LNG cargo

Aug 19 – Tohoku Electric Power, the fourth-largest electric utility in Japan in terms of revenue behind Tepco, Kepco and Chubu, is understood to be seeking an LNG cargo for delivery in September. A tender process is ongoing.

Cost for decarbonizing industry tops $21tr

Aug 16 – Total costs to fully decarbonize the four most polluting industries – cement, steel, ammonia and ethylene – are estimated to amount to $21 trillion between today and 2050. McKinsey said this could be lowered to about $11 trillion if zero-carbon electricity prices come down further compared to fossil fuel prices. In this event, industry could switch to using electricity for heating processes.

Co-firing Braskem plant with hydrogen

Aug 15 – Siemens is making fossil energy greener at the Braskem onsite power plant in Brazil. In this modernization project two SGT-600 gas turbines are co-fired up to 60% with hydrogen, enhancing efficiency for the production process of the adjacent the petrochemical complex.

Canada's CO2 tax to hit CCGTs

Aug 5 – Change in Canada’s carbon emissions tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could significantly lower the profitability of gas generation and could prompt SaskPower reconsider its planned Moose Jaw gas power station.

GE CFO steps down

Aug 2 – Jamie S. Miller, General Electric’s chief financial officer, has decided to quit after two years in the job and 11 years with the company. Having overseen GE’s fiscal activities during a period of intense restructuring, Miller will remain in office while the GE board is looking for a successor.

Siemens HR boss quits

Aug 1 – Janina Kugel, Siemens chief HR officer, is leaving the company amid an apparently scattered working relationship and stark personal differences with CEO Joe Kaeser. Her contract will expire by mutual agreement on January 31, 2020.

ABB standardizes eBus chargers

July 31 – Zurich-based ABB, a member of the ASSURED consortium, is working on standardizing the specifications for automatic charging of heavy vehicles. The aim is to drive down the total cost of ownership for electric fleet operators, helping increase adoption of eBuses and eTrucks. Conformance and interoperability tests will be carried out in Q4-2019.

U.S. Senate helps fund EV charging stations

July 30 – The need for expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure is greater than expected given that there had been over 1.75 million electric vehicles (EV) in North America at the end of 2018, a nearly 60% increase from the previous year. To help fund additional charging stations, among other things, the U.S. Senate approved the $287 billion America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA).

PNOC, Lloyds to develop merchant LNG-to-Power projects

July 29 – Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lloyds Energy to develop a 1,200 MW LNG-fuelled power plant in partnership with Mitsubishi. Dubai-based Lloyds Energy is looking at ways to develop integrated LNG import facilities and gas power plants on a merchant basis in Bataan and Batangas provinces.

Macquarie finances CCGT in Mexico

July 26 – Macquarie Capital has chosen Credit Agricole, Natixis and SMBC to co-finance a $380 million combined-cycle gas power plant. The 560 MW plant is designated to be built in San Louis Potosi, a city in central Mexico.

Naturgy cashes in on gas network

July 25 – Spanish gas utility Naturgy has posted a 7% rise in core earnings for the first half of the year due to strong gains from its gas network business that helped offset falling revenues from power generation and slimmer LNG margins.

French court rejects appeal against Total CCGT

July 24 – Judges at an appeal court in Nantes have thrown out an appeal by environmentalist against Total’s planned Landivisiau combined-cycle gas power plant in Brittany. The 440 MW project, initiated by Direct Energy which was since acquired by Total, is over two years behind schedule. The French grid operator RTE has singled out the Landivisiau CCGT as “critical” in guaranteeing supply security in winter 2020/21 due to the planned shutdown of four coal power plants.

U.S. gas production falls in wake of ‘Barry’

July 23 – Shut-ins related to Hurricane Barry have scaled back U.S. gas production by 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, compared to last week, while power sector gas demand rose by just over 2.0 bcf/d. Consequently, there is significantly less gas available for storage so the injection rate has halved, according to Energy Aspects figures.

Blackout after fire at Madison substation

July 22 – Electricity is gradually being restored at Madison, Wisconsin, after 13,000 people experience a blackout following an explosion at a substation near Madison Gas & Electric’s 100 MW gas-fired Blount Generating Station. No injuries were reported.

Fuel switch could abate 1.2bn tons of CO2

July 19 – Some 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 could be abated by switching to gas using existing infrastructure, if prices and regulation are supportive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this would be enough to bring global CO2 emissions back down to where they were in 2013.

IEA launches methane tracker

July 18 – A new ‘methane tracker’, launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA), provides up-to-date estimates of current oil and gas methane emissions by drawing on the best available data. Analysts stressed methane emissions could be reduced by nearly half at no net cost.

Canada’s CO2 tax also affects gas power

July 17 – Change in Canada’s carbon tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could cause SaskPower to reconsider its planned upcoming Moose Jaw gas power station.