Regulation & Policy

South Africa’s national utility, Eskom, would benefit its ratepayers and investors by decommissioning its older coal-fired power units and scaling back construction of the controversial 4,800-MW Kusile coal power plant project, said Grové Steyn, lead economist at Meridian Economics in Cape Town. In his view, “South Africa does not for the foreseeable future need a new national nuclear-, coal- or gas-to-power construction program.”

US regulators have reached a settlement with Mississippi Power on the split of the remaining costs associated with the troubled $7.5 billion Kemper County power plant – once intended as a pilot coal gasfication plant before developers pulled the plug over technical issues.  After months of quarrels at court, Southern Co. agreed to lower the price tag on the project by $85 million to $853 million, lowering the burden on ratepayers.

As persistent overhang in global gas supplies reduces state revenues, energy ministers from Qatar, Iran, Russia and Venezuela are gathering at this week’s Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The question is how GECF countries – often referred to as the Gas OPEC – should react to the rampant US gas exports which has adopted a price-setting function on global spot LNG markets.

Differences on energy policy and migration have brought down lengthy and difficult coalition talks between Germany’s Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberals (FDP). Shortly before midnight on Sunday, FDP head Christian Lindner abandoned negotiations, stating: “The four discussion partners have no common vision for the modernisation of the country, and lack a common basis of trust.”

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) sees the much-debated option of a successive closure of coal power plants as a “last resort to meet Germany’s 2020 climate goals.” However, the timeline of such a coal exit is subject to fierce debate in the ongoing talks to form a coalition government, with the Conservatives stressing the importance of “reliable and reasonably priced power supply.”

Coal has been singled out as one of the key culprits for global warming at the Bonn climate talks and several European countries have come forward with plans to phase out coal-fired power plants. Italy aims to exit coal by 2025 and boost the role of renewables, the government in Rome said on Friday. In Berlin meanwhile, the issue is a subject to fierce debate as coalition talks drag on between the Conservatives, Liberals and the Green Party.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, has been proposed as a solution to Australia’s current energy crisis, with advocates calling for the removal of state bans to allow the production of unconventional oil and gas resources. Matthew Meagher, researcher at Northern Australia and Landcare Research Programme says “fracking is cheaper than current renewable technologies and refurbishing old coal-fired plants.”

Greece has made noticeable progress in recent years on plans to state-owned energy companies and liberalize electricity and gas markets, and the IEA Executive Dr Fatih Birol expects this “impressive programme will lead to more competitive and financially viable energy markets offering choices and low prices to consumers.”

Several major US energy companies plan to accompany US President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on a visit to Beijing, starting November 8. The aim is to close deals on selling US LNG to China, along with other American-made products, in order to close the widening trade deficit between the world’s two biggest economies.

Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has dismissed comments from PJM Interconnection saying coal power plants are more prone to cold-weather failures than natural gas-fired plants. Chatterjee, who leads FERC’s evaluation of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power stations, insisted both are “firm, non-interruptible fuel sources.” He announced FERC will conclude its review by December 11.

Andrew Ott, CEO PJM Interconnection, the independent operator of electricity wholesale markets in 13 U.S. states, has dismissed a proposal by the Department of Energy (DOE) to subsidize nuclear and old coal plants “simply unworkable.” In a press conference, he went even further by saying: "We believe it is contrary to law."

In a surprising gist, the South Korea President Moon Jae-in has signalled his readiness to accept findings of government advisors and restart mothballed nuclear reactors. LNG exporters are disappointed given that the President’s U-turn on his election promise means that there is unlikely to be the anticipated around 10 million ton (Mt) of extra LNG demand by 2030.

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made a political U-turn on energy, dismissing earlier instated 'clean energy targets' in favour of stipulating guarantees for reliable power supply and emissions reductions as the two new pillars of his new policy. Utilities will henceforth be obliged to deliver electricity at times of peak demand.

US manufacturers Koch Industries and Dow Chemical are lobbying against the plan of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize nuclear and coal as a fuel for power generation. In a letter to Congress, manufacturers dismissed the Department of Energy’s (DoE) plan as “anti-competitive” and said it could distort or “destroy competitive wholesale electricity markets and increase the price of electricity to all consumers.”

Voicing plans to shut down all coal-fired power stations by 2030, the incoming Dutch government has sent a dramatic signal to energy markets that investments in coal is no longer safe. The far-reaching approach of the new coalition is striking, given that RWE, Uniper and Engie in the past few years commissioned three of Europe’s most modern coal power units in the Netherlands.

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News in Brief

ExxonMobil enhances turbine oils

Jan 17 – New high performance turbine oils, developed by ExxonMobil Lubricants, are  entering the market which are formulated to prevent build-up of lacquer, varnish and deposits. The oils are designed to protect against thermal and oxidative degradation, one of the root causes of deposit build-up.

Wärtsilä signs O&M deals in the Bahamas

Jan 16 – Following the commissioning of a Wärtsilä-built 132 MW power plant in Bahamas in December, the Finish manufacturer now signed a two-year operation and maintenance (O&M) accord with the plant owner, the Bahamas Power and Light Company (BPL). Wärtsilä will transition, train, and develop the owner’s Bahamian work force and provide key performance guarantees.

China, S'Korea curtail coal to tackle air pollution

Jan 15 – Beijing city government’s aggressive approach to tackling air pollution is working and South Korea’s spring coal-fired curtailments show some success in cutting seasonal emissions. According to Wood Mackenzie, this should benefit LNG, particularly while spot prices remain low.

Sri Lanka at brink of power shortages

Jan 14 – Sri Lanka could face power cuts by March, after plans for a large-scale coal power plant were been cancelled just prior to start of construction, and a tender for a 300 MW diesel plants ended up in court. On the demand side, pressure is building up as the region is moving into the dry season in February and March. Weather warnings say the island is likely to receive lower than average rainfall in the first quarter of 2020.

Caterpillar’s new genset comply with UK & German grid codes

Jan 13 – Caterpillar Inc. has launched a series of new generator sets that comply with the new G99 United Kingdom, VDE-AR-N 4110 German and Belgium C10/C11 grid codes. The following gensets – G3500H, CG132B, CG170, and CG260 (rated from 280-4,500kVA) – have been verified to be able to accommodate different reactive power modes, active power functions, and connection conditions for normal operation or reconnection after mains decoupling.

Transneft launches battery-based power supply for ILI tools

Jan 10 – Transneft Diascan, the largest Russian inspection service provider for pipelines, has developed and put into operation a power supply system for in-line inspection (ILI) tools based on rechargeable batteries. Flaw detectors performing inspections of trunk oil pipelines, gas pipelines and oil product pipelines can now use the energy from rechargeable batteries, which helps save time and reduces the cost of in-line inspection.

Pavilion starts trading LNG out of Madrid

Jan 9 – Singapore-based Pavilion Energy has completed the acquisition of all gas and LNG assets of the Spanish utility Iberdrola. From its new European headquarters in Madrid, Pavilion said has launched 2020 LNG trading operations with supplies focusing on Spain and the UK market.

Gazprom extends gas transits via Belarus until 2021

Jan 8 – Gazprom and Gazprom Transgaz Belarus have sealed additional agreements to extend the contracts for gas supplies to and gas transportation across Belarus until 2021. According to the newly-signed documents, the contractual supply and transit volumes in 2020 will remain at the level of 2019.

EastMed pipeline to take FID by 2022

Jan 7 – Greece, Cyprus and Israel have signed an agreement to build the 1,900-kilometre EastMed pipeline at an estimated cost of 6 billion Euros. The subsea pipeline, spanning over 1,900-kilometres would initially carry 10 Bcm of gas per annum from Israeli and Cypriot waters to Crete and then on to the Greek mainland and into the European gas network via Italy. A final investment decision (FID) is meant to be reached in 2022, given that the pipeline is scheduled for completion by 2025.

U.S. energy-related emissions drop over 2%

Jan 6 – Fewer emissions from coal consumption, combined with lower energy demand, have helped to significantly reduce the overall energy-related carbon emissions in the United States. According to government statistics, energy-related CO2 emissions fell 2.2 percent last year, and the downward trend is forecast to continue into 2020.

Brent crude prices surge

Jan 3 – North Sea Brent crude prices have risen to their highest level since September 2019, up nearly $3 per barrel because of Middle East tensions coupled with improved Chinese economic forecasts. Brent crude futures for March 2020 delivery were last seen trading at 69.21 per barrel the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). This bullish price sentiment will feed through to oil-indexed natural gas contracts and LNG deliveries, linked to the Japanese crude cocktail (JCC) basket price.

IEA says coal’s fate tied to Asia

Dec 23 – Rapid rise of wind and solar power in many parts of the world has pushed coal-fired power generation into steep decline in most developed countries. "But this is not the end of coal, since demand continues to expand in Asia," analysts at the International Energy Agency commented: "The region’s share of global coal power generation has climbed from just over 20 percent in 1990 to almost 80 percent in 2019, meaning coal’s fate is increasingly tied to decisions made in Asian capitals."

Drop in coal-burn makes Germany edge closer to climate targets

Dec 20 – In 2019, Germany managed to increase its greenhouse gas emissions for the second year in a row, mainly due to a 20 percent drop of coal use for power generation and a growing contribution from renewables. Energy savings and efficiency increases also helped. According to calculations by energy research group AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB), Germany’s primary energy consumption declined by 2.3 percent this year, overall energy use fell more than 2 percent, and energy-related CO2 emissions fell by as much as 7 percent.

Glencore buys Orsted’s lgas business unit

Dec 19 – UK-listed mining company Glencore has agreed to take over a loss-making natural gas business from Orsted, including long-term import capacity at the Gate regas terminal in Rotterdam and five other LNG purchase agreements. “The transaction entails a payment from Orsted to Glencore and will result in a loss that exceeds our current provision related to the LNG activities,” stated Copenhagen-based Orsted without disclosing the value of the transaction.

Carbon-intensive firms may shed over 40% in value

Dec 18 – Energy- and carbon-emissions intensive companies could lose up to 43% of their value if national governments enact more stringent policies to reduce air pollution and tackle climate change. Companies using green energy, in contrast, could gain up to 33% in value, research by the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) finds.

COP25 – a “lost opportunity”

Dec 17 – UN Secretary António Gutierrez has dismissed the outcome of the COP25 climate talks in Madrid as “disappointing” and “lost opportunity“. Some of the world’s largest emitters, including Australia, Brazil, China and Saudi Arabia had joined the U.S. in pushing for accounting loopholes to weaken commitments to reduce emissions in the transport and power generation sector.

Industry produces over 13% of Germany’s electricity

Dec 16 – Decentralized power generation at industrial sites keeps rising in Germany. According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), industry produced 55 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of in 2018, meaning local units of mining and manufacturing generated 12.6 percent of the country's gross electricity output, mostly from gas-fired power units. The use of gas as a fuel for industrial power plants has consequently risen from around 35 percent to almost 50 percent over the last ten years.