Regulation & Policy

German authorities want to test the country’s resilience to a severe natural gas shortage with a large-scale emergency drill held over two days, the energy regulator BNetzA and Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs & Energy (BMWi) announced. “Germany’s gas supply is very secure and reliable,” said BNetzA head Jochen Homann. “However, it is prudent to be also prepared for unlikely emergencies.”

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has extended the deadline for a much-awaited report from the country’s coal exit commissions. Elections in three coal states in eastern Germany in 2019, as well as lobbying from utilities prompted her to effectively axe the opportunity of having a report on pre-2020 action ready before the COP24 climate meeting in Poland in early December.

Leaked drafts of a report of Germany’s coal commission show the country’s coal exist will likely be delayed to 2022, rather than starting in 2020. The pathway of the coal exit is now in focus, rather than the exit date. Forced plant closure should be avoided, the commission said, stressing shut-downs need to agreed with operators who will claim compensation.

Flexible gas power plants will have to fill the capacity gap after Toshiba abandoned its £15 billion Moorside nuclear power venture in Cumbria, and will start to wind up NuGen in January. Moorside could have covered 7% of the UK’s electricity needs by 2025 – a share that now needs to be filled by fossil fuels, notably natural gas.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) has alerted state regulators about plans to retire four coal-fired power units by 2023, and another one by 2028. The utility’s latest Integrated Resource Plan details NIPSCO’s efforts to produce 65% of its electricity from renewables and at least 25% of its output from natural gas.

Weakened by losses in state elections in Hesse and Bavaria, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided to give way for a new leader of her conservative CDU party. Merkel’s decision could help the ruling coalition regain focus and make important decisions on energy, climate and other key areas. Uncertainty abounds about the timeline for Germany's coal exit.

India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi has voiced concerns over excessive delays in joint venture projects with Sri Lanka. The neigbouring island nation is expected to fast-track a LNG-fuelled power plant after a coal power project was halted, just when the Indian JV was about to start construction. Despite approval for a $250 million LNG import terminal near Colombo, the Indian-Japanese JV has not yet followed through with the project.

Siemens and General Electric, two rival global engineering companies, are at loggerheads over a multi-million dollar power generation deal in Iraq. The Trump administration now intervened and put severe pressure on the Iraqi government to award part of a $15 billion contract – first discussed and pre-arranged with Siemens – to GE Power & Gas.

Though China’s energy market reform has made progress, and over 80% of gas consumed by industry is now being sold on market-orientated prices, leading economists are calling for further steps that reform the entire gas-value chain. “China could open the natural gas upstream and downstream markets and regulate the midstream pipeline transport market,” said ZhongXiang Zhang Professor at the Ma Yinchu School of Economics, Tianjin University.

Tender documents have been posted by the Public Gas Corporation of Cyprus (DEFA) in search for a counterparty that will supply and install a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) at the port of Vassilikos. The LNG import project comes at a cost of €300 million, with the imported volumes set to underpin the conversion of an oil-fired power station to run on natural gas.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved Williams’ request to place its Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project into full service. Operations commenced as of Saturday, October 6, 2018, increasing design capacity of the Transco pipeline for natural gas from Marcellus Shale by 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), or approximately 15%, to 15.8 Bcf/d.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour Party, has set out plans to transform the British energy market and “kickstart a green jobs revolution” that is meant to create over 400,000 jobs. At his party’s annual conference, he also pledged to double the number of onshore wind farms, if Labour comes to power in case of a UK snap election.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has openly confronted Russia over its energy politics by claiming the Gazprom-led Nord Stream-2 project would distort European energy market. Perry said Nord Stream extension project “would concentrate two-thirds of the imports of Russian gas to Europe in a single pipeline, creating a choke point [exposed to potential] disruption."

At the UK's first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit, Prime Minister Theresa May has committed £106 million for R&D in green vehicles, new batteries and low carbon technology. May said the Britain will “lead from the front” on zero-emission cars to meet a target for UK roads to be free of petrol and diesel cars by 2050.

Construction on a disputed 303-mile stretch of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is proceeding after the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has modified its stop-work order and permitted works to resume. Next Era Energy and ConEdison Transmission, co-developers of the 2 Bcf/d interstate pipeline, now aim to have the overall project built and in service by late 2019.

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News in Brief

Brexit will not impact UK gas supply

Oct 16 – Security of power and gas supply in the UK will not be jeopardized this winter by the country’s imminent departure from the European Union, even in the event of a hard Brexit, National Grid said. In its assessment, the TSO factored in a halt to flows via the Belgium and Dutch gas interconnectors “from EU exit day one”, but said ongoing deliveries from Norway, the UK Continental Shelf and storage will continue as usual.

Ferrybridge C gets demolished

Oct 15 – Four cooling towers at the Ferrybridge Power Station have been taken down as the coal-fired power station will make way to a new, high-efficiency gas power station. Operator SSE shut down the 500 MW Ferrybridge C unit in March 2016 and now started to tear it down.

Global energy storage tops 10 GW by 2025

Oct 14 – The global market for grid-connected energy storage will grow by 6,900 MW, or 16.6% to reach over 10,500 MW by the end of 2025, according to Reportlinker.com. Germany will add over 267 MW energy storage installations over the next five to six years, while 330 MW will come from other European markets. These numbers are dwarfed by China, where up to 1,200 MW energy storage units could be connected to the grid by 2025.

Wärtsilä services EDL plant

Oct 11 – Energy Developments Ltd (EDL) of Australia has awarded Wärtsilä a service contract for gas engine-based baseload power plant at the McArthur River zinc mine in Northern Territory. The maintenance approach for the 53 MW onsite power plant is no longer pre-planned and scheduled but has been changed to condition-based and predictive maintenance, with an advisory contract.

EPH buys CCGT in Galway

Oct 10 – The Czech energy company EPH has received regulatory approval to purchase an 80% stake in the 400 MW Tynagh Energy combined-cycle gas power plant in Galway, Ireland. Mountainside Partners will continue to own the remaining stake in the CCGT, which operates based on a security-of-supply contract from the Irish TSO based on guaranteed power prices.

ITM gets £38m boost from Linde

Oct 9 – Sheffield-based ITM Power, maker of electrolysers for hydrogen production, has been boosted by a £38 million cash injection, as Linde acquired a 20% stake in ITM at 40 pence per share. Looking ahead, ITM said it is seeking to raise £14 million from new and existing institutional investors.

Drax to convert two power units

Oct 8 – Drax Group has received government approval to convert up to two coal-fired generating units at its power station in North Yorkshire to run on natural gas. With this ruling, the UK regulator overturned objections by ClientEarth, stressing some fossil power is vital for the UK to backup intermittent renewable power source.

Storage use tops 80% in key U.S. regions

Oct 7 – Gas storage utilization in the United States is rising in the autumn, with net injections topping 112 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in the first week of October. According to EIA figures, underground storages are at least 80% full in the East, Midwest, and South Central non-salt regions, allowing for seasonal withdrawals to help meet peak-day gas demand throughout the upcoming winter.

Maine, NY aspire to 100% clean energy

Oct 4 – Three U.S. states—Maine, New York, and Ohio—have updated their renewable portfolio standards (RPS), since May 2019. As a result, Maine and New York joined California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia in requiring 100% clean electricity by 2050.

TransAlta to built CHP in Alberta

Oct 3 – Canada-based Transalta and SemCAMS Midstream have agreed to develop, construct and operate a new cogeneration facility at the Kaybob South No. 3 sour gas processing plant in Alberta. To be built at a cost of some 105 million, the CHP will have an installed capacity of 40 MW. Start of commercial operation is targeted for late 2021.

GE’s 100th HA turbine sold in Greece

Oct 2 – Greek industrial firm Mytilineos has ordered a GE 9HA.02 gas turbine to be the heart of the 826 MW Agios Nikolaos combined-cycle gas power plant. This deal also marks the 100th unit of GE’s HA gas turbine sold. Construction of the CCGT is due to start before the end of the year.

ABB launches M4M analyzer

Oct 1 – Swiss technology firm ABB has launches its first Bluetooth-equipped network analyzers, called M4M. The system gathers data from distribution grids and connects them to a cloud-based control system, allowing users to react on energy consumption and on-site power generation trends.

Microsoft invests in wind power

Sept 30 – Microsoft and ENGIE have entered a long-term solar and wind energy power purchase agreement (PPA) in the United States. The deal will see Microsoft purchase a total of 230 MW from two ENGIE projects in Texas, bringing Microsoft’s renewable energy portfolio to more than 1,900 MW.

Gazprom tackles issue of ownerless gas grid

Sept 27 – Gazprom, the main supplier of pipeline gas to Europe, is trying to settle the issue of ownerless gas pipelines – a relic of the former Soviet Union. Abandoned gas transmission pipeline spanned 6,651 kilometers as of March 1, with the issue seen as “especially acute” in the North Caucasus region where half of this infrastructure is located. If no owner registers these facilities within three months, Gazprom will take over to ensure reliability and safety.

Investors flock to Myanmar

Sept 26 – Fitch Ratings has singled out Myanmar’s power sector as one of the largest beneficiaries of foreign direct investments (FDI) worldwide. Nearly $21.2 billion was poured into power generation and energy infrastructure projects thus far in 2019, which is 27% of total FDI under the Myanmar Investment Law.

Is hydrogen Singapore’s future fuel?

Sept 25 – KBR and Argus have been selected to conduct a feasibility study on hydrogen imports and downstream applications for Singapore through to 2050. The aim is to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of hydrogen use in Singapore’s power generation and transport sectors

Diablo Unit-2 offline

Sept 24 – Unit-2 at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California is offline for a scheduled maintenance and refuelling, the operator PG&E said. During the outage, several gas-fired power plants will be dispatched to make up for the missing capacity.