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Big coal ’s “insulting” PR spin: Company claims dirty energy could have solved the Ebola crisis

Peabody Energy is accused of exploiting the deadly outbreak to promote fossil fuels.

West Africa’s ongoing Ebola epidemic is continuing to prove a massive challenge to global health officials, to the extent that the outbreak, which has killed 11,065 people and infected 26,000 others, has caused the World Health Organization to completely reconsider the way it approaches public health crises.

And to think that, if only we were more supportive of Big Coal, we could have avoided all of this.

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Wait…what?

This, according to a Guardian report, was a real argument put forth last year by coal giant Peabody Energy, which, as part of a campaign to rebrand coal from being seen as a climate change-causing, lung damaging pollutant to a “21st-century fuel” capable of solving global poverty, suggest that coal was the solution to Ebola:

Greg Boyce, the chief executive of Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, included a slide on Ebola and energy in a presentation to a coal industry conference in September last year. The slide suggested that more energy would have spurred the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine — citing as supporting evidence a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert.

That expert, infectious disease specialist Harvey Rubin, had spoken previously about the importance of continuous refrigeration, and therefore reliable energy, to the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine (none, as of yet, have been approved for use in humans). But he told the Guardian he “know[s] nothing about the coal industry,” and was annoyed that they spelled his name wrong in their presentation.

Other public health experts contacted by the Guardian are considerably more peeved by Peabody’s suggestion:

Source: salon


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Shumba partners SA firm to develop power plant

Shumba Coal has partnered with a South African firm, Mulilo Renewable Project Developments, for the joint development of the Mabesekwa Export Independent Power Plant (MEIPP), which will export power to the neighbouring country.

The MEIPP is a 300 MegaWatt (MW) energy capacity project with a minimum 260 MW net supply to grid after auxiliary and mine consumption.  The project will entail building a coal-fired power plant with a captive coal mine, to take part in the South African Coal Base Load Independent Power Producers (IPP) programme. Last year, South Africa asked IPPs to submit proposals to build coal-fired plants as part of a string of initiatives aimed at ending chronic electricity shortages in that country.

In a statement released on Friday, the two companies noted that within a two month-period following the signing of the Heads of Agreement (HOA), they would enter into a comprehensive Joint Development Agreement (JDA), which shall include detailed conditions of the partnership.

“During this period, the parties will only negotiate exclusively with each other. Additional developments will be forthcoming and shareholders will be kept appraised accordingly,” reads the statement.

Shumba Coal Chairman, Alan Clegg said the agreement is a further development in Shumba energy development strategies. “The signing of this HOA with Mulilo is a further landmark development in Shumba execution of our stated strategy and a further testimony to the discipline of management in matching our assets and projects with the best partners under stressed market conditions,” he said. “Mulilo has a first class track record of delivery which, matches Shumba culture and this I believe will now translate into the creation of a new and strong economic contribution to the Southern African energy market for sustainable development, while creating strong value for our shareholders and all stakeholders alike,” said Clegg.

Mulilo is an IPP developer and investor which was originally formed in 2008 and has developed over the last few years a portfolio of 400 MW of grid-connected power plants under various IPP programmes run by the Department of Energy in South Africa.Shumba Coal intends to develop one or more 300MW or larger power stations in addition to producing coal for domestic and regional consumption. Recently Shumba coal entered into a binding sale and purchase agreement with Daheng Group Botswana for the acquisition of Mabesekwa Prospecting license near Francistown. This was part of its strategy of investing in Botswana based energy projects to supply affordable energy domestically and into the region. Among Shumba Coal energy projects includes 300MW Sechaba energy project near Morupule.  Currently Shumba is in the process of the renewing another prospecting license number that will be finalised by the Botswana Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.

Source: Mmegi Online


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21st Century Coal – Report: International Energy Agency

Green Business Journal 9 (2013)

Coal: currently supplying more than 40 percent of the world electricity consumption, providing an essential 70 percent input of world steel production, and representing approximately 30 percent of the global primary energy supply. Why is coal such a widely utilised resource today? It is cheap, abundant, easily accessible, widely distributed across the globe, and easy energy to transport, store and use. For these reasons, coal is predicted to be used extensively in the future. But, being a non-renewable resource, its production and use inevitably results in various issues across the value chain.

The primary mandate of the International Energy Agency (IEA) is to promote energy security amongst its member countries through collective response to physical disruptions in oil supply, and to provide authoritative research and analysis on ways to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond.

In doing so, a report was researched and created by IEA which focuses on the technology path to near-zero emissions (NZE). The phrase “21st Century Coal” was adopted by the US and China to describe the importance of strategic international partnerships to advance the development of NZE technology and the report demonstrates the reasons for confidence in coal’s ability to provide a solution to the global objectives of economic sustainability, energy security, and NZE, and is broken up into four areas of consideration.

1. Coal and the CO2 challenge

Discussed here are the benefits of and the need for coal, issues associated with coal use especially related to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as roadmaps to improve coal use and continue on a path toward zero emissions. With the increase in the global demand for energy comes the increase in the release of CO2 emissions. The IEA has found that with attempting to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the costs of achieving climate goals are significantly reduced when carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technologies are implemented. This, along with increasing the thermal efficiency, can effectively lower carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. The development and deployment of advanced coal with CCS technologies that is needed to achieve substantial carbon emission reductions will require extensive research, development, and demonstration investment.

2. Evaluation of advanced coal-fuelled electricity generation technologies

The IEA report provides insights into groundbreaking technology innovations for advanced coal plants to improve efficiency and reduce emissions including CO2. The report finds that there are multiple types of coal-fueled power plant technologies that exist or are being developed, but considerable advancement still needs to take place in this regard. More advanced, future technologies are definitely capable of further improving efficiency. In particular, fuel cells hold the potential of achieving increases in efficiency of up to 60 percent.

3. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)

Focus is drawn to the potential for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to enable the economic viability of CCS, together with the need for and status of CCUS demonstrations. CCS demonstrations are needed most often on power plants as these plants play major roles in releasing carbon emissions. But, significant government support is needed for these demonstrations to be carried out. The utilisation of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) seems to be the way forward as additional streams of revenue assists the feasibility and capability of the projects. The IEA has found that methods to increase carbon storage in conjunction with EOR may further increase the capacity to store.

4. Flexibility of coal-fuelled power plants for dynamic operation and grid stability

The essential features of fossil fuelled power plants are assessed on their ability to operate dynamically on grids with intermittent wind and solar. Improving the flexibility of existing and developing coal plants can be accomplished through various strategies which involve both technical and operational improvements. These include implementing coal plant flexibility as early in the design process as possible, when it is most effective; optimising use of the capabilities of existing control systems; and collecting and using lessons learned to establish better operating practices.

Conclusions

It is technically possible today to incorporate equipment to capture CO2 in all types of new coal fuelled power plants. Depending on available space and other considerations, such equipment also can be retrofitted to existing coal fuelled plants. The importance of retrofit should not be underestimated based on the large number of new coal units being added.

Unfortunately, today’s CO2 capture technology is very costly. A recent review by the IEA of a variety of engineering studies conducted by a range of organisations that showed the cost of electricity from a new coal power plant with CO2 capture was estimated to be from 40 to 89 percent higher than a new coal plant without CO2 capture.

Ultimately, in order to get over the hurdle and achieve the cost reductions brought by technology maturity, it will be necessary for governments to specifically support CCS demonstration projects with capital grants as well as support for the power prices. Even if additional revenues can be obtained from the sale of CO2 for EOR, they may not be sufficient to allow full financing in all cases.

While coal use remains significant, its continued use has been challenged by growing environmental concerns, particularly related to increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Adding technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions from coal (primarily by using CCS or CCUS) is possible but adds considerable cost, risk, and complexity to coal fuelled power plants, particularly at their current stages of maturity.

Coal remains an important and prevalent fuel for the production of electricity. Its low cost, abundance, and broad distribution make it attractive for power production, particularly in emerging countries such as China and India, where coal fuelled power has increased dramatically in recent years as demand for energy and the higher standard of living it brings have grown along with the population.