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Combustion Industry News

From the IFRF's correspondent in Australia
From the Sydney office
Contributed by Patrick Lavery
Australia, Friday 22nd September 2017

Observed rate of global warming over last decade slower than model predictions

The rate of global warming predicted by climate models of a decade ago appears to have been higher than the rate actually observed over the last decade, according to a paper in Nature Geoscience covered by The Independent. Professor Myles Allen of the University of Oxford, one of the paper’s authors, said of the mismatch that “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven’t seen that in the observations.” He went on to say that some discrepancy should be expected, especially after ten years. That the predictions of the time were an overshoot is good news for the world, although it may do little to help instil confidence in updated predictions, despite the fact that newer predictions should be more accurate because of better available information. According to Professor Michael Grubb of University College London, another author of the paper, the observed effects mean that there would be around 20 years of additional emissions before the global average temperature rise is 1.5oC, the target agreed at the 2015 Paris conference on climate change. As Professor Grubb put it, “It’s the difference between being not doable and being just doable.”

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US Energy Information Administration predicts long-term rise in power supply from everything but coal

The US government’s Energy Information Administration has released its forecasts for international energy demand up to 2050. Under the assumptions of the modelling, global total energy demand increases from 2015 levels by 28% by 2040, driven mostly by growth in Asia, and more generally by non-OECD countries. While supply of energy by renewables and natural gas will increase at roughly the same rate, oil and other liquids will increase slightly more slowly, and nuclear only sluggishly. Coal is projected to decline slightly after increasing very slightly, making an overall plateau. (This year, somewhat unexpectedly, has been described as a ‘stellar’ year for coal, because of Asian consumption.) The increasing demand across the world for energy as a whole comes with increasing global population, at the same time as carbon and energy intensity decrease. Predictions such as these are notoriously unreliable, and the report takes pains to state that the forecasts are only what might happen under its assumptions.

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European utilities urge EC to implement plan to ensure cleaner standby generation capacity

A group of 22 European power companies has endorsed a plan by the European Commission to limit payments for providing standby-generation capacity to power plants which emit less than 550 g of CO2 per kWh of electricity produced. The companies, including Eni, Shell, Siemens, Iberdrola, Statoil and Wintershall, wrote in a joint letter that “Our electricity bills should not support the operation of the most polluting power plants, given that cleaner and more flexible options are available. This would clearly contradict EU climate and energy policy objectives and would go against the best interest of European consumers.” A number of countries, including Poland, have opposed the EC move, and the combustion community will be watching with interest to see if the plan is adopted.

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Proposed French law to ban oil and gas production on French territory by 2040

A new law set to be presented to the French parliament proposes to ban the production of oil and gas on France’s mainland and overseas territories by 2040. The move, though largely symbolic because not much production happens on French soil anyway, is nevertheless a striking marker of Western Europe’s intention to move away from fossil fuels. Existing permits will not be renewed, and the bill would seem to suggest that a domestic shale industry, as the UK government is attempting to foster, is not a prospect in France. The bill goes hand-in-hand with France’s Climate Plan, which states that “hydrocarbon exploration plans will be prohibited so that, by 2040, France no longer produces any oil, gas or coal,” and is also in line with the country’s intention to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by the same date.

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US energy sector recovers from Hurricane Harvey

In an update to the story in the last edition of the Combustion Industry News, the US energy sector has recovered well from Hurricane Harvey, which struck much infrastructure across Texas and neighbouring states. The resiliency measures put in place after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were effective, with both physical and operational measures helping the sector cope.

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North Sea warming at more than twice the rate of oceans

Though global warming rates may have been slower over the past decade than predicted, it has been observed that the North Sea is warming at more than twice the rate of the world’s oceans, according to Deutsche Welle. Over the past 45 years, the average temperature of the North Sea rose by 1.67oC, while the Pacific and Atlantic oceans rose by 0.74oC during the same period. It is expected that the temperature rise will endanger indigenous species which fail to adapt.

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Symantec observes hacking of power utilities, but no exploitation as yet

Cybersecurity firm Symantec has warned that hackers working under the name Dragonfly have gained access to the operational systems of utilities in the US and Europe, and are “lying in wait with the ability to switch off the power”, as the Financial Times has reported. The group – also known as Energetic Bear or Berserk Bear – tricked employees of the utilities into opening Microsoft Word documents which collect usernames and passwords, thereby allowing access to systems. Targets so far have been concentrated in the US and in Turkey, and although no outages have been forced in those countries or Europe to date, hackers reportedly shut down power networks in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016. Symantec believes that the hackers are keeping the means to shut down power networks until some possible ‘political event’ may trigger the desire to use it.

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IEAGHG 4PCC conference covers solvents, technologies, and socio-political challenges

The International Energy Association’s Greenhouse Gases team’s 4th Post-Combustion-Capture Conference has been held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. As Monica Garcia has blogged, the presentations covered the latest research into hybrid anime and biphasic solvents, as well as various technologies such as a chilled ammonia process, and configurations for membrane systems. Other talks covered the impact of regulations, societal perception, and economic challenges. Conference attendees – including a high-level Indian delegation looking to inform Indian state policy towards CCS – visited the Kemper and NCCC facilities. Proceedings from the conference are available in full at the sciencedirect website.

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Mitsubishi Hitachi eyeing increasing sales in South-East Asia

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems is hoping to increase sales of turbines for gas- and coal-fired power plants in South-East Asia, according to a report from Reuters. Although sales have been flat at around US$9 billion (€7.6 billion) since 2014, when Hitachi and Mitsubishi merged, the company continues to see the region as its biggest market, which makes sense considering the projections for growth of energy demand made for it. The company is looking to move ahead of its competitors General Electric and Siemens in two ways: one, by developing distributed systems and smaller units that suit the geography of thousands of islands in the area, and two, by developing more efficient and environmentally less damaging equipment. With GE and Siemens also surely looking at means to gain competitive advantages, it should be the region that benefits.

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Drax CEO Dorothy Thompson to retire

The CEO of Drax, Dorothy Thompson, is to retire after leading the company for the past 12 years. During her tenure, Drax has made a significant shift to burning biomass and away from coal, and in her own words, retires “knowing the group is in excellent shape”. Drax is currently seeking planning permission to convert two coal-fired units (with a total capacity of 3.6 GW) to gas, and also to build a 200 MW battery-based energy storage facility, which could become the world’s largest such installation.

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Political debate surrounds extending life of Australia’s oldest coal-fired power plant

AGL, Australia’s largest energy company, has had its aging Liddell coal-fired power plant become the topic of political controversy, with politicians from the governing Liberal-National coalition wishing to extend the life of the plant and AGL itself wishing to close it. The 2 GW Liddell station is scheduled to be closed in 2022, and AGL notified the federal government of its intention to close the plant back in 2015, when it first took over the 1970s-era facility. Despite having a seven-year period to make arrangements to cover the dearth in generation capacity, the federal government has as yet failed to make adequate plans, meaning the state of New South Wales faces a capacity shortfall of around a gigawatt after 2022. Faced with this situation, the government wishes to push the plant’s operation out to 2027, something which AGL does not find appealing. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused AGL of what in Australia’s economy is expected of companies: to look after their shareholders, saying “For them, scarcity of energy is good, because it enables them to raise prices. It’s not good for the Australian people.” Another government representative accused AGL of speaking with a “forked tongue”. AGL’s CEO, Andy Vesey, said that “In this environment, we just don’t see new development of coal as economically rational, even before factoring in a carbon cost,” while earlier affirming the company’s willingness to sell the plant to another operator. The suspicion one gets is that an attractive incentive package from the government may be in the offing.

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