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A week in coal: 30 January 2015

World Coal,

The World Coal news team rounds up the headline stories that broke in the global coal industry this week.

To walk among giants

Opencast mining and underground solutions provider, Tenova Takraf, has completed the supply and installation of a complete bucket wheel excavatorsystem for the Zhahanaoer coal mine in Inner Mongolia, China. This mining giant is the largest combination of bucket wheel excavator, conveyor and spreader in Asia. The system consists of a large-scale bucket wheel excavator SRs 2000 (rated capacity 6600 m3/h) with loading unit, a 7750 m long conveyor system, consisting of five flights, as well as a compact spreader with tripper car on rails. The bucket wheel excavator reaches 30 m digging height and, although it has a service weight of about 3300 t, it has a ground pressure much lower than that of a D11 dozer. In order to properly handle peak capacities, the conveyor system, as well as the spreader, have a design capacity of 7900 m³/h. The project is being regarded as an important milestone in the development of China’s mining industry.

Wood Mackenzie revises Chinese outlook

For years, energy market research firm, Wood Mackenzie (WoodMac), could be relied on to provide a positive spin on analysis of coal industry trends. Even as others pointed to data showing that China – such a vital market for the coal industry – could be reaching peak demand for coal (and perhaps even declining need for the black stuff), WoodMac waxed lyrical about the strong potential for future growth that was just around the corner. However, following clear signs that China is beginning to move away from coal – falling coal consumption coming as the government looks to curtail use of the fossil fuel – WoodMac has revised its outlook for the Asian behemoth. The company now expects demand for power, coal and diesel to see their outlook change notably over the long-term, due to major structural changes in the economy and policy: “The Chinese government is moving away from the post-2008 investment binge”, it said. The energy sector must keep attuned to the changes underway in China, if it is to avoid catastrophe and position itself to make the most of any opportunities the changing market throws up.

It’s time to talk about CCS

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) should be given the same funding, tax credits and subsidies as renewable energy sources, according to a new report prepared by the US National Coal Council for Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz. Such a move would “facilitate the creation of a robust CCS industry in the US, benefitting the American people and leading to the development of lower-cost, near-zero-emission energy technology.” In an age where the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change are becoming increasingly realised, high-profile advocates of low-carbon technology are very welcome. Amy Ericson, NNC Study Chair and US Country President for Alstom agreed with Moniz, adding: “there is a need for a substantial increase in the number of large-scale [CCS] demonstration projects.”

A new lease of life

The Debiensko coal mine in Poland’s Upper Silesia Basin could have received a new lease of life, after coal mining firm, New World Resources (NWR) said it was exploring ways to fund a revival plan for the mine, which had previously been deemed uneconomic and shelved. NWR initially started planning the project in 2006 and was granted a 50-year mining license in 2008. In 2012, however, the project was suspended.  However, following the completion of a positive pre-feasibility study for the Debiensko project, undertaken by DMT Consulting, the miner said it had now found ways to reduce capital and operational expenditure required for the project was now looking to attract funding for a two-year feasibility stage for the project.

Greece is the word

Syriza, Greece’s newly elected left-wing government, is eco-friendly and pro-renewables, yet it faces internal questions over plans for new coal plants. The party has swept to power on a huge platform of public support, having campaigned on the basis of hope and change against a pro-austerity ageing political and economic elite, which was seemingly at the end of a short leash held by the neoliberal economists in Brussels. The party has immediately started to implement the policies it promised the Greek people it would introduce, yet on the question of energy it is vital Sryiza remain pragmatic. Greece has a commitment to new coal plants, which are necessary in the transition to a low-carbon future. The party’s members have intimated they understand this, as they announced it is most logical for them to press ahead with the construction of new, modern lignite-fired power plants. While Syriza’s negotiations with the EU over Greek debt may take centre stage in the media, expect coal to play a key role in Greece’s energy mix for the foreseeable future. 

Written by Sam Dodson

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