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Assocarboni: coal confirmed as leading fuel for electricity generation

Published by , Digital Assistant Editor
World Coal,

On 31 March in Rome, Assocarboni held its 2017 annual congress “Italian electric system: proposals for a strategic planning” in conjunction with the Association’s annual meeting, where it presented sector data and global scenarios for 2016 and set the guidelines for the Rome Energy G7 taking place on 9 – 10 April.

According to International Energy Agency, coal will still play a fundamental role (36% of energy mix) by 2021. Coal’s share in the Italian electricity mix is stable at 12%, the lowest percentage compared to the European average (26%).

In 2016, coal confirmed its leadership in the generation of electricity, accounting for 40% of market share in the world, and 26% in Europe, and seaborne world coal trade was stable after 10 years at 5% annual growth.

Steam coal decreased from the 2015’s 886 million t to 2016’s 883 million t: the trend shows a decrease in the coal import in Europe, caused by a strong decline in the UK but also balanced by an increase of the export towards the South-Eastern Asian markets.

Seaborne coaking coal registered a slight reduction from the 249 million t in 2015 to 246 million t (-1% decrease), mainly because of a decline in imports across the European markets (34 million t, -9% compared to 2015), also caused by steel’s lower price.

In perspective, coal will maintain its leadership in the electricity mix. According to the International Energy Agency’s analysis published in the Medium Term Coal Market report, coal’s share in the mix fueller for electricity production will attest itself at 36% by 2021.The demand for coal is shifting towards South-East Asia, where emerging economies are looking for an alternative source of energy.

According to Assocarboni’s latest data, in 2016 Australia remained the world’s leading coal exporter, with a record of 393.68 million t, a 1% increase compared to 2015.

With its 285.81 million t, Indonesia confirms its leading position as steam coal exporter, registering a slight decrease compared to 2015 data.

Russian coal exports increased by 11% from 2015 reaching 131 million t compared to 118 million t in 2015, while Colombia steam coal exports registered 88.6 million t compared 80.5 millions in 2015.

China’s 2016 imports grew up again compared to 2015 data, given the high demand for electricity, which is not satisfied by local production. In 2016 China imported 255 million t (+25%).

India registered 203 million t of imported coal, a slight reduction (-6%) compared to the 216 millions in 2015. The decrease is caused by the reduction of the steam coal imports, due to an increase of the domestic production and petcoke imports.

Coal imports grew in Vietnam (13.57 million t, +91% compared to 7.08 million in 2015), Turkey (30,3 million t, +9%) in comparison with the 27.78 millions of 2015), Chile (11.6 million t, +13% compared to 10.2 million in 2015).

Korea registered an increase in the import of steam coal (93.7 million t, +1%). Japan imported almost the same 2015’s quantities of coal (189.7 million tonnes versus 190, 6 million in 2015).

Whilst Europe relies on coal for 26%, coal’s share in the Italian electricity mix is stable at 12%, one of the lowest percentage. Italy’s final figures for 2016 show a decline in the import of steam coal to 14 million t (-12.5% compared to 2015); the imports of metallurgical coal and PCI are increasing: 3.9 million t, +11% than the 3.5 millions in 2015.

Italy’s largest coal operators are at the forefront of technological innovation within the sector. Compared to the most obsolete and inefficient technologies used in the past, the modern coal power plants in Italy are environmentally-friendly, as they emit between 25 and 33% percent less CO2, and highly efficient, with an average 40% efficiency rate and peaks of 46% in Torrevaldaliga Nord, which is only reached in Japan and Denmark in the world.

Italian manufacturing companies pay the electricity 50% more than the European average, as the country depends on imported natural gas from Russia and Algeria and subsidised renewable energies, which together account for over 80% of the national electricity mix. If Italy keeps ignoring the contribution coming from the coal in the generation of competitive energy, its industrial network will be at risk especially of compared to European competitors, given the half price of the provided energy, composed by coal and nuclear.

A number of scientific studies by preeminent research centres do not justify using gases against climate change, as the findings demonstrated that, considering the entire fossil fuels lifecycle, the difference in CO2 emissions with gas is significantly reduced, and even equalise when pre- and post-combustion emissions are included, because of the various gases (e.g. H2S, N2O, etc.) not accounted for released in the atmosphere from methane deposits.

A recent study by Pöyry Management Consulting compared the level of emissions measured in thermoelectric power plants using coal with those using gas, both working in a reduced or variable regime. The findings show that gas plant emissions can be +76% higher than the coal ones.

In addition, international studies (e.g. Prof. Yumehiko Hoshijima, Yale Law School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven; US Environmental Protection Agency; Environmental Defense Fund and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have widely demonstrated that shale gas and fracking have serious environmental consequences. Academic researches showed that natural gas generates, especially in its extraction, higher methane levels than coal.

“Coal is not the enemy to fight and electricity production from coal has an environmental impact in its lifecycle similar to natural gas, taking into account the efficient curb-emissions systems developed in recent years” declared Andrea Clavarino, President of the Italian coal industry association Assocarboni, at its annual congress.

“Assocarboni thus proposes to use more coal – through the implementation of the best combustion technologies – and renewables, and less gas, which is expensive and has serious supply security issues, following what developed and emerging countries like South Korea, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, USA and Vietnam are already doing. Nowadays, coal guarantees low costs and energy security, as reserves are equally distributed across the world, and therefore is, together with renewables, the best combustible to support economic and industrial development across the world, including Italy” concluded Andrea Clavarino.

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