Approved without approvals: New oil & gas explorers in India will be allowed self-certification, regardless of actual approvals, in the govt.'s move to ease doing business | Photo: India Public Sector

India relaxes rules further, approves self-certification for oil & gas exploration

The government of India has relaxed its oil & gas exploration rules for new entrants even further and approved self-certification for applicants that notify discoveries and the test results that back them up. The changes come seemingly as a bid to ease doing business in India, and also specify that development plans for these sites will be deemed to have been approved 30 days after the documents are submitted.

What’s most surprising is that the approval for self-certification includes information on bank guarantees, environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and contingency plans. The new rules follow somewhat similar plans for coal mining, which, too, are under talks to be opened up to entrants without prior experience.

Austria & Sweden shut down last coal plants, Germany eyes geothermal power under coal exit

Austria and Sweden have become the latest EU nations to shut down their last coal plants. The former’s 34-year old Mellach power plant was shut down as part of the nation’s plan to fully exit fossil fuels for power generation by 2030, and its gas-fired power plants will follow suit. Sweden’s 31-year old Värtaverket plant was also shut down — two years ahead of schedule — and its output will be replaced either by renewables or recycled energy.

Germany is also stepping up its coal exit strategy, as it has released a draft “Coal Exit Law” under which geothermal energy will be strongly considered as a baseload power-capable source of heat. The draft law intends to slash Germany’s carbon emissions from grid-connected sources of power and is likely to sidestep increased investment in natural gas.

Oil storage to peak in three weeks, LNG market imploding over poor demand

The global glut in oil supplies has helped countries stock up on strategic reserves, but new reports suggest that the cumulative storage capacity could be used up in the next three weeks. Several oil producers have already been holding unsold shipments at sea — figures say up to 160 millions tonnes are being stored on supertankers — and with countries still some time away from economic recovery, demand for crude oil remains at historic lows.

This has caused crude prices to crash again, and at the time of writing this piece Brent Crude was trading at $20.47/barrel. This is a far cry from the average of $55-$60/barrel a year ago.

The LNG market is also said to be “imploding” as the commodity trades at around $2/MMBtu, instead of the breakeven price of $5.56/MMBtu (for Asian contracts) — which is terrible news for the billions of dollars invested into the product by oil majors like Shell, Total, Chevron and ExxonMobil.

Shell to go net-zero by 2050, focus heavily on carbon capture

Royal Dutch Shell has unveiled its plan to go net-zero in operations by 2050 by focussing heavily on carbon capture, as well as selling more green energy. The latest announcement also includes provisions to curtail scope 3 emissions (emissions from users of its products), and the use of natural solutions, such as planting trees, to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

The firm is one of the largest oil drillers and its announcement follows BP’s, whose strategy is to target an absolute reduction in emissions. Shell, on the other hand, will pursue emissions offsets and halve the carbon intensity of its operations by 2050.

HSBC, Sumitomo Mitsui join the ranks to stop financing coal

Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Group and UK-based HSBC, two of the largest coal financiers, have announced their decisions to stop financing any new coal power projects. Sumitomo Mitsui’s decision is influenced by relentless pressure by shareholders, and goes into effect on May 1. Its contemporary, Mizhuo, will also ban investments in new coal power from June 1st and eliminate funding for existing commitments by 2050.

Similar pressure on HSBC has brought forward the decision to abandon its “obsolete energy guidelines” and to no longer exempt the new coal plants being built in Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh — which were previously justified as a balancing act between low-carbon transition and humanitarian needs in the developing world.

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