Even more trouble: India’s thermal power sector may sink $35 billion worth of investments, while 50GW of its coal plants may get the axe | Image credit: IBTimes

India’s thermal power investments under acute stress, 50GW coal capacity may be cancelled

A new ASSOCHAM-Grant Thornton report on stressed assets suggests that investments worth Rs2.5 lakh crores (nearly $35 billion) in India’s thermal power projects – including 55GW of coal-fired plants and nearly 7GW of gas-fired facilities – are currently under immense financial stress. Fuel supply issues, lack of power-purchase agreements (PPAs) and regulatory hurdles have been found to be responsible, but a resolution may be unlikely as the Centre may even cancel 50GW of existing coal plants soon.

The future of an additional 46GW of coal-fired capacity (currently under construction) also looks uncertain over similar challenges, and due to stiff competition from India’s expanding solar capacity.

India to double oil & gas exploration blocks, establish NE gas grid for steady supplies

The Indian government has invited bids for 23 new oil and gas and coal-bed methane blocks spread over 31,000 sq. km. This would double the area under exploration to 1.8 lakh sq. km., and the move is aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on costly imports.

Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared his intention to turn Assam into an oil and gas hub for the North-East. India has again stressed that oil and gas will be important fuels for its future energy mix, and new gas pipelines in the region will be a step towards expanding the country’s switch from coal to the relatively cleaner natural gas.

Landmark Australian ruling refuses new coalmine permit over GHG emissions

A court in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) has denied permits for the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine over its potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The decision sets a first-of-its-kind precedent for coal-heavy Australia, which is quite likely to miss its climate targets because of its high emissions.

However, the court’s ruling has been challenged by the Institute of Public Affairs, which maintains tha restricting Australia’s coal industry poses a “sovereign risk” to the country. Nevertheless, three more mines, owned by prominent coal miners Glencore, Peabody, Kepco and Whitehaven, have now come under the crosshairs for a similar review.

Japan’s Itochu exits new coal, two US coal plants to be axed over poor economics

Japan’s Itochu group has decided to exit all new coal mining and power projects over the fuel’s impact on climate change. The group is one of the top 10 investors in Australian coal and has also sold its stake in Australia’s Rolleston coalmine.

Itochu’s exit adds to pullouts by Marubeni Corp., Mitsubishi and Dai-Ichi in 2018, and is further bad news for Australia’s coal mining industry, since Japan accounts for nearly 44% of the country’s thermal coal exports.

Meanwhile, two 50-year-old coal plants (with a cumulative capacity of 1841MW) in Tennessee, USA, will be shut down by 2023 as their ballooning costs make them too expensive to operate. The decision comes despite President Donald Trump appointing two members on the plants’ governing boards to keep them open.

Saudi Arabia to expand oil & gas operations globally, India to relocate Aramco refinery

The Saudi Arabian energy minister Khalid al Falih has announced the kingdom’s decision to expand its oil – and particularly natural gas – operations by tapping into overseas reserves. The country is reportedly looking to invest in LNG facilities in Russia, and is eyeing investment opportunities in the US and Australia as natural gas becomes an increasingly important fuel.

The decision is part of the kingdom’s strategy to continue to wield influence over global energy policies, and comes despite its Crown Prince calling for an end to the country’s “dangerous addition to oil”. The minister, on the other hand, has stressed that oil and gas would account for as much as 50% of the country’s revenues, notwithstanding any suggestions of a scale-down.

Meanwhile, as the Saudi prince commences his official visit to India, the proposed $44 billion petrochemicals refinery in Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra (to be owned by India, Saudi Arabia and UAE), will be relocated – possibly elsewhere in the state. Local farmers are opposed to the project over its potential ecological impact, but it is rumored to be very high on the list of priorities for the visiting prince – and not an investment opportunity India wants to let go of.

Swedish shipping to go carbon-neutral by 2045

Sweden’s shipping industry has agreed to stop using using fossil fuels (within domestic waters) and go carbon-neutral by 2045, to align itself with the larger national deadline. The announcement even comes with the admission that the stiff target was “challenging, but not impossible”.

The industry has, however, requested the government to introduce tax breaks and set up a fund to foster innovations in low-carbon transport, as shipping is almost completely dependant on fossil fuels.

Massive blow to UK fracking industry as govt refuses to loosen earthquake tremor rules

The UK’s fracking industry was served a massive blow to future prospects as the government has refused to loosen its limits on earthquake tremors. Current UK regulations call for an immediate suspension of fracking operations for 18 hours following a tremor of over 0.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, and the government’s refusal has been hailed as “essentially an end to the fracking industry”.

That may well be, since similar regulation in the US kicks in at 4.0 on the Richter scale due to its different geological makeup and lower density of population. The UK fracking industry giants Cuadrilla and Ineos have termed the limit “absurd” and “unworkable”, and the refusal is particularly bad news in light of discoveries of 6 trillion cubic metres of gas in Scotland – which could serve the UK’s gas demand for 30 years.

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