Nothing caused this: Pemex has openly denied that an undersea oil spill caused the fire in the middle of the ocean, even though a lightning storm could not have set afire regular sea water | Photo: CNN

Pemex denies any oil spill despite infernal fire in Gulf of Mexico

Mexico’s state-owned oil and gas driller, Pemex, denied that there was any oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, despite a burst undersea pipeline and a lightning storm igniting a fire in the middle of the ocean. The firm was roundly criticised by environmental campaigners on Twitter, with one user saying “Pardon my ignorance, but how is there a fire and at the same time no spill?”. The incident also brought to light the impunity Pemex enjoys under the current Mexican government against paying for environmental disasters, as the incumbent President is vying hard to restore the once high-paying oil and gas jobs for the country and is very likely to protect Pemex from any litigation. 

However, Mexico is party to the NAFTA deal signed with Canada and the US, and the two could pressure it into prosecuting Pemex over the incident — which may adversely affect marine species and the local economy by having released toxins into the ecosystem. Interestingly, at $107 billion in debt, Pemex is also the world’s most indebted oil firm and is reportedly overrun by corruption. 

India: 48 of 67 auctioned coal mines receive no bids

48 of the 67 new coal mines put up for auction by the Government of India received no bids, while only eight received more than the minimum requirement of two bids (for either of them to be considered valid). Of the 19 mines that drew some interest, 15 were for non-coking coal, but the latest round demonstrated the flagging interest in coal in India despite the government’s best efforts. Earlier this year, half the coal blocks auctioned returned zero bidders, and this year all foreign players stayed away, even though the government has removed end-use restrictions to turn the country into a net coal exporter. 

The bidders for this round included Adani Power and Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. The former is heavily expanding its renewable power capacity and the latter comes from a state that in 2019 announced a cessation of any new coal plants within its boundaries

NTPC to halve coal plants by 2032, nearly 40% of India depends on coal mining 

India’s largest power developer, NTPC, announced that it would halve its coal power capacity by 2032 to around 27GW. The move comes amidst the developer planning to significantly boost its renewable energy capacity, and it has upped its previous target of 30 GW of renewables by 2032 to 60 GW — with the larger target of developing around 50% of its power from renewables by the time, compared to only 18% today. NTPC is reportedly also considering making available viability gap funding for India’s offshore wind energy projects. 

Meanwhile, a new study published by a doctoral researcher showed that nearly 40% of India was dependent on coal mining, either through direct or indirect jobs, with the majority of them concentrated in Jharkhand, Odisha, eastern Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and parts of Telangana and Tamil Nadu. The study comes at a time when the conversation around Just Transition is gathering some acknowledgement in the country, and it details the enormous contribution of coal mines to their respective districts’ mineral funds  and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which would be heavily impacted by a coal phaseout. 

China: Sinopec to start CCS plant, ICBC pulling out of Zimbabwe coal plant over env. impact

China’s petroleum refining corporation, Sinopec, will start a carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) plant in the east of the country to re-use up to 10.7 million tonnes of CO2 over 15 years. The CO2 will be captured from a refinery that makes hydrogen and will be pumped into oil wells to boost crude oil production by an estimated 3 million tonnes, and is part of Sinopec’s strategy to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Scheduled to start later this year, the project may be replicated in other provinces as well, and may become a part of the 800 million tons of CO2 that need to be captured (possibly annually) by 2030 — from 40 million tonnes today — to mitigate climate change, according to the IEA. 

In Zimbabwe, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) will most likely pull out of financing the 2.8GW Sengwa coal plant over “environmental problems”. The pullout is important as it’ll be one of the first instances where a Chinese bank may withdraw support for a project based on its own internal assessment (including that of environmental issues) rather than for issues with the host nation. China last year also banned support for overseas coal projects, but is yet to formally adopt the practice. 

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