Operating dangerously: After a second blast in two months at the Neyveli thermal power plant, all four units of the plant’s second phase have been shut for a Life Extension Programme inspection | Photo: One India

Second blast at Neyveli kills six, raises questions on plant’s Life Extension Program (LEP)

A second blast at the fifth unit of the Neyveli thermal power station in as many months has claimed six lives and left 17 personnel with serious injuries. The blast is suspected to have been caused by overheating and excessive pressure at the boiler, but inadequate maintenance is also being investigated, since every thermal power plant in the country must undergo a Life Extension Programme (LEP) check in the 20th year of its typical 25-year lifespan. 

All four units commissioned in the second phase of the plant’s history have now been shut down for an LEP inspection, under which their operational worthiness will be re-examined. They could be re-certified for another 15-20 years if so recommended. 

Baghjan oil well fire: NGT imposes an interim fine of ₹25 crore on OIL

An interim penalty of ₹25 crore has been imposed on government-owned OIL India for its failure to rein in the fire and gas leak from an oil well in the Baghjan oilfield in Assam’s Tinsukia district. Well number 5 in the oilfield has been spewing gas since it caught fire on June 9 when it caused the deaths of two OIL firefighters. The bench comprising Justice S P Wangdi and expert member Siddhanta Das constituted a committee headed by former high court judge B P Katakey to probe the matter and submit a report within 30 days.

Germany passes 2038 coal exit law, Hambach forest survives

Germany has passed into law its proposal to fully exit coal mining coal power by 2038, and the exit comes with compensation worth EUR 40 billion for affected regions. The law differentiates between shutting down lignite and hard coal facilities, but both will be phased down equally in three phases: down to 15GW each by 2022, to 8GW of coal and 9GW of lignite by 2030, and to zero by 2038. The phasedown will be reviewed three times, once each in 2026, 2029 and 2032, and will assess if the phaseout can be completed by 2035. 

The law also means that the embattled Hambach forest, which was to be mined for lignite to feed RWE’s plants, will not be touched. RWE, for its part, will be compensated with EUR 2.6 billion for shutting down its plants by 2029. 

Spain shutters seven of its 15 coal plants, may go coal free by 2025

Spain has shuttered seven of its last 15 coal plants as the plant owners felt it was inordinately expensive for the units to comply with tougher EU norms, cheaper alternatives and higher carbon prices. The plants together accounted for 4,630 MW — and 1,100 jobs — and will make way for more natural gas and renewable energy in the face of stricter carbon pricing by the EU, under which the per tonne price of carbon was at EUR 25 in 2019. 

Notably, the decision seems to be entirely based on economics, as the country’s Ministry for Ecological Transition has so far refused to sign up to a specific date for a coal phaseout. 

Meanwhile, Japan, too, may retire 100 of its old, inefficient coal plants by 2030 as part of its Paris Agreement commitment to cut emissions by 26% over 2013 levels by the end of this decade. 

CNPC vows to slash methane emissions by 50% by 2025

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has announced that it will increase its ambition — as part of its commitment to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, OGCI — and slash its methane emissions by 50% by 2025. CNPC is China’s largest oil and gas producer and its efforts will include minimising flaring at oil fields and plugging methane leaks, as 40% of the country’s methane emissions come from upstream oil and gas and coal operations. The move is significant as in 2014, China’s methane emissions were recorded at 1.125 billion tonnes, and methane is known to be a potent greenhouse gas whose unchecked emissions could negate CO2 emissions curbs.

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