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Energy / Coal

  • Germany Considers Coal Phase Out

    Amid a major phase out of nuclear power, Germany is weighing whether or not to undertake another monumental energy transition – shutting down a significant portion of its coal-fired power plant fleet. In 2011, Germany decided to shut down its nuclear reactors within a decade, a bold response in the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown. The so-called energiewende – or energy transition – is an audacious plan to rapidly switch from large baseload nuclear power to renewable energy, primarily from solar and wind. A second energy transition is being considered in Berlin. The German government is negotiating with utilities to…

  • Utilities Facing Coal Shortages Due To Rail Congestion

    With winter approaching, the piles of coal at utility yards are running well below average, and several utilities are pressuring rail companies to allow more coal trains through. The problem is the traffic jam on railways across the country. A bumper crop for U.S. grain has led to a surge in shipments, with farmers shipping 15% more grain so far in 2014 compared to a year earlier. The story is similar with oil. Shipments of oil by rail – owing to a dearth of pipeline capacity – are up more than 13% this year. But coal still makes up the…

  • The Unwelcome Reality For U.S. Coal Exports

    U.S. coal export capacity is running well below capacity, and as such, exporting coal from the U.S. west coast is a losing strategy. That comes from a new report put out by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which found that despite the very lofty plans by many coal companies to ship coal to rapidly growing markets in Asia, doing so would result in a financial loss. The report finds that even existing coal export terminals are not running full tilt. The U.S. exports coal largely through ports on the east coast – at Hampton Roads, VA,…

  • Coal Exporters Just Got A Big New Competitor

    Rumors emerged last week of big changes coming in the coal market. From one of the world's largest players in the business.That's China. Where officials are reportedly moving to change the country's coal export policies--with potentially large consequences for other exporters globally.Platts quoted "industry participants" as saying that the Chinese government is close to announcing a cut in coal export duties. With sources suggesting that export taxes could be reduced to 3%, from a current 10%, as early as January 1, 2015.Coal companies were reportedly meeting on Friday with China's National Development and Reform Commission, to finalize details around the…

  • Will Coal Be Cut Entirely From German Energy Mix?

    Germany is looking into cutting its use of coal power, at the same time that it is cutting out nuclear. If it does, there could be a ripple effect because Germany is a major player in the European energy market. A Berlin-based journalist said that Germany’s emphasis on renewables is already impacting electricity markets in Poland and the Czech Republic. (Denmark is also exploring how it might go coal-free, but even sooner.) “The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel last week issued a discussion paper proposing to implement the strictest controls on coal fired generation yet to be seen in…

  • Ukraine Facing Harsh Winter Due To Coal Shortages

    On 22 October, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that by the end of this year Ukraine will be 4 million tons short of coal. The deficit stems from the fact that 88 of the 93 Ukrainian mines operating in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, which together account for 70% of domestic production, are located in areas controlled by the militants. As a result of the war, 69 mines in the Donbas have ceased activity, and several have been destroyed. Even those mines still operating are having problems making deliveries to Ukrainian power plants due to damaged railway lines. As a result,…

  • Falling Coal Prices Wreaking Havoc With Corporate Balance Sheets

    The slide in oil prices has raised speculation that oil companies in the U.S. could be forced to cut back on production, but a market slump in another commodity is also putting pressure on producers. Coal markets are currently experiencing a supply glut that is showing no signs of recovery. Mining companies drew up plans for billion-dollar projects in the mid-2000s, when commodity prices were on the upswing. With many of those projects now coming online, coal production is rising.BHP Billiton, an Australian mining giant, just opened a $3.4 billion mine in Queensland, which will add 5.5 million tonnes of…

  • U.S. Utilities Facing Fuel Shortage Problems As Winter Approaches

    American utility companies are facing lower-than-average fuel supplies as they begin to stockpile for the winter. Part of the reason is the country’s oil boom. Moving oil by rail has become so widespread that train backups are making it hard for utilities to receive shipments of coal, which in some cases is leaving power plants critically low on fuel supplies.  Coal stocks were inordinately depleted during the unusually long, cold snowy winter in the U.S., which saw an elevated level of electricity demand. Months later, coal-fired power plants are still struggling to replace their coal supplies. “Coal piles around the…

  • Congress Considers Federal Assistance For Laid-Off Coal Miners

    A major coal mining company has announced another round of layoffs as declining demand for coal continues to depress the industry.Alpha Natural Resources, the world’s third largest supplier of metallurgical coal, said Sept. 26 that it would be shuttering three mines in West Virginia due to “sustained weak market conditions and government regulations challenging the Central Appalachian mining industry.” The closures will put 261 people out of work. The news has a familiar refrain; more than 20,000 coal miners have lost their jobs since 2011. But coal mining jobs have been disappearing for more than 30 years. As of March…

  • Supreme Court Ruling Deals Blow To Indian Coal Sector

    In the end, it turned out as many feared it would. The Supreme Court of India canceled all but 4 of the 218 coal blocks allocated for mining by the government over the last two decades.Following this, power, steel and cement companies that were given these blocks between 1993 and 2010 will have to return them, and then, the government is free to either re-auction them or allot them to central firms.MetalMiner reported in August that the apex court had found all such coal licenses illegal.Related: Why King Coal Will Keep Its CrownThe coal blocks that were spared are being…