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 Study: Renewables, Nuclear Power Gets Outsized Federal Subsidies

The Institute for Energy Research on Friday announced a report showing that renewables and nuclear power received 93% of federal subsidies in 2016, but produced only about 22% of the nation's energy, which drew mixed reactions from industry observers.

A market-oriented energy think tank, the IER announced Friday that it had analyzed an April US Energy Information Administration study entitled "Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2016," which was an update of previous similar studies conducted for the years 2010 and 2013.

"Federal subsidies to support non-fossil fuels (renewable energy and nuclear power) in fiscal year 2016 totaled $7.047 billion (in 2016 dollars), while those for fossil fuels totaled $489 million -- higher by over a factor of 14, despite much higher production by fossil fuel producers," the IER paper states.

The IER paper notes that biofuels -- largely for transportation -- received the largest share in 2016, at 37%, followed by solar with 30%, wind with 17%, fossil fuels with 7%, nuclear with 5% and other renewables with 4%.

The IER paper did not provide an electricity output breakdown by fuel type, but the EIA study does, which shows the following generation shares:

Natural gas and petroleum liquids: 35.1% Coal: 29.6% Nuclear: 19.6% Hydro: 6.6% Wind: 5.4% Solar: 1.2% Other: 2.5%

To continue reading, click here to view the full article on CoalZoom.com. 

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Westmoreland Coal Seeks Court Approval to Sell Buckingham Coal to CCU

A federal judge has delayed Westmoreland Coal's request to sell its Buckingham Coal subsidiary in Ohio to a holding company, CCU Coal and Construction, by two weeks, according to court records.

Previously scheduled for January 16, Judge David R. Jones of the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston rescheduled the Westmoreland's Buckingham sale motion hearing to January 28.

Westmoreland and several subsidiaries, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last October, consider both Buckingham and Oxford to be non-core assets.

CCU, which is affiliated with veteran US coal executive Charles Ungurean, who co-founded Buckingham's sister Ohio company, Oxford Mining, emerged as the preferred Buckingham buyer after a "comprehensive marketing process" launched by Westmoreland last August resulted in only one would-be buyer - CCU - that would be willing to assume Buckingham's "significant reclamation liabilities" and provide a cash payment of $1 million to the Westmoreland estate, court filings show.

Buckingham operates the Burr Oak No. 6 underground mine in Perry County, Ohio. The mine typically produces about 1 million st of coal annually for sale to American Electric Power's 1,590-MW Conesville power plant in Coshocton County.

The AEP contract is set to expire at the end of this year and has not been renewed or replaced. As a result, Westmoreland said in a filing, "the principal value of the Buckingham mine is driven by cash flows generated in 2019. It is for this reason [the Westmoreland debtors] believe the value of the Buckingham mine to potential buyers will significantly decline throughout 2019."

To continue reading, click here to view the full article on CoalZoom.com. 

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NETL-Led Project Offers Prospect of Cutting Carbon Capture Cost

A computational modeling project led by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has identified membrane materials that will make carbon capture more affordable for coal-fired power plants, reducing the cost to less than US$50 per metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) removed.

NETL’s Jan Steckel, Ph.D., worked with Chris Wilmer, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and NETL colleagues Olukayode Ajayi, Ph.D., and Samir Budhathoki to model the cost of carbon capture for more than 1 million hypothetical mixed matrix membrane (MMM) materials using powerful computational tools. Their work is highlighted in the latest edition of the journal Energy and Environmental Science. Membrane-based CO2 capture uses permeable or semi-permeable materials that allow for the selective transport and separation of CO2 from flue gas. The computational modeling project focused on MMMs that incorporate porous nanoparticles, known as metal-organic frameworks, into the matrix of a sturdy polymer to enhance selectivity and permeability. The team leveraged NETL’s computational capabilities to connect atomistic simulations to techno-economic analyses of the membrane-based carbon capture process. Their efforts identified the best combinations of polymers and nanoparticles to make novel membranes with outstanding properties for carbon capture.

The techno-economic analyses indicated that 1153 of more than 1 million MMMs could reduce the cost of carbon capture to less than US$50 per metric tonne of CO2 removed — within reach of the US Department of Energy’s goal of US$40 or less for pulverised coal plants. The results highlighted the importance of incorporating the right metal-organic framework to complement a particular polymer. “It was exciting to find that there are so many combinations of polymers and metal-organic frameworks that have the potential to make a dramatic reduction in carbon capture cost,” Steckel said. “Many of the promising metal-organic frameworks identified in our screening were published years ago, but nobody has been investigating them for carbon capture.”

To continue reading, click here to view the full article on CoalZoom.com. 

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 Blankenberger Brothers Moving Forward With New Underground Coal Mine in Indiana

The Illinois Basin appears poised to welcome a second major new underground coal mine with the decision by Blankenberger Brothers to start construction later this year on a 3.5 million st/year, 11,300-11,500 Btu/lb underground mine in Pike County, Indiana.

Donnie Blankenberger, president of the family owned excavation company in Cynthiana, Indiana, told S&P Global Platts in a Wednesday interview that 2019 should be the year the company finally moves forward with a project that has been on the drawing board for several years.

The mine will be developed by Blankenberger's BB Mining subsidiary, which has mined previously in southern Indiana.

The company is in discussions with potential offtake customers and expects some positive developments over the next couple of months, he said.

Blankenberger is eyeing the strong US export market for the mine's coal, although he did not elaborate about potential destinations. He predicted the mine will be among the lowest-cost producers in the region, which should make it competitive with other ILB companies selling into the seaborne market.

In addition to the mine's Btu content, the coal's specifications include an average of 6 lb SO2/MMBtu.

To continue reading, click here to view the full article on CoalZoom.com. 

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Reversing the Anti-Coal Supertanker

If anyone has ever told you, “it’s like turning a supertanker,” you know the task at hand isn’t going to be easy. The analogy beautifully captures the immense challenge of reversing momentum. For all the energy required to get that proverbial supertanker moving, it can be doubly difficult and slow to change its course.

Reversing the momentum of eight years of anti-coal policy is as you’d expect, not an overnight affair. The last administration worked tirelessly to make it more difficult and costlier to both produce and use coal. The assault on the industry spared no punch. There were air and water rules, standards for existing plants, new and completely arbitrary standards for new plants, land withdrawals and moratoriums – the list goes on and on. While coal was under a regulatory bombardment, its competitors benefitted from tens of billions of dollars in federal and state subsidies and a dizzying array of portfolio standards guaranteeing them a market. The outcome left little in doubt.

While many of the anti-coal efforts promulgated by the former administration rested on shaky legal ground and were stopped cold in court – take the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards or the Clean Power Plan – the cumulative effect of this onslaught was a coal industry in sharp decline.

To continue reading, click here to view the full article on CoalZoom.com. 

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