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Only coal provides reliable power

TO MANY SKEPTICS, particularly those on the political left, the shutdown of coal plants has demonstrated the industry’s shaky future. With more than 400 units — more than one-third of the entire U.S. coal fleet — already shut down or due to close in the next few years, few places in the country will be untouched by the consequences of the loss of affordable and reliable electricity.

How can consumers avoid the serious stresses in the electric-power sector? What’s the safest way to provide the electricity needed to power households and keep businesses and factories running? What’s the safest way to endure electricity shortages that result in a cascading blackout or a brownout?

The power sector’s preference for a quick fix — its willingness to take hundreds of coal plants off the electric grid despite a risk to electricity reliability — is supposedly the answer. But it’s one that will result in serious problems with negative consequences for electricity users and the nation’s economy.

The problems were recently documented in an analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. It showed that coal was “the most resilient form of power generation” during the severe winter weather that hammered the eastern U.S. in December and January and that removing coal from the energy mix would “worsen threats to the electrical grid’s dependability” during future severe weather events.

The winter storm, known as a “bomb cyclone,” or winter hurricane, plunged the region into a deep freeze, sparking a significant increase in the demand for additional power for heat. Coal provided a majority of the power required to meet the emergency, according to the study. In fact, during the worst of the storm, U.S. electricity market experience showed that without the resilience of coal plants — the ability to add capacity — the eastern U.S. “would have suffered severe electricity shortages, likely leading to widespread blackouts.”

The report warns against overestimating the nation’s ability to respond to weather events if the current rate of coal plant shutdowns continues.

Focusing on six regional electricity markets administered by independent system operators that served areas affected by the bomb cyclone, it found that for the largest operator in the mid-Atlantic, coal provided the most resilient form of generation due to available reserve capacity and on-site availability, far exceeding all other sources, and providing three times the incremental generation from natural gas.

If nothing else, the shutdown of coal plants has made one thing clear: The notion that electricity reliability was unaffected was a sham.

Unless we stop coal shutdowns and start putting greater emphasis on reliability, electricity users will learn the hard way. But they aren’t the only potential victims. If power shortages force businesses and factories to close, companies would suffer financially, and shareholders would feel the effects.

Utilities, in other words, need to take another look at coal.

By Syd S. Peng, Dept. of Mining Engineering, West Virginia University.
Published by The Virginian-Pilot, 9 April 2018.

This month's top international coal headlines

  • WCA announces leadership transition amid resurgence in coal fundamentals — World Coal
  • GE and SEPCOIII to build first ultra-supercritical power plant in Pakistan
    — World Coal
  • Hurting for buyers, US coal miners are learning to love India — Bloomberg
  • Ramaphosa embarks on Eskom overhaul — Reuters
  • SA mines relying heavily on unskilled workers despite Industry 4.0 gaining traction — Mining Weekly
  • TDS, Newrak awarded construction contract for Exxaro’s Matla Mine 2 and Mine 3 — Mining Weekly
  • Coal to remain a significant energy source for decades – WCA — Mining Weekly
  • Indian buyers wait for South African price correction — Platts CTI
  • South African coal trades high, discounts widen — IHS Markit
  • Anglo reaffirms view to stay away from Eskom supplies — Platts CTI
  • Industry gripped by pricing uncertainty as JRP talks flounder — IHS Markit
  • Costly SA coal losing significant market share in Pakistan — IHS Markit
  • CIF ARA price hits fresh six year high — Platts CTI
  • South Africa coal exports drop to 10-month low in May — Platts CTI

2018 archive

June 2018
  • Market Demand Study: Australian Export Thermal Coal
    — Minerals Council of Australia
  • SA supply woes offer Botswana coal export options
    — South African Coal Report
  • Global thermal coal demand likely to outstrip supply in H2 2018: Citi
    — Platts CTI
  • Atlantic thermal markets retrace gains, s. Africa hit hardest — Platts CTI
  • Natural gas could warm the planet as much as coal in the short term
    — Science
  • South African coal price too high for buyers — Platts CTI
  • Trump’s new oceans policy washes away Obama’s emphasis on conservation and climate — Science
  • Asia's thermal coal demand poised to grow — Mining Weekly
  • South African coal remains at near-record highs — Platts CTI
  • US and Russian thermal coals compete for Jorf Lasfar tender — Platts CTI
  • New draft Mining Charter poses problems for greenfield projects
    — South African Coal Report
  • Last month, we were told that it was the end of the Arctic — Bjorn Lomborg
  • Climate Talks Stall as $100 Billion Still Out of Sight — Bloomberg
  • Privileged coal: the politics of subsidies for coal production in Colombia
    — Stockholm Environment Institute
  • Alive and kicking: China hydrocarbon demand — S&P Global Platts
  • Taiwan April thermal coal imports at six month high: customs — Platts CTI
  • European thermal coal price relaxes following six-year highs — Platts CTI
  • Developing the Botswana coal industry — Minergy Coal
  • WCA responds to BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018
    — World Coal Association
  • BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 — BP
  • Uneconomic coal could be squeezed out of European Union power markets by 2030 — Forbes
  • Tipping Point: Strategies for a New Energy Future — IHS Markit
  • The Shale Gale turns 10: A powerful wind at America’s back — IHS Markit
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal falls — Platts CTI
  • Limited South African cargoes available — Platts CTI
  • Zululand Anthracite Colliery to expand operations in KZN — Mining Weekly
  • Capital may become expensive for coal projects as lenders pull out — SACR
  • South African export markets up 10 cents — Platts CTI
  • Coal rallies to six-year high as heatwave fires up China demand — Bloomberg
  • World Energy Outlook 2018 — IEA
  • Eskom’s plan to recover R1bn short-circuited — BusinessLIVE
  • Administration Proposes Emergency Measure to Save Coal and Nuclear. How Will It Impact Consumers? — InsideSources
  • Prepare for greater generation competition, Radebe tells Eskom
    — Mining Weekly
  • Commission approves NBC, ECM merger without conditions — Mining Weekly
  • China remains dominant coal consumer, producer — Mining Weekly
  • South African April thermal coal exports down 8% on month at 6.6Mt
    — Platts CTI
May 2018
  • Germany again delays coal exit ‘masterplan’ as coalition disagrees — Platts
  • South African coal remains bullish — Platts CTI
  • South Africa promises friendlier investment environment for coal
    — IHS Markit Coal & Energy
  • The plethora of better alternatives to wind and solar power and electric cars
    — The Energy Collective
  • Poland’s stunning e-mobility plans — Energy Post
  • 11 ways the Paris climate deal is working in the real world
    — Climate Home News
  • South African prices resist downward pressure — Platts CTI
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal rises on low availability
    — Platts CTI
  • Atlantic thermal coal sentiment weakens in reaction to China price cap
    — Platts CTI
  • Emissions rally lifts power but coal stays ahead of gas — argusmedia.com
  • South African coal prices kept high on unclear outlook — Platts CTI
  • South African price softens — Platts CTI
  • South African coal prices kept high on unclear outlook — Platts CTI
  • South Africa coal offered higher — Platts CTI
  • Tight supply out of South Africa, more coal to Eskom — Platts CTI
  • South African prices fall for first time since early May — Platts CTI
  • South African thermal coal prices continue uptick, supply concerns linger
    — Platts CTI
  • Spot market strength this summer could lead to price spike
    — IHS Markit Coal & Energy
  • Tight thermal coal supply out of South Africa fuels bullish sentiment
    — Platts CTI
  • Countries in and around the Middle East are adding coal-fired power plants
    — U.S. Energy Information Administration
  • South African prices hit new record high — Platts CTI
  • RBCT prices hit six-year high, eye Eskom tender result — IHS Markit
  • FOB Richards Bay price assessed at new record high — Platts CTI
  • Industry sentiment turns bullish for near-term prices — IHS Markit
  • Contradicting fundamentals point to increased uncertainty in 2018
    — IHS Markit
  • Eskom’s procurement plans drive Richards Bay prices to six-year highs
    — IHS Markit
  • South African coal price at record high — Platts CTI
  • Demand for South African coal dries up on surging prices — Platts CTI
  • South African prices near record high — Platts CTI
  • India's 'preferred origin' — Platts CTI
  • South African thermal coal price rises, discounts begin to widen — Platts CTI
  • Eskom move could spark coal investment — South African Coal Report
  • Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2017 — International Energy Agency
  • The One Nation Returning To Coal — Oilprice.com
  • Eskom introduces measures to address imbalance in coal stock levels
    — World Coal
  • Coal departures from RBCT rise despite supply tightness — Platts CTI
  • Poor demand in European thermal coal market, Richards Bay bullish
    — Platts CTI
  • European thermal coal market well supplied, Richards Bay offered higher
    — Platts CTI
  • War on coal making the world's top mine owners a lot richer
    — Bloomberg News
  • FOB Richards Bay market continues to rise — Platts CTI
  • African coal boosted further by reports of Eskom spot purchasing — Platts CTI
  • South African Q1 thermal coal exports up 5.7% on year — Platts CTI
  • South African prices continue to rally — Platts CTI
  • South African Q1 thermal coal exports up 5.7% on year to 19.6Mt — Platts CTI
April 2018
  • Tight supply in SA — Platts CTI
  • South African coal discounts narrow — Platts CTI
  • FOB Richards Bay traded — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay to hover near 2-month highs on Eskom buying — IHS Markit
  • Anglo stays course on thermal coal — South African Coal Report
  • CIF ARA prices higher on strong bids — Platts CTI
  • US coal exports to Asia ‘More than doubled’: EIA — IHS Markit
  • Tight South African supply keeping prices high — Platts CTI
  • South32 Jan-Mar South African thermal coal output stable — Platts CTI
  • South African coal supply tight — Platts CTI
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal rises: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • A new coal war frontier emerges as China and Japan compete for energy projects in Southeast Asia — South China Morning Post
  • Key Electricity Trends 2017 — International Energy Agency
  • Letter: Only coal provides reliable power — The Virginian-Pilot
  • RBCT prices supported as Eskom grabs supplies from export market
    — Platts CTI
  • Chinese import restrictions widen — Newswire
  • Converting coal to hydrogen — Gippsland Times
  • Mozambique thermal coal to compete with South Africa for MENA market
    — Platts
  • US coal finding its way into Europe, Mediterranean markets — Platts CTI
  • Indian market opens for Australian coal — Platts CTI
  • The Economic Impacts of Climate Change — Review of Environmental Economics and Policy
  • Fewer And Fewer People Die From Climate-Related Natural Disasters
    — Bjorn Lomborg
  • South African, Colombia coals compete for weak Indian spot demand
    — Platts CTI
  • Coal is here to stay! Botswana to drive the future of coal power demand
    — CNBC
  • China is massively betting on coal outside its borders — even as investment falls globally — CNBC
  • Abandon coal and the lights go out — The Daily Telegraph
  • IMO 2020, a shipping regulation that may reshape global coal trade — Platts
  • Atlantic thermal coal markets concentrate on Richards Bay — Platts CTI
  • Mid-CV South African coal prices buoyed by tight supply — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay mid-CV supply tightness driving up price — Platts CTI
  • South Africa’s Feb thermal coal exports rise 1% to 6.2Mt — Platts CTI
March 2018
  • Eskom reverts to cost plus for coal purchase — Miningmx
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal eases on week — Platts CTI
  • Limited offers for FOB Richards Bay coals — Platts CTI
  • SA coal mining set for growth — Mining Weekly
  • South African coal preferred choice for South Asia market — Platts CTI
  • 3% global power demand gain met by renewables, coal in 2017: IEA
    — Platts CTI
  • Deflated sentiment in CIF ARA spot market as demand wanes — Platts CTI
  • WCA responds to State of global coal fleet report — World Coal
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal up on week — Platts CTI
  • Coal ahead of gas in UK, German power markets — Platts CTI
  • China thermal coal prices stabilise — Platts CTI
  • UK GAS-Prices edge lower on weaker demand; softer coal, power markets
    — Reuters
  • US coal interest wanes on lower South African prices — Platts CTI
  • China approves three coal mine projects — China Coal Daily
  • Coal’s future in Asia is far from bleak — S&P Global Platts
  • South African coal favoured for South Asian import market — Platts CTI
  • The world cannot keep ignoring the Asian coal story — World Coal
  • Australia’s Universal Coal acquires SA North Block Complex, eyes exports
    — Platts CTI
  • Green Mythology and the High Price of European Electricity — Energy Matters
  • The World Is Mostly Run On Fossil Fuels — Bjorn Lomborg
  • ICE Feb thermal coal derivatives trade marginally up from Jan at 143Mt
    — Platts CTI
  • China thermal coal prices retreat further — Platts
  • South African coal volatility — Platts CTI
  • Atlantic thermal coal derivatives trading down 10.4% on year in Feb: LEBA
    — Platts CTI
  • China to cut 30 Mtpa steel capacity, 150 Mtpa coal capacity in 2018
    — sxcoal.com
  • Industrialisation and prosperity to drive global energy demand — World Coal
  • The future of “dirty” coal in South Africa vs reliable renewable energy sources — Mining Review
  • Anglo American completes sale of Eskom-tied thermal coal ops
    — Independent Online
  • Anglo American concludes sale of three coal mines in South Africa
    — MINING.com
  • Impossible for Gupta-owned Optimum Coal to do business — Miningmx
February 2018
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal eases on week: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • South Africa’s January thermal coal exports fall to 6.16Mt — Platts CTI
  • South African price volatility keeping buyers at bay — Platts CTI
  • Underinvestment in thermal coal may boost short term prices — SACR
  • Minergy CEO: “Coal is here to stay” — World Coal
  • Asian coal demand to offset EU and US decline — Nikkei Asian Review
  • Trump proposes FY19 budget proposal for Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement — World Coal
  • A nuclear deal with Moscow would not only squander billions, but would compromise SA's sovereignty — Daily Maverick
  • Energy Access Outlook 2017 — IEA
  • Industrial action at Optimum coal mine in South Africa — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay stocks plentiful despite South Africa coal mine strike: source
    — Platts CTI
  • CIF ARA market pushes higher despite little March interest — Platts CTI
  • Strong South African coal bids boost markets amid tight supply — Platts CTI
  • RB prices likely to edge up on limited supplies, Newcastle — SACR
  • South African coal sales climb to record $10.3bn in 2017 — MCR
  • New SA president likely to address mining charter issues
    — McCloskey Coal Report
  • Leon expects mining industry to have a future under Ramaphosa’s Presidency — Mining Weekly
  • Arbitrage opportunity for South African coal to India — Platts CTI
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal rises to 25: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • FOB prices push CIF ARA market higher — Platts CTI
  • Global thermal coal demand to outstrip supply, grow by 5% in 2018: Noble
    — Platts CTI
  • Atlantic thermal coal derivatives trading rises 55.4% on month to 70.8Mt: LEBA — Platts CTI
  • CIF ARA spot market loses ground, futures recover — Platts CTI
  • The Future of Coal in South Africa — Mining Journal Africa
  • Indian demand for South African coal rises: sources — Platts CTI
  • South African mining industry makes compelling case for protection of coal
    — African News Agency
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal up one to 15: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • Solar And Wind Are Taking Over The World — Bjørn Lomborg
  • Growing hope Ramaphosa will fix S. Africa’s mining charter problem
    — McCloskey Coal Report
  • Eskom struggles to compete for coal supplies amid export rally
    — McCloskey Coal Report
  • South Africa to benefit from coal demand surge in India, Pakistan
    — McCloskey Coal Report
January 2018
  • Is Global Warming Making Us Hungrier? — Bjørn Lomborg
  • Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) exported a record 76.47Mt of coal in 2017 — Platts CTI
  • Anglo American continues exit from South African coalWorld Coal — Platts CTI
  • RBCT reports record high 2017 coal export volumes — Platts CTI
  • Richards Bay terminal reports record high 2017 coal export volumes at 76.5Mt — Platts CTI
  • Cyril Ramaphosa to tackle Mining Charter impasse — BusinessLIVE
  • Anglo American 2017 coal production falls 6% on year to 81.82Mt — Platts CTI
  • Vessel queue at Richards Bay Coal Terminal drops to 16: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • CIF ARA spot coal price retraces on lower bids, offers — Platts CTI
  • Indonesian miners aim for higher production — Platts CTI
  • India’s electricity generation — World Coal Association
  • India's self-sufficiency goals, renewable energy, overcapacity, and railway system — Coaltrans
  • South32 flags downside risk over weaker domestic demand
  • Eskom’s financial woes threaten to push South Africa off ‘coal cliff’
  • RBCT coal vessel queues total 22, up five from last week: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • Roadmap to nowhere: the myth of powering the nation 100% with renewable energy — Energy Post
  • CIF ARA coal markets stagnant despite early morning deal — Platts CTI
  • China buying, India struggling — Platts CTI
  • Komipo buys 130,000 mt of South African coal — Platts CTI
  • Atlantic thermal coal trading limited as prices drop — Platts CTI
  • Coal prices face moderate correction — Platts CTI
  • South African coal competitively priced to India — Platts CTI
  • Slack demand keeps CIF ARA coal trading light — Platts CTI
  • Steam coal prices look overcooked — McCloskey Coal Report
  • Indian buyers resist rising South African market — Platts CTI
  • Global primary energy demand — World Coal
  • South African, US coals flow to India — Platts CTI
  • Vessels delayed at Richards Bay Coal Terminal: cFlow — Platts CTI
  • Steam Coal Outlook 2018 & Beyond — Coal Asia

2017 archive








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