Energy Brief: Mississippi Clean Coal Plant Work Suspended

Washington Brief

  • As part of the administration’s Energy Week, President Donald Trump discussed his plans to bring energy development jobs to tribal lands. (Washington Examiner)
  • A House panel approved legislation that would pave the way for interim nuclear waste storage, ahead of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process for permanent storage in Yucca Mountain, Nev. (The Hill)
  • While promoting his wind production electricity tax credit legislation, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he believes Trump does not oppose wind power. (The Sioux City Journal)

Business Brief

  • Southern Co. and its Mississippi subsidiary announced it will stop work to complete the behind-schedule Kemper coal plant, meant to use new coal gasification technology. (The Associated Press)
  • Linn Energy Inc. and Oklahoma-based Citizen Energy II LLC created a joint oil and gas venture in south and central Oklahoma. (Reuters)

Chart Review

U.S. ethanol production capacity continues to increase
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee hearing on conservation and forestry in the 2018 Farm Bill 9:30 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on oil and natural gas development excess on federal lands 10 a.m.
House Science, Space & Technology subcommittee hearing on in-space propulsion 10 a.m.
Senate Appropriations subcommittee budget hearing for NASA 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

A Message from ExxonMobil:

Biofuel refined from algae could transform how we power automobiles and jet planes. It’s energy-rich and emits significantly less CO2 than most transportation fuels. And it doesn’t compete with food and fresh water supplies. We’re actively researching this technology to move it from the petri dish to the fuel tank. To learn more about our work and why we think this is a promising technology: EnergyFactor.com

General

Trump wants energy jobs like ‘never seen before’ on tribal lands
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

President Trump said Wednesday that he wants to see job growth like “never seen before” from energy development on tribal lands. The meeting is part of “Energy Week,” meant to highlight the administration’s energy jobs agenda and a concept it calls “energy dominance,” which includes making the nation more energy independent while expanding new markets for energy exports.

Big legal question: Is Trump’s WOTUS repeal ‘reasoned’?
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News

The Trump administration’s 42-page proposal for repealing former President Obama’s Clean Water Rule largely builds its case on a 2009 split decision by the Supreme Court on federal regulation of swear words on television. In FCC v. Fox Television Stations, the high court ruled, 5-4, that an agency can change regulations without the move being considered arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act as long as it provides a “reasoned explanation” for the change.

In Warsaw, Trump to promote U.S. natural gas exports: Cohn
Roberta Rampton, Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to promote U.S. natural gas exports at a meeting next week in Warsaw with a dozen leaders from central and eastern Europe, a region heavily reliant on Russian supplies, his top economic adviser told Reuters. On his way to the G20 summit in Germany, Trump is slated to speak in Poland – which received its first shipment of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) this month – to a group of leaders eager to reduce their dependence on Moscow for energy.

Public Land Leases May Meet Their Match in Environmental Litigation
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

New leases on public land would risk multiple lawsuits, slowing down the administration’s attempt to boost the extraction of coal, oil and natural gas, according to legal experts. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has pushed mining and drilling leases on public lands to take full advantage of the nation’s resources, but this approach to “energy dominance,” as President Donald Trump has dubbed it, may be derailed by expected litigation against the department.

Trump to nominate Senate aide for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Eric Beech, Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump intends to nominate Senate aide Richard Glick to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. Glick, who is general counsel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would serve the remainder of a five-year term expiring in June 2022, the statement said.

Oil and Natural Gas

Linn, Citizen Energy form Oklahoma oil venture with 2018 listing plan
David French, Reuters

Linn Energy Inc and Citizen Energy II, LLC have agreed to form a joint oil and gas venture to develop 140,000 acres in Oklahoma, with the newly-created company expected to list early next year, according to a statement on Wednesday. By forming the venture, Linn and Citizen aim to accelerate the development of the largely-contiguous acreage, with production reaching more than 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by the end of the year, double the output as of May 2017, the statement said.

Oil Set for Longest Winning Streak in 2 Months on U.S. Output
Ben Sharples and Grant Smith, Bloomberg News

Oil headed for its longest winning streak in two months after declines in U.S. crude production and gasoline inventories allayed some concerns that world markets remain oversupplied. Futures rose as much as 1.1 percent in New York to the highest in two weeks after advancing 5.2 percent in the previous five sessions. U.S. production tumbled by 100,000 barrels a day last week, the most since early July, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday.

Dennis Gartman: ‘There’s a real problem’ in oil market, bounce won’t last
Michelle Fox, CNBC News

Oil may be enjoying a rally in recent days, but don’t bet on it lasting, noted commodities trader Dennis Gartman told CNBC on Wednesday. Crude prices were higher on Wednesday, with U.S. crude futures closing up 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $44.74 a barrel. The move came after government data showed a bigger-than-expected drop in gasoline inventories and falling weekly U.S. crude output.

Oil prices rise to two-week high on dip in U.S. output
Karolin Schaps, Reuters

Oil prices rose to a two-week high on Thursday, extending a rally into a sixth straight session, after a decline in weekly U.S. production eased concerns about deepening oversupply. Crude prices slipped to the lowest in 10 months last week but have since rebounded more than 7 percent, stretching their bull-run to the longest since April.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Big energy users: Trump’s natural gas exports will take away jobs
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Large, industrial users of energy are frowning on the Trump administration’s attempt to make natural gas exports a key part of its pro-growth agenda, warning that it will hurt U.S. manufacturing and reduce jobs in the long run.

Storage Advocates Urge CAISO on DR Product
Jason Fordney, RTO Insider

Tesla and other energy storage companies have urged CAISO to accelerate development of a new demand response product that is based on excess generation, but the grid operator says it must first address many concerns before including the product in any proposal.

Renewables

Trump not out against wind energy, Grassley says
James Q. Lynch, The Sioux City Journal

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who once said Donald Trump would end a tax incentive for wind energy production “over my dead body,” doesn’t think the president has a “case out against wind.” That hasn’t stopped the Iowa Republican from reminding the White House that he’s the author of the wind energy production tax credit legislation and should be consulted when the president is developing energy policy.

Coal India betting big on renewables: Piyush Goyal
Krishna Das, Reuters

Coal India Ltd, the world’s largest miner of the dirty fuel, will generate 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable electricity this year as part of its plan to produce as much as 10 GW clean power in total, Piyush Goyal, Minister for Coal, Power and Renewable Energy, said on Thursday. State companies such as Coal India and NTPC Ltd, the country’s biggest thermal power producer, are planning to aggressively spend on solar projects under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal push for renewable energy.

Was America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Unfairly Blamed For A Whale’s Death?
Alexander Kaufman, The Huffington Post

Wind turbines kill roughly 300,000 birds each year. Compared to 6.8 million fatal collisions with cell and radio towers and the 3.7 billion slain by cats, that’s a tiny fraction. Yet avian deaths remain a key point raised by renewable energy critics, including President Donald Trump, to dispute the benefits of wind power. Now right-wing skeptics seek to tie the death of a humpback whale in Rhode Island earlier this month to the country’s first offshore wind farm.

Ex-landfill turned solar energy field
Jack Durkin, CBS Newsplex

The former Ivy landfill in Albemarle County will now become a field filled with solar panels. In about a year, construction will begin on ten to 14 acres of the now Ivy Material Utilization site. The project is set to be completed by the end of that year. These types of projects aren’t seen everywhere.

Coal

Mississippi utility will stop efforts to complete coal plant
Jeff Amy, The Associated Press

One of the nation’s largest utilities, faced with an ultimatum from Mississippi regulators, said Wednesday that it will suspend efforts to complete a first-of-its-kind coal-fueled power plant. The move is a blow in efforts to develop coal plants that emit less carbon dioxide, which could be key to improving the health of the nation’s coal industry. Mississippi Power Co., a unit of Southern Co., announced it was stopping efforts at its plant in Kemper County, near the Alabama state line. The Atlanta-based utility giant said Wednesday that it could lose another $3.4 billion from the Kemper County plant if it can’t reach a more favorable settlement with regulators. Shareholders have already lost $3.1 billion on the $7.5 billion plant.

$7.5 billion Kemper power plant suspends coal gasification
Megan Geuss, Ars Technica

Southern Company and Mississippi Power announced Wednesday afternoon that they would suspend all coal gasification operations at a Kemper County plant and simply use natural gas instead. The decision comes after the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) recommended that the plant burn only natural gas, which is cheaper at the moment.

WV coal production decline expected to continue
Ken Ward, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

While West Virginia’s coal industry might stabilize over the next few years, it will then likely resume a long-term decline in the decades to come, according to the projections published Wednesday by researchers at West Virginia University. The estimates, from the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, generally are in line with other projections that don’t see the sort of sustained comeback for the state’s coal production that industry backers and miners are hoping for or that President Donald Trump promised would come once he reduced regulations on mining and on coal-fired power plants.

Shareholders approve sale of Rio Tinto coal assets to Yancoal
Peter Wells, The Financial Times

Rio Tinto shareholders have given the seal of approval for some of the company’s coal assets to be sold to Yancoal, the Chinese state-backed group. Yancoal recently increased bid for Rio’s Coal & Allied assets, comprising $240m of royalty payments on top of $2.45bn cash, pipped a competing $2.675bn offer from Switzerland-based Glencore.

Nuclear

House panel votes to advance Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project
Timothy Cama, The Hill

A House committee voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to advance a bill meant to move along the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The legislation would set a time limit for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the project and makes a necessary land transfer for the project. It also allows the Department of Energy (DOE) to permit an interim nuclear waste storage site before Yucca has its licensing process completed.

Trump’s Plans for a Nuclear Revival Will Begin With a Study
Jennifer Dlouhy, Bloomberg News

President Donald Trump has a plan to help the aging fleet of U.S. nuclear reactors estimated to be losing nearly $3 billion a year: study the issue. At the culmination of the White House “Energy Week,” Trump is set to announce a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear regulation, stopping short — for now — of the big federal interventions advocates say are needed to revitalize the industry, which is struggling to compete against cheap natural gas and dispose of its radioactive waste.

White House leaves option of Westinghouse aid open
Demetri Sevasopulo et al., The Financial Times

The White House has not ruled out providing government support for Westinghouse, the bankrupt US nuclear group, as the Trump administration works to ensure that the US remains a force in the nuclear industry. A senior White House official said the administration is holding regular discussions about Westinghouse since the company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in March. Officials are trying to find a buyer for Westinghouse to ensure it does not fall into Chinese or Russian hands, but the White House is aware that without an acceptable private-sector solution the group may need government help to remain under US control.

Climate

A warming Antarctica is becoming more hospitable to animals. That could lead to some epic battles.
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

As climate change continues to cause massive melting and ice loss in Antarctica, new habitats may begin to open up for wildlife across the thawing continent, scientists reported Wednesday. But while that may sound like a boon for plants, microbes, birds and other organisms, they caution that this is not necessarily a good thing for the fragile Antarctic ecosystem.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Energy Week Is About America’s Energy Future
Christopher Horner, The Daily Caller

The Trump Administration has proclaimed this week as “Energy Week” – a time to focus on pro-energy initiatives that can actually boost our economy, promote a message of U.S. “energy dominance” and highlight many disastrous Obama-era energy policies that helped stall the nation’s economic recovery. Obama’s EPA in particular foisted thousands of complex regulations on business and industry.

Don’t Fight China, the Federal Reserve of Coal
Nathaniel Taplin, The Wall Street Journal

Imagine you live in a village where one very large and powerful family both farms and eats half of the grain, and has massive tracts of unused, fertile land. Is the grain business one you would want to get into? This is roughly the situation the world’s coal producers find themselves in with China, which both mines and burns half the world’s coal, and has been struggling with excess capacity at home for nearly half a decade. After warping global coal markets with ill-timed supply curbs in 2016, China is now poised to curtail coal imports. That could be bad news for commodities companies, particularly trading firms.

Renewable energy at a ‘tipping point’
Editorial board, Christian Science Monitor

Should the world promote economic growth or fight climate change? That model of “either/or” thinking may be losing its validity faster than even some experts have imagined. While fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – still generate roughly 85 percent of the world’s energy supply, it’s clearer than ever that the future belongs to renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Is the Trump Administration Brave Enough to Move Beyond “Energy Dominance”?
Calvin Beisner, Townhall

In the last decade, revolutionary oil and gas drilling technologies have enabled the United States to change things. The Trump Administration is putting that historic development front and center during what it calls “Energy Week.” The theme? “Energy dominance.”

A Message from ExxonMobil:

Energy is fundamental to modern life and drives economic prosperity – in small communities across America and around the world. We need a range of solutions to meet growing energy demand while reducing emissions to address the risk of climate change. Visit the Energy Factor to learn more about some of the bold ideas and next-generation technologies we’re working on to meet this challenge: EnergyFactor.com

Research Reports

Coal Production in West Virginia: 2017 – 2040
Brian Lego and John Deskins, West Virginia University College of Business and Economics

West Virginia’s coal industry has experienced substantial declines in production for much of the past decade. After reaching nearly 158 million short tons in 2008, statewide coal mine output plummeted by nearly half to an annual total of 80 million short tons in 2016. Declining use of coal by domestic power plants—linked to the coincident timing of low natural gas prices and stricter emissions standards—weak export demand and the backdrop of declining productivity from Southern West Virginia coal seams have been the primary factors weighing on coal production. Coal output has rebounded over the past few quarters, reflecting an upturn in metallurgical coal markets and increased coal-fired electricity generation, but production remains below levels observed during the first half of 2015.