A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.
Polysilicon supply looks set to continue growing at a fast clip, as Asia’s largest producers of polysilicon — the basic material used in making solar photovoltaic cells — appear intent on pursuing a cutthroat strategy of gaining market share by flooding the market with supply. It’s a strategy that Chinese solar panel makers have used to capture more than half the growing, worldwide market for solar panels, a Bloomberg news report notes.
Global demand for polysilicon is growing, but at less than 1/3 the rate the two Asian producers plan to expand, according to the report. At $53.40 a kilogram, solar-grade polysilicon prices fell to their lowest level in more than six years in June from $78.90 in March. Prices were as high as $450 a kilogram as recently as mid-2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which forecasts that Chinese producers will capture around 42% of market demand this year, 3% more than 2010.
China’s GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd. and South Korea’s OCI are carrying out plans to almost double their combined capacity to 88,000 metric tons, according to the Bloomberg report, putting pressure on US-based market leader Hemlock Semiconductor and Germany’s Wacker Chemie AG.
India’s new environment minister is likely to be more flexible toward industry to help power Asia’s third-largest economy, although a complete turnaround in tighter enforcement of green policies pursued by her maverick predecessor is ruled out.
Jayanthi Natarajan, a 57-year-old spokeswoman of the ruling Congress party, takes over from Jairam Ramesh, who set new standards in compliance that often brought him into conflict with industry but put environment issues in the spotlight.
Natarajan’s arrival could help hundreds of projects held up on green worries, including Tata Steel’s $4.4 billion steel mill, ArcelorMittal’s iron and manganese ore mine and dozens of power and oil and gas projects.
“We don’t think there will be any backsliding in policy because Ramesh has spotlighted it permanently,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity.
“What we can see, though, is some more flexibility because she may have come with a mandate to be sympathetic toward industry given our imperative to grow.”
Under Ramesh, India halted more than 60 big-ticket projects and held up more than 450 of them, heightening the risk for investors and underlining India’s struggle to grow without damaging its environment — a tussle crucial to shaping the future of its 1.2 billion people.
A study released by a University of Nebraska researcher says that TransCanada has presented American regulators with an “an unrealistically optimistic” portrayal of the consequences of a spill from its proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The pipeline is an expansion of an existing pipeline that delivers synthetic crude from Canada’s oil sands to the United States. Several environmental groups are urging regulators and the State Department not to approve Keystone XL, arguing that oil sands are a particularly dirty energy source.
At a news conference on Monday hosted by the group Friends of the Earth, John S. Stansbury, a professor of environmental and water engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said he anticipated that the pipeline would experience 91 spills producing leaks of more than 50 barrels of oil during its first 50 years of operation. TransCanada, by contrast, predicts only 11 spills of that size or larger, according to Dr. Stansbury’s analysis of its regulatory filings.
Dr. Stansbury also concluded that it would take 10 times longer to shut down the pipeline when a leak developed than TransCanada estimated, that the company’s systems for electronically sensing spills were not as reliable as it claimed and that a worst-case spill would release about six times more oil than the company anticipated.
The deal puts 18 aging coal plants on a path to being cleaned up or retired; a second haze pact — now in the works — could affect 300 coal facilities
Back in the winter of 1991, President George H.W. Bush traveled to Arizona to tell operators of a utility to clean up their coal-fired act so visitors could actually distinguish the state’s most famous and priceless landmark — the Grand Canyon.
Fast-forward 20 years. Views of the iconic chasm might be a bit less hazy but visibility at 150-plus of the nation’s other natural wonders is still limited because of power-plant pollution.
That scenario, however, is expected to begin clearing up soon. It’s happening because a handful of conservation organizations have spent decades doggedly prodding, tugging and cajoling the Environmental Protection Agency into meeting its Clean Air Act mandate to collaborate with states to reduce the regional haze that clouds views in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.
China has reported a fresh oil spill in the Bohai Bay off its northeastern coast, the third such accident in two months.
The 1 square kilometer (0.4 square mile) spill was caused by a malfunction in the predawn hours in the centralized control system for the Suizhong 36-1 oilfield’s central platform, operated by China National Offshore Oil Corp, the State Oceanic Administration said.
The administration deployed helicopters to monitor the situation and CNOOC used oil absorbent mats and sprayed oil dispersant to clean up the spill, the report said, citing information from CNOOC.
Last week, CNOOC partner ConocoPhillips China said it had cleaned up the oil from two earlier spills at its Penglai 19-3 oilfield, also in the Bohai.
Natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy Corp. said Monday it is investing in a company that plans to build liquefied natural gas fueling stations at truck stops and another that expects to build a refinery to produce fuel from farm crops.
Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake said the two deals, worth a total of $305 million, are parts of a $1 billion venture capital fund it is creating to invest in alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel. It said it will divert 1 to 2 percent of its expected annual drilling budget toward projects to stimulate demand for natural gas.
Chesapeake also said it will convert at least 100 drilling rigs and hydraulic-fracturing equipment to run on liquefied natural gas and speed the conversion of its own vehicle fleet to natural gas. The company said those moves would save $250 million per year.
Chesapeake said it will invest $150 million in Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to help pay for about 150 fueling stations, including many at Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers. The companies hope to take advantage of the development of new truck engines that burn natural gas.