Articles in Category: Environment

The Obama administration slammed the brakes on the Dakota Access pipeline on Sunday, refusing to issue a required easement from the Army Corps of Engineers while saying it will conduct a more stringent environmental review to consider alternate routes and consult further with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has bitterly opposed the project.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

However, the 1,172-mile pipeline may not be dead in its current form. Nearly all of the pipeline has been completed except a few miles that are planned to flow underneath the Missouri River and the manmade Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The Army has said they will ask Energy Transfer Partners, the developer of the pipeline, to consider alternative routes and said that would be best accomplished through an environmental impact statement with full public input and analysis.

The Army Corps had actually approved the easement back in June but stepped in again after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the Standing Rock Sioux whose reservation is near Lake Oahe. President-elect Donald Trump came out in support of completing the pipeline as planned last week and his administration could, potentially, undo these recent actions by the Obama administration.

Well, this is kind of embarrassing.

Four months after the U.K. defiantly voted to leave the E.U., that same organization and currency bloc has awarded $11.5 million (£9.6 million) in regional development funding to back a highly experimental new wave power project based at Hayle in northern Cornwall called Wave Hub.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

Indeed, so key is the E.U. contribution that Carnegie Wave Energy, the company behind the project, is now confident it will be able to complete the first phase, a 1-megawatt trial facility due to be connected to the national grid in 2018.

The plan is this would be followed by a second phase intended to deliver 15 mw by 2021. Slightly embarrassing in that the E.U. regional development funds are intended to “strengthen economic and social cohesion” across the EU, not what slightly over half the U.K.’s voting population voted for, but there you are.

Wave energy has promised much and delivered almost nothing for decades. Two Scottish firms, Pelamis and Aquamarine, have both gone into administration in the past two years, as firms struggle to develop economically viable technology. Carnegie’s differs in that it operates underwater rather than on the surface, protecting it from breaking waves. The firm says it needs only a 1 meter (3 feet) swell to generate power, a state the sea delivers almost every day of the year off the cost of Cornwall, renowned for its Atlantic breakers and home to Newquay.

It’s said by some to be the capital of European surfing. The technology is therefore closer in some respects to tidal power than traditional wave power technologies and should require lower maintenance and offer a longer operating life than previous surface positioned wave designs.

An artist's impression of the proposed new Wave Hub off Hayle, Cornwall © PA, taken from the FT

An artist’s impression of the proposed new Wave Hub off Hayle, Cornwall © PA, Source: FT.

Bizarrely, Carnegie Wave Energy is not even a British firm, they are Australian but as the CEO, Michael Ottaviano, is quoted by the Financial Times as saying, Australia is blessed with an embarrassment of energy resources “so there has not been strong incentives for new technology.”

The U.K., and indeed Europe as a whole, is not so fortunate and, driven by a commitment to decarbonize the region, it’s willing to back new technologies if they show sufficient promise. In total, Wave Hub’s Hayle project will cost some $72 million (£60m) and should, all being well, start delivering power the national grid within two years.

China, the world’s biggest clean-energy investor, lowered its solar and wind power targets for 2020, a reflection of how record installations of panels and turbines have simply overwhelmed the ability of the nation’s existing electrical grid to absorb the new electricity.

Renewables_Chart_November-2016_FNL

This is more bad news for the burgeoning renewable energy infrastructure market and it’s not like the metals that go into panels (steel, silicon and copper wire) were setting the world on fire before this news. Our Renewables MMI has been flat as a board, stuck at 52, for the last three months and only held at one point higher for the previous two months. Along with Rare Earths, Renewables have been habitually flat for much of the year.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

The problem, for China, is two-fold. It must upgrade its grid to accept available solar and wind power directly into local grids and also set up energy storage that can save generated power when for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

China is now aiming for 110 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, a 27% reduction from an earlier target, according to a webcast posted on the website of the National Energy Administration that cited the agency’s chief engineer, Han Shui. The nation reduced its goal for wind power by 16% to 210 gw.

While China has poured billions of dollars into clean energy in recent years, the ability to deliver the newly-generated electricity from where it’s produced to where it’s needed has lagged, a common problem with wind and solar. The mismatch has left solar and wind capacity sitting idle in some parts of the country, hurting companies such as China Longyuan Power Group Corp. and China Datang Corp. Renewable Power Co.

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

The development of natural gas and hydrogren technologies is a focus of research at Voestalpine AG‘s new DRI hot-briquetted iron ore facility near Corpus Christi, Texas.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

“We are hoping to run blast furnaces with hydrogen instead of coal and coke,” said Dr. Wolfgang Eder, Voestalpine’s chairman and CEO. “Development of such technology will take a 20-30-year time frame, but I am convinced we’ll hit that target.”

yoders_voestalpine3_550_110116

This blurry “art shot” of Voestalpine’s 450-foot HBI production facility signifies that this will be a “think piece” about research, smog and environmental sustainability. Or Jeff took this from the bus. Jeff seriously took this from the bus. Source: Jeff Yoders

Natural Gas and Natural Hydrogen

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the potential of converting natural gas (the fuel material for Voestalpine’s iron ore reduction tower) to hydrogen to decarbonize dirty production processes. Voestalpine’s head and environmental heart certainly seem like they’re in the right place, but what might be advantageous, for the U.S. and South Texas, is the jobs that that research will bring. Read more

China would probably argue that it gets bad press when it comes to environmental issues.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

Not surprisingly. China is said to be the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, having overtaken the U.S. in 2007, and was responsible for 27% of global emissions in 2014. It’s right that it gets a lot of attention.

Largely due to the consumption of about half the world’s coal, China is the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, and the air quality of many of its major cities fails miserably to meet international health standards. Life expectancy north of the Huai River is said by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to be 5.5 years lower than in the south due to air pollution, while water and soil pollution are equally severe.

China Cracks Down

Yet for all that, or maybe because of it, China is taking considerable strides to address its problems. A recent article in the South China Morning Post reports on the tough stance environmental protection bodies in China are taking with large industrial groups. Read more

The shipping industry would argue that it moves more cargo with a lower carbon footprint per ton than any of the alternatives.

Airlines, by comparison, move a fraction of the cargo (even including passengers) and yet emit comparable global CO2 emissions. Yet, while automakers and car buyers have been forced to accept the costs and burdens of substantial legislation, the manufacturing (particularly in Europe) has had to pay ever higher power costs to subsidize national reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from their power industries and heavy industry has been regulated on emissions of just about everything, the shipping industry has gotten off relatively scot-free.

Escaping Regulation

Frugal as the shipping industry is in terms of CO2 emissions per mile/ton, it is still a major polluter as anyone who has witnessed a ferry boat or ocean liner firing up its boilers will testify. Not only does the industry account for some 3% of greenhouse gas emissions on current trends, it is forecast to rise to 5% by 2050, when all other targets are set to halve from 1990 levels.

Source European Commission report on Shipping

Source European Commission report on Shipping.

The problem is compounded by the fact that a ship’s bunker fuel is probably the most hazardous and polluting of fuels burned for any major industrial application anywhere, with higher levels of sulfur and other health damaging constituents. Read more

It may be strong political lobbying or maybe a perception that the industry is crucial for economic development, but the aerospace and shipping industries have certainly avoided the worst of environmental regulation over the last decade or so.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

The energy and heavy industry sectors have borne the brunt of what some would call over-regulation. But that’s all about to change. 191 Countries gathered in Montréal last week to adopt a global market-based system to tackle the rise of carbon emissions from international air travel an article in the Telegraph explains.

Offset Market

Under the new deal, airlines will be expected to offset their emissions growth after 2020 by buying “offset credits” in line with their carbon footprint, the terms of the agreement layout. The carbon costs are expected to incentivize the industry to develop lower carbon fuels and more efficient technologies, according to the newspaper. Read more

At the presidential debate Monday night, Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, when asked how she would create jobs by moderator Lester Holt, said, “Here’s what we can do. We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs; that’s a lot of new economic activity.”

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

It has often been said that the truth is the first casualty in the world of politics and the democratic party’s long-term commitment to battling the very real scourge of climate change is more dogma than policy these days wherein its adherents are committed to stopping what President Obama called “the rise of the oceans,” no matter what the cost and no matter how effective the tools it currently has really are — in this specific case, solar silicon photovoltaic panels. That’s just how so many business ventures lose sight of the bottom line and fail.

Solar Ahead of Wind?

It was actually rare to hear Clinton specify solar as a technology to “create jobs” as the usual dogma is to tout “wind and solar” with little specifics about how either of these generation technologies — which don’t require raw materials to be dug out of the ground as with the fossil fuels that currently provide most of the country’s electricity. That would mean a lot of former miners and drillers either selling or installing the estimable sum of half a billion solar panels and, once that install base is set, where do those “new jobs” go from there?

gtm_research-SolarGrowth_092816_550

The growth in solar, in the last two decades, has been heavily dependent on the solar investment tax credit. Source: GTM Research.

If Clinton is really talking about jobs in production of crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels, she may be surprised to learn that the production end of solar has been a mature industry for decades now. There’s already a booming industry with plenty of skilled workers producing panels quickly and efficiently.

Booming Solar Production

According to GTM Research, nearly 209,000 Americans already work in solar today — more than double the number in 2010 — at more than 8,000 companies in every U.S. state. By 2020, that number is expected to double to more than 420,000 workers, but that’s a total of 211,000 jobs by the end of a potential first Clinton administration. That’s not that much job growth, all things considered. Modern factories are already able to churn out large volumes of panels quickly and efficiently. Read more

Sometimes firms take solid commercial decisions that have laudable environmental side effects, and sometimes firms take environmental decisions that they seek to justify as being cost neutral or occasionally even saving them a little money.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

But the miner, Anglo American Platinum, has an investment division that makes hard-nosed commercial investments that hold out not the dim and distant prospect of eventual impact but the imminent probability of strongly positive environmental benefits. The firm is helped by its positioning as a major miner of platinum group metals (PGMs) and the pivotal role those metals play in catalyst technologies.

Catalyst Demand

Catalysts, like modern day alchemists, turn waste into something of value, a pollutant into an environmentally beneficial product. In this case, environmentally damaging flare gas, produced in the processing of crude oil and from drill rigs, which is often flared or burned as a waste product can be turned, with the help of catalysts, into something of value.

Burning flare gas produces carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon black, and other pollutants such as methane, which, according the Environmental Protection Agency, as a greenhouse gas is 25 times more potent than CO2. The World Bank estimates that, globally, approximately 140 billion cubic meters (5 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas is flared annually, resulting in the emission of more than 300 million tons of CO2. Eliminating these emissions would be the equivalent to removing more than 77 million cars from the road or the combined total car fleets of Germany and the U.K., according to the firm’s statement.

Anglo American’s Future

Anglo American has been actively investing growth capital in companies that can demonstrate the commercial viability of their products or technologies since 2013. Anglo American Platinum’s Platinum Group Metals Investment Program holds investments in Hydrogenious Technologies and United Hydrogen Group, and has just added another, Greyrock Energy — whose catalyst-based system converts liquids and gasses such as flare gas, natural gas, bio-gas and similar feedstocks into clean liquid transportation fuels with hydrogen as a by-product.

The hydrogen production is seen as supporting Anglo’s efforts to help develop fuel cell technologies and fuel cell feedstock supply. For Anglo, this is seen as a solid investment in a growing technology but environmentalists extol the fuel cells’ ability to produce electrical power and produce nothing worse than clean water.

In a recent press release Anglo announced its investment in Greyrock while strongly promoting the potential environmental benefits of both the process itself and the growth of technologies that lower costs would support but, make no mistake, Anglo is making these PGM technology investments with the intention of buying into a rapidly expanding industry from which it will augment its mining revenues in the future.

She’s been described as the “green lady,” and The Guardian once called her the “woman who loves garbage.”

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

Veena Sahajwalla, a native of Mumbai, is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia

Last weekend, Sahajwalla was on one of her many visits to India, where she addressed a high profile seminar at the Scrap Recycling Conference: Emerging Markets. There, she told delegates about her pioneering effort in making “green steel” from, guess what? End-of-life rubber tires.

Polymer Injection Technology (PIT), a technology that Sahajwalla invented, can be used to recycle tires to replace coal and coke in the making of steel. While the two-day conference saw almost 300 delegates from the scrap and steel industry confab on issues ranging from the world business of recycling to automobile recycling in India, Veena’s presentation seemed to have created the most buzz.

The Indo-Australian scientist insists that her technology could be the answer to the growing global problem of disposal of waste tires globally. The United States, for example, was the largest producer of waste tires at about 290 million a year, but now China and India are giving the U.S. a run for its money because of increasing sales of new vehicles.

Automobile tires are made from a mix of natural and synthetic rubber, and various structural reinforcing elements including metal wires and chemical additives. The PIT introduces a modification into the conventional manufacturing process for steel. The technology precisely controls the injection of granulated waste tire material in conventional electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, partially replacing non-renewable coke. Tire rubber, like coke, is a good source of hydrocarbons, which means they can be transformed in EAF steelmaking.

New South Wales University researched the replacement technology for years and, today, millions of waste tires are being transformed into high quality steel in Australia.

Recently, the same university also showcased a pilot micro-factory that safely transforms toxic e-waste into high-value metal alloys, offering a low-cost solution to what to do with the millions of phones, computers and other e-waste products plaguing India. Sahajwalla was involved in this project, too.

She told the Asian Scientist Magazine recently that a ton of mobile phones (about 6,000 handsets) contained about 130 kilograms of copper, 3.5 kg of silver, 340 grams of gold and 140 grams of palladium, worth tens of thousands of dollars. Sahajwalla explained that she used precisely controlled high-temperature reactions to produce copper and tin-based alloys from tossed out printed circuit boards (PCBs) while simultaneously destroying toxins.

All this is sweet music to the ears of Indian recycling industry. The country is the world’s second-largest mobile phone market, and the fifth-largest producer of e-waste, discarding roughly 1.9 million metric tons of such waste every year. Veena is confident that the PIT can solve India’s waste tyres problem.

India’s Recycled Metal Market

While the global recycled metal market is estimated to touch $476.2 billion by 2024, India’s scrap recycling industry is set to register an annual growth of 11.4% until the year 2020, according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan. India’s annual scrap consumption was 20.40 mmt; it imports 6.48 mmt of scrap, and is the world’s third-largest importer.

But India’s traditional metals, ferrous and non-ferrous, recycling rate is about 20%, less than the world average. For some years now, the unorganized sector has been demanding that the Indian government accord it “industry” status and implement a metal recycling policy with a view to ensuring fast-track growth.

India has the potential to become one of largest car recycling regions, and the demand for policy was something that was even discussed at the two-day conference here. The Indian government recently proposed offering consumers an incentive of about $375 (almost 25,133 Indian Rupees) for a passenger car handed in to be scrapped in the hopes of boosting recycling rates.

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

A few months ago, the state-run scrap metal trading firm MSTC Ltd. signed an agreement with the Mumbai-based Mahindra Intertrade, a part of the Mahindra Group, to set up an auto shredding and recycling plant in India. The joint venture will help meet India’s annual ferrous scrap usage requirement of about 6 mmt.