Articles in Category: Green

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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

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.

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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

Our Renewables MMI was flat this month. While solar and wind still remain hot investment markets, the political discussion going on right now about the next four years greatly overestimates their abilities to provide jobs or a one-for-one replacement of the production of natural gas.

Renewables_Chart_October-2016_FNL

The metals that go into wind turbines, solar panels and other green energy producing instruments are not seeing the fruits of increased adoption. Part of that is still the individual metals markets. Steel, for instance, saw a small increase this month, but it wasn’t enough to make up for losses by silicon and the other metals in the Renewables MMI. Check our our Raw Steels MMI for more on that.

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Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton even walked back her support of solar as a jobs program.

When asked by an audience member, “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?” Clinton said that the U.S. is, for the first time energy independent and also “we are, however, producing a lot of natural gas, which serves as a bridge to more renewable fuels. And that’s an important transition,” she said.

This is much closer to an “all of the above approach” than what Clinton said last month, implying that production of solar panels could replace coal and oil and gas jobs.

“We’ve got to remain energy independent,” she continued. “We have enough worries over there without worrying about that,” Clinton said.

Bridges to Clean Energy

Natural gas as a bridge to future renewable sources for electrical power generation has long been touted by shale drilling tycoons such as T. Boone Pickens as a cleaner burning alternative to coal and an excellent backup source of power until wind and solar are able to provide stored energy when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

On his website, Pickens says, “Natural gas is not a permanent solution to ending our addiction to imported oil. It is a bridge fuel to slash our oil dependence while buying us time to develop new technologies that will ultimately replace fossil transportation fuels.”

The new generation of gas-fired “flex” power plants, many of which have recently been built in California, are designed to ramp up and down quickly to accommodate shifting supply from wind and solar. Facilities like these bolster the idea that the notion of a “bridge” is misguided and that gas can act as a destination fuel as a backup for solar and wind for generations. But, that wouldn’t get us to cleaner energy, either.

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The push-pull between renewables and back-up sources will continue to play out over at least the next five years. It’s a debate that only storage technologies can decide for good.

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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.”

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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?

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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

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

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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.

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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.

Renewable energy technology has been split into two camps since it became a reality around the turn of the century.

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On the one hand there are the passionate environmental believers for whom the inflated subsidies were an irrelevance in the face of saving our planet, and on the other were naysayers for whom the arguments about global warming were a plot by the far left to raise taxes or run some kind of tree-hugging environmental agenda at the expense of business and consumers.

Neither polarized position was fair, of course, and the quiet majority in the middle have watched the technologies become progressively more efficient and costs fall dramatically while the extremes of global warming horror stories have been discredited, but the hard science of gradually rising carbon levels has been widely accepted.

Who Cares Why The Temperature is Rising?

In the process, a wider acceptance has gained ground that global temperatures really are rising and whether it is part of a natural cycle or man-made is not a risk we can afford to take. Ultimately, action to reduce carbon emissions will be cheaper than many possible downside scenarios if left unchecked and most people would accept we are making a mess of our environment and really should behave more responsibly.

Meanwhile, politicians have been plowing our taxpayer money into supporting wind, solar and a number of other “renewable” technologies, with some degree of success. Costs for the major energy sources — solar and wind — have fallen, partly as a result of technology improvements and partly due to economies of scale, to the point now where private firms are signing up to invest in major wind projects for a tariff of just $100 per MegWatt/Hour (€90 per mw/h). Indeed, in Europe all the extra power capacity added since the mid ’90s has been renewable.

Source: Telegraph Newspaper

Source: Telegraph Newspaper

The biggest hurdle renewables now have to overcome is not the cost of production, but the curse of intermittency. Where does the power come from when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine? Read more

A new space has opened up for India’s scrap metal recycling business. The government has given its go-ahead to a “state-of-the-art” auto shredding and recycling plant, which has been in the pipeline for about a year.

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The automotive scrap shredder/recycler is the result of an agreement signed with the state-run metal scrap trading firm MSTC (formerly Metal Scrap Trade Corporation) and Mahindra Intertrade, a part of the diversified $17.8 billion Mahindra Group. Mahindra, incidentally, is a well-known auto major in India, too.

Potentially Huge Market

India’s scrap market is estimated to be in the range of about $1.8 billion, and most of the scrap required by the country, about 5-6 million metric tons, is imported.

Scrap Recycling Yard

India will soon receive its first state-of-the-art automotive recycling yard. Source: Adobe Stock/Robert Hainer.

In a thriving auto market, such as India’s, there’s no formal disposal method for end of life vehicles right now, thus the new joint venture has a ready-made market. The JV will start off with a single unit, but will soon expand across India. The idea is to save India precious foreign exchange rupees, in addition to creating jobs. Every ton of new steel manufactured from scrap will help save iron ore, coal, electricity and limestone from being produced. Read more