Articles in Category: Green

In this most-read post of 2016, we look back at the steel scrap market on May 3, 2016. Steel-Insight‘s James May argued that, while North American scrap prices were up, they couldn’t stay up long.

The steel scrap market (and raw steels overall) would not fully recover until Fall. — Jeff Yoders, editor

U.S. shredded scrap prices started 2015 at $350 per long ton delivered to Midwest steel mills.

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Barring a very brief rally in June, the price fell every month over the year and dropped to $170/long ton in December. Indeed, if we look at the chart, U.S. ferrous scrap prices have been in a downtrend since late 2013.

U.S. Shredded Scrap Prices ($/long ton delivered US Midwest Mill)

steel_insight_scrap_300_050116

Source: Steel-Insight.

When prices fall every month, scrap yards and steel mills reduce their purchases to the bare minimum as they expect to be able to procure material at a lower price the very next month. Read more

Japanese electronics company Panasonic and U.S. electric car maker Tesla said today they plan to begin production of solar cells at a factory in Buffalo, New York.

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The two companies said they finalized an agreement calling for Tokyo-based Panasonic to pay capital costs for the manufacturing. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla made a “long-term purchase commitment” to Panasonic.

Their statement gave no financial figures. The factory in Buffalo is under development by SolarCity Corp., a San Mateo, California-based solar panel company owned by Tesla. The photovoltaic cells and modules will be used in solar panels for non-solar roof products and solar glass tile roofs that Tesla plans to begin making, the announcement said.

LME Names New Clearing Executive

The London Metal Exchange has appointed James Proudlock as deputy chief executive of its clearing system, the exchange said last week.

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Proudlock, who has 30 years experience in commodities, will join LME Clear in April next year.”Prior to joining LME Clear, James worked at JP Morgan Securities for 10 years where he was a managing director and commodity product lead for Futures and Options and most recently markets execution,” the LME said.

Six years its first proposal, Indian mining giant Adani seems as if it’s finally ready to start its $16.5 billion coal project in Queensland, Australia.

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The company recently secured the approval for a permanent rail line for what’s known as the Carmichael project. An official statement by the company said Queensland’s Coordinator-General had given “the latest, and final, secondary approval” for about 19-and-a-half miles of permanent track, as well as a 300-bed camp.”

The permission will add to the nearly 242 miles of heavy haul track connecting the mine to Abbot Point port. Chief Executive of Adani Australian, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, said in a press statement, “We are particularly focusing on the construction of our planned near-400-kilometer (248 miles) rail line to be constructed between the Carmichael mine and our bulk port facility at Abbott Point near Bowen.”

When fully operational, the mine will reportedly be the largest in Australia, involving the dredging 3.53 million cubic feet of soil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The project will ensure Adani a steady supply of coal to be used for electricity generation, benefiting a hundred million Indians.

The proposed project ran afoul with green groups in Australia, quickly taking on a “jobs versus ecology” dimension. As per some claims, the project is likely to create at least 11,000 jobs, and the company has promised to farm these out to locals, and not bring in labor from abroad.

After getting approval, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, amid protests from groups in Melbourne. Adani has said the project will start in the new year.

Supporters of the project insist mines such as these will provide an economic stimulus to North Queensland.

Matt Canavan, Minister for Northern Australia, was quoted in a section of the media as saying this would be the first time a new minerals basin would be opened up in 40 years.

Adani also announced that it will set up regional centers for providing vital support services for the project and associated infrastructure and headquarters for its rail and port operations.

Townsville would become Adani mining’s regional headquarters, while the Mackay-Bowen area would become the regional headquarters for its rail and port operations. Adani said its shift to the regional Queensland centres would allow it to more directly harness local skills.

The project has faced a lengthy environmental approval process and a number of court challenges. Earlier, this year, it finally got Queensland government approval to mine. Some say, however, that while the Carmichael mine has the final government approvals, there are still a few hurdles it has to surmount.

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An appeal has been lodged with Australia’s full Federal Court seeking to overturn the Commonwealth approval, and is due to be heard in March.

Alcoa, Corp. recently launched new aluminum product lines produced with low carbon emissions and recycled content. The new sustainable line includes two key product categories:

  • Ecolum: a range of cast products among the least carbon-intensive products available today, yielding a 75% lower carbon impact than the industry average.
  • Ecodura: aluminum billets made with a minimum of 50% recycled content and use up to 95% less energy to manufacture when compared to products with no recycled material.

Alcoa said ecolum products will qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and, as such, the company is preparing Environmental Product Declarations for the building and construction market that helps customers achieve LEED materials and resources credits.

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Only plants that operate on hydro-electric power that meet the emissions requirements for the ecolum guarantee of less than 2.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions per metric ton of aluminum. The ecodura products can be produced at any facility that has the ability to remelt scrap.

Aluminum Rod

Ecolum aluminum rod produced at Alcoa’s Fjardaál hydro-electric smelter in Iceland. Source: Alcoa.

India has brought the world’s largest solar power plant online.

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At the end of November, the world’s biggest solar power plant was completed in the southern part of India and its already generating power.

Spread over 2,500 acres in the Tamil Nadu province, the new solar plant replaces the Topaz Solar Farm in Riverside County, Calif., as the largest solar power farm in one location in the world. The Indian solar farm can generate 648 megawatts of green electricity, while Topaz generates 550 mw. India aims to power about 60 million homes by using solar energy by 2022. The Tamil Nadu plant, built by Adani Power, can light up about 150,000 homes. India aims to produce 40% of its electricity from renewables by 2022. Read more

Should we live like wookiees?

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Well, maybe not EXACTLY like Han Solo’s best pal, Chewbacca, but live in tall, wooden structures?

Wookiee Cultural Center

A wookiee cultural center nestled deep in the trees of Kashyyk. Why don’t we get Pete Nelson to design treehouses for all of us? Painting by the incomparable Ralph McQuarrie. Source: Lucasfilm.

Wookiee civilization, as depicted in the “Star Wars” films, is an advanced, highly sophisticated one. The ape-like humanoids have all of the intelligence of the human characters in the movies, save the ability to vocalize and speak in a language that isn’t moans and growls. Read more

About 44% of all solar power that’s installed on residential rooftops, known as distributed solar capacity, is owned by private businesses, such as SolarCity, according to new government data.

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Distributed solar capacity in the U.S., which includes all solar power capacity other than utility-scale installations 1 megawatts or larger, increased to 12.3 gigawatts as of September, according to new figures from the Energy Information Administration. In comparison, a cumulative 11.6 gw had been installed in the U.S. by the end of 2015.

Renewables_Chart_December-2016_FNL

According to the report, third-party owners own 44% of distributed solar capacity in the U.S. residential sector, compared with 11% in the commercial and industrial sectors. The residential sector accounts for 56% of distributed solar capacity but 84% of third-party-owned solar capacity. Nearly half of U.S. solar capacity is privately owned. However, panels owned by individual homeowners and businesses are expected to eclipse TPO as the largest owner-category in the next five years.

Like the Cleveland Browns losing, the sun rising or winter bringing cold weather and shorter days, the Renewables MMI didn’t move this month and held flat at 52 as it has for four straight months. That follows four years of relative flatness, too.

We’ve previously written about the relationship between manufacturers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels and incentives for solar expansion and this report highlights the cozy relationship between production and ownership. If, however, individuals, can really eclipse corporate owners like SolarCity in the next few years, it could be a watershed moment for solar power in the U.S. as lower costs are expected to finally make owning cheaper and better than leasing.

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Could an ownership society push more adoption of solar? It’s hard to tell, but anything that increases demand, as falling prices generally do, would be welcome at this point.

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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.”

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