Sunday, September 19, 2021

Fears for UK recovery as record energy prices shut fertiliser plants

All those closed coal plants are coming back to bite them. It's simple supply and demand. Reduce the supply of elecricity and the price will shoot up

Gas has been widely used to replace coal but that just puts a strain on the gas supply

Record energy prices have forced two fertiliser plants in the north of England to shut down and brought steel plants to a halt, in some of the clearest signs that the energy crunch engulfing Europe could deal a blow to the UK’s economic recovery.

The US fertiliser maker CF Industries has halted production at its plants in Billingham in Teesside and Ince in Cheshire, which employ about 600 workers, because of rocketing gas prices, which have reached successive record highs across Europe in recent weeks.

Goldman Sachs, a major commodity trader, warned rocketing prices would mean heavy industries across Europe running the risk of blackouts this winter, particularly if freezing temperatures drag into 2022 across Europe and in Asia.

The warning came as UK Steel, the industry’s trade body, said steelmakers were already forced to pause work during peak electricity demand hours due to market prices for power.

The energy price shock has triggered calls for UK ministers to take urgent action to protect households and companies, while governments across Europe move ahead with rescue deals to help energy consumers to weather the coming winter.

The boss of the energy supplier E.ON UK, Michael Lewis, used an interview with the Financial Times to call on the government to help hard-pressed households by moving the cost of supporting renewable energy subsidies from energy bills to general taxation.

In Spain the government plans to claw back €3bn (£2.6bn) from energy generator profits, and put in place tax breaks for consumers, in order to stem the economic contagion of runaway energy prices. Meanwhile, the French government is considering plans for direct subsidies for energy payments and Greece has amassed a €150m rescue fund to cut all consumer bills.

The UK government has been slow to respond to the brewing energy crisis, despite Britain shouldering the highest energy market prices in Europe, according to market experts at S&P Global Platts.

CBI, the UK’s biggest business group, said the jump in energy prices was “a concern for businesses looking to accelerate their recovery from the pandemic”, and called for companies and policymakers to work together to safeguard the UK’s international competitiveness.

Energy prices have rocketed across Europe owing to a global boom in gas demand following a cold winter that depleted gas storage facilities. There has also been trouble importing gas from Norway and Russia which has cut its exports to Europe in recent months, for reasons some in the industry suspect may have a political motivation.

The gas price hike has proven particularly difficult for the UK because it continues to rely heavily on gas-fired power plants. There are also rising fears over the UK’s electricity supplies after a string of unplanned power plant outages and some of the lowest summertime wind speeds since 1961.

The UK’s electricity woes were compounded this week by news that one of its biggest power cables responsible for importing electricity from France would be forced to shut until late March after a fire at a converter station in Kent. The cable shutdown means the UK will rely more heavily on electricity generated domestically by gas-fired power plants, which could increase the pressure on gas supplies, and coal plants that have raked in record payments to help keep the lights on.

CF Industries said the company did not have an estimate for when production would resume at its UK facilities, and experts fear that other heavy energy users will also face shutdowns or rocketing business costs this winter.

UK Steel said at current electricity prices it was already impossible for steel producers to be profitable at certain times of day or night and urged the government and the regulator to intervene.

“The government and Ofgem must be prepared to take action as this situation continues,” said Gareth Stace, the group’s director general. “Electricity prices increase in the winter months, therefore the situation gets more urgent each and every day.”

A spokesperson for the government said it was “determined to secure a competitive future for the UK steel industry” and had provided “extensive support”, including more than £600m to help with the costs of energy and to protect jobs.

“Our exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” the spokesperson added.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, said it understood that “the current situation with gas prices is putting pressure on customers” and remained “committed to continuing to work closely with industry through the period ahead”.


UK carbon dioxide shortage could force farmers to cull pigs

A CO2 shortage! A great irony, surely

Britain’s pig farmers are the latest casualty of the worsening energy crisis which threatens to trigger a shortage of carbon dioxide used across the food and drinks industry.

Rocketing gas prices have caused a Europe-wide slowdown for some chemical factories that produce fertiliser, a byproduct of which is carbon dioxide which is used in fizzy drinks and beer as well as in the meat industry to stun animals before slaughter.

Meat industry representatives have warned that farmers may imminently be required to begin “humane” pig culls due to a looming shortage of carbon dioxide to slaughter the backlog of animals destined for abattoirs that are already understaffed amid labour shortages.

It would be the first time that farmers would be required to destroy their animals en masse since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease two decades ago forced the government to send the army to British farms to cull livestock.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said: “We urgently need the secretary of state for business to convene the big CO2 manufacturers to demand that they coordinate to minimise disruption, and provide information to Britain’s businesses so contingency plans can be made.”

The government has held emergency talks with representatives from the food and drink industries, as well as the UK meat sect0r, over concerns that trouble in the chemicals industry could impact CO2 supplies for the food sector.

Norway-based chemicals company Yara International on Friday set out plans to curtail its ammonia production at six facilities across Europe by 40%, including a plant in Hull, which will also impact the CO2 supply chain. It blamed record gas prices across Europe for affecting its profit margins.

The decision follows the shutdown of two fertiliser plants in the North of England by US company CF Industries earlier this week, also due to record high gas prices. The company shut its plants in Billingham in Teesside and Ince in Cheshire, which employ about 600 workers.

Fertiliser plants use gas to produce ammonium nitrate which is used in agriculture to support crop yields, but also produce food-grade carbon dioxide. A CO2 shortage three years ago triggered panic among meat producers as well as pubs and breweries.

Allen said the latest carbon supply chain squeeze would be worse than the 2018 disruption because there has been “zero warning of the planned closure” which has “plunged the industry into chaos”.

Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, told the Guardian that pig farms were “at bursting point already” and the carbon dioxide shortage would compound the disruption in UK abattoirs caused by a lack of labour.

“Government has got to intervene,” she said. “I was talking to a farmer earlier who was almost in tears at the thought of having to kill animals that they had lovingly raised. The last thing they want to see is animals being killed on farms.”

The UK’s Food and Drink Federation has also been in talks with government officials about the looming issues in the UK’s carbon dioxide supply chain, and said it would closely monitor the situation to further understand its consequences.

A government spokesperson said it was “monitoring this situation closely” and officials were in regular contact with the food and farming organisations and industry, “to help them manage the current situation”.


Greenland prepares legislation to halt large rare-earth mine

Greenland's new government is preparing legislation that will ban uranium mining and cease development of the Kvanefjeld mine, one of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, the country's mineral resources minister said.

Kvanefjeld, owned by Australian mining firm Greenland Minerals and located near the southern town of Narsaq, contains a large deposit of rare earth metals but also radioactive uranium which locals fear could harm the country's fragile environment if extracted.

Greenland's left-leaning government, which came to power in April after campaigning against the development of Kvanefjeld, says it will ban the exploration of deposits with a uranium concentration higher than 100 parts per minute (ppm), which is considered very low-grade by the World Nuclear Association.

"What we know is that the background radiation in and around Narsaq is quite high, which means that the project will collide with the upcoming zero tolerance policy on uranium mining," minister for mineral resources Naaja Nathanielsen told Reuters in an interview in the capital Nuuk.

Kvanefjeld was granted preliminary approval last year and was on track to gain final approval under the previous government.

Mining companies have been pushing for rights to exploit rare earth deposits in Greenland, which the U.S. Geological Survey says has the world's biggest undeveloped deposits of the metals used in everything from electric vehicle batteries to missiles.

A public hearing on the project ended this week. Greenland Minerals, in which Chinese partner Shenghe Resources has about a 10% stake, participated in community meetings in February, but did not attend meetings in August and September citing the political nature of the meetings.

Chief executive John Mair, whose company has spent more than $100 million preparing the project, told Reuters on Friday he believes his company still holds the "valid right to pursue an exploitation licence for the project in compliance with Greenland laws."

Locals worry that a potential lawsuit against Greenland will hurt its ability to attract investments in a nascent mining sector which they think is key to growing their economy.

Mair said it was too early to look at legal action, "but as a public company, we must protect shareholder interests in the event a practical solution is not found."

Nathanielsen said the government in 2013 put a clause in its contract with the company that states it "has no claim to an exploration license and that a refusal can be given for political reasons."

"We cannot issue guarantees against a lawsuit, but we believe that we stand quite well in a potential court case," she said.

The new bill, which will also include the option of banning the exploration of other radioactive minerals such as thorium, will be passed in the autumn with backing of the Naleraq party, a coalition partner, Nathanielsen said.


Biden makes hilarious 10 year prophecy. Has he learned nothing from the failure of the many such prophecies in the past?

After decades of failed climate predictions, one would think the president of the United States would steer clear of making one. But this week, President Biden did just that when discussing what he claims is a global climate crisis.

While out West touring wildfire-ravaged areas, Biden tried to sell some of the climate change measures tucked into spending packages but which “appear increasingly at risk,” according to The New York Times.

“A drought or a fire doesn’t see a property line,” he said during at a stop at a federal renewable energy laboratory. “It doesn’t give a damn for which party you belong to. Disasters aren’t going to stop. That’s the nature of the climate threat. But we know what we have to do. We just need to summon the courage and the creativity to do it.”

He spoke of goals like investing in a modernized electric grid, electric busses, charging stations, and more.

“When I rejoined the Paris Climate Accord after we had been pulled out of it, the goal set when our last administration, the Obama-Biden administration, when that was set, they were set that we had more time. We don’t have the time now. The goals are different because the necessity is there. We don’t have a lot of time. We don’t have much more than 10 years for real,” he said.

No matter how urgent Biden believes the “climate crisis” is, that doesn’t change the fact that such predictions and warnings have been notoriously wrong over the years.

In a 2019 column, the late Walter Williams recalled just some of them.

As reported in The New York Times (Aug. 1969) Stanford University biologist Dr. Paul Erhlich warned: "The trouble with almost all environmental problems is that by the time we have enough evidence to convince people, you're dead. We must realize that unless we're extremely lucky, everybody will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years."

In 2000, Dr. David Viner, a senior research scientist at University of East Anglia's climate research unit, predicted that in a few years winter snowfall would become "a very rare and exciting event. Children just aren't going to know what snow is."

In 2004, the U.S. Pentagon warned President George W. Bush that major European cities would be beneath rising seas. Britain will be plunged into a Siberian climate by 2020.

In 2008, Al Gore predicted that the polar ice cap would be gone in a mere 10 years. A U.S. Department of Energy study led by the U.S. Navy predicted the Arctic Ocean would experience an ice-free summer by 2016.

In May 2014, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared during a joint appearance with Secretary of State John Kerry that "we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos."

Peter Gunter, professor at North Texas State University, predicted in the spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness: "Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable [...] By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions. ... By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine."

Ecologist Kenneth Watt's 1970 prediction was, "If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000." He added, "This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." (Townhall)

The major difference between predictions made in the past and those of today is how much more gullible Americans are now, Williams argued, meaning we'll spend into oblivion to combat climate change. "The only result is that we'll be much poorer and less free," he said.




No comments: