Climate Change and Coal in Fairbanks; New Technology Needs for North Slope

Here’s the nation’s only new coal plant. Is it the last?
Dylan Brown, E & E News, Energywire: April 15, 2019

Finding America’s only new coal-fired power plant means trekking nearly to the Arctic Circle. The University of Alaska, Fairbanks, hopes to complete work this May on a new 17-megawatt facility that will replace an existing 55-year-old coal plant as the source of power and heat for the nation’s northernmost campus. “We’re just working out some of the bugs right now so we can run continuously,” said senior project manager Mike Ruckhaus. Fairbanks is thousands of miles removed from the wave of coal power shutdowns that keep rolling across the Lower 48. And coal advocates and their critics vehemently disagree if the first new U.S. plant since 2015 has anything to do with the future of coal in this country. University officials started looking to replace the old plant, built in 1964, when the boilers failed in 1998. “In the middle of the winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, when you lose your heating plant for 10 hours, that sort of gets your attention,” Ruckhaus said. Outages continued, but the university did not settle on a $245 million plan until 2013. At a school famous for its climate change research, many students and staff balked at continued coal use.

Alaskan oil developers face technical challenges to exploit new plays: Fuel for Thought
Tim Bradner for S & P Platts Oil, April 15, 2019

As Alaska’s oil production declines, enormous attention is being paid to even the slightest hint of a find that could turn the state’s fortunes around. Much hope has been pinned on the development of the Nanushuk, a broadly-dispersed set of rocks along the Colville River that extends west into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Some companies have had success finding oil, with claims ranging from a conservative 500 million barrels to over 3 billion barrels of recoverable resources. But a recent dry hole in the Nanushuk has brought to light some of the economic and technical challenges facing those who want to tap into those potential riches. The stakes are high for Alaska. The Nanushuk discoveries have created new interest in the North Slope within industry and excitement among state leaders who have long worried about the gradual decline of the existing fields.

Trade wars threaten gas market outlook
NGW Magazine, April 15, 2019

This year’s BP Energy Outlook considers what might happen if global trade disputes escalate. It’s a prospect that threatens to heighten energy security concerns and push countries to produce more and import less – China being a case in point, with its higher coal burn.

The key points drawn by BP are:

  • International trade has an important influence on the global energy system: it underpins economic growth and also allows countries to diversify their sources of energy.
  • If the recent trade disputes escalate, they could have a significant impact on the energy outlook.
  • A slower GDP growth trend would reduce the level of world GDP in 2040 relative to BP’s Energy Transition (ET) scenario by 6%, and energy demand by over 4%. Those falls would be concentrated in countries and regions most exposed to foreign trade and in fuels, oil, gas and coal (Figure 1).
  • This general pattern is also evident in individual countries: lower energy demand and a shift in the fuel mix towards domestically-produced sources of energy.