The Future of Coal in a World Shaped by the Climate Agenda: The End, or a New Beginning?
Russian coal continues to be in demand on the global energy market
“Take Sakhalin – our country is vast – where, for example, the only major coal company [The East mining Company – ed.] produces brown coal which is almost all exported. It all gets bought up by Japan. And what isn’t sold there gets sold in China. And nobody is about to give up on that,” Anatoly Yanovsky, Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation.
“Coal makes us look at the current chain of events and realize that it will remain part of the energy mix. In some segments it will be more, in some less, but on the whole, coal is here to stay,” Michelle Manook, Chief Executive Officer, World Coal Association (WCA).
“The current situation across the globe, be it China, India, Europe, or the UK, indicates that in principle, coal is not losing its standing on the market. It is important to appreciate that in Asia especially, there are power stations that still operate on coal. Naturally, for generation as well, there will continue to be a place for coal at the global level,” Matthew Boyle, Manager, Global Coal and Asia Power Analytics, S&P Global Platts.
Coal generation is not about to disappear from Russia’s energy mix, and has the potential for further growth
“The reason I am optimistic is that if a correct assessment is made of the depositing capabilities of our forests and natural resources, then you get additional arguments in favour of coal. That’s because if you actually calculate the difference in CO2 emissions, it is not as dramatic when compared to natural gas,” Zinfer Ismagilov, Director, Institute of Coal-Chemistry and Material Science of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“Over the short term, i.e., from 2024 to 2035, we do not see Russia not having coal in its energy mix. Currently, it is not a particularly large share – around 12.5–13.5%, but will remain nevertheless. <...> looking ahead to 2050, we see coal generation accounting for around 4.5% of the energy mix. That is if there are no major changes in terms of modernization, moving to supercritical CO2 or carbon capture, or power station overhauls,” Pavel Snikkars, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation.
“The global coal industry has a big future. We must stop talking about whether coal will continue to exist or not – it will continue to exist. Instead, we must consider how coal should address today’s challenges in each country,” Sergey Tsivilev, Governor of Kemerovo Region-Kuzbass.
Pressure from financial institutions and the need to compete with alternative energy
“There are a few reasons why financial institutions have decided to withdraw investment from the coal industry. They are related to recent trends, I would call them. On top of this, there is the position held by shareholders. There are other sectors which could of course derive benefits from this. And they are deriving benefits in relation to debt capital. This does not only apply to coal, but other resources, too. In this time of energy crisis, these contradictions, so to speak, are intensifying,” Matthew Boyle, Manager, Global Coal and Asia Power Analytics, S&P Global Platts.
“For our country, coal will remain at the top of the agenda. The issue with coal is that it creates greenhouse gases. What should we do? How must we capture this carbon? That is the question. <...> Despite restrictions, coal will play a big role in the energy mix. We have 20 billion coal resources in the country, and naturally, we cannot close our eyes to this fact,” Sri Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, Minister of Steel of the Republic of India.
Improving the coal industry’s technological performance and having coal-mining regions subscribe to the environmental agenda
“Clearly, as labour productivity technology in the coal industry improves, so the number of people working in the sector will decrease. Today, even in Kuzbass, not to mention other regions, we are seeing how digitalization is taking over, and how BelAZ is rolling out autonomous trucks at surface mines. So, the number of workers will decline. This is not a bad thing, because it means that working conditions will improve – as will workplace safety – and people will suffer less as a result,” Anatoly Yanovsky, Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office of the Russian Federation.
“We will identify economically effective methods which will enable us to play an active role in this agenda, protect the environment, ensure good living conditions for our people, and grow our operations. We will identify them. <...> We have applied to create a carbon polygon in Kuzbass. Why did we do this? We did it in order to draw up a method for calculating emissions of all gases and the absorbing capacity of gases,” Sergey Tsivilev, Governor of Kemerovo Region-Kuzbass.
Identifying new areas of development for the coal industry
“Processing or developing the processing of ash and slag [the mineral non-combustible part of coal – ed.] offer additional opportunities for coal-based electricity generation. This is particularly important in light of the climate agenda. <...> A new beginning, new technologies, new technological transformations... There are two important aspects when considering using ash and slag, when using this by-product. The first aspect, which I would focus on, is the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. <...> Using ash can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a ratio of 1:1, i.e., for every tonne we use, we can reduce greenhouse gases by a tonne,” Irina Zolotova, Director of the Centre for Sectoral Research and Consulting, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.
“We have carbon-capture technology. And we use it for new projects, and at other enterprises. Carbon monoxide is used to make metal, so in effect, we are expanding our portfolio. We are increasing production of methane, we are conducting comprehensive research, and we are studying the entire chain – every product. And we are coming up with uses for things that were previously considered to be by-products,” Sri Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, Minister of Steel of the Republic of India.
“Combustion and coal preparation technologies will continue to improve, as of course will coal gasification technologies, most importantly. There will be new technologies,” Zinfer Ismagilov, Director, Institute of Coal-Chemistry and Material Science of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
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