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California Upholds Auto Emissions Standards, Setting Up Face-Off With Trump

California’s clean-air agency voted on Friday to push ahead with stricter emissions standards for cars and trucks, setting up a potential legal battle with the Trump administration over the state’s plan to reduce planet-warming gases.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/business/energy-environment/california-upholds-emissions-standards-setting-up-face-off-with-trump.html?_r=0

The vote, by the California Air Resources Board, is the boldest indication yet of California’s plan to stand up to President Trump’s agenda. Leading politicians in the state, from the governor down to many mayors, have promised to lead the resistance to Mr. Trump’s policies.

Mr. Trump, backing industry over environmental concerns, said easing emissions rules would help stimulate auto manufacturing. He vowed last week to loosen the regulations. Automakers are aggressively pursuing those changes after years of supporting stricter standards.

But California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act, giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the auto industry. Twelve other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., follow California’s standards, a coalition that covers more than 130 million residents and more than a third of the vehicle market in the United States.

“All of the evidence — call it science, call it economics — shows that if anything, these standards should be even more aggressive,” said the board member Daniel Sperling, a transportation expert at the University of California, Davis.

The board’s chairwoman, Mary D. Nichols, an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton, was even more pointed, admonishing automakers for milking Mr. Trump for favors.

“What were you thinking when you threw yourselves upon the mercy of the Trump administration to try to solve your problems?” she asked. “Let’s take action today, and let’s move on.”

Long a forerunner in environmental regulation, California worked with the Obama administration on joint standards that became a crucial part of the country’s effort to combat climate change. Officials said the regulations would reduce the country’s oil consumption by 12 billion barrels and eliminate six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution over the lifetime of the cars affected. That amounts to more than a year’s worth of America’s carbon emissions.

Adopted in 2012, the standards would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025, to 54.5 miles per gallon, forcing automakers to speed development of highly fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars. Mr. Trump intends to lower that target.

Friday’s unanimous vote by the 14-member board, which affirmed the higher standards through 2025, amounted to a public rejection of Mr. Trump’s plans.

Now, the question is how — or whether — the Trump administration will handle California’s dissent. The administration could choose to revoke California’s waiver, at which point experts expect the state would sue.

California sued the George W. Bush administration after it challenged California’s waiver in 2007. Mr. Obama reversed the federal challenge.

The White House and the E.P.A., which have not yet determined their plans for the California waiver, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Several states that follow California’s rules raced to its defense. “We’ve come a long way together,” said Steven Flint, director of the air resources division of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “We’re with you, and we believe in what you’re doing.”

Environmentalists and public health experts have criticized the automakers’ resistance to emissions rules under the Trump administration as an about-face. All major automakers previously voiced support for the more stringent standards.

After the election of Mr. Trump, a group representing the nation’s biggest makers of cars and light trucks urged a reassessment of the emissions rules, which the group said posed a “substantial challenge” for the auto industry.

Automakers now complain about the steep technical challenge that the stringent standards pose. They have estimated that only about 3.5 percent of new vehicles are able to reach it, and that their industry would have to spend a “staggering” $200 billion by 2025 to comply.

A separate study by the International Council on Clean Transportation, a think tank supporting emissions controls, has estimated that the cost of meeting those standards could be overstated by as much as 40 percent. And auto industry experts have warned that a slowdown in America’s shift toward efficient cars could leave its auto market a global laggard.

John Bozzella, chief executive of Global Automakers, an industry trade group, said before the California vote that companies agreed on the need to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy. But he urged California to fall into line with federal rules.

“There is a more effective way forward than regulatory systems that are different,” Mr. Bozzella said. He also suggested that demand for clean cars remained relatively tiny.

What was required, he said, were standards that “balance innovation, compliance and consumer needs and wants.”

Automakers have also been critical of a California’s zero-emission vehicle program, which requires automakers to sell a certain percentage of electric cars and trucks in California and nine other states. The board voted on Friday to continue that program.

Politicians in California, one of the country’s most Democratic states, have embraced acting as a bulwark against Mr. Trump’s policies, promising to defend the state’s laws on immigration, health care and the environment. Many cities in California have broad “sanctuary” policies aimed at protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants. State law also provides some protections for immigrants from being turned over to federal authorities for deportation.

In addition, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, declared that California would continue to work toward its legally required target of reducing carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. And the state has retained Eric H. Holder Jr., the former United States attorney general, to advise on potential legal fights with the White House.

Even at the federal level, the president’s announcement alone will not be enough to immediately roll back emissions standards, a process expected to take more than a year of legal and regulatory reviews by the E.P.A. and the Transportation Department. The Trump administration would then need to propose its own replacement fuel-economy standards.

Still, the Trump administration’s move to ease emissions rules is the first part of an expected assault on Mr. Obama’s environmental legacy. In the coming weeks, Mr. Trump is also expected to announce that he will direct the E.P.A. to dismantle Obama-era regulations on pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not think carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global warming, a statement at odds with the scientific consensus on climate change.

Bonnie Holmes-Gen of the American Lung Association of California, one of many health and environmental groups that spoke at the board meeting, said moving away from strict emissions standards would hurt public health and the health of the planet. She urged the state to stay its course.

“The public is bearing a huge cost — billions of dollars in health expenses and damage from climate,” Ms. Holmes-Gen said. “I urge California to keep us on track.”

Correction: March 25, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated Steven Flint’s position. He is director of the air resources division of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, not the director of the department.

 

Hong Kong government aims to slash carbon emissions with 2030 action plan

While government hopes to reduce total emissions by 26-36 per cent, some critics say the plans lack conviction

Annual carbon emissions could be slashed from around six tonnes per person to between 3.3 and 3.8 tonnes by 2030, according to the government’s latest climate change action plan.

But a think tank and green group believe the plan lacks hard targets for renewables and the ambition to phase out coal in the fuel mix.

The target, which will translate to an absolute carbon emission reduction of 26 to 36 per cent and reduction of 65 to 70 per cent in carbon emissions per GDP from 2005, will use a cleaner, less coal-intensive fuel mix and more energy efficient buildings and transport.

Renewable energy would also be applied on a “wider and larger scale”, it said.

Measures to incentivise private investment in renewables could be introduced in the post-2018 regulatory framework with power companies, which is being negotiated, the plan says.

Government departments are looking at installing floating photovoltaic systems on reservoirs, with two expected to be completed at Shek Pik and Plover Cove this year, and on slopes, such as at the old Anderson Quarry.

The Environment Bureau however stressed that the city did not have favourable conditions for large-scale commercial use and as such, did not set any concrete targets for 2030.

Also missing were hard targets for reducing energy use in the private buildings sector. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said a consensus had been reached for the building sector to voluntarily reduce electricity consumption on an “ongoing” basis, with details still to be finalised.

“Overall we would like to make it a kind of pattern similar to the Paris agreement,” he said, referring to the land climate accord, which requires each individual country to work toward its own nationally-determined contributions to curb global warming and report back every five years.

Maura Wong, CEO of think tank Civic Exchange believed the plan lacked commitment. “We still don’t know by 2030 whether we will be coal-free and what the mix will be between natural gas and nuclear,” she said. “They need to be ambitious enough to set a clear date of when they will completely phase out coal.”

WWF-Hong Kong’s conservation director Gavin Edwards said: “We welcome the government’s openness to 3 to 4 per cent renewable energy, but believe that it should be a formal target and … more ambitious with at least 5 per cent renewables by 2030.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2064045/hong-kong-government-aims-slash-carbon-emissions

European partnership to investigate trans-sector technological potential to reduce carbon emissions

http://www.chemengonline.com/european-partnership-to-investigate-trans-sector-technological-potential-to-reduce-carbon-emissions/

Solvay S.A. (Brussels, Belgium; www.solvay), ArcelorMittal S.A. (Luxembourg; www.arcelormittal.com), Evonik Industries AG (Essen, Germany; www.evonik.com) and LafargeHolcim (Jona, Switzerland; www.lafargeholcim.com) today announce the formation of a new Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative (LCPRi) across the steel, cement and chemicals industries. LCTPi is a set of programs, gathering 150 global businesses and 70 partners under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, to accelerate the development of low-carbon technology solutions to stay below the 2°C ceiling.

This new partnership will look at the potential synergies that exist between the manufacturing processes of these three energy intensive sectors, and how these synergies could be harnessed to reducing CO2 emissions.

As a first step, and following preliminary research, the innovative partnership will produce a study, with the technical support of Arthur D. Little, to identify potential ways to valorize industrial off-gases and other by- products from their manufacturing processes to produce goods with a lower carbon footprint than through the fossil path. The preliminary research already allowed identifying significant potential in selected trans-sector pathways.

The study is aimed at bringing a fact-based overview of carbon and energy sources from industrial off-gases (first at a European level), and evaluating the technical, environmental and economic feasibility of different carbon capture and usage (CCU) pathways and their potential.

Initial findings from the first step already underway suggest that:

• Deploying cross-sector carbon capture and reuse opportunities on an industrial scale – something that does not happen today – could reduce up to 3 GT/y or 7% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions
• Existing conversion technologies that could be deployed across the three sectors could utilise by- products in the off-gases to create building materials, organic chemicals and fuel. As an example, up to 1–2% (0.4–0.7 Gton/yr) of global anthropogenic CO2 could be reduced with the production of ethanol/methanol alone
• Increased availability and greater access to renewable energy sources, would significantly boost net carbon reduction efforts by those three sectors, within a supportive legislative framework
• Cross sector carbon capture and reuse should also result in job creation, to be further investigated

The study, carried out at European level, is building the ground for similar investigation extended at global level and paves the way for identifying and assessing industrial scale projects on CCU at the interface between the sectors.

Stefan Haver, senior vice president Corporate Responsibility of Evonik, said: “Cross-sector initiatives like this offer great opportunities to steer our economies towards improved sustainability and more circularity. That’s why Evonik strongly supports joined actions in low carbon technologies.”

Speaking in Marrakech, Michel Bande, Corporate Sustainability Officer and Liaison Delegate WBCSD of Solvay, said “The potential to reduce carbon emissions through better collaboration between the chemicals, steel and cement industries looks promising. European energy-intensive industries could, with new and innovative ways to work together, ultimately produce large volumes of final goods with a reduced carbon footprint. In this arena, the chemical industry is key thanks to its enabling technologies. Indeed, linking large sources of carbon with the expertise and processes of the chemical industry could become crucial to develop ground-breaking solutions helping to reach the 2°C goal. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is instrumental in supporting the emergence of such partnerships that require long term cooperation and vision shared between industry and society”.

Carl de Maré, vice president head of Technology Strategy of ArcelorMittal, said: “We are excited to build a partnership that demonstrates our commitment to developing a low-carbon, circular economy steel business and explores the numerous efficiency opportunities across other energy intensive industries. We believe that steel is a perfect material for the circular economy, but key to exploiting our potential is establishing innovative cross-sector partnerships such as this. This will help us to develop and industrialize carbon re-use technologies, ensuring that waste products created from the steelmaking process are effectively harnessed and re-used, reducing our direct carbon footprint, but also creating commercially valuable products that have a lower carbon footprint than currently available alternatives.”

Bernard Mathieu, head Group Sustainable Development of LafargeHolcim, said: “Concrete offers the highest level of life-cycle sustainability performance and we are continuously developing new products and solutions for a low carbon society. This new ambitious partnership will support our mission to cut our net emissions per ton of cement by 40% towards 2030 (versus 1990) and to develop and further deploy low carbon solutions for the construction sector. But to make this a reality, we will need an enabling regulatory framework and support to innovation.”

China: We’ll deliver 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020

China has issued a new climate plan targeting an 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 2015 levels as the Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries took effect.

http://home.bt.com/news/world-news/china-well-deliver-18-cut-in-carbon-emissions-by-2020-11364110716046

China has issued a new climate plan targeting an 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 2015 levels as the Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries took effect.

Under the new State Council plan, coal consumption must be capped at about 4.2 billion tons in 2020 while non-fossil fuel energy generation capacity like hydropower and nuclear power are expanded to 15% share of China’s total capacity.

China has taken a leading role in climate change talks and its collaboration with the United States has been touted by Washington and Beijing as a bright spot in an otherwise strained relationship.

China will guarantee that emissions peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact. There are also plans to officially launch a national carbon trading market next year.

In recent years China has become a world leader in renewable energy investment and installation of new wind and solar power capacity, but efforts by the government to break away from coal consumption have been frustrating at times.

Even after Beijing declared a “war on pollution”, hundreds of new coal power plants were approved for construction in 2015 by regional authorities keen to buoy their economies.

Central economic planners earlier this year declared a halt on new approvals for coal plants and energy chiefs went a step further last month when they declared a building freeze on scores of partially-built plants across more than a dozen provinces, garnering praise from environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Global carbon intensity falls as coal use declines

China leads the charge for emissions efficiency, but faster progress is needed to meet the Paris climate goals, reports Climate Home

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/01/global-carbon-intensity-falls-as-coal-use-declines

The amount of carbon needed to power the global economy fell to record lows in 2015, as coal consumption in major economies plummeted.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) annual Low Carbon Economy Index report has found that the global carbon intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) fell by 2.8%.

This was more than double the average fall of 1.3% between 2000 and 2014, but far below the 6.5% required to stay within the 2C warming limit set by last year’s Paris agreement.

“What we’ve seen in 2014-15 is a real step change in decarbonisation,” said Jonathan Grant, PwC director of sustainability and climate change.

The result was just 0.1% lower than the previous year, but it occurred against the background of healthy growth, which usually spurs carbon emissions growth.

“There was fairly reasonable economic growth in 2015, which is why we think this result is quite significant,” said Grant.

The biggest driver was a decline in China’s coal consumption, which resulted a 6.4% drop the carbon intensity of the world’s second biggest economy.

A centrally-led shift of the economy to a service-based industry has begun to shut down the vast coal-fuelled steel and cement sectors. For the first time, China led the rankings table for the biggest drop in intensity.

The UK and US were also significant contributors, reducing by 6% and 4.7% respectively, to the overall drop as both governments introduced policies that pushed coal plants out of business. In the UK coal use dropped by 20% for the second year running.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “In the week in which the Paris Agreement comes into force, this is very promising news in showing that the dominant paradigm of economic growth is swiftly changing, which makes the Paris targets look more achievable.

“This analysis shows once again that economic growth and carbon emissions are not inextricably linked… Climate science is unequivocal in showing that switching away from coal is an essential first step in keeping climate change within ‘safe’ limits.”

But Grant said coal represented the low-hanging fruit and that economies were enjoying the benefits of relatively painless early decarbonisation.

“Countries are focussing on decarbonising electricity. That means tackling coal power. I think it will get increasingly challenging. Coal is the easiest target for government policy,” he said.

Editorial: No viable future for coal anywhere

http://airclim.org/acidnews/editorial-no-viable-future-coal-anywhere

The UN climate conference in Paris last December decided to limit the temperature increase to well below 2°C/1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate Action Network Europe argues in a new report that “either of these targets would mean eliminating coal completely, and this is what the EU must commit to doing. The Paris Agreement sends a clear signal that there is no viable future for coal anywhere. Coal-fired generation is the quick win: 18% of Europe’s greenhouse gases came from the chimneys of just 280 coal power plants.”

The CAN-E report demands that a full coal phase-out should be one of the EU’s stated goals. This phase-out effort needs to be accompanied by dedicated support for mining regions affected by the transition from coal power and the development of clean energy with 100 per cent renewables.

In 2014, for the first time, renewables produced more electricity than coal in the EU. There are good examples from 2016 that goverments have started phasing out coal:

  • In March, Scotland witnessed the end to the coal age that fired its industrial revolution, with the closure of Longannet power station. In the UK nearly half of the coal fleet will close this year.
  • In May, the EU authorised Spain and Germany to subsidise the closure of significant parts of their coal sectors. Spain was given the green light to spend €2 billion closing 26 coal mines by 2019 and Germany to subsidise the closure of eight lignite-burning installations between 2016 and 2019, representing 13 per cent of Germany’s lignite-burning capacity.
  • In June 2016 the leaders of the G7 countries (UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) and the EU pledged to eliminate “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” (for coal, oil and gas) by 2025.And in June the Croatian government stopped building a new 400 MW coal power plant.
  • These are positive signs, but at the same time the coal industry is strongly promoting further coal use. The International Energy Agency is still running a clean coal centre, even though the IEA’s own policy conclusion is that no new coal plants should be built from 2016 if UN climate targets are to be reached. This summer, Green Budget

Europe criticised the UN Economic Commission Europe (UNECE) for still promoting clean coal policies. Euracoal, which has 34 coal industry members in 20 EU countries, is jointly campaigning with the World Coal Association (WCA) for “a ‘clean coal’ strategy to fight climate change”, relying on what it calls “high-efficiency, low-emissions coal combustion technologies”.

Coal is a climate killer whatever its efficiency is, argues WWF in a new report. The argument that high-efficiency coal-fired power plants are a viable solution for reducing CO2 emissions, the main cause of climate change, is completely discredited by research from Ecofys, among others. It shows that emissions from the global electricity sector need to rapidly reduce and reach close to zero globally by 2050 in order to stay well under 2°C. An even more rapid decline will be needed in order to achieve the commitment taken in Paris to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. As a result, it makes clear that in a post-Paris world, there is simply no role for coal anymore. Demand-side management and renewable energies are the solutions we need, says WWF. FOE Germany has proposed a legally binding phase-out plan for coal in Germany and in this issue of Acid News such a phase-out plan is proposed for the EU (page 12). The trend is clear. There is no more time for the EU to continue experiments with different environmental and economic measures to reduce emissions from fossil fuel plant emissions. The EU must now commit to a phase-out plan of all coal power plants, with complete closure before 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change and to achieve many co-benefits, including the reduction of ill health and mortality for thousands of Europeans from air pollution.

Reinhold Pape

China studies shore power to supplement new emissions rules

http://www.joc.com/regulation-policy/transportation-regulations/international-transportation-regulations/china-studies-shore-power-supplement-new-emissions-rules_20160714.html/

Shore power units, like the one pictured, can help ports bring down their emissions, which they are under increasing pressure to do around the globe.

China’s Ministry of Transport is investigating the widespread use of shore power to help address pollution in the country’s port areas as part of a wider push to reduce maritime emissions, but the haphazard nature of that push has created headaches for container lines and shipowners.

The use of shore power is being studied to supplement the set-up of emission control areas at the main commercial shipping centers of the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas and the northeastern Bohai Rim. Details of the ECAs, including specific requirements and timelines for enforcement, were announced in a directive and follow-up notifications issued by the ministry from the end of last year.

Shore power projects, which the International Council on Clean Transportation says are a highly effective alternative to fuel switching for emissions reduction, were launched at five major ports across the country together with two ship-shore power conversion projects.

“It (shore power) nearly eliminates NOX (nitrogen oxide), PM (particulate matter), and SOX (sulfur oxide) emissions in port areas due to a cleaner electricity generation mix,” the ICCT found in a recent study on the use of shore power at the Port of Shenzhen. However, it also noted that shore power is a much less cost-effective way of reducing emissions.

“Only if a low-sulfur fuel supply cannot be guaranteed or NOX emissions are dominant concerns should onshore power be prioritized.”

The shore power trials are being run at container terminals in Lianyungang, Guangzhou, Shenzhen Yantian, Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan. The ship-shore power conversion projects involve seven China Cosco Shipping container ships with capacities of 10,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, and four 250,000 deadweight tonnage bulk carriers from Shangdong Shipping.

The new ECA regulations require ships berthing at key ports in the Yangtze River Delta ECA to use fuel with a sulfur content not exceeding 0.5 percent since April 1 of this year. The requirement is extended to ships berthing at key Pearl River Delta and Bohai Rim ports from January of 2017.

From Jan. 1, 2019, ships operating anywhere in the ECAs, not just at berth, must use fuel with a sulfur content of no more than 0.5 percent.

The regulation excludes Hong Kong and Macau, but Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department said it will also implement the requirement.

Analysts said the support of China’s national oil companies, which dominate oil and gas upstream and downstream sectors, and the availability of low-sulfur fuel for vessels would be critical to ensure the success of the regulation.

“Because of strong SOE (state-owned enterprise) ownership in energy supplies it is important to have them fully on board. If they aren’t, or if this regulation will reduce their margins, there is a greater risk that business continues as usual,” Richard Brubaker, adjunct professor of management, sustainability and responsible leadership at the China Europe International Business School told JOC.com

Ships that don’t comply with the new ECA regulation are liable for fines of between $1,500 and $15,000 under the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution.

The China Maritime Safety Administration has issued guidelines on the implementation and supervision of ECAs that state how compliance will be verified.

For ships using low-sulfur fuel, verification will be made by a check of bunker delivery notes, fuel changeover procedures, engine room logbook records and fuel oil quality and samples. For ships using alternative measures to reduce emissions, such as shore power, liquefied natural gas or exhaust gas scrubbers, checks will center on International Air Pollution Prevention certification and engine room log books.

China’s Regulation of Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution Act requires ships to keep bunker delivery documents on board for three years and a sample of fuel for one year. Fines of up to $1,500 can be imposed on owners that fail to meet the fuel record keeping requirements.

Huatai Insurance Agency, a mainland-based company that specializes in helping the private sector navigate China’s maritime environment, said the ECA requirements are already being enforced in the Yangtze River Delta.

“There have already been a few cases where [the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration] has issued penalty notice to ships for failing to keep fuel sample and fuel supply documents onboard as required,” Huatai said in a circular to customers published on its website.

Because of challenges that vessel operators may encounter seeking to comply with the new regulation, the Shanghai MSA launched an exemption scheme that allows shipping companies or agencies to apply for an exemption if using low-sulfur fuel is unsafe for the vessel.

With China home to seven of the world’s 10 largest ports, and given the density of population in its port cities and their surroundings, the lack of central direction on emissions control for ports and shipping is a huge concern both globally and domestically.

Hong Kong led the way when public pressure over pollution levels in the Special Administrative Region led it to launch a scheme for voluntary switching to low-sulfur fuel.

This was made mandatory for all ocean-going vessels at berth in the port in July of last year.

The Shenzhen port complex has a voluntary low-sulfur fuel switching scheme in place, and several other Chinese ports — including Qingdao in Shandong province, Waigaoqiao in Shanghai and Shekou in Shenzhen — have also installed shore power infrastructure as well as electrified vehicles and port equipment to reduce emissions.

While cities worldwide work together against global warming, Hong Kong stands aside

John Sayer says Hong Kong’s absence from international climate change initiatives destroys its own credibility as a centre for climate-smart investment funds and green bonds

It is now over six months since the landmark climate talks in Paris. City leaders and local governments have accepted the important role of city-level action in international efforts to reduce climate change.

More than 7,100 cities joined up last month to form the world’s largest city government alliance, known as the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. They are pledging greenhouse gas reduction goals, renewable energy targets and better exchange of information and ideas on green energy. The new covenant brings together the Compact of Mayors and the Covenant of Mayors to form a worldwide grouping of cities, which are home to some 600 million people.

Michael Bloomberg is a co-chair of the initiative, and he believes this city-level action can be “a giant step forward in the work of achieving the goals that nations agreed to” on climate action.

On the Global Compact of Mayors website is a map showing thousands of cities in 119 countries which have signed up to the initiative. The map highlights participating cities in countries such as Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines as well as six cities in Taiwan. But regrettably there is a void on the south China coast.

Hong Kong is not represented.

The Chinese government played a positive role in ensuring that the Paris agreement was achieved. The agreement notes the importance of “sub-national” activity in slowing global warming. This has to be led by local and regional governments.

Yet more than six months after the signing of an agreement in which world leaders acknowledged that the timetable for change is very short, Hong Kong has neither prepared a more ambitious response, nor joined up to any significant international initiatives.

If Hong Kong joined other cities to set world-standard targets on renewable energy and carbon reduction, this could improve its credentials to become a hub for green finance. But Hong Kong’s conspicuous absence in this area diminishes its credibility as a centre to host climate-smart investment funds and green bonds. A city that displays little interest in renewables, zero-carbon buildings or green transport sends the message that we have not the motivation or capacity to be a leader of green finance.

Nations agreed in Paris that we must begin work immediately on a green transition. Among those cities recognising the challenge, Hong Kong ranks somewhere below 7,100th, behind many hundreds of cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

John Sayer is a director of Carbon Care Asia and was a member of the Hong Kong NGO delegation to the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1988996/while-cities-worldwide-work-together-against-global-warming

Texas CO2 Capture Demonstration Project Hits Three Million Metric Ton Milestone

http://www.captureready.com/EN/Channels/News/showDetail.asp?objID=4659

On June 30, Allentown, PA-based Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. successfully captured and transported, via pipeline, its 3 millionth metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) to be used for enhanced oil recovery. This achievement highlights the ongoing success of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

The project demonstrates how a gas separation technology called vacuum swing adsorption can be implemented into an operating facility. The technology is being used at a hydrogen production facility in Port Arthur, Texas, to capture more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the product streams of two commercial-scale steam methane reformers, preventing its release into the atmosphere.

In addition to demonstrating the integration of Air Products’ vacuum swing adsorption technology, the project is also helping to verify that CO2-enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) is an effective method for permanently storing CO2. CO2-EOR allows CO2 to be stored safely and permanently in geologic formations, while increasing oil production from fields once thought to be exhausted.

The CO2 captured from the Port Arthur facility is being used for EOR at the West Hastings Unit (oilfield) in southeast Texas. Injected CO2 is able to dissolve and displace oil residue that is trapped in rock pores. It is estimated that the West Hastings Unit could produce between 60 and 90 million additional barrels of oil using CO2 injection.

In total, projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy have captured and securely stored more than 12 million metric tons of CO2, equivalent to taking more than 2 million cars off the road for a year. Investing in projects and technologies, such as Air Products’, are critical to paving the way for more widespread use of CCS technologies.

The Air Products project is supported through DOE’s Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) program, which is advancing the deployment of CCS technologies for industrial sources at commercial and utility-scale. CCS innovation is important to not only reduce future greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, but it also helps to ensure that U.S. industries are powered in the most efficient, sustainable, and clean way possible, while continuing to use America’s long-standing and abundant energy resources. (US DOE)

Scientists find a way to turn carbon dioxide into stone, in potential greenhouse breakthrough

Deep in the solidified lava beneath Iceland, scientists have managed an unprecedented feat: They’ve taken carbon dioxide released by a power plant and turned it into rock, and at a rate much faster than laboratory tests predicted.

The findings, described in the journal Science, demonstrate a powerful method of carbon storage that could reduce some of the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.

“These are really exciting results,” said Roger Aines, a geochemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was not involved in the study. “Nobody had ever actually done a large-scale experiment like they’ve done, under the conditions that they did it.”

The pilot programme, performed at Reykjavik Energy’s geothermal power plant under a European-US programme called CarbFix, was able to turn more than 95 per cent of carbon dioxide injected into the earth into chalky rock within just two years.

“We were surprised,” said study co-author Martin Stute, a hydrologist at Columbia University in New York. “We didn’t expect this. We thought this would be a project that would go on for decades. Maybe 20 years from now, we’d have an answer to the question. But that it happened so fast, and in such a brief period of time, that just blew us away.”

When fossil fuels like coal or gas are burned, the carbon stored within them is released into the air in the form of carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas traps heat in the atmosphere, triggering an increase in global temperatures that threatens polar ice reserves and contributes to rising sea levels. It also increases the acidity of the ocean, hastening the decline of corals and other marine life.

Researchers have tried for years to figure out how to get that carbon back into the ground. Carbon dioxide can be pulled out of emissions and injected underground into briny waters or emptied oil and gas reservoirs, but there’s a risk that the gas eventually would seep back into the air or that the injection process itself might crack open a reservoir and allow its contents to escape.

Researchers have been looking to get that carbon back into the ground in solid form — something that nature’s been doing for a while, although on a far longer timescale. For humans trying to quickly undo the damage of greenhouse gas emissions, that’s easier said than done. Sandstone does not react much with carbon dioxide. Some lab tests showed that basaltic rock, laid down by volcanic activity, might be more effective but on a scale of centuries, if not longer.

An opportunity for a field test arose when the president of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, met researchers at Columbia and expressed his interest in cutting back the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

“This is really the start of this, at the highest level, which is sort of unusual for research projects,” Stute said.

Together with Reykjavik Energy, the research team designed an experiment around the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant. In March 2012, they injected 175 tonnes of pure carbon dioxide into an injection well. A few months later, they followed with 73 tonnes of a mix of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. (The team wanted to see whether the process worked even if there were other gases present; if it did, it would save the time and money of having to separate the carbon dioxide out.)

The researchers separate the carbon dioxide from the steam produced by the plant and send it to an injection well. The carbon dioxide gets pumped down a pipe that’s actually inside another pipe filled with water from a nearby lake. Hundreds of metres below the ground, the carbon dioxide is released into the water, where the pressure is so high that it quickly dissolves, instead of bubbling up and out.

That mix of water and dissolved carbon dioxide, which becomes very acidic, gets sent deeper into a layer of basaltic rock, where it starts leaching out minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron. The components in the mixture eventually recombine and begin to mineralize into carbonate rocks.

The basaltic rock is key, the scientists said: Sandstone would not react with carbon dioxide this way. So is the presence of water; if the mix had been pure gas instead of gas dissolved in water, it’s unlikely the basalt would have helped form carbonate rocks — at least, not with such speed.

The scientists also injected chemical tracers into the mix, including a type of carbon dioxide made with the heavier, rarer isotope known as carbon-14. They also injected other trace gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which is inert and does not react much with its surroundings.

When the researchers checked the water at monitoring wells later in the experiment, they found that the trace gases were still there (a sign that the water had gotten through) but that the proportion of carbon-14 molecules had significantly declined. As the water had continued to flow through the basaltic layers, the carbon dioxide had been left behind in the rock.

While much of this happened underground, the researchers also saw fine crystals of carbonate sticking to the surface of the pump and pipes at the monitoring well.

“They look like salt from a salt shaker … on the surface of this gray or black basaltic rock,” Stute said.

Based on other laboratory results, the scientists had expected the process to take centuries, if not longer. But the field test showed that this process, under the right conditions, happens at remarkable speed.

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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1971390/scientists-find-way-turn-carbon-dioxide-stone-potential-greenhouse