The Use of Coal in Singapore

July 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Insights

coalHere’s an update on the use of coal in Singapore:

Tuas Power’s coal plant

Read the chronology of the clean coal and biomass cogeneration plant by Tuas Power.

Tuas Power’s new coal and biomass plant at Jurong Island would start operations mid next year, and the company has signed a contract with Indonesia’s PT Bayan Resources to supply 13.36 million tonnes of sub-bituminous coal over the next 15 years from Kalimantan, and has also struck a deal with South Korea’s Samtam Co Ltd to supply coal. Tuas Power is also concluding a deal for the palm kernel, which makes up the 20% biomass component of the plant feedstock (the other 80% is coal).

If a calculation is done only for the coal supplied by PT Bayan Resources, and excluding the coal from Samtam Co Ltd and the palm biomass, the combustion of 13.36 million tonnes of sub-bituminous coal would emit about 24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s calculation tool).

Assuming the use of coal is spread out evenly over 15 years, the potential carbon emissions from the use of coal would be 1.6 million tonnes per year. In 2008, the total carbon emissions generated from Singapore is 36 million tonnes. Therefore, the use of coal by Tuas Power could contribute to 4.4% of Singapore’s total carbon emissions. For a comparison, the contribution by the consumers/households sector is about 9% in 2005.

When Tuas Power was asked: “When is the timeline, if any, to apply carbon capture technology, and where would the carbon be stored?”. Their reply was: “We have no plans to apply this technology in Singapore at this point in time. Carbon capture storage technology is still being developed, and we may explore the viability of its application in the future.”

16% below business as usual by 2020

In Dec 2009, the government has announced its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 16% below business as usual levels in 2020 (only when a global agreement is reached), which means the government would have to reduce carbon emissions by 2020.

If the coal plant by Tuas Power operates for 8 years from 2012 to 2020, the potential carbon emissions is 12.8 million tonnes (not including the coal from Samtam Co Ltd and the palm biomass). Therefore, whatever measures to reduce emissions by 2020 could be affected by the increase in emissions from the coal plant.

Economic Strategies Committee’s recommendation

The Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) submitted the report of its key recommendations to the Prime Minister in Feb 2010. In its report, the ESC highlighted several key strategies, one of which is for Singapore to become a Smart Energy Economy. One recommendation is that Singapore should explore coal and electricity imports to diversify both the fuel types and fuel source countries in our energy portfolio.

EDB study on coal gasification plant

EDB called for a tender on 8 Apr 2011 to conduct a feasibility study to provide recommendations for the Jurong Island version 2.0 Steering Committee. The study would evaluate the benefits and costs of a coal gasification plant to provide alternative feedstock for the supply of hydrogen and carbon monoxide for the energy and chemical industries on Jurong Island, including different scenarios for providing power and steam, and for having lower carbon footprint and being carbon-capture ready.

Questions

Some questions on the use of coal:

1. Has the government assessed the environmental impacts of using coal or conducted a life cycle assessment study of coal? How does it compare with natural gas?

2. Would the government require new power plants using coal to conduct an environmental impact assessment before construction?

3. Would approved coal plants be carbon-capture ready and where would the carbon dioxide be stored?

4. Would the use of coal lead to more carbon emissions as compared to using natural gas, and undermine the government’s own efforts to reduce emissions by 16% from 2020 business as usual levels?

5. Is the government funding research on carbon capture and storage or other technologies to reduce emissions from coal?

6. Would the use of coal tarnish Singapore’s reputation as a clean and green city, or contradict Singapore’s vision to be a clean energy hub?

7. Would the use of coal reduce the demand for LNG and challenge the viability of the government’s new LNG terminal?

Image: johnnyberg via stock.xchng

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