Energy & Resources Talking Points | 29/06/2017

In today’s talking points:  Rio sticks with Yancoal; Australian iron ore’s increasing popularity with Chinese steel mills; Air pollution’s influence on solar energy production; Battery storage “Gigafactory” planned for Darwin in 2018

Rio Sticks with Yancoal

Rio Tinto has has decided to stick with Yancoal, despite Glencore’s sweetened last minute bid for a project in the Hunter Valley. Yancoal Australia, a subsidiary of China’s Yancoal Coal Mining Company, has been Rio’s preferred bidder for its Hunter Valley coal operations since its bid was made in January this year, however Glencore’s increasing interest in Rio’s Hunter Valley operations added competition to the deal. The final deal involves a $US2.69 billion offer by Yancoal, including at least $US2.45 billion in cash upon completion. Rio’s primary reason for persisting with Yancoal is that Yancoal has already obtained regulatory approval to pass the deal, whereas Glencore has not, meaning Rio would be faced with lengthy delays if it opted for Glencore.

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Australian Iron Ore’s Increasing Popularity with Chinese Steel Mills

According to recent data, Chinese steel mills are increasingly fond of Australian iron ore and reducing imports of Indian iron ore,. The recent dip in iron ore prices has facilitated this change, making low-grade exports basically unviable for exporters, while simultaneously making high-grade iron ore more appealing. As the majority of India’s iron ore exports are of the lower-grade variety, these exports have seen a significant drop, with most Indian iron ore exports now being rerouted to the domestic market. However, Chinese demand for high-quality Australian iron ore has increased.

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Air Pollution’s Influence on Solar Energy Production

According to a recent study, airborne particles and their accumulation on solar cells are reducing energy output by more than 25 percent. Some of the regions most heavily hit are those that invest the most in solar energy installations such as China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula.  Michael Bergin, Duke engineering professor begun to research on this topic and was very suprised with the results. His colleagues in India had installed rooftop solar panels that were covered in grime. Bergin was able to show the difference in the efficiency of the solar panels by measuring the decrease in solar energy. The solar panels showed that there was a 50-percent increase in efficiency every time they were cleaned.  Researchers also sampled the grime in order to analyze its composition, revealing the dust contained carbon and ion pollutants from human activity. From this, we can see how human contributions to energy loss are much greater than those of dust.

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Battery storage “Gigafactory” Planned for Darwin in 2018

At the end of 2018, Australia plans on having its first battery storage “gigafactory” in Darwin. The company involved is being backed by Energy Renaissance and the $100 million plant will create four distinct lines and plans to scale the market in Australia and Asia. Energy Renaissance in partnership with US battery storage company 24M, has obtained the financial backing of the new Labor government. The managing director Brian Craighead of Renaissance Energy foresees Australia as a good place to build a gigafactory. It is also predicted that Australia will become a big market for battery storage. The technology will be specifically designed to take into consideration of the warmer climate in Australia and Asia. This would be beneficial as most battery chemistries have an operating window of around 25°C, meaning that you would need to have air conditioning on to keep temperatures down. Furthermore, the manufacturing process involved is supposedly more efficient than conventional lithium-ion products. Darwin is the main port city that was chosen because of the availability of raw materials, the proximity to Asia markets, as well as the local engineering expertise and the support of the local government.


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