Coal in the doldrums, even in Wyoming.

FT: “The Powder River Basin that stretches across much of the state has made Wyoming the US’s biggest coal producer. But coal industry executives received a shock in August when it was time to see which companies had bid for the rights to a new tract, said to contain nearly 150m tons of mineable coal in the federally controlled basin.”
“When the deadline fell, officials discovered that not one company had bid – not even Cloud Peak Energy, owner of the mine that had originally sought permission to operate in the tract seven years ago.
….US coalminers have responded by increasing exports, leading to a boom in coal burning in the EU. In addition, more than 280GW of coal-burning power station capacity, requiring more than 825m tons of coal annually, is still being built around the world, most in India and China. “These are not being planned or talked about. These are coming on,” says John Eaves, chief executive of US producer Arch Coal.
But this year has brought a fresh threat to coal: new action to restrict the growth of coal-fired power plants, a leading contributor to the carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say cause global warming. The action has come from the US – where the Environmental Protection Agency has announced rules to limit carbon emissions from new coal-fired plants – as well as from multinational banks and even China, where regional pilot carbon markets began this year and last month its own curbs on pollution were announced.
….A quarter of the world’s annual coal demand comes from Chinese power plants: any shift – whether from slowing economic growth or from China’s own efforts to curb coal use to improve environmental quality – would reverberate through the whole industry.
On top of this, a campaign modelled on the 1980s disinvestment movement that pressed South Africa to dismantle apartheid has begun to take off in the US. Its direct impact on large coal companies’ share prices is likely to be limited, according to Oxford university’s Smith School. But it is likely to spur a “process of stigmatisation” leading investors to shed coal stocks, researchers say, something Storebrand, a Scandinavian asset manager announced it was doing in July.
….The World Bank, a leading source of such financing, turned the president’s words into action. It announced new lending policies in July that mean it will provide financial support for new coal power plants “only in rare circumstances”, such as in cases when countries had “no feasible alternatives to coal”.
A week later, the European Investment Bank said it would take similar action.
....Carbon capture hopes dashed by high costs
The environmental dilemma confronting the global coal industry could not have been more starkly evident than it was one day last month when two things happened at once on either side of the Atlantic, writes Pilita Clark.
On September 20, the US Environmental Protection Agency published rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new power stations that would effectively make it impossible to build more coal-fired plants unless they were fitted with carbon capturing technology.
In Norway, the government announced it was abandoning years of effort to build a commercially viable carbon capturing system at a power plant project in Mongstad that the country’s leaders once described as Norway’s “moon landing”.
The problem, said Ola Borten Moe, minister of petroleum and energy, was the “challenging” project’s high costs.
Yet there is little sign of a commercial scale coal-fired power plant using it anywhere. One of the first is expected to be a project in rural Mississippi, estimated to be costing $4.7bn. It is due to begin operating next year but, in what has become a familiar tale, it has had to overcome legal challenges and cost overruns heading towards $1bn.”