Friday, April 08, 2022

"Green" Steel to be produced in Australia

Gupta is a smart cookie. He revitalized British steel now he is re-energizing Australia's oldest major iron mining site

GFG Alliance executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta has launched a rallying cry for Australia to place itself “at the heart of a new industrial revolution’’, based around the use of renewable energy and hydrogen to produce steel, rather than simply shipping our vast reserves of iron ore offshore.

Mr Gupta also on Thursday announced an expansion of GFG’s magnetite iron ore concentrate production at its Whyalla operations, with the first phase of a two-stage expansion project almost finished.

Mr Gupta will tell an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham) lunch in Adelaide on Thursday that GFG is aiming to increase magnetite production by more than 10 per cent to 2.5 million tonnes per year, up from about 2.2mtpa, which could lead to more exports to its European steelworks.

GFG currently produces both hematite and magnetite iron ore, with the 6.3mtpa of hematite produced each year exported, while the magnetite product is used in the Whyalla steelworks.

Mr Gupta said GFG subsidiary SIMEC Mining was about to complete the construction phase of a “two-phase debottlenecking process’’.

The expansion would also feed into GFG’s “Greensteel” ambition, which aims to produce carbon neutral steel by 2030 (CN30) with the aid of renewable energy and potentially hydrogen.

Mr Gupta said magnetite iron ore was suite for use in the Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) process, which was at the heart of the Greensteel program.

“Our purpose is to create a sustainable future for industry and society and that starts right here with magnetite - a critical enabler of our global Greensteel strategy,’’ Mr Gupta said.

“Thankfully it’s an iron ore we have in abundance right here in Whyalla.

“Combined with renewables, particularly solar from our Cultana Solar Farm, our port, a skilled workforce, and supportive community and government, we are in a unique and enviable position to create a world leading Greensteel hub and help fulfil our CN30 mission. That’s exciting!”

Mr Gupta also reiterated his call for Australia to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities, particularly in the steel sector,, saying the events of the past couple of years had thrown into sharp relief how “flimsy and fragile our supply chains really are ... and that we’ve become too dependent on others’’.

“Globalisation versus the need for self-sufficiency now requires a major rethink... At times like these...sovereign manufacturing capability moves from important to critical... Which is exactly the opposite to our thoughts and deeds for the last three decades,’’ he said.

“So, home grown is once again about to become the new mantra... at a time when so many countries have been desperate to farm out their manufacturing capabilities, to where it’s apparently cheaper, or easier... or both.

“And now, we’re worried all over again, that we’ve let too much experience and expertise simply evaporate.’’

Mr Gupta said there was a recognition now that countries needed to have their own manufacturing capabilities, and luckily, Australia had the right blend of raw materials and abundant renewable energy resources for this to be achievable in the steel sector.

“Australia exports enough iron ore to produce 500 million tonnes of steel, over a quarter of the world’s annual needs,’’ he said.

“Yet less than 1 per cent of this is processed into steel right here ... domestically. And with global steel consumption set to double in the next 30 years, could there be a better time for Australia to claim its place as a modern, efficient, low-carbon, global steel power?’’


Former deputy chief medical officer criticises royal commission into Covid-19

Australia’s former deputy chief health officer turned outspoken Covid-19 policy critic has rubbished the idea of a royal commission into the nation’s pandemic response.

Infectious diseases specialist Nick Coatsworth said a royal commission was “the wrong tool”, after an inquiry into Australia’s pandemic response recommended the sweeping probe be established.

The Labor-Green majority Senate committee found the Morrison government’s response was characterised by poor preparation and a failure to learn lessons as the pandemic continued.

The committee in its final report recommended a royal commission to ensure successive governments could be prepared for future Covid waves and pandemics.

Dr Coatsworth, who has been a forthright proponent of “living with the virus” rather than its attempted eradication through stringent restrictions, was quick to criticise the idea.

“Adversarial, antagonistic and will provide fringe voices a chance to prosecute the notion that somehow one of the best performing nations in the world got it wrong,” he wrote on Twitter not long after the committee’s final report was released.

“This is the wrong tool for the task. I will nonetheless relish the chance to speak to our successes.”

The “voices” invited to speak at any future royal commission would be outlined at a later date should one be called.

The Senate committee’s report, released on Thursday afternoon, said Australia fared much better than other countries throughout the “first wave” of the pandemic.

“But as the pandemic continued that advantage was significantly weakened by the government’s complacent approach and inability to lead a truly national response to the crisis,” the report said.

“As the pandemic progressed, major government decisions lacked transparency and were poorly communicated, poorly targeted, and poorly implemented.

“The government squandered important opportunities to take responsibility and learn from mistakes as Covid-19 took hold in Australia.”

A failure to establish quarantine facilities and organise a timely vaccine rollout were signalled out as the two major government failures.

The report made 19 recommendations, ranging from the establishment of a Centre for Disease Control and that government address parliament at least every two years on the state of Australia’s pandemic preparedness.

It also called to be made public all reports compiled for the National Covid-19 Commission Advisory Board, which included business people such as Nev Power.

Committee chair Katy Gallagher said the report would be an “important building block” for a royal commission that would have stronger powers to compel information.

Speaking shortly after the report’s release, Senator Gallagher said she was yet to discuss its findings with her Labor colleagues and wouldn’t be drawn on whether an Albanese government would instigate a royal commission.

“That’s obviously a matter that would have to go to shadow cabinet (for) further consideration. This is not Labor’s policy,” she told journalists at Parliament House.

Senator Gallagher was critical of the national cabinet, made up of the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders, which she said had “failed” in its objective of providing a truly national response to the pandemic.

“We have been quite critical of the way the relationship between the national government and the states and territories has worked at times,” she said.

In a dissenting report, the committee’s deputy chair and Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson, and Nationals senator Perin Davey hit out at the Labor senators for derailing the intended purpose of the committee.

“While this committee was initially established with bipartisan support and a genuine desire to investigate issues of concern during a rapidly evolving pandemic, the committee has regrettably been used a vehicle in which Labor senators have pursued partisan attacks on the government,” they said.

“Which is reflected in the commentary in the majority report and was at times blatantly apparent during public hearings.”


New Coking coal mine under construction

Private equity-backed Pembroke Resources has broken ground on the construction of its Olive Downs coking coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, as global coal markets face the threat of fresh disruptions on the back of European threats to ban the import of Russian coal.

Olive Downs should begin exporting hard coking coal within two years, according to Pembroke chief executive Barry Tudor, with construction of the $900m mine to ramp up following a formal groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.

“The high-quality steelmaking coal that will be produced from our mine will contribute to national and state economies as well as much-needed infrastructure around the world, delivering economic benefits and jobs from the grassroots to a global scale,” Mr Tudor said.

Olive Downs is primarily a coking coal mine, with more than 90 per cent of its product destined for steel mills. It is likely to sell some thermal coal as a by-product of mining higher-grade coking seams, like most metallurgical coal mines in Queensland.

While few analysts see this year’s extraordinary run in coal prices as likely to be extended indefinitely, the outlook for Pembroke is far brighter than when the mine won most of its approvals in 2020, when premium coking coal prices were trading at around a quarter of their current value of around $US420 a tonne.

JPMorgans analysts recently tipped average prices of about $US281 a tonne in 2023, when Olive Downs enters the market.

The first stage of the $900m project will see it export about 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year, but Pembroke plans to eventually expand output to up to 15 million tonnes a year.

Pembroke Resources is backed by private equity investors Denham Capital, and Olive Downs’ construction was last year backed through a $175m lending facility from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

The Queensland Labor government approved a mining lease for Olive Downs just ahead of the 2020 state election.

The price of Australian premium coking coal soared to about $US670 a tonne in mid-March on the back of fears about disruptions to supply in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has since fallen to levels closer to $US400 a tonne as the speculative trading frenzy subsided.

But the market still faces the threat of major disruptions in the wake of threats by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to ban the import of Russian coal into the EC in the wake of news that Russian troops had committed war crimes against civilians in Ukraine.

The EC is yet to formalise the ban, which would not take immediate effect in any case, with buyers likely to get a window to wind down deliveries under existing contracts and seek alternative sources of supply.

But Russia supplied about 45 per cent of Europe’s coal needs in 2021, including about 20 per cent of its coking coal imports.

With Russian production making up about 15 per cent of the total seaborne market last year, second only to Australia, European bans could force the second major reshaping of global trade flows in the last two years, following China’s effective bans on the import of Australian coal.

But, while a ban on Russian coal could create short-term volatility in the market, analysts expect the country’s exports to find buyers outside Europe just as Australian shipments did in the face of China’s bans.


Scarborough gas venture wins key approvals

Woodside has received key federal and state approvals for the $16 billion Scarborough gas project off the coast of Karratha.

Woodside has received key federal and state approvals for a gas project off the coast of Karratha.© Rebecca Le May/AAP PHOTOS Woodside has received key federal and state approvals for a gas project off the coast of Karratha.
The Woodside-BHP joint venture has secured the pipeline licence needed to build and operate in Commonwealth waters, Woodside announced on Wednesday.

Minister for Resources Keith Pitt said it's estimated the project will have a peak construction workforce of more than 3000, and 600 jobs when operational including around 230 in the Pilbara.

"Given the current uncertainty around the world, and an energy crisis throughout Europe, it's projects like this that build Australia's capacity to ensure long-term energy and national security," he said.

"It will also support our international neighbours to secure their own energy needs."

Approval was also granted for the Scarborough Field Development Plan that will enable Woodside to begin operations from petroleum production licences WA-61-L and WA-62-L.

Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill said the pipeline licence and field development plan are among the final federal and state government approvals required to develop the liquefied natural gas (LNG) resource.

The approval milestones follow final investment decisions made in November 2021 to approve the Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 developments.

The Scarborough field, 375 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, is estimated to contain 11.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The development will include the installation of a floating production unit with eight wells drilled in the initial phase, and 13 drilled over the life of the field.

The gas will be transported to Pluto LNG through a new 430km trunk line.




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