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全球最具争议的煤矿准备破土动工

彭博社 2018年12月23日

据政府估算,如果该盆地得到全面开发,澳大利亚的热煤出口量就有可能增长一倍以上。

世界上最具争议的煤矿正在逐步临近开发阶段,它有可能带来一种未被染指过的最大资源,尽管人们正就该种燃料的前景而争论不休。

印度亿万富翁高塔姆·阿达尼的Carmichael煤矿位于澳大利亚巨大的加利利盆地,该盆地面积约为25万平方公里,差不多和英国的面积一样大。据政府估算,如果该盆地得到全面开发,澳大利亚的热煤出口量就有可能增长一倍以上。

在潜在贷款机构退出后,阿达尼集团将自行为该项目筹集资金,并负责修建基础设施,包括一条将煤炭运往沿海出口地的关键铁路线。国际能源署表示,该项目能否成功将决定加利利盆地其他大型项目的命运,包括印度GVK集团和澳大利亚亿万富翁吉娜·莱茵哈特的Alpha煤炭项目。

澳大利亚是全球第二大的电煤出口国,每年为全球海上贸易贡献逾2亿公吨电煤。如果得以修建,Carmichael煤矿及其铁路就会突破环保组织近10年的联合反对。

研究机构Minelife的董事加文·文特说:“实际情况可能证明,阿达尼和Carmichael煤矿将成为在昆士兰州中部的加利利盆地进行开拓的催化剂。我觉得在基建方面,如果阿达尼不能达到临界规模,这些项目就不会进入市场。”

国际能源署将Carmichael煤矿描述为“可能是目前正在开发的最具争议的煤炭项目”。该机构还表示,在已经规划的几个大型煤矿中,Carmichael煤矿的进展最快。

据开发商介绍,Carmichael原本是资本成本高达160亿澳元的超级煤矿,现在的规模已经降至20亿澳元(14亿美元),年产量目标为2750万吨。开始动工后,类似规模的项目一般需要建设两年。

2016年以来的热煤价格增长了一倍以上,动力来自亚洲各电力公司的旺盛需求。鲜有新资源得到开发意味着今后几年热煤价格仍将居高不下,这让阿达尼下定决心在加利利盆地推进这个项目。

瑞银集团的分析师在2019年全球大宗商品展望报告中指出:“今后10年的前中期,新供应就得取代消耗殆尽的项目。煤炭出口链比此前许多年都更容易受到影响,因此煤炭价格应该上涨。”

变化之风

在全球舞台上,减少电煤使用的压力越来越大。今年10月,联合国授意的一篇报告呼吁在2050年之前淘汰燃煤发电,以免气候变化带来巨大损失。

文特谨慎地表示,贷款机构越发不愿意在煤炭领域投资,因此加利利盆地的其他项目有可能遇到和阿达尼一样的问题。但他指出,在公司具有相应资本实力的情况下,自筹资金在能源行业并非罕见现象。

阿达尼计划的主要批评者蒂姆·巴克利也认为Carmichael煤矿可能成为开发加利利盆地的先锋。“它的年产量或许会降至只有1000万吨,但它有可能促成最多3亿吨的产量。这是个气候灾难。”

作为私营机构Energy Economics and Financial Analysis的一位经济学家,巴克利说阿达尼也有可能只会建成一处“搁浅”资产。

煤矿开发商的风险在于可再生能源的经济性正在变得越来越吸引人。阿达尼打算把Carmichael煤矿的大多数煤炭送往印度,而印度的风力和太阳能发电成本已经较低。

阿达尼也认为可再生能源将在未来的能源结构中发挥越来越重要的作用,他还通过同样设在昆士兰的Rugby Run太阳能电站等项目参与到这个领域中。“但我们必须确保有可靠而且廉价的能源资源,而煤炭在这一方面可以发挥关键作用。”一位公司发言人这样表示。

印度正在努力提升可再生能源发电量,但国际能源署仍然预计,要满足印度快速增长的能源需求,到2023年其煤炭需求量将保持4%左右的年均增速。在最新行业展望中,该机构将印度称为“煤炭最保险的赌注”。

巴克利说,阿达尼将急于在明年的联邦选举前启动该项目,因为主要反对派工党可能在大选后组建政府。工党高级官员已经表示反对这个项目,但他们会不会积极予以制止还不得而知,因为后者有可能给当地带来数千个就业机会。(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校:夏林

The world’s most contentious coal project is edging closer toward development, potentially unlocking one of the biggest untapped resources even as a debate rages around the fuel’s future.

Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s Carmichael is located in Australia’s huge Galilee Basin, which covers around 250,000 square kilometers—about the size of the U.K. If the region is fully developed, it has potential to more than double Australia’s thermal coal exports, according to government estimates.

The Adani Group, which will self-finance the project after potential lenders dropped off, will also build infrastructure, including a vital rail line to help transport the coal to the coast for export. The International Energy Agency says its success will determine the fate of other large projects in the Galilee, including India’s GVK Group and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Alpha Coal project.

Australia is already the world’s second-largest exporter of power station coal, contributing more than 200 million metric tons a year to the global seaborne trade. If Carmichael—along with its railroad—gets built, it will be despite almost a decade of concerted opposition from environmental groups.

“Adani with Carmichael could prove a catalyst for opening up the frontier Galilee Basin in central Queensland, with other big coal mines expected to follow,” says Gavin Wendt, director at research house Minelife. “I don’t think you’ll see those projects coming to market without the critical mass that Adani will provide in terms of bringing infrastructure into play.”

The International Energy Agency describes Carmichael as “probably the most controversial coal project currently under development” and says it’s making the most progress of the several large mines that are being planned.

Carmichael, which has been scaled back to a A$2 billion ($1.4 billion) capital cost from its initial plan for a A$16 billion mega-mine, will build up to a production target of 27.5 million tons a year, according to the developer. Once work has started, projects on a similar scale typically take around two years to construct.

Thermal coal prices have more than doubled since 2016, driven by strong demand from power generators across Asia. A dearth of new resources being commissioned points to prices remaining high in the years ahead, driving Adani’s determination to press ahead in the Galilee.

“New supply to replace depletion will be needed by early-mid next decade,” analysts at UBS Group AG said in their 2019 global commodities outlook. “Coal export chains are more vulnerable to shocks than for many years, hence prices should trade higher.”

Winds of Change

On the global stage, pressure to reduce coal use in power generation is growing. A United Nations-backed report in October called for coal-fired power to be phased out by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage from climate change.

There’s a growing reluctance by lenders to invest in coal, so other projects in the Galilee are likely to encounter the same challenges as Adani, Wendt cautioned. Though, he noted that self-funding was not unusual in the resources sector if companies have the balance sheet capacity.

Tim Buckley, a prominent critic of Adani’s plans, agreed that Carmichael could be a beach-head for the Galilee’s development. “It might only be down to a 10 million ton per annum mine but it enables potentially up to 300 million tons. That is a climate catastrophe.”

Equally, Adani may just end up building a stranded asset, said Buckley, an economist at the privately funded Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

The risk for coal developers is that the economics of renewables is becoming more compelling. In India, where Adani plans to send most of its coal, wind and solar generation is already cheaper.

Adani accepts renewables will play an increasingly important role in the future energy mix, and is involved in the sector via projects such as its Rugby Run solar farm, also in Queensland. “But we must also ensure our energy sources are reliable and affordable, and that is where coal has a critical role to play,” a company spokesperson said.

India is pushing hard to expand renewables output, yet the IEA still sees coal demand there growing by around 4% a year through 2023 to meet the country’s fast-expanding energy needs. In its latest outlook for the industry, the IEA called India “coal’s safest bet.”

Adani will be keen to get started on the project before next year’s federal election, which may see the main opposition Labor party form government, Buckley said. Senior Labor officials have voiced opposition to the project, yet it’s an open question whether they would actively seek to block it, given its potential to add thousands of jobs in the region.

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