German energy giant RWE vows action against climate activists

Environmental activists block the rails during a protest against climate change outside the Neurath Power Station near Rommerskirchen, Germany. (Reuters)
Updated 27 June 2019

German energy giant RWE vows action against climate activists

  • A thousand activists invaded the vast Garzweiler lignite mine
  • RWE say that having given “many warnings” about trespassing

BERLIN: German energy giant RWE said Sunday it will be seeking prosecutions after hundreds of climate activists occupied their open-cast mine at the weekend to protest against the use of coal.

Following a cat-and-mouse game with police on Saturday, around a thousand activists invaded the vast Garzweiler lignite mine, some 43 km west of Cologne.

Police say it took until Sunday morning to completely clear the area of protesters, who RWE accuse of trespassing and arson.

Around eight officers were injured during the protests, according to police, but no figures were given on how many protesters were taken into custody.

The action was part of a series of protests as Garzweiler, which covers 48 square km, supplies lignite, or brown coal, to power stations in the region.

HIGHLIGHT

Between 20,000 and 40,000 young activists from 17 countries flocked to Aachen near the Dutch and Belgian borders Friday for a huge show of force of the school-strike movement launched by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

“The group has no sympathy for the 1,300 ‘activists’ who illegally entered the Garzweiler opencast mine and occupied the tracks on the coal supply lines,” said RWE in a statement.

“In addition, there were several arson attacks on a pump station, switch cabinets and vehicles.”

The “Ende Gelaende” (EG) protesters want to shut down RWE’s operations and end Germany’s use of climate-damaging coal-fired power stations long before the government’s cut-off target of 2038.

The German phrase “Ende Gelaende” means that something is irrevocably finished — similar to “end of story” — which is how the protesters feel about the fossil fuel age.

Many of those who took part in the occupation were school pupils and students who were part of the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations the day before.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 young activists from 17 countries flocked to Aachen near the Dutch and Belgian borders Friday for a huge show of force of the school-strike movement launched by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

According to EG organizers, about 8000 people also took part in a rally in the small town of Keyenberg, near the Garzweiler mine, on Saturday.

Hundreds of climate protesters then entered the vast mine, bringing excavation to a standstill.

RWE say that having given “many warnings” about trespassing, they will be taking action “against all criminal offenses in connection with any occupations and blockades that have taken place.”

On Friday, 500 activists managed to cut off the supply of coal to the nearby Neurath plant, one of Germany’s main coal-fired power stations, by sitting down on the rail tracks the supply trains use.

Police said the tracks between the Neurath and Niederaussem power plants were still blocked on Sunday morning.

RWE said that despite “enormous disruption,” the “operation of the power plants and electricity generation were never at risk.”

However, “the company has suffered an economic loss, which is currently being determined.”

RWE insists it is “fully committed to climate protection targets” and says that between 2012 and 2018, the company reduced CO2 emissions by “60 million tons or 34 percent.”

“There is a plan on the table for phasing-out coal and there is no reason to endanger people and carry out illegal actions,” says Frank Weigand, CEO of RWE Power.

“We naturally respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protests such as ‘Fridays for Future’.

“But it is not acceptable to deliberately break the law under the guise of climate protection.

“Blocking tracks and entering opencast mines is dangerous and against the law.”


Tankers defer retrofits to cash in on freight rates

Updated 19 October 2019

Tankers defer retrofits to cash in on freight rates

  • The rates for chartering a supertanker from the US Gulf Coast to Singapore hit record highs of more than $17 million and a record $22 million to China earlier this week

SINGAPORE: Tankers that had been scheduled to install emissions-cutting equipment ahead of stricter pollution standards starting in 2020 have deferred their visits to the dry docks to capitalize on an unexpected surge in freight rates, three trade sources said.

US sanctions on subsidiaries of vast Chinese shipping fleet Cosco in September sparked a surge in global oil shipping rates as traders scrambled to find non-blacklisted vessels to get their oil to market.

The rates for chartering a supertanker from the US Gulf Coast to Singapore hit record highs of more than $17 million and a record $22 million to China earlier this week.

By comparison, prior to the sanctions, shipping crude from the US Gulf to China cost around $6 million-$8 million.

The extraordinary spike in freight rates proved too good to miss for some shipowners who were due to send vessels to the dry docks for lengthy retrofitting and maintenance work.

“We can confirm several owners have postponed dry docking earlier scheduled for the months of October and November to take advantage of the skyrocketing freight rates,” said Rahul Kapoor, head of maritime and trade research at IHS Markit in Singapore.

The shortage of ships to move crude oil was so acute that some shipowners also switched from carrying so-called “clean” or refined fuels like gasoline to “dirty” cargoes that include crude oil, despite the costs of having to clean them later.

“Current rate levels are a no-brainer for pushing back scrubber retrofitting,” said Kapoor.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires the use of marine fuel with a sulfur limit of 0.5 percent, down from 3.5 percent currently, significantly inflating shippers’ fuel bills.

Only ships fitted with expensive exhaust cleaning systems, known as scrubbers, which can remove sulfur from emissions, will be allowed to continue burning cheaper high-sulfur fuels.

Ships must be sidelined for up to 60 days for fitting these, according to IHS Markit and DNV GL.

While freight rates have abruptly come off their recent highs, shipowners can still profit from the higher charges.

“One cargo loading at current elevated rate levels can not only finance the scrubber capex, but also account for extra costs incurred to install the scrubber at a later date,” said Kapoor, referring to the capital expenditure of fitting the scrubber.

Freight rates are expected to hold firm for the rest of the year.

“With seasonal demand support and tanker supply deficit still pronounced, we expect (fourth-quarter) tanker freight rates to stay elevated and end the year on a high note,” Kapoor said.