Australia's QPM to focus on gas, cut Tech battery spend

  • Spanish Market: Battery materials, Electricity, Metals, Natural gas
  • 22/04/24

Australian battery metals refiner Queensland Pacific Metals (QPM) will focus on energy markets via its Moranbah gas project (MGP) and limit further expenditure on its Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (Tech) project.

The firm will switch its prioritisation to its wholly-owned QPM Energy (QPME) business, with QPME's chief executive David Wrench to be appointed as QPM chief executive, the company said on 22 April.

MGP's coal mine waste gas output from nearby the coal mining hub of Moranbah in Queensland's Bowen basin will be increased to 35 TJ/d (935,000 m³/d) by late 2024, up from October-December 2023's 28 TJ/d, with QPME to accelerate production and reserves to provide required peaking power for the national electricity market (NEM) via Thai-controlled energy firm Ratch Australia's 242MW Townsville Power Station.

QPME aims to drill a further seven wells by the year's end, increase workovers and increase production from third-party supply of waste mine gas from regional coal mines.

The company is also seeking to develop a portfolio of plants to supply up to 300MW of gas-fired power to the NEM, while compressed natural gas and micro-LNG facilities will also be developed in Townsville and Moranbah, QPME said.

A surge in government support for renewable power generation in order to meet Australia's 2030 emissions target by retiring coal-fired power means more gas-peaking plants will likely be needed in the coming years to support variable generators. But Australia's domestic gas supply is forecast to experience shortfalls this decade, with predictions of a 76 PJ/yr gap in 2028.

The Tech project which aims to produce 16,000 t/yr of nickel and 1,750 t/yr of cobalt sulphates from imported laterite ore saw its funding significantly reduced in February because of what QPM described as a "challenging investment environment" resulting from depressed nickel prices.


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23/05/24

US poised to back New Jersey offshore wind farms

US poised to back New Jersey offshore wind farms

Houston, 23 May (Argus) — US regulators could soon approve two offshore wind projects near New Jersey, but with stipulations that would slightly reduce the number of turbines installed in the Atlantic Ocean. The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) favors a design for the Atlantic Shores South system that would result in up to 195 turbines, as many as 10 offshore substations and eight transmission cables to ferry electricity ashore to New Jersey, the agency said today in its final environmental impact statement for the project. Atlantic Shores South comprises two separate projects, Atlantic Shores 1 and Atlantic Shores 2, which are 50:50 partnerships between Shell and EDF Renewables. The pair's overall capacity is tentatively set at 2,837MW, with the first phase targeting 1,510MW and a size for the second to be determined. Atlantic Shores 1 has a contract to deliver up to 6.18mn offshore renewable energy certificates each year to New Jersey, with first power expected in 2027. The state selected the project through its second offshore wind solicitation, with the 20-year contract scheduled to begin in 2028. The developers had proposed installing up to 200 turbines, but BOEM decided to favor a modified plan, adopting alternatives put forward by the companies in the name of mitigating impacts on local habitats while limiting turbine height and their proximity to the shore to reduce the project's "visual impacts," a point of contention among New Jersey residents who fear damage to tourism in oceanside communities. The BOEM-endorsed design would have mostly "minor" to "moderate" effects on the surrounding environment, with exceptions including consequences for North Atlantic right whales, commercial and for-hire fisheries and local scenery, which could be "major." The areas potentially hit hardest by the projects would be open to "major" consequences regardless of the project design, according to BOEM's analysis. The preference is not BOEM's final ruling, but it does herald the path the agency is likely to take. Regulators will publish the review in a "coming" edition of the Federal Register, starting a mandatory 30-day waiting period before BOEM can publish its final decision on the project. By Patrick Zemanek Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

RE monazite demand shifts mineral sands supply chain


23/05/24
23/05/24

RE monazite demand shifts mineral sands supply chain

London, 23 May (Argus) — Interest in monazite as a feedstock for rare earth (RE) processing is rising as producers look for sources outside China, bringing mineral sands projects into the RE supply chain. Deposits of RE elements are typically found in rock formations including carbonatites and granites, in calc-silicate sequences and ionic adsorption clay deposits — primarily in China and surrounding countries. But as downstream consumers and governments increasingly look to diversify their supply chains, monazite is becoming attractive as an alternative source. Monazite is a phosphate mineral that contains about 55-60pc RE oxides. It contains 17 RE elements, including cerium, neodymium, lanthanum, thorium and yttrium. Reflecting this, US-based uranium and rare earths producer Energy Fuels is acquiring Australia-based mineral sands developer Base Resources to gain access to the monazite stream from its Toliara project in Africa as an RE feedstock. The Toliara heavy mineral sands project in Madagascar plans to produce monazite as a by-product of its primary titanium and zirconium output. The acquisition marks Energy Fuels' entry into the mineral sands business as it invests in operations in Australia, Brazil and Madagascar to supply RE concentrate. Toliara's monazite stream will provide the feedstock Energy Fuels needs for RE oxide production at its White Mesa uranium and vanadium mill in Utah. The facility will also process the uranium content from the feed and if needed, it can recover thorium. The mill has been processing monazite to produce a mixed RE carbonate, which it has been selling commercially since 2021. "We're putting together two pieces of the puzzle that nobody has put together," Energy Fuels president and chief executive Mark Chalmers said at the recent Metal Events Rare Earths conference in Singapore. "We're putting together the physical metallurgy and the hydrometallurgy." White Mesa has been processing monazite supplied by US titanium dioxide producer Chemours. But its output has been limited as there is not enough monazite in the feed, Chalmers said, whereas Toliara contains more than 1mn t of monazite and has about 1.5mn t of existing tailings capacity. Energy Fuels is in the process of commissioning its Phase 1 neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) separation facility, which is scheduled to start production by the end of the first half of 2024. It plans to produce 35t of NdPr oxalate in 2024. Phase 1 will have the capacity to process 8,000-10,000 t/yr of monazite to produce up to 800-1,000 t/yr of NdPr oxide. The company plans to increase its NdPr capacity to 3,000 t/yr in 2026-27 and add heavy RE processing in 2027-28. It is starting to pilot heavy RE separation and is exploring moving downstream into metal and alloy production. The first stage of Base's Toliara project, scheduled for September 2027, aims to produce an average of 17,400 t/yr of monazite. The second stage would ramp up to 26,100 t/yr. Energy Fuels also owns the Bahia project in Brazil, which could supply 4,000-5,000 t/yr of monazite to White Mesa Mill to produce 400-500 t/yr of NdPr oxide and 20-25 t/yr of dysprosium and terbium oxides. Energy Fuels has the potential to produce 4,000-6,000 t/yr of NdPr oxide, 150-225 t/yr of dysprosium oxide and 50-75 t/yr of terbium oxide, which would supply enough magnetic RE oxides to supply 3mn-6mn electric vehicles (EVs) per year. RE oxides are in demand from US, European and Asian EV, wind energy and other clean energy manufacturers, as well as emerging commercial metal-making, alloying and magnet-making facilities that are under development in the US. The US defence industry could include offtake of other non-magnetic oxides contained in monazite. Developments at other mineral sands producers outside China also indicate that demand for concentrate for its monazite content rather than zircon or titanium is on the rise. Indonesia-focused zircon producer PYX Resources said last week that it has made its first shipment of monazite-rich zircon concentrate to a customer in Hainan, China, exporting 750t. PYX expects to report further exports in the future. Mineral sands producer Iluka is also moving into the RE market using its monazite by-product. The company has stockpiled monazite since the 1990s at its Narngulu Mineral Separation Plant in Eneabba, Western Australia. Iluka is now developing RE production at Eneabba, commissioning a concentrator plant to process the stockpiled material. It will separate the monazite and additional zircon to produce a 90pc concentrate to feed its RE refinery. The company aims to produce neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium oxides from 2026. It holds other mineral sands deposits that could feed the RE refinery, and it will be able to handle third-party deposits if it requires additional feedstock. Companies had stopped processing monazite owing to the high cost of disposing radioactive thorium. But thorium is now becoming attractive for advanced nuclear reactor design and medical isotopes, which could drive offtake. By Nicole Willing Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Record-high EU antimony prices in 'uncharted territory'


23/05/24
23/05/24

Record-high EU antimony prices in 'uncharted territory'

London, 23 May (Argus) — European antimony prices hit fresh record highs this week after a prolonged period of supply constraints, and the latest hikes are drawing concern from even the most experienced traders as they navigate an increasingly opaque and speculative spot market. Prices for regulus grade II and trioxide in Europe were assessed at $18,500-19,500/t today, up by 14pc from a week ago and 55pc higher than this time last year, when prices were $12,000-12,400/t. Higher price indications are emerging daily, with some offers heard as high as $20,000/t in Rotterdam this week. The upswing has gathered pace significantly since 9 April, underpinned by depleting domestic resources in China and limited concentrate coming into Europe from various parts of the world. The continuing war in Myanmar (Burma) — a major source of antimony ore, most of which is exported to China — is exacerbating the supply tightness. Meanwhile, Oman-based strategic and precious metals firm SPMP suspended production at its Oman Antimony Roaster plant at the start of 2024 and is still not offering material, chief executive Joel Montgomery told Argus this week. The reasons for the suspension have not been disclosed. The status of Russian producer Polyus remains unclear, but the firm is not delivering as much raw material as in the past, Argus understands. And Tajikstan is currently producing more antimony ingot and selling less ore, according to market participants. "The market is becoming more opaque, with less information on the largest players," consultancy firm Hallgarten's principal and mining strategist, Christopher Ecclestone, told Argus . He added that supply of ore — or concentrate — is inelastic, as artisanal producers are currently operating at maximum capacity. On the demand side, China is directing significant volumes of antimony trioxide and antimony selenide toward its manufacturers of solar photovoltaic glass. With a container to Europe now costing around half a million dollars, traders have largely stepped back from the spot market, waiting for the current volatility to ease, and minimal stocks are available in Rotterdam for spot bookings. A significant volume of antimony arrived in Rotterdam recently and has already been locked into long-term contracts, but this has not stunted the rally, a market source told Argus . "Antimony is becoming a crazy dangerous market," a trader told Argus . It is hurting the industry, causing irreparable damage," he added, noting that consumers are getting hit by the higher prices and reduced availability. Antimony is largely used as a flame retardant in electrical and electronic equipment and textiles, alloys (lead-acid batteries), wires and cables, ceramics, and glass. With prices at record highs, market participants are looking for ways to ease the supply crunch or their consumption rates, but there are no easy options available. On the supply side, recycling streams are already heavily utilised after a major push in 2011, when prices hit their previous record high of around $17,100/t. Around a quarter of global antimony supply is currently produced through the recycling of antimony-bearing metal alloys. On the consumption side, demand from the flame-retardant sector fell by around 20pc in 2023 because of the weak macroeconomic environment, according to one buyer. It is difficult to develop alternative materials that can act as a substitute. Zinc borates and zinc stannates can sometimes substitute antimony trioxide, but only in specific formulations. Antimony substitutes can run into performance issues in various applications, especially in flame retardants because of the weakening of the polymer, sources said. "Antimony could be replaced in solar uses, but that is still a small portion of the market, even though it is growing," Ecclestone said. For now, speculation remains rife as to how high prices are likely to go before hitting a ceiling. "When the increase is supply driven, there is a moment when it falls [...] It cannot stick for too much longer," a trader said. Some sources expect the price rally to run out of steam in July-August because of the summer demand lull. Producers of flame-retardant products typically pause operations in June-July, and there could be a two-week period of maintenance, Argus understands. "The bubble is going to burst once it reaches $20,000/t," another trader estimated. By Cristina Belda Antimony trioxide Europe vs China $/t Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

India’s AMNS signs 10-year LNG supply deal with Shell


23/05/24
23/05/24

India’s AMNS signs 10-year LNG supply deal with Shell

Mumbai, 23 May (Argus) — Indian steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel (AMNS) has signed a 10-year deal to buy LNG from Shell, with deliveries to start from 2027, people with direct knowledge of the matter have said. Under the terms of the deal, the steelmaker's direct reduced iron (DRI) plant in the western Gujarat state of Hazira will receive 500,000 t/yr of LNG, Argus understands. The Hazira plant has crude steel production capacity of 8.8mn t/yr, according to ArcelorMittal's 2023 annual report. As much as 65pc of the capacity is based on DRI. AMNS also has a deal with TotalEnergies for 500,000 t/yr that is scheduled to expire in 2026 . This deal comes at a time when AMNS plans to expand its steel capacity to 20mn t/yr in the long run . This supply pact also underscores a trend in the global steel industry to use cleaner energy sources to produce the so-called 'green steel'. The firm imports up to 75pc of its 1.72mn t in natural gas requirements on an annualised basis, a source said. The deal was signed at a 11.5pc percentage of Brent crude prices, trading firms said, adding that this is so far the lowest-heard slope for an Indian term LNG supply contract. AMNS sought LNG supply for a period of 5-10 years starting in 2027 under a tender that closed in mid-March. The firm last sought long-term LNG in 2022 through a tender for 400,000 t/yr of LNG to be delivered across 2025-30. Indian importers will continue to seek term supply despite softening spot prices, mostly to hedge their risks in a market that can still be volatile, trading companies said. The Argus front-month price for LNG deliveries to India was assessed at $11.50/mn Btu today, up from $10.16/mn Btu a week earlier. The price reached as high as $48.30/mn Btu in August 2022. The firm has lowered its carbon emissions by 32pc in calendar year 2022 from 2015 levels, it said. By Rituparna Ghosh Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Shell to step up gas exploration in Oman


23/05/24
23/05/24

Shell to step up gas exploration in Oman

Dubai, 23 May (Argus) — Shell Oman is actively looking to explore more wells in the sultanate's onshore blocks after production reached a "little above" the plateau target of 500mn ft³/d (5.2bn m³/yr) in its core block 10 this month, according to the oil company's country chairman, Walid Hadi. Hadi told Argus that the company has embarked on an "aggressive exploration" campaign to unlock the potential in Oman's core onshore blocks 10 and 11 in which Shell has operating stakes. The blocks are part of the gas-rich Greater Barik area in the northern segment of state-controlled PDO's block 6 concession in the central region of Oman. "Oman is a niche gas sector," Hadi said. "It may not be the biggest LNG exporter in the world, but there is quite a sophisticated and high-quality gas system in place." Shell, which is also the majority private shareholder in state-owned Oman LNG, expects to boost gas production for domestic purposes and eventually for exports, according to Hadi. "We will require new gas if we are going into LNG," he said. "We know there is more potential in the blocks, but we still don't know at what scale it can produce as the two blocks are a combination of undiscovered and discovered resources." TotalEnergies said earlier this year that Oman LNG was eyeing a fourth train at its 11.4mn t/yr Qalhat LNG export terminal, having already added 1mn t/yr in liquefaction capacity through plant debottlenecking. Hadi said that Shell is planning on a "material increase" in gas production and would be able to conclude the growth potential of the blocks by mid or late 2025, when it completes the exploration programme. Gas from block 10 is sold to the government through the Integrated Gas Company, which is the entity that allocates the gas across different sectors based on certain policies and value criteria, according to Hadi. Shell has a 53.45pc stake in the block, with Marsa LNG and OQ holding 33.19pc and 13.36pc, respectively. The partners signed the concession agreement for block 10 in December 2021. The adjacent block 11 was awarded to OQ and TotalEnergies in 2021. When it comes to block 11, the company did make a material gas discovery, which is being appraised this year, but it is too early to talk about the production potential, Hadi said. "We also see quite a bit of potential in block 11 already." "Exploration is a very tricky business," he added. "You have to go after a lot of things and only few will end up working. We are at a very aggressive exploration campaign at the moment. We also expect by the end of 2025, we would be in a much better position to determine the next wave of growth and where it's going to come from." By Rithika Krishna Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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