Emissions sources begin to shift in 2013: RepuTex

REPUTEX forecasts that Australia’s greenhouse emissions growth will slow this year, largely on the back of reduced output from the metals sector and growing renewable power generation.

Richard Collins

The carbon analytics firm expects emissions to grow by just 0.4% from 2012 levels to be more than 10 million tonnes. Interestingly, this is 3% lower than projected under a business as usual scenario without a carbon price.

RepuTex forecasts greenhouse emissions across the formal Carbon Price Mechanism (CPM) via the facility level modelling of over 750 of the country’s largest carbon-emitting plants/sites. The research shows emissions growth in 2013 to be driven by the power, energy and mining sectors, with power emissions forecast to grow 1.2% but muted by increased renewable and gas capacity.

The power sector will remain the largest source of carbon emissions in 2013, accounting for 59% of all CPM emissions, followed by mining at 17%.

“One of the key issues facing the power sector is that rising gas prices will hamper gas generation’s ability to compete with coal”, said RepuTex associate director of research, Bret Harper.

“We see coal maintaining its share of Australia’s generation mix through 2016, when government assistance to brown coal generators expires. From that point the floating carbon price is expected to provide good support to renewable generation, so we anticipate a real decline in power emissions from 2017-18.”

RepuTex forecasts black coal generation to grow by around 20% through 2020, whereas brown coal is forecast to decline nearly 17% over the same period. Total coal generation is set to increase 8% by 2020, but with a resultant rise in emissions of only 4%, reflecting increased usage of less carbon-intensive black coal.

Emissions from petroleum refining and gas processing, both of which face significant regional competition, will decline in 2013, by 3% and almost 9% respectively as domestic output slows.

Notably, emissions from the metals sector are forecast to drop 6% over 2013, driven by a downturn in Australia’s steel and aluminium industries, with steel emissions forecast to contract over 20% from 2012 levels, in line with reduced production.

“We’re seeing the combined impact of both carbon pricing and major sectoral changes within the Australian economy steadily shifting the country’s emissions profile”, said Harper.

“The effect of forthcoming closures such as Kurri Kurri Aluminium and Caltex’s Kurnell refinery is set to be mitigated by the number of massive new projects within the oil and gas sector.”

The five largest such developments – Browse (Woodside, 2018), Wheatstone (Chevron, 2016), Gorgon (Chevron, 2015), Australia Pacific LNG (ConocoPhillips, 2016) and Icthys (INPEX, 2017) – once online will be the largest emitting facilities in Australia’s energy sector. Between them they are forecast to account for around 40% of the entire sector’s emissions by 2020.