Geographical Distribution of Coal Reserves and Mines in China

Geographically, the coal resources are concentrated on North China, with all of 69% being located in the provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. About half of the run-of-mine coal was mined in these provinces. Only 7% was extracted in opencast pits and 93% in underground mines, where long walling dominates 93% of operations.

Las year Inner Mongolia overtook Shanxi to become the largest producer of coal, producing 637 Mt to Shanxi’s 615 Mt and Shaanxi’s 296 Mt. The majority of which is exported out of the state. Over the long-term the Inner Mongolian region to remain as the main coal producing region, especially with plant closures in the Shanxi province. In 2010 production output in Inner Mongolia is expected to reach 600 Mt riding to 800 Mt in 2015 and 1,000 Mt in 2020. Compared to the Shanxi province where output is expected to only grow by 10.4% annually to 800 Mt in 2020.

The country’s coking resources are estimated at 278 billion tonnes. Only 25% is shallower than 400 metres and this is where 90% of mining activity occurs. Half occur in highly gaseous districts and has peaked in Shandong, Anhui and in the North East.


Coal mining is a public-sector industry under the control of the State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC). The authority in charge is the State Administration of the Coal Industry (SACI). Here, the central government is increasingly focusing on the areas of welfare and mine safety, while most of the day-to-day business, including production, is left to the local administrations or provincial governments.

Town and Village Enterprises (TVEs) own 38% of the mines in operation and state sector owns the other 62%. The latter accounted for 52% of coal production output in 2009.

Malicious intent possibilities with smart grid systems

On a small scale neighbour could turn off another neighbour’s power supply. Moving up rogue groups could cause widespread power outages or co-ordinate power outages to attack sensitive facilities. At the largest scale governments could remotely shut down smart meters to meet energy saving targets or to control national dissent.

It has been reported that only 300,000 or 12% of Pacific Gas & Electric’s 2.5 million installed smart meters have their remote disconnect function disabled. Therefore these meters in Northern California could be disabled remotely. This could result in the utility disabling meters for minor infractions such as missing a one bill payment.

Alternately, a computer worm could be used to move from meter to meter. Then control all the meters in the grid by remotely shutting down the meters or affecting communication between the utility and the consumer. Or hackers could impersonate meters to inflate bills, lower bills (energy theft) or get into the utility’s network and steal data or commit a large scale attack.

Inguardians and Industrial Defender have identified numerous attack sites for the smart grid. Therefore, a cyber security solution for the grid must be able to prevent and resolve attacks quickly before several attacks collectively disable a system. A multi-layered approach to security is needed using several anti-attack strategies. As it is inevitable that some smart meters will become compromised, this is not an area for utilities to scrimp on and make cuts.

Smart Grid data privacy issues

The former refers to a range of potential problems from the improper use of the information. It is possible that an employee at a utility could use information from a smart meters to determine when customers are out of their house or have purchased new electrical items, and thus when to steal the owners possessions or stalk them. To reiterate this point, Google has recently come under fire in the UK because its street view cars captured the username and passwords of emails from households using wireless networks. If this went into the wrong hands, it would be relatively easy to commit large scale credit card fraud, for example.

Utilities or other companies could use the information for marketing purposes or use consumption behaviour data to introduce non-competitive pricing. By introducing very low pricing targeted towards the individual consumer to drive competitors off the market.

Not to mention utilities need to store all of this data and also source sufficient storage facilities that has both the capacity needed and is very secure. It is not unfeasible that utilities may need store exabytes (million terabytes) of data, which will be costly. In August 2010 it is estimated that storage of one exabyte costs US $500 million. However, every year the cost of storage halves and the storage of this information may cost US $4,000 in 2025.

It is also possible that applications will be developed whereby real-time energy usage is uploaded onto a twitter page or facebook account using a special application. Consumers may inadvertently give this information to hackers or so called ‘friends’ that use this information to stalk the consumer or burgle their house.

There needs to be regulation in place to ensure that similar incidents don’t take place with data generated from the smart grid. While data privacy laws are in place in most of the major smart grid markets, nothing specifically refers to the smart grid. In September 2010 a law with new privacy protections for consumers’ energy use data was signed in California. This legislation includes specific information on information disclosure, data security/protection, liability, and continued use.

Nuclear Power in the Gulf

In December 2006 the six member States of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Oman) commissioned a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and in February 2007 agreed to cooperate with the IAEA. There is high interest in the possibilities of nuclear power in tandem with desalination.

The Kuwaiti government is planning to build four new 1,000 MW nuclear power plants by 2022. In 2010 the country signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with France and Japan in addition to its earlier agreement with Russia. However, the Kuwait Investment Authority acquired a 4.8% stake in Areva for EUR 600 million and French involvement in the sector seems likely.

Three companies, the Shaw Group, Toshiba and Exelon, have announced that they are collaborating to pursue nuclear power projects in Saudi Arabia. In April 2010 the Saudi government set up a high-level organisation to oversee its nuclear projects.

Another country in the region, the UAE, is also making some steps towards the development of nuclear power. In 2009 the country introduced law for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy including ‘the development of a robust system for the licensing and control of nuclear materials’ and penalties for misuse and domestic uranium enrichment. Overseeing the development of the nuclear sector will be the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation with the first plant scheduled to begin operations in 2017. Two nuclear plants are planned within the country.

In January 2010 a Korean consortium led by KEPCO won a USD 20 million tender to build four APR1400 reactors in the UAE. Commissioning of the first 1,400MW unit in Braka is expected in 2017 with the remaining three between 2017 and 2020. Construction licences for the projects were submitted in early 2011.

Dubai is also considering using nuclear power to produce electricity and desalinated water.

The UAE has signed nuclear agreements with the USA, Korea and France.

Nuclear Power in Australia

Australia has large energy resources with significant petroleum, natural gas and coal reserves. Energy consumption is dominated by coal, which fuels most of the country’s power generation. Petroleum accounts for a large share of energy consumption, but due to declining output, the country is facing a growing dependence on petroleum imports. Over the past two decades, Australia has steadily consumed increasing amounts of natural gas, which is likely to continue over the medium term. Australia is a major energy exporter, with exports amounting to 69% of production in 2008. Australia is the world’s fourth largest coal producer. Rapidly rising living standards consume much of the energy produced and the continent faces increasing fears of drought.

Australia has no nuclear power plants. However, Australia has 23% of the world’s uranium deposits and is the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada. At the same time Australia’s extensive, low-cost coal and natural gas reserves have historically been used as strong arguments for avoiding nuclear power.

The Australian government lifted a ban on the mining of uranium at the end of 2009.

In February 2010 the Prime Minister of Australia announced that the country will not develop nuclear power plants for civil purposes.

Australia has operated a research reactor since 1956.

Following various studies, in November 2006 a report considering nuclear power was released. It found nuclear power expensive and only competitive if carbon costs are included but stated that the first nuclear plants could be running in 15 years, and looking beyond that, 25 reactors at coastal sites could supply one third of Australia’s electricity demand by 2050, which will be twice the present level.

In 2007 the government proposed the development of nuclear power but was defeated by the opposition.

Shale oil

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that there is 2 trillion barrels of shale oil resources in place in the US, with over 70% located on federal land. This equates to around 60% of global resources.

Of the 2 trillion barrels 1.5 trillion barrels is thought to be located in the Piceance Basin of Colorado and the remaining 0.5 trillion barrels is located in the Utah, Wyoming and the Eastern states. Oil shale reserves in the west (in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming) have a higher calorific value than reserves in the east in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. It is worth noting that that these are resources and not reserves.

The largest deposit is the Eocene Green River Formation in north western Colorado, north eastern Utah and south western Wyoming accounts for 83% of deposits. Of this the most recoverable is in the Piceance Basin in western Colorado and the Uinta Basin in eastern Utah. A total of 5% of deposits are located in the east of the US in the Devonian-Mississippian marine black shales. These shales haves a low hydrogen to carbon ratio and thus less oil than the Green River shale, but has by-products that could be a significant source of revenue e.g. uranium, vanadium and molybdenum. By-products for the Green River shale include dolomite, nahcolite, and dawsonite.

A problem with the Piceance Basin is that part of the oil shale is immersed in ground water. This presents a challenge for in situ oil shale processing because temperatures need to be below the boiling point of water, unless the oil shale can be isolated somehow. For example, Shell’s process outlined below.

Currently the US has 60% of all resources mostly located in the West in the Green River Formation, which spreads through parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Oil Shale & Shale Oil

It is worth noting that ‘oil shale’ is neither ‘oil’ nor ‘shale’ and should in act be called ‘kerogen saturated marl’.

Most oil shale is a fine-grain sedimentary rock containing significant amounts of an organic bituminous material known as kerogen and can be a precursor to conventional oil. Oil shale composition varies from location to location due to the wide range of environments that oil shale has formed. Essentially oil shale is immature petroleum, usually located at shallower depths than conventional oil.

The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) defines oil shale as ‘organic-rich shale that yields substantial quantities of oil by conventional methods of destructive distillation of the contained organic matter, which employ low confining pressures in a closed retort system.’ (Retorting involves heating in the absence of oxygen at temperatures of up to 500oC.) Furthermore, the USGS defines oil shale as ‘any part of an organic-rich shale deposit that yields at least 10 gallons (3.8%) of oil per ton of shale’.

The groups of oil shales have been identified:

  • ‘Lacustrine: composed of lipid-rich organic matter derived from algae that lived in freshwater, brackish, or saline lakes.
  • Marine: are composed of lipid-rich organic matter derived from marine algae, acritarchs (unicellular microorganisms of questionable origin), and marine dinoflagellates (one-celled organisms with a flagellum).
  • Terrestrial: composed of lipid-rich organic matter such as resins, spores, waxy cuticles, and corky tissue of roots and stems of vascular terrestrial plants commonly found in coal-forming swamps and bogs’.

Three types of components of oil shale known as ‘macerals’ have been identified:

  • ‘Telalginite: structured organic matter composed of large colonial or thick-walled unicellular algae such as Botryococcus and Tasmanites.
  • Lamalginite: thin-walled colonial or unicellular algae that occur as distinct laminae, but display little or no recognisable biologic structures.
  • Bituminite: amorphous, lacks recognisable biologic structures.