Best of our wild blogs: 23 Feb 12

Random Gallery - Common Line Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

Monk Parakeets in Singapore
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Singapore: First coal-fired power plant here limits emissions

Grace Chua Straits Times 23 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE'S first utility plant to burn coal will be opened officially next Wednesday - although it has been operational since August.

The first stage of Tuas Power's $2 billion Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex on Jurong Island burns low-sulphur coal, palm kernel shells, wood chips, natural gas and diesel to supply steam and electricity to industries here.

Its customers - which include petrochemical firms like Asahi Kasei, Dairen and Lanxess - save about 10 per cent on utility bills as these methods are cheaper than burning natural gas alone. Unsold electricity is used for the plant's operations or channelled into the national grid after being traded.

The plant was conceived in 2006 even before China Huaneng Group bought Tuas in 2008, said Tuas Power president and CEO Lim Kong Puay.

Construction began in 2009 and the first phase was completed last year. It consists of a circulating fluidised bed (CFB) boiler that produces 450 tonnes of steam per hour, two 200-tonne gas- or diesel- fired boilers, a powerful steam turbine and a demineralised water plant supplying water for steam.

Future phases, to be ready in 2014 and 2017, will add two more CFB boilers, a gas boiler, two steam turbines and waste water treatment and desalination facilities. When fully completed in 2017, the plant will be able to produce 160 megawatts of electricity and 900 tonnes of steam per hour.

About 66 per cent of its capacity will be fed by low-ash, low-sulphur coal, 16 per cent by palm kernel shells and wood chips, and 18 per cent by natural gas or diesel.

Environmental groups have criticised it for burning coal, which produces twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy as natural gas. But, from barge to boiler, the coal remains enclosed to minimise coal dust. Filters trap particles and sulphur dioxide, while nitrogen oxide emissions meet National Environment Agency standards, Mr Lim said.

The coal is stored in enclosed silos that hold 22,000 tonnes, or two weeks' supply. And energy-efficient processes, such as producing steam and electricity at the same time, mean most of the energy stored in the fuel is used rather than lost.

Coal was chosen to diversify the plant's fuel mix for energy security and price stability. Coal prices have remained stable, while oil prices are volatile.

Locals fill most jobs at new plant on Jurong Island
Dylan Loh Channel NewsAsia 22 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: Tuas Power's Tembusu multi-utilities complex on Jurong Island has generated 150 jobs ahead of its official opening next week.

100 positions have been filled and the plant is looking for Singaporeans to fill 50 vacancies.

The facility, which has started phase one of operations, provides steam, water and electricity to petrochemical firms.

160 megawatts of electricity and 900 tonnes per hour of steam to support Singapore's petrochemical industry. That's how much the Tembusu multi-utilities complex can generate when completed not later than 2017.

Phase one and the beginning of the second phase of operations took S$1.2 billion in investments.

When the facility is fully operational, there will be an estimated 200 jobs, 90 of which are now filled by locals.

Jobs here require an engineering background, so the plant's looking for graduates from polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education to fill vacancies.

Lim Kong Puay, President and Chief Executive of Tuas Power Generation, said: "We work with academic institutions to be able to attract a pool of people to join us. As part of our plan, we have also put in programmes here to develop people. For example, a technician, or technical officers, we do offer them scholarship as part of the career progression."

George Tan, Vice President of Utilities, Tuas Power Utilities, said: "We are not only using coal, we are using biomass, we are also using natural gas. So with this strategy, we are better (able to) manage and enhance the energy security, at the same time, we are able to manage cost saving."

And waste isn't wasted. By-products like ash from power production are re-processed into materials for the construction industry.

- CNA/ck/de

Tuas Power opens utility complex on Jurong Island
Channel NewsAsia 27 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: Energy provider Tuas Power officially opened its S$2 billion utility complex on Jurong Island on Wednesday.

At the opening ceremony, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said the plant has catalysed investment decisions by specialty chemical firms like Lanxess and Dairen.

The utilities plant, which runs mainly on low-sulphur coal and biomass like palm kernel shells and wood chips, is a critical piece of infrastructure on Jurong Island.

Since becoming operational in August last year, the facility produces steam and electricity to surrounding industries on the island.

It also provides water treatment facilities.

Mr Lim said: "With integration, companies are able to obtain feedstock and utilities, and supply finished products to other companies co-located with them on the island. In this context, Tuas Power's centralised utilities facility will strengthen Jurong Island's integration efforts."

Excess electricity will be sold through the Singapore electricity market. A desalination plant is also expected to be up and running by 2017.

According to Tuas Power estimates, operational costs of a coal-biomass power plant is 10 per cent less than a gas-fired plant, supplying cheaper utilities including steam to nearby synthetic rubber plants, which had to cope with high energy costs in Singapore.

Huang Yongda, executive vice president of China Huaneng Group, said: "This project is of great significance for Singapore to diversify its energy sources and increase its attraction for investment on Jurong Island. It is also of great importance for China Huaneng Group to deepen its international operations."

The S$2 billion facility is believed to be the largest investment by a Chinese company in Singapore. Tuas Power, which runs the facility, was acquired by the New York-listed Huaneng Power International in 2008 - two years after the plant was conceived.

- CNA/xq

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Malaysia: Boosting deep-sea fishing

A. Azim Idris New Straits Times 23 Feb 12;

MEETING DEMAND: 12 anchor companies get permits to go big on tapping sea resources

PUTRAJAYA: MALAYSIA still possesses untapped fishing resources off the coast of Sabah and Sarawak which will allow the target of 500,000 tonnes of yield by 2020 to be achieved in a sustainable manner.

Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ahamad Sabki Mahmood said the target was within the economic sustainable yield.

It would not affect the breeding grounds for commercial fish, therefore, avoiding a major depletion of the fish population, he added.

Ahamad said there were areas that enjoyed exclusive economic zone status such as off the coast of Labuan, where large deposits of tuna and other pelagic fish were relatively untouched.

Proper harvest would allow the population to be replenished, he said, adding that this was among the reasons why they had appointed several deep-sea fishing companies in recognition of their contribution to the industry.

"This is to encourage them to make bigger investments, and to allow us to work closely with them in issuing permits so that they can optimise their catch," he told a press conference after presenting appointment certificates to 12 anchor companies at the department's headquarters in Wisma Tani, Precinct 4, near here, yesterday.

For last year, he said the landing of marine fish was 1,421,766 tonnes, worth RM7,857.85 million, out of which 325,274 tonnes, worth RM1,635.95 million, were caught by deep- sea vessels.

"The landing of deep-sea fish is crucial in meeting the country's increasing protein demand as an alternative to fish supply from shallower waters which has been optimised."

There are currently 1,348 licensed deep-sea vessels operating, compared with only 258 by the end of the 1980s.

The companies were selected based on their success in catching more than 80 per cent of fish from the deep sea, which Ahamad said was not "an easy feat".

"There is much space left with-in the 200 nautical miles of theeconomic exclusive zone and these companies play a big role in achieving the 500,000-tonne target."

He said the target was not only for domestic consumption, but also for export.

However, Ahamad said there were challenges faced by the department, such as unregistered foreign vessels, which illegally encroached into the country's waters.

"We are working closely with these companies and the Maritime Enforcement Agency to monitor the situation and to protect our resources."

He added that the department had taken stern action against 308 operators, who had abused their licence, by revoking their permits.

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Study of world's richest marine area shows size matters

(AFP) Google News 23 Feb 13;

GENEVA — A new study of Asia's Coral Triangle, which contains nearly 30 percent of the world's reefs, shows that when it comes to ensuring a rich and diverse range of species, size matters.

"The study suggests that marine protected areas should be as large and diverse as possible," Peter Etnoyer, a marine biologist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a statement Thursday.

Etnoyer, who co-authored the study published by open access peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE, stressed that providing more protected marine space made it possible to "include more species, more habitats, and more genetic diversity to offer species the best chance of adapting to sea temperature and other environmental changes."

The Coral Triangle covers a triangular area stretching across the Philippines, eastern Sabah, eastern Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

It's sheer size has made it a treasure trove of marine life -- it contains nearly 30 percent of the world's reefs and more than 3,000 species of fish and is often referred to as the "Amazon of the seas".

The fact that its size, according to Thursday's study, is also what will help it adapt to change is important, since previous reports have shown that more than 85 percent of the reefs there are considered to be threatened by human activities like coastal development, pollution and overfishing.

For the study, scientists at NOAA, the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), Old Dominion University in Virginia and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies had "analysed over 10,000 maps of marine species," said Jonnell Sanciango, the head author of the study and a researcher at Old Dominion.

They had "found that habitat, calculated as coastline length, was the best predictor of species richness, followed by the variety of habitats and sea surface temperature," she added.

Their research led them to suggest stretching the borders of the Coral Triangle further to also include Brunei, Singapore and peninsular Malaysia, "to ensure that these areas are included in the management and conservation of the region."

The study also found that sea surface temperature plays an important role in the proliferation of marine life.

This suggests that "climate change may have a direct impact on species diversity," the authors said in the statement.

"The conservation implication is that if climate change raises sea temperatures it may have a profound influence on evolution rates and how species are distributed over time," Kent Carpenter of IUCN said.

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