ABB, IBM Partner for AI Solution in Plants

ABB reportedly partnered with IBM to bring together ABB’s industry leading digital offering, ABB Ability, and IBM Watson’s Internet of Things (IoT) cognitive capabilities.

The new suite of solutions developed by ABB and IBM will help companies address some of their biggest challenges, such as improving quality control, reducing downtime and increasing speed and yield of industrial processes. The first two joint industry solutions will bring real-time so-called cognitive insights to plants and smart grids. First, ABB Ability will automatically capture real-time production images. Then IBM Watson IoT for Manufacturing will analyze those images for defects. As material flows through a process, the system will alert the user to critical faults, improving quality control.

“This powerful combination marks truly the next level of industrial technology, moving beyond currently connected systems that simply gather data, to industrial operations and machines that use data to sense, analyze, optimize and take actions that drive greater uptime, speed and yield for industrial customers,” ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said.

China to Further Consolidate Coal Operations

China plans to create about 10 mega coal companies by 2020 through mergers and reorganizations as part of its long-standing efforts to cut overcapacity, according to China Daily. The country is preparing guidelines to overhaul the sector and it hopes to create several new large coal companies with an annual capacity of 100 million metric tons (mt) by 2020, explained Wang Xiaolin, deputy director of the National Energy Administration (NEA).

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Peabody To Retain Metropolitan Coking Coal Operation in Australia

Peabody will retain the Metropolitan metallurgical coal mine and its associated 16.67% interest in Port Kembla Coal Terminal after proposed purchaser South32 terminated the purchase contract. South 32 was unable to obtain clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) within the timeframe required under the contract.

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Peabody Energy Announces Closing of $1B Offering

In mid-February, Peabody Energy closed its previously announced private offering of $1 billion aggregate principal amount of senior secured notes, consisting of $500 million of 6% senior secured notes due in 2022 and $500 million of 6.375% senior secured notes due in 2025. The net proceeds of the offering have been funded into an escrow account pending Peabody’s emergence from bankruptcy.

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EIA: Coal Production to Increase in 2017

Coal production in the United States is expected to increase slightly in both 2017 and 2018, reversing recent declines, primarily because of rising natural gas prices, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The federal agency’s short-term energy outlook, issued in early February, said coal output in the nation totaled 739 million tons in 2016, an 18% decline from 2015 and the lowest level of coal production since 1978. Nowhere was this decrease more pronounced than in Kentucky, once the leading coal producer in the U.S. Kentucky’s coalfields are located in both the high-sulfur Illinois Basin (ILB) in western Kentucky and Central Appalachia in eastern Kentucky. The 42.6 million tons of coal mined in the commonwealth last year was its lowest yearly total since 1939.

As the EIA noted, the vast majority of coal produced in the U.S. is used to generate electricity, with smaller amounts of metallurgical coal marketed domestically and overseas for steel production. As a result, coal production and coal-fired electricity generation are closely connected. In recent years, coal production has been hurt by utilities switching from coal to gas to take advantage of historically low natural gas prices. But with average gas prices forecast to climb well past $3/MMBtu over the next two years, “coal is expected to regain some of the electricity generation mix, and coal production is expected to increase slightly,” said the EIA.

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