Collection – Scientists in Iceland are turning carbon dioxide into rock

The climate change clock is ticking. In 2018, global carbon emissions reached a record high and the United Nations warned we could have just 12 years left to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change. Since then, the UK and Irish parliaments have declared climate emergencies.

While countries are making the shift towards clean energy, few are decarbonizing fast enough to meet the 2016 Paris Agreement climate targets. With time running short, some scientists have been working on other ways to mitigate global warming, including capturing carbon emissions from power plants and industrial processes, and then sequestering them safely underground.

From CO2 to minerals

In 2012, a team of international researchers and engineers began injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) into porous basalt rock, formed from cooling lava, at an underground test site in southwest Iceland.

Two years later, almost all of the CO2 had morphed into carbonate minerals.

The team’s breakthrough, reported in the journal Science in 2016, led to the scaling up of the CarbFix project – fixing CO2 into rock, literally – at the Hellisheidi geothermal power station, about 30 kilometers from the the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.

Image: CarbFix

The CarbFix project – a collaboration between utility company Reykjavik Energy, the University of Iceland, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Columbia University in the US – has been capturing and injecting about a third of the CO2 and three-quarters of the hydrogen sulfide emitted from Hellisheidi.

Thanks to its volcanic geology, Iceland has enormous geothermal resources that can be harnessed to produce clean energy. Heating and hot water for most Icelandic homes and more than a quarter of the nation’s electricity comes from geothermal energy.

Hellisheidi is located on the Hengill volcano, on top of a layer of basalt rock. Water underneath the volcano is pumped up to run six turbines, which provide electricity and heat to the capital city.

Though than energy produced from fossil fuels, geothermal plants emit some CO2, as well as the hydrogen sulfide contained in steam.

In a process project director Edda Sif Aradottir describes as “making soda water”, the CO2 from the steam is captured and dissolved in large amounts of water. This fizzy water is then pumped to the injection site, where chemical reactions convert the CO2 into minerals. Trapped in rock, the CO2 can’t leak out of the ground and into the atmosphere.

Could it work elsewhere?

Basalt formations are found around the world and the CarbFix team believe their model could be repeated elsewhere. The process does, however, require large amounts of desalinated water – about 25 tonnes of water per tonne of stored CO2 – so they are working on adapting it to saltwater.

“Basalt is actually the most common rock type on Earth, it covers most of the oceanic floors and around 10% of the continents. Wherever there’s basalt and water, this model would work,” Sandra Osk Snaebjornsdottir, a geologist working for CarbFix, told the BBC.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wants to see wider adoption of models like CarbFix that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and negative emissions technologies (NETs).

However, while such technologies can contribute to the fight against climate change, implementing them at scale is likely to be difficult and expensive. Experts say approaches like CarbFix are “no silver bullet”, and people should still be making more of a daily effort to reduce emissions.

By Rosamond Hutt

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Collection – The world invested almost $2 trillion in energy last year. These 3 charts show where it went

A general view of the DanTysk wind farm, 90 kilometres west of Esbjerg, Denmark, September 21, 2016. Picture taken September 21, 2016. To match EUROPE-OFFSHORE/WINDPOWER  REUTERS/Nikolaj Skydsgaard - D1BEUNDQTLAA

The world invested $1.8 trillion in energy last year, with spending on renewables stalling, while oil, gas and coal projects increased.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Investment 2019 report shows overall global investment in energy stabilised in 2018 after a recent decline, with the power sector continuing to make up the biggest proportion of this spending. Much of that investment has been fueled by the world’s rapidly increasing demand for electricity.

Investment in coal increased for the first time since 2012, despite reduced Chinese spending to focus on power generation.

When it comes to cleaner fuels, there was little movement in the overall investment in renewables and no net addition to capacity, driven in part by the falling costs of some technologies. But production of biofuels, which has fallen behind the IEA’s sustainable development targets, saw a rise in investment last year.

The agency’s report also showed minimal increases in energy efficiency investments, with spending on transport efficiency remaining constant even though sales of electric vehicles are motoring upwards.

Image: IEA

Indeed, the IEA warns there is a “growing mismatch between current trends and the paths to meeting” the world’s climate goals laid out in the 2016 Paris Agreement and “other sustainable development goals.”

The changing landscape

The costs of technologies are reshaping energy-related investment, as the chart below demonstrates.

Some of the most marked changes have been seen in the power sector, where there have been dramatic falls in the costs of solar, onshore wind and battery storage.

Prices for some efficient goods such as light-emitting diodes (LED) and electric vehicles have continued to fall, too. But investment in efficiency innovations is still being held back by governmental policy and financing challenges.

On the other hand, there has been little change in the costs of nuclear power projects and carbon capture and storage – a technology that aims to trap greenhouse gases before they enter the atmosphere.

Image: IEA

Who invests the most?

China remained the biggest market for energy investment last year, even as the US is rapidly catching up, the IEA report said.

Increases in oil and gas — particularly in the shale sector — have driven the bulk US investment. By contrast, China is putting much of its money into low-carbon projects, with big investments in nuclear power and renewables.

Image: IEA

India is the most rapidly growing market for investment. Elsewhere, investment in energy generally has fallen in recent years in Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the agency.

By Charlotte Edmond

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Collection – Không có doanh thu bán và thuê lại máy bay, Vietjet Air trình làng vũ khí đáng sợ hơn: Bán quyền mua máy bay, lãi lên đến 5 triệu USD/chiếc

Nhờ đặt mua máy bay số lượng lớn, Vietjet Air được chiết khấu 40-60% giá niêm yết và sau đó bán quyền mua máy bay cho các công ty cho thuê máy bay. Hoạt động này có doanh thu thấp hơn 24% so với cùng kỳ năm trước nhưng lại đem về lợi nhuận cao hơn 23%.

Không có doanh thu bán và thuê lại máy bay, Vietjet Air trình làng vũ khí đáng sợ hơn: Bán quyền mua máy bay, lãi lên đến 5 triệu USD/chiếc

Hãng hàng không Vietjet Air đã công bố kết quả kinh doanh quý 1/2019 với doanh thu đạt 13.636 tỷ đồng, tăng trưởng 8,6% so với cùng kỳ năm trước.

Cơ cấu doanh thu của Vietjet Air quý 1 năm nay gồm doanh thu vận chuyển hành khách đạt 7.247 tỷ đồng, doanh thu hoạt động phụ trợ 2.647 tỷ đồng và doanh thu chuyển giao sở hữu, quyền sở hữu và thuê tàu bay là 3.565 tỷ đồng.

Trong các mảng doanh thu trên, chỉ có doanh thu chuyển giao sở hữu, quyền sở hữu và thuê tàu bay là giảm so với cùng kỳ năm trước, trong khi 2 mảng doanh thu còn lại tăng tương ứng 20% và 45%.

Nguyên nhân là do trong quý 1 năm ngoái, Vietjet Air bán & thuê lại máy bay đạt doanh thu 4.678 tỷ đồng, trong khi quý 1 năm nay không có khoản doanh thu này. Thay vào đó, Vietjet Air lần đầu tiên phát sinh doanh thu nhượng quyền thương mại, với giá trị 3.565 tỷ đồng.

Không có doanh thu bán và thuê lại máy bay, Vietjet Air trình làng vũ khí đáng sợ hơn: Bán quyền mua máy bay, lãi lên đến 5 triệu USD/chiếc - Ảnh 1.

Doanh thu nhượng quyền thương mại là doanh thu từ bán đặc quyền mua máy bay cho bên cho thuê máy bay.

Theo số liệu của một công ty chứng khoán, với việc đặt mua số lượng lớn máy bay từ 50-100 chiếc cho mỗi đơn hàng, Vietjet có thể nhận được chiết khấu lớn từ 40-60% giá niêm yết. Chẳng hạn, giá niêm yết máy bay Airbus A321neo là 129,5 triệu USD (trên bảng giá năm 2018, Vietjet đã ghi nhận chi phí mua vào khoảng 42-45 triệu USD), tương đương mức chiết khấu khoảng 65%.

Nhờ có lợi thế này, Vietjet có thể bán quyền mua những chiếc máy bay cho người mua khác (các đối tác chuyên cho thuê máy bay) với giá cao hơn. Được gọi là bán quyền mua hoặc bán đặc quyền mua máy bay. Trên thực tế, trong quý 1 năm nay, công ty đã hạch toán 3.565 tỷ đồng doanh thu thuần từ hoạt động này. Ước tính, đây là doanh thu từ bán quyền mua của tổng cộng 8 máy bay. Doanh thu này bù đắp cho sự sụt giảm ở doanh thu bán & thuê lại máy bay.

Lợi nhuận từ quyền mua máy bay đạt 923,7 tỷ đồng với tỷ suất lợi nhuận gộp rất cao là 25,9%, trong khi hoạt động bán và thuê lại máy bay quý 1 năm ngoái đạt 752,4 tỷ đồng lợi nhuận. Có thể thấy, việc bán quyền mua máy bay có doanh thu thấp hơn, nhưng lại có lợi nhuận cao hơn so với bán và thuê lại máy bay.

Theo ước tính của công ty chứng khoán, lợi nhuận từ việc bán quyền mua máy bay là khoảng 5 triệu USD/máy bay, trong khi lợi nhuận từ hoạt động bán và thuê lại máy bay là 8-8,5 triệu USD/máy bay.

Tính đến cuối quý 1/2019, Vietjet Air có 65 máy bay, sau khi nhận thêm 2 chiếc máy bay Airbus A321neo vào tháng 1 và trả lại 1 máy bay thuê ướt sau dịp Tết nguyên đán vào tháng 2.

Theo Hà My – Trí thức trẻ

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Deals – SG’s Adventus sells 45% stake in unit to reduce exposure to Vietnam project

Singapore’s Adventus Holdings Limited has sold 45 per cent of its stake in subsidiary ADV S3 for $1.1 million to one of the latter’s joint venture partners for a residential project in Vietnam, it said in an SGX filing on Tuesday.

Adventus said that it has encountered some difficulties in obtaining licences, permits and/or approvals for the Vietnam project.

“The proposed disposal would enable the group to reduce its exposure in the Project and thereafter focus its resources and time in other projects,” Adventus said.

The buyer is Tran Hoang Anh Tuan, one of the partners in AP NHS Da Nang Joint Stock Company (AP NHS), a joint venture between ADV S3, Panthera and Nguyen Thai Dong Huong.

The JV was established to develop a residential project in Da Nang.

ADV S3 had in 2018 agreed to pay VND 50.72 billion dong (S$2.9 million) for a 45 per cent stake in AP NHS.

Adventus Holdings intends to use proceeds from the proposed disposal for its working capital requirements and to fund acquisition opportunities, it said in the disclosure.

Adventus Holdings Limited is an investment holding company, which engages in property investment and development, hospitality, project management activities as well as commodities and mineral resources businesses within Asia.

By Quynh Nguyen

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Deals – Vietnamese vacation rental startup Luxstay bags $4.5m from Korean investors

South Korean retail firm GS Shop and early-stage venture capital firm Bon Angels have participated in a $4.5- million bridge funding for Vietnamese accommodations startup Luxstay, according to a press statement.

Prior to this investment, Luxstay had raised a total of around $6 million from CyberAgent Ventures, Genesia Ventures, Nextrans and two Vietnamese VC firms, ESP Capital and Founders Capital.

Luxstay said it expected to close its Series A fundraising in 2019. DEALSTREETASIA understands the next financing round could be worth at least $10 million.

Founded in 2017, Luxstay is a home-sharing platform focusing on the luxury customer segment. The local short-term rental value was more than $100 million in 2018, compared to the local $7 billion accommodations market.

“In developed countries, home-sharing accounts for 10-20 per cent of the home-rental market. This shows a huge opportunity for this industry in Vietnam, which is expected to reach $2-4 billion in 2025,” Luxstay said.

The company works with local partners in other countries such as Japan and South Korea, which have a large number of tourists to Vietnam and vice versa. GS Shop and Bong Angels will be important connections for the company to other strategic partners and investors in Korea in pursuit of international expansion, it added.

The Airbnb rival in Vietnam said it targeted revenues of over $300 million in 2023, and a home rental market share of 30 per cent.

South Korean tourists to Vietnam reached 3.5 million in 2018, up 44 per cent from 2017 compared to the 20 per cent growth of all international tourists, according to Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. Meanwhile, the total spending for tourism in 2018 amounted to $25 billion, of which the accommodation sector accounted for 28 per cent, or about $7 billion, and is expected to increase to $13 billion by 2025.

Tapping this growing trend, travel tech was one of the most funded tech verticals in Vietnam in 2018 that saw an aggregate of $889 million.

When it comes to the economic partnership between Korea and Vietnam, there has been substantial development over the years. On the venture capital front, a lot of Korean investors have been pursuing early stage opportunities.

GS Shop, a limited partner of 500 Startups Vietnam, recently made its debut direct investment in e-commerce startup LeFlair. Meanwhile, Bon Angels, the early backer of local unicorn Woowa Brothers, has also invested in several Vietnamese startups. Last October, it launched its third early-stage fund at 50 billion won ($42 million) and aimed to expand investment in Southeast Asia.

By Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc

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Deals – Casino operator Suncity to open resort in VN, plans growth outside Macau

Macau’s biggest junket operator will open its own resort in Vietnam by year’s end, seeking growth elsewhere in Asia as an exodus of big-spending VIPs from the world’s gaming epicenter shows no sign of abating.

Suncity Group, a middleman lender for Chinese high rollers, is moving into casino operations with a $4 billion Vietnam project and is eyeing the Philippines, Cambodia and Japan for its next investment. Suncity says more than 30% of the group’s revenue now comes from markets outside Macau, compared with 10% five years ago.

The overseas push comes as Suncity expects that its betting volume will drop by 10% to 15% in Macau in the second half of the year, as tensions from the U.S.-China trade war and stricter industry regulations damp VIP sentiment.

“Our betting volume in Macau fell 20% in the last few months, but the group’s total volume fell by only single digits,” said Andrew Lo, executive director of the group’s listed vehicle, Suncity Group Holdings Ltd., in an interview Tuesday. “Where is the business going? To the overseas markets.”

Major Shift

Suncity’s urgency to diversify beyond Macau is the latest indication that a major shift is taking place in the gaming hub and challenging its prospects for growth. A sluggish Chinese economy and stricter regulations, including a smoking ban in casinos, have been keeping high-end customers away from the baccarat tables. The emergence of regional gaming spots across Asia are offering an attractive alternative to Chinese high rollers, who increasingly feel more comfortable further away from Beijing.

Overall casino revenue at the world’s largest gaming hub slumped 8.3% in April, the most in almost three years, with the VIP segment sinking 23% from a year earlier.

“The threat is real,” wrote Union Gaming analysts Grant Govertsen and John DeCree in a note Monday. “Clearly there is a growing realization that Macau VIP play is bleeding to regional markets, with Cambodia and Vietnam being the primary beneficiaries.”

While it’s typical for high rollers to try out regional resorts and eventually return to Macau, the analysts said “this time is different.” The regional properties have improved in quality, and infrastructural expansion has made them easier to reach, they wrote, noting that junket operators are sending a steady stream of Macau players to these locations.

While Suncity’s Lo said that Macau’s scale and variety of gaming options cannot be replaced by any other location, he was pessimistic on the territory’s near-term outlook. The company controls about half of the city’s market for junkets, which are operations that lend money, collect debts and market casino trips to high-end gamblers.

Stock Performance

“Macau stocks have risen by a lot in the first half of the year because the market is expecting a rebound in gaming revenue in the second half,” he said. “But so far, I still haven’t seen any positive signs.”

A Bloomberg Intelligence gauge of Macau casino stocks has dropped 18% this month, after climbing almost 30% this year through April.

The company’s integrated resort is located in Hoi An, near the emerging tourist destination of Danang in central Vietnam. The company plans a soft opening at the end of this year with 140 gaming tables and 300 slot machines. About 70% of the initial revenue is expected to come from VIP gamblers, but Suncity is confident Vietnam’s economy is strong enough to bring in more mass gamblers.

So far, Suncity and its partners have invested more than $1 billion in the Vietnam project, which is expected to take 13 years to complete. Lo said future expansion will follow China’s “Belt and Road” route, as the key for VIP business is to follow where Chinese money and human capital go.


By Daniela Wei, Jinshan Hong

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Collection – Trade war: will China use ‘nuclear option’ of banning rare earth exports to US?

  • China accounted for seven out of every 10 tonnes of rare earth elements mined worldwide last year and was the biggest exporter to America
  • As trade tensions have escalated, analysts are questioning whether Beijing will use its dominance of the industry as a check on US tariffs

The chassis and batteries of an electric car are displayed at Auto Shanghai 2019. Regardless of the trade war, Beijing will ultimately move to reduce exports of rare earths to meet its own domestic demand, specifically from its electric-vehicle industry. Photo: AFP

As China looks for ways to retaliate against the United States in a rapidly escalating trade war, one potential target that is looming large, particularly for the technology sector, is rare earth metals.

The minerals are vital to the production of components that power electric vehicles, anchor the audio and camera systems of Apple iPhones and help the US military’s guided missiles reach their targets.

The elements – little known beyond chemists, geologists and speciality manufacturers until their political importance became more apparent in recent years – are also predominantly mined and refined in China.

As trade tensions have escalated, analysts are questioning whether Beijing will use the “nuclear option”, its dominance in the industry, as a check on efforts by US President Donald Trump to place tariffs on nearly all goods exported from China, as he seeks to change years of Chinese industrial and trade policy.

Speculation has been rampant this week after Chinese President Xi Jinping and his top trade negotiator were photographed at a rare earth mining and processing plant in China’s eastern Jiangxi province, a key region for mining rare earths used in electric vehicles.

Stocks of Chinese rare earth companies have soared since the visit, as investors anticipate a tightening in the supply of some rare earths and potentially higher prices.

The prices of so-called heavy rare earths, which are used in batteries for electric vehicles and in defence applications, have risen 30 per cent this year, said Helen Lau, senior analyst and head of metals and mining research at Argonaut in Hong Kong.

“I think it is a little bit reckless, from my point of view, for China to ban the export of rare earths to the US directly,” Lau said. “There’s always some way to have a similar impact … Maybe we want to reduce exports to everyone. That is a likely scenario.”

What leverage does China’s rare earths dominance hold in trade war?

Lau said she believes China, regardless of the trade war, will ultimately move to reduce exports of rare earths to meet its own domestic demand.

“Everyone knows that China needs rare earths for its electric-vehicle industry,” Lau said. “Electric-vehicle production is very strong – every single month it is growing in high double digits, and this year it has doubled from last year. The demand for rare earths is very strong.”

A key time to watch will be June, when China is expected to set its mining quota for rare earths for the second half of the year. The first half quota was 60,000 tonnes, the same as last year, she said.

Rare earths are one of the few categories of products that have avoided US tariffs despite threats last year by the Trump administration.

China has put its own retaliatory tariffs on US-produced rare earth elements and several categories of these minerals are set to face additional tariffs of up to 25 per cent come June 1.

The 17 elements, with sometimes hard to pronounce names such as lanthanum, neodymium and ytterbium, share similar chemical and physical properties. They are more plentiful than precious metals such as gold and platinum, but can be difficult and expensive to refine and extract.

They are used to provide precision polishes to flat-panel displays, remove impurities in steelmaking and to make phosophers used in incandescent and LED lights. Some are even used as pigments in ceramics.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a rare earth minerals production facility in China's eastern Jiangxi province on Monday, May 20. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a rare earth minerals production facility in China’s eastern Jiangxi province on Monday, May 20. Photo: Xinhua

The US used to dominate the industry, serving as the world’s leading miner until the 1980s, when it was overtaken by China, according to data from the US Geological Survey. Lower labour costs and more lenient environmental standards are some of the reasons why mining migrated from the US.

Last year, China accounted for seven out of every 10 tonnes of rare earth elements mined worldwide and was the biggest exporter to the US, according to data from the Geological Survey and the US International Trade Commission.

In addition, China has moved to create an ecosystem that not only extracts the raw materials, but produces components that rely on rare earths, such as magnets vital to missile guidance systems and synthetic gems used in high-power lasers.

China’s unwavering dominance in the market has raised concerns among companies and policymakers, particularly as China has used it as a weapon in the past.

During a diplomatic stand-off in 2010, China briefly limited exports of rare earth materials to Japan in a row after a Chinese trawler collided with Japanese patrol boats near a disputed island. China did so without publicly acknowledging the restriction.

That same year, Beijing placed quotas, licences and taxes on rare earth elements as the worldwide use of rare earths in clean energy and defence technologies was on the rise. China removed these restrictions in 2014 after the US, Japan and members of the European Union complained to the World Trade Organisation.

Frankie Chan, senior research analyst at Emperor Securities in Hong Kong, said that Xi’s visit to Jiangxi was likely an attempt to send a “strong message” to the US.

“We have seen China use these as an effective means to retaliate,” Chan said. “Maybe after June, there will be some follow-up action. Now it’s just a message – I have the upper hand on the rare earth front. If we still keep on without any improvement, I will retaliate.”

Presidents Trump and Xi are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka in late June. Chan said he expects Beijing will begin with a small quota or restriction, and increase it on a step-by-step basis if things do not improve.

The US Government Accountability Office, an independent, non-partisan agency, warned three years ago that China’s dominance “may pose risks to the continued availability” of rare earth materials for defence applications in the future.

The Mountain Pass Mine in San Bernardino County, California was acquired by an American consortium backed by China’s Shenghe Resources Holding. Photo: MCT

The Mountain Pass Mine in San Bernardino County, California was acquired by an American consortium backed by China’s Shenghe Resources Holding. Photo: MCT

The Mountain Pass Mine in San Bernardino County, California, is the only producer of rare earth elements in the US and its raw materials are refined in China. The mine was acquired out of bankruptcy in 2017 by an American consortium backed by China’s Shenghe Resources Holding.

On Monday, Lynas Corporation, an Australian mining company, and American chemicals company Blue Line Corporation announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a plant to produce separated medium and heavy rare earth products in Hondo, Texas, “to close a critical supply chain gap for United States manufacturers”.

Chinese rare earths firm’s California mine caught in trade war crossfire

Concerns about availability and rising prices have spurred technology manufacturers to find ways to recycle and reuse rare earth materials from their devices, and has led to increased exploration by governments worldwide.

Japanese scientists recently announced they had discovered a concentrated deposit of rare earths on the sea floor about 2,000 kilometres southeast of Tokyo.

Even as tensions are rising between the world’s two largest economies, Ryan Castilloux, managing director at Adamas Intelligence in Amsterdam, said he doubts China would put a ban on rare earth exports to the US.

“It would be a last leverage in a very extreme situation,” Castilloux said. “Once China uses its rare earth dominance as a political tool, it would push end users to look for alternatives.”

By Chad Bray  

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