Optimal Extraction Paths of Coal
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Published: Mon, 26 Feb 2018
Chapter 1: Introduction
According to the World Energy Outlook (WEO 2007), global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will increase by 1,8 % per year from 2005 to 2030, and 2 % per year for the period 2030-2050. From 12.446 Mt of CO2 equivalent in 2002, emissions will reach 15.833 Mt in 2030 for OECD countries – an average increase of 1,1 % per year. CO2 is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG), which is contributing to global warming. The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of CO2 since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century.
According to the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency the power generation sector will contribute to almost half the increase in global emissions between 2002 and 2030, and will remain the single biggest CO2-emitting sector in 2030. In OECD countries, its emissions will rise from 4.793 Mt of CO2 in 2002 to 6.191 Mt of CO2 in 2030, but the share will remain constant.
Today, power generation emits 65 % of industrial emissions of CO2 in OECD countries and is likely to become instrumental in countries’ strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of such instruments is the Kyoto Protocol.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), more than 180 countries have recognised the need to stabilise the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere, which are causing climate change. The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, was adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It entered into force on 16 February 2005 with 184 Parties of the Convention who have ratified to date.
The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries (including Germany) and the European Community for reducing GHG emissions. These amount to an average of five percent of the 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.
The Kyoto Protocol includes specific “flexible mechanisms” such as Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) for the countries to be able to reach their mandatory emission limits.
Emissions trading, as set out in Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows countries that have emission units to spare – emissions permitted to them but not “used” – to sell this excess capacity to countries that exceed their targets. Thus, a new commodity was created in the form of emission reduction or removal assets. Since CO2 is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak simply of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity. This is known as the “carbon market”. In European countries the emissions trading system is the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), the largest system nowadays.
The CDM, defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, allows a country with an emission reduction or emission limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement emission reduction projects in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction credits, each equivalent to one ton of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting the Kyoto targets.
A CDM project activity might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers.
The JI mechanism, defined in Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows a country with an emission reduction or limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to earn emission reduction units from an emission-reduction or emission removal project in another Annex B Party, each equivalent to one ton of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting its Kyoto target.
JI offers Parties a flexible and cost-efficient means of fulfilling a part of their Kyoto commitments, while the host Party benefits from foreign investment and technology transfer.
Germany is one of the world’s largest energy consumers and ranks third in total CO2 emissions within the G-7, after the USA and Japan. Annually, Germany produces around 850 millions tons of CO2 equivalent gases, which is approximately 2,8 % of all world’s CO2 emissions. On 31 May 2002, the Kyoto Protocol was ratified by Germany. After entering it into force Germany has played an active role in the European and world carbon markets.
Electricity production in Germany is largely based on burning exhaustible resources, causing high CO2 emissions. That makes the issue of CO2 trade crucial for German power plants and the economy in whole.
In 2008, the total amount of gross electricity supplied in Germany was around 639,1 TWh, that is slightly higher in comparison to the previous year. Nevertheless, during last years there is a tendency of increase in electricity supply (See Table 1).
The electricity supply in Germany is based on several technologies and fuels. The distribution of net electricity supply in last years in Germany is shown in Table 1. Electricity production in 2008, as in previous years, was based mainly on coal-fired (hard coal and lignite) steam turbine (43,6 %) and nuclear (22,3 %) power plants.
Since the share of the coal based power plants in Germany is large and the amount of electricity produced is still growing, the impact of the CO2 emissions trade on the economy of these plants is very significant.
According to data provided by the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency, the price for coal is rising during the economic lifetime of the coal-firing plants. This rise partly can be caused by additional CO2 costs.
The largest impact of the emissions trading on the electricity generation cost is felt by the lignite-fired power plants followed by the hard coal-fired power plants, since lignite while burning is producing more emissions than hard coal. With an assumed emission price of 20 €/tCO2 the power generation costs of the lignite-fired power plant would increase by 63 % from 25,4 €/MWh to 41,4 €/MWh, whereas the generation costs with hard coal-fired would rise by 48 % from 30,2 €/MWh to 44,8 €/MWh.
The competitiveness of the coal-fired plants is also influenced by including the CO2 prices into the costs. 1 represents marginal cost curve based on the total installed capacity and facilities’ operating costs for Europe. As can be seen, the addition of CO2 price to the production costs can make coal power plants less competitive. The sequence of most of electricity plants stays the same after addition of 20 €/tCO2 to the costs, though coal based power plants move to the side of less competitive plants.
These facts and evident changes raise many questions such as following: how long will electricity from fossil fuels stay competitive, how the extraction of fossil fuels is influenced by CO2 prices.
1.2. Problem definition
From all of the above it can clearly be seen that the CO2 price is influencing the value of coal and its extraction path. Questions this thesis is dealing with are how the extraction path is affected by the CO2 price, and what the optimal path of using coal is. For many companies, i.e. in coal mining and coal utilizing, this question is essential, since they already face significant changes in profitability. The thesis is aimed at describing the optimal extraction path of exhaustible resource (coal) without and then with CO2 considerations. That will allow to compare and to see the changes in paths. Coal-related industries will be discussed here, but similarly the approaches can be used for other exhaustible fossil fuels.
Since coal is an exhaustible resource, for describing its optimal extraction path we will use the exhaustible resource economic theory, to be more precise, Hotelling’s theory, which determines the optimal extraction path of exhaustible resource. Hotelling’s rule is one of the required conditions of optimality of the extraction path. The optimal extraction path means that the miner is maximising his profit if he follows this path.
Besides that, we widen the scope of the work and change the condition of maximising the profit and look at the case when a miner aims to prolong the life-time of the mine as much as possible. We will also consider different markets types: competitive and monopoly. For modelling all the scenarios in the mentioned conditions, a single mine which is situated in Germany will be used, and we will assume that all coal is burned at the power plant for production of electricity which belongs to the same company as the mine.
We aim to determine how the EU ETS is influencing the extraction path of the coal and its value. This question is very important for the mine owner, as it allows him to choose the right strategy for production and exploitation, depending on the new market conditions with costs for CO2. That is essential for the economic survival of the miner. And for us, the task is therefore to determine the influence of CO2 price on the extraction path of a coal mine. First, we will construct the model without consideration of CO2 price in two different market conditions, and afterwards we include CO2 price considerations. As mentioned before, we will discuss the case when a miner wants to maximize the life-time of the mine. The reasons for that might be to save jobs or governmental directives. This case also will be studied in different markets.
The goal of the work is to construct simplified models, on the base of Hotelling’s rule theory, which will determine the optimal extraction paths of coal and extraction paths leading to maximization of life-time, for one single mine situated in Germany in different market conditions without and with CO2 price consideration. Afterwards, on the base of models including into them numerical data, we aim to show the scale of the CO2 price affecting the extraction path.
The current chapter, chapter one, gives an introduction into the topic, determines the goals of the paper, explains the motivation of the research done in the work, supports it with topical data.
The second chapter contains the theoretical base for the further research. It describes Hotelling’s rule extraction of exhaustible resources, discusses the crucial points of the theory, and gives the basic model of optimal extraction of exhaustible resource.
In the third chapter, models of optimal extraction of coal in different conditions are developed. At the beginning, the models represent the optimal extraction path of competitive market and then monopoly market. Next, cases are discussed in which the company is maximising the life-time of the mine also in two market types. Afterwards, the CO2 price is integrated into the models, and the change in extraction paths is described. At the end, two numerical examples are given, and calculated to find two optimal extraction paths without CO2 and then with it.
The last chapter, chapter four, gives the summary of the whole master thesis and its results.
Chapter 2: The theory of exhaustible resources
This chapter is dedicated to Hotelling’s theory itself, since we use it to determine extraction paths of coal. It contains the theoretical background for further models construction, and allows to understand the theory deeper. Next, Hotelling’s rule is discussed. Afterwards, we discuss different parameters which can influence the rule, since these considerations are necessary for construction of the models and making appropriate assumptions for them. At the end of this chapter the basic model of optimal extraction of exhaustible resource is given. On the basis of this model, in the following chapter, we will build models with considerations of different market conditions and CO2 price.
The main questions of the economics of exhaustible resources are: what is the optimal rate of exploration of the resource by company, the price path of the exhaustible resource and how does it change through time? These are the questions which we are interested in. And since coal is exhaustible resource, this theory is applicable to our case.
Exhaustible resources are those that are available in fixed quantities. They don’t exhibit significant growth or renewal over the time. Coal is exhaustible resource; its amount in deposits is fixed and doesn’t grow over time. Pindyck distinguishes between exhaustible and non-renewable resources by noting that, while the latter do not exhibit growth or regeneration, new reserves can be acquired through exploratory effort and discovery. Since the first one is more wide spread, in this work the term exhaustible resources will be used for indication of this type of resources.
In 1914 L. C. Gray dealt with questions of natural resource economics. He examined the supply behaviour over time of an individual extractor who anticipates a sequence of real prices and attempts to maximize discounted profits. Harold Hotelling extended Gray’s theory by predicting the sequence of market prices that Gray took as given in his work “The Economics of Exhaustible Resources” in 1931, which then became a seminal paper on the economics of exhaustible resources.
2.1.1. Hotelling’s rule
Hotelling’s rule, as described in his paper entitled “The Economics of Exhaustible Resources”, is an economic theory, pointing out how the prices should behave under a specified (and very restrictive) set of conditions.
It states that competitive mine owners, maximizing the present value of their initial reserves, should extract a quantity such that price of the exhaustible resource rise at the rate of interest. In other words, if we assume that P0 is the initial price of the resource, Pt is the price of resource at some point of time, i is interest rate, then:
(1)Hotelling’s rule is based on the following assumptions:
§ the mine owner’s objective is to maximize the present value of his current and future profits. This requires that extraction takes place along an efficient path in a competitive industry equilibrium, which implies that all mines are identical in terms of costs and that they are all price takers in a perfect and instantaneous market of information.
§ the mine is perfectly competitive and has no control over the price it receives for its production.
§ mine production is not constrained by existing capacity; it may produce as much or as little as it likes at any time during the life of the mine.
§ the ore deposit has a capitalized value. That is, a copper or gold deposit in the ground is a capital asset to its owner (and society) in the same way as any other production facility. Furthermore, he assumed that the richest and most accessible deposits would be mined first, and that increasing scarcity (after exhaustion of the best mines) would confer capitalized value on inferior deposits, which could then be mined.
§ the resource stock is homogenous and consequently there is no uncertainty about the size, grade and tonnage of the ore deposit. Current and future prices and extraction costs are known. This implies that an ore body has uniform quality or grade throughout and that there is no change in grade of the ore as mining proceeds. Miners and grade control officers, who endeavour to supply the mill only with ore above a certain grade, recognize this fifth assumption to be major departure from reality. The topic of uncertain reserves is discussed in more details in section 2.1.5 of the thesis.
§ The sixth assumption is that the costs of mining or extraction do not change as the orebody is depleted. Again, this assumption does not recognize that all mines face increasing costs as the ores are depleted. Underground mining costs increase as the mining face becomes longer and deeper and moves further away from the shaft system, while in open pit operations haul roads become longer and pits become progressively larger and deeper. A rider to Hotelling’s assumption that the marginal unit (standard mining unit) is accessible at the same constant cost, is the assumption that the marginal cost of extraction in this particular case is zero. In addition, it implies that the market price and the rate of extraction are connected by a stable, downward sloping demand curve for the resource. In this constrained model the size of the remaining stock declines without ever being augmented by exploration discoveries. To the topic of cost of extraction is also dedicated the section 2.1.4 of the thesis.
§ The final assumption is that there is no technological improvement during the life of the mine and that no new additions to the resource stock are contributed by exploration. Sections 2.1.7 and 2.1.8. are discussing technological progress and “backstop” resources, which are also connected to technological progress.
Hotelling’s model predicts a general rise in commodity prices over time. The model has been used by numerous authors as a useful reference point in discussions on the various dimensions of mineral supply and availability. Among the factors that the model helps introduce are that:
§ Prices are a useful indicator of scarcity, if markets are functioning well (section 2.1.3 is discussing the question of resource scarcity)
§ The effects of exploration and technological innovation significantly and importantly influence mineral availability over time
§ Market structure matters (competition versus monopoly)
§ Mineral resources are not homogeneous
§ Backstop technologies limit the degree to which prices can increase
§ Substitution is an important response to increased scarcity
§ Changes in demand influence price and availability.
In other words, the model provides a vehicle for introducing the various dimensions of mineral supply and scarcity.
But since Hotelling’s rule uses a number of assumptions, it might not coincide with reality completely. The next part discusses the empirical validation of Hotelling’s rule.
2.1.2. Empirical validation of Hotelling’s rule
All the assumptions of the model mentioned before diminish the potential value of the application of the model for the miner in the real world. In an attempt to validate Hotelling’s rule, much research effort has been directed to empirical testing of that theory. But unfortunately, till now there is no consensus of opinion coming from empirical analysis.
One way of testing Hotelling’s rule seems to be clear: collect time-series data on the price of a resource, and see if the proportionate growth rate of the price is equal to r. This was done by Barnett and Morse. They found that resource prices – including iron, copper, silver and timber – fell over time, which was a most disconcerting result for proponents of the standard theory. Other research came up with absolutely different results which could not assess whether the theory is right or wrong.
But the problem is far more difficult than this to settle, and a direct examination of resource prices is not a reasonable way to proceed. The variable Pt in Hotelling’s rule is the net price (or rent, or royalty) of the resource, not its market price. Roughly speaking, these are related as follows:
pt= Pt +b (2)
where pt is the gross (or market) price of the extracted resource, Pt is net price of the resource (unextracted), and b – the marginal extraction cost. According to the equation (2), if the marginal cost of extraction is falling, pt might be falling even though Pt is rising. So, evidence of falling market prices cannot, in itself, be regarded as invalidating the Hotelling principle.
This suggests that the right data to use is the resource net price, but this is an unobservable variable as well as i. So it’s possible to construct a proxy for it, by subtracting marginal costs from the gross market price to arrive at the net price. This difficult approach was pursued by a number of researchers. Slade made one the earliest studies of this type. She concluded that some resources have U-shaped quadratic price paths, having fallen in the past due to changes in demand or costs of extraction, but later rising. The other study of this type is by Stollery’s, which generally supported the Hotelling hypothesis with an example of the nickel market by calculating the resource rent per ton of nickel. Thirdly, Halvorsen and Smith tested the theory and concluded, that “using data for the Canadian metal mining industry, the empirical implications of the theory of exhaustible resources are strongly rejected”.
If it can be shown that prices for exhaustible resource did not rise at the rate i, it does not necessarily mean that Hotelling’s rule is not right. There are several circumstances where the resource prices may fall over time even where Hotelling’s rule is being followed. For example, a sequence of new mineral discoveries could lead to a downward-sloping path of the resource’s net price. Pindyck first demonstrated that in his seminal paper. If the resource extraction takes place in non-competitive markets, the net price will also rise less quickly than the discount rate. And in the presence of technical progress continually reducing extraction costs, the market price may fall over time, thereby contradicting a simple Hotelling rule.
Named before facts show numerous contradictions which researchers face while dealing with Hotelling’s rule. But inspite of all these problems, the theory remains appealing. In their conclusion, Devarajan and Fisher state that Hotelling’s article is “the sole source of work in a vigorously growing branch of economics”. Solow stated that, “Good theory is usually trying to tell you something, even if it is not the literal truth”. So although the economics of exhaustible resources does not cover the real world of mining and mineral extraction to any large extent, it is still worthwhile to re-examine the theory. Also, many studies relaxed the assumptions of Hotelling, which introduced flexibility and widened the scope of the model applications.
Next some of the most important factors influencing the Hotelling model will be discussed.
As can be clearly seen from formula 1, the main variable is the price of the resource. On what does it depend? Which parameters function is it? As in the thesis will be considered a single mine case, in the discussion we take into consideration mainly single mine factors, which are:
§ scarcity rent ( see section 2.1.3)
§ cost of extraction (see section 2.1.4)
§ uncertain reserves – the amount of the resource left in the mine, discovery of new reserves (see section 2.1.5)
§ demand in the market (see section 2.1.6)
§ technological progress (see section 2.1.7)
§ “backstop” technologies (see section 2.1.8)
§ market structure: competitive (see section 3.3.1) or monopoly (see section 3.3.2)
Now we have a closer look at these parameters, since further description of the scenarios in different markets might require taking some of the facts into consideration.
2.1.3. Resource Scarcity
Hotelling’s rule is determining the price of exhaustible resource and the extraction path of it. This price, along with other costs, covers resource scarcity, and a large part of the Hotelling’s theory is dedicated to resource scarcity. Since it may influence the price of the resource and the extraction path, we discuss it more in details.
Worries about resource scarcity can be traced back to medieval times in Britain, and have surfaced periodically ever since. The scarcity of land was central to the theories of Malthus and other classical economists.
What do we mean by resource scarcity? One use of the term – to be called absolute scarcity – holds that all resources are scarce, as the availability of resources is fixed and finite at any point in time, while the wants which resource use can satisfy are not limited.
But this is not the usual meaning of the term in general discussions about natural resource scarcity. In these cases, scarcity tends to be used to indicate that the natural resource is becoming harder to obtain, and requires more of other resources to obtain it. The relevant costs to include in measures of scarcity are both private and external costs. It is important to recognize that, if private extraction costs are not rising over time, social costs may rise if negative externalities such as environmental degradation or depletion of common property resources are increasing as a consequence of extraction of the natural resource. Thus, a rising opportunity cost of obtaining the resource is an indicator of scarcity – let us call this use of the term relative scarcity.
There are several indicators that one might use to assess the degree of scarcity of particular natural resources, and natural resources in general including physical indicators (such as reserve quantities or reserve-to-consumption ratios), marginal resource extraction cost, marginal exploration and discovery costs, market prices, and resource rents.
Scarcity is concerned with the real opportunity cost of acquiring additional quantities of the resource. This suggests that the marginal extraction cost of obtaining the resource from existing reserves would be an appropriate indicator of scarcity. Unfortunately, no clear inference about scarcity can be drawn from extraction cost data alone. Barnett and Morse, studying marginal resource extraction costs, found no evidence of increasing scarcity, except for forestry.
The most commonly used scarcity indicator is time-series data on real (that is, inflation-adjusted) market prices. It is here that the affinity between tests of scarcity and tests of the Hotelling principle is most apparent. Market price data are readily available, easy to use and, like all asset prices, are forward-looking, to some extent at least. Use of price data has three main problems. First, prices are often distorted as a consequence of taxes, subsidies, exchange controls and other governmental interventions. Reliable measures need to be corrected for such distortions. Secondly, the real price index tends to be very sensitive to the choice of deflator. Should nominal prices be deflated by a retail or wholesale price index (and for which basket of goods), by the GDP deflator, or by some input price index such as manufacturing wages?
The third major problem with resource price data is that market prices do not in general measure the right thing. An ideal price measure would reflect the net price of the resource. Hotelling’s rule shows that it rises through time as the resource becomes progressively scarcer. But net resource prices are not directly observed variables, and so it is rather difficult to use them as a basis for empirical analysis.
Stern distinguishes two major concepts of scarcity: exchange scarcity and use scarcity. Rents and prices measure the private exchange scarcity of stocks and commodities, respectively, for those wishing to purchase them. They are not necessarily good measures of scarcity for society as a whole or for resource owners. Though originally intended as an indicator of the classical natural or real price, unit cost can be reinterpreted as an indicator of use scarcity. Unit cost or related measures are possible indicators of use scarcity but are not perfect either as a social scarcity indicator – they do not reflect downstream technical improvements in resource use, availability of substitutes, or, as in the case of price, the impact of environmental damage associated with resource extraction and use on welfare. All individual indicators of scarcity have limitations. There is no “correct” way to measure resource scarcity.
2.1.4. Cost of extraction
The cost of extraction of an exhaustible resource is discussed in this section, since these costs, similarly to resource scarcity, are also included in the price of resource. Any changes in them can affect the resource price and the extraction path of it, and further we need to make appropriate assumptions.
A number of researchers have attempted to provide deterministic explanations for deviations from the Hotelling price path based on the properties of the extraction cost function [Solow and Wan (1976), Hanson (1980), and Roumasset, Isaak, and Fesharaki (1983)]. They argue that, holding technology and knowledge of the stock of the resource constant, the most easily accessible sources of the resource will be exploited first. This suggests that extraction costs should rise over time, and this will affect the resource price path [Dasgupta and Heal (1974, 1979)]. However, extraction costs alone-unless changed unexpectedly-do not explain why prices have not risen.
2.1.5. Uncertain Reserves
The change in reserves may influence the resource scarcity value, the price of the resource and demand in the market, any of these changes affects the Hotelling’s rule. We discuss reserves change to have better understanding of it, as then we need to make an assumption about it to construct the model.
Changes in extraction and exploration technology all affect the size of the stock of proven, or extractible, reserves. This uncertainty about the reserve base contrasts with another underlying assumption in the Hotelling model. Constant real appreciation in exhaustible resource prices is derived in this model because the reserve stock is known with certainty (as are the demand function and extraction costs). In practice, however, reserves are not known with certainty and have increased dramatically over time, often in large, discrete leaps.
The effect of uncertain reserves on the optimal depletion path has been examined in a number of studies. An unanticipated shock to reserves can cause a shift among optimal paths. A sudden, unanticipated increase in proven reserves causes the price trajectory to fall to assure full resource exhaustion. Observed prices in these models fall sharply when the discovery is made.
In addition to unanticipated shocks to the reserve base, a number of these models address the impact of endogenous exploration behaviour on the resource price path. As shown by Arrow and Chang, exploration tends to accelerate as the stock of known reserves declines and the price of the resource rises. With major new discoveries, exploration tends to slow until scarcity again becomes important. The implied price path, therefore, is one that rises and falls, with little apparent trend.
As pointed out by Pindyck, uncertainty about the stock of reserves is consistent with observed price behavior, although such uncertainty does not fully explain that behaviour. Clearly, reserve shocks have played an important role in preventing the Limits to Growth scenario from occurring by consistently raising the size of the resource stock. The timing of reserve discoveries and shifts in price trajectories, however, do not coincide precisely as the theory would predict. Announcements of large new deposits have sometimes caused prices to move, but often there is little immediate response.
In any case, the frequency with which shocks to the reserve base have occurred – either because of luck or because of the endogenous response of enhanced exploration activity – raises an important issue regarding the degree to which these resources really are exhaustible. The steady rise in reserves, despite growing demand, which depict a steady upward trend in consumption), may argue for decreasing scarcity value of the resource over time.
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