RBN Energy

Tuesday, 1/31/2023

“Top-tier rock, massive scale, and ever-improving efficiency” — that’s the mantra of the largest publicly held E&Ps in the Permian, many of which have only added to their heft during the pandemic/post-pandemic era by acquiring complementary production and midstream assets from private equity funds and old-time oil-and-gas families. Yes, it’s either/or time in the U.S.’s leading oil and gas basin: Either you get bigger, high-grade the acreage you control and supercharge your free cash flow (and your stock buybacks and dividends) or you accept your fate as an also-ran or, if you’re lucky, an acquisition target. Just last week, Matador Resources announced a $1.6 billion deal to acquire Advance Energy Partners, which will boost Matador’s Delaware Basin output by 25% and give it a foothold in the Permian’s big-boy league. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss this and other recent asset acquisitions in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico and what they say about the Permian’s future.

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Daily Energy Blog

Thursday, 01/19/2023

If the world is going to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero levels by 2050, a lot of things need to go right, with the success of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) long-term plan balancing on three different pillars. First, there are emissions reductions from improvements to fossil fuels and processes, such as power generation and industrial production. Next, there are advancements in bioenergy, a category that includes biofuels like ethanol, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and renewable diesel (RD). And then there’s direct air capture (DAC) — a minor factor so far, but one with the potential for significant growth, especially given the billions in U.S. funding already set aside for it. In today’s RBN blog, we look at U.S. plans to develop four regional DAC hubs, how those proposals will be evaluated, and the likely timeline for their development.

Monday, 01/16/2023

The U.S. has committed billions of dollars over the last couple of years to clean-energy initiatives, everything from advanced fuels and carbon-capture technology to renewable energy and electric vehicles. The “all-of-the-above” approach also includes clean hydrogen, whose development the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has deemed crucial to meeting the Biden administration’s goals of a 100% clean electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As part of its efforts, the U.S. plans to provide generous financial support for the buildout of several hydrogen hubs — initial concept papers were submitted last year by dozens of applicants for the federal largesse, and the DOE recently provided formal “encouragement” to 33 proponents to submit a full application this spring, in what amounts to an informal cutdown, but declined to name them. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the 18 projects we’ve been able to identify that survived the trimming, what they tell us about the selection process, and how it compares to our previous expectations.

Sunday, 12/25/2022

If clean hydrogen is not a significant contributor to the U.S. energy mix by the 2030s, it won’t be because Congress and the Biden administration didn’t try. First, last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided the Department of Energy (DOE) with up to $8 billion to support the development of several regional hydrogen hubs, plus another $1 billion to back efforts to halve the cost of producing hydrogen via renewables-powered electrolysis. Then, this year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided tax credits for investing in new production facilities and producing clean hydrogen — incentives generous enough to spur announcements for at least an initial round of multibillion-dollar projects. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the variety of hydrogen-hub proposals the feds will be reviewing.

Thursday, 12/22/2022

Many may have nits to pick with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — some may not like one or both at all — but it would be hard to argue with the view that they provide generous financial support for the production of clean hydrogen and the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2). And now, with a clearer understanding of the tax credits that will be available going forward, companies active in the clean hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) spaces are scrambling to advance large-scale projects that would benefit from the federal government’s largesse. That includes blue methanol plants, which produce a super-low-carbon version of the petrochemical intermediate and shipping fuel by capturing and sequestering most of the CO2 that is generated during production. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the blue methanol projects taking shape along the Gulf Coast.

Monday, 12/19/2022

If clean hydrogen is not a significant contributor to the U.S. energy mix by the 2030s, it won’t be because Congress and the Biden administration didn’t try. First, last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided the Department of Energy (DOE) with up to $8 billion to support the development of several regional hydrogen hubs, plus another $1 billion to back efforts to halve the cost of producing hydrogen via renewables-powered electrolysis. Then, this year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided tax credits for investing in new production facilities and producing clean hydrogen — incentives generous enough to spur announcements for at least an initial round of multibillion-dollar projects. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the variety of hydrogen-hub proposals the feds will be reviewing.

Thursday, 12/01/2022

The debate around the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) has often centered on the burden the shift will put on the power grid, both in terms of overall load and particularly peak load. Those concerns amplify risks to grid stability and sufficiency, the ability to meet summertime spikes in power demand, and the need to accommodate a growing share of power generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Now, the introduction of bidirectional charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology — both of which are just beginning to enter the conversation around EVs — is likely to make the discourse even more complicated and interesting. In today’s RBN blog, we explain the basics of V2G tech, some ways in which it could one day add strength and reliability to the power grid, and some barriers to wider adoption.

Tuesday, 11/29/2022

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) $8 billion program to accelerate the development of regional hydrogen hubs is shifting into a higher gear. DOE in early November received an unspecified number of “concept papers” on prospective hubs and is now reviewing their merits, with plans to provide applicants with initial feedback within the next few days. By April 2023 — when full proposals are due — there’s a good chance that, based on DOE’s input, a least a few individual projects will be combined into a smaller set of stronger proposals. A case in point may be two competing but seemingly complementary hydrogen-hub plans in the Pacific Northwest. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss those proposals and the prospects for a clean-hydrogen build-out in the region.

Tuesday, 11/22/2022

For several months there’s been a scramble on to consolidate the U.S. landfill gas collection systems, dairy- and hog-farm digesters, and other assets that produce renewable natural gas (RNG) — a drop-in replacement for conventional natural gas that can qualify for federal and state financial incentives. But what really caught everyone’s attention was BP’s announcement a few weeks ago that it would acquire Archaea Energy, a Houston-based company with more than a dozen RNG projects in operation and many more under development, in a deal valued at $4.1 billion. That’s big bucks in the biogas space. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the BP/Archaea deal and other recent acquisitions of RNG assets, as well as what’s driving the surging interest in RNG.

Tuesday, 11/01/2022

In our view, there are two or three clear leaders in the competition for billions of dollars in U.S. support for clean-hydrogen hubs — for example, it would be hard to imagine the Department of Energy (DOE) passing over hub proposals in Texas, Louisiana or the Marcellus/Utica. At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for plans to develop hydrogen hubs in California, North Dakota and, we might add, the Rockies, a region with extensive energy-related infrastructure and a long list of prospective clean-hydrogen end-users, not to mention at least two projects to convert coal-fired power plants to hydrogen. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss a multistate push to make the Rockies a hotbed of hydrogen-related activity.

Thursday, 10/27/2022

Prior to the adoption of the assembly line, automotive production was slow and expensive, with Ford needing about 12 man hours of labor to do the final assembly for each new car. With Henry Ford’s installation of the first moving assembly line for mass production in December 1913, followed by additional refinements in future years, the average time dropped to about 90 minutes, with manufacturing costs also falling significantly. Those are the types of improvements in cost and efficiency the carbon-capture industry — which to date has been largely limited to smaller, individual projects — is anticipating as hub-style projects gain wider acceptance and begin to take shape. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the two basic concepts for carbon-capture hubs, the key advantages of the hub approach, and the complications inherent in that strategy.

Tuesday, 10/25/2022

The world will need extraordinarily large quantities of lithium to support the development of renewable energy, batteries and electric vehicles (EVs). The problem is, much of the supply chain for lithium and many other important energy-transition minerals is either owned or controlled by China, whose strategic and economic interests are directly at odds with the U.S. and its allies. In response, the Biden administration and Congress have been taking steps to reduce our dependence on Chinese supplies by providing financial incentives to encourage the development of more domestic mineral production and processing capacity. But that development can only happen if the projects can clear the often-daunting regulatory and legal hurdles they almost always face. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss a few of the leading U.S. projects being planned and the challenges they face in moving forward.

Monday, 10/24/2022

Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial and oil and gas activities is already a big challenge but having a safe, permanent place to store them is vital if the goal is to meet or exceed emission-reduction targets. To this end, Alberta, home to most of Canada’s oil and gas industry, including the vast oil sands, is steadily advancing plans to develop carbon sequestration hubs and underground reservoirs across the province in parallel with above-ground CO2 capture plants and pipelines. In separate announcements this year, the province gave the go ahead to 25 projects to develop sequestration hubs and determine if they can achieve commercial viability. In today’s blog, we consider Alberta’s latest efforts to push forward with its emissions capture and storage plans.

Monday, 10/17/2022

PADD 2 — the 15-state region that includes both the Midwest and the Great Plains — is a major player in U.S. hydrocarbon production and refining, not to mention energy consumption, with its rich mix of industry and farming. It’s also bound to be a hot spot in the energy transition, given its vast wind resources, scores of ethanol plants, and extensive plans for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Not surprisingly, there also may be a clean hydrogen hub or two in PADD 2’s future — after all, it’s got natural gas in spades, plus lots of zero-carbon nuclear plants, countless wind farms, and more existing and potential hydrogen end-users than you can shake a stick at. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the PADD 2 proposals now under development and why they may have a good shot at winning Department of Energy (DOE) support.

Friday, 10/14/2022

Global demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise, and with it demand for EV batteries and the key minerals needed to produce them. China is the world’s fourth-largest producer of lithium — perhaps the most important EV component of all — and is far-and-away the #1 lithium processor, giving it a critical edge over the U.S. and its democratic, capitalist trading partners as EV production and sales ramp up. The Biden administration and Congress have been taking a number of steps to enable the U.S. and its compadres to reduce — with an aim to end — our dependence on Chinese batteries going forward. One recent move by the U.S. was to provide EV subsidies only to vehicles whose batteries and battery components come from the U.S., Canada or other countries we can depend on through thick and thin. But much more substantial advances need to be made to encourage lithium production if there’s to be any hope of securing a significant portion of the minerals expected to be required for an energy transition. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss these efforts and the challenges the U.S. and its friends face in becoming “EV-battery independent.”

Thursday, 10/06/2022

The U.S. Department of Energy has laid out a clear set of criteria for the six to 10 clean hydrogen hubs it will select next year to receive up to $8 billion in federal support. For example, DOE wants at least one hub to use renewable energy to make hydrogen, another to use nuclear power, and another to use fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). It also wants diversity among hydrogen end-users — geographic diversity too (at least two hubs must be in areas with the greatest natural gas resources) — and the department says it will give extra weight to proposals likely to create the most opportunities for skilled training and long-term employment. Yet another factor that’s sure to boost the prospects for hydrogen hub proposals in the heart of the Marcellus/Utica Shale is the looming presence of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the Energy & Natural Resources Committee chairman who helped make hydrogen hub funding — and the rest of last year’s $1-trillion-plus infrastructure bill (and this year’s Inflation Reduction Act) — a reality. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the hydrogen hub proposals now under development in northern West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.