RBN Energy

Friday, 12/02/2022

Alkylate is an important and valuable part of the U.S. gasoline pool, prized for its high octane, low volatility and low sulfur content. There are two primary catalysts that refiners can opt to use in the production of alkylate: hydrofluoric acid, or HF, and sulfur acid, or H2SO4.  Each is quite popular, with HF and sulfuric acid technologies each representing about half of domestic alkylation capacity — and with those shares varying significantly on a regional basis. While refiners have been safely operating both types of “alky” units for many decades, HF alkylation for some time has been in the crosshairs of the Environmental Protection Agency, which recently proposed that refiners be required to undertake extensive evaluations of potentially safer alternative technologies. It’s hard to know for sure, but if EPA’s proposed rule is made final it could ultimately force many refineries to make very costly changes — into the hundreds of million dollars per unit — or maybe even shut down entirely. In today’s RBN blog, we look at alkylate, how it’s made, and the potentially profound effects of the impending regulation.

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Daily Energy Blog

Tuesday, 08/30/2022

Not long ago, many considered large-scale industrial carbon capture to be a pie-in-the-sky concept. But neither the capturing of carbon dioxide (CO2) nor permanent underground sequestration is new — naturally occurring sources of CO2 have been used in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) for decades. And, with new financial incentives and a renewed sense of urgency regarding climate action, things are changing fast — so quickly, in fact, that the carbon-capture industry may be poised for exponential growth, both in the U.S. and abroad. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our second Drill Down Report on carbon capture.

Thursday, 08/25/2022

Conversations about decarbonization and the energy transition often turn to the transportation sector, which accounted for about 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020. Electric vehicles typically dominate these talks, but alternative fuels like renewable diesel (RD) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) also come up, not only because of their lower emissions but also because they are considered “drop-in” replacements for conventional diesel and jet fuel. Policies at the state and national level have already encouraged some production growth, but a tax credit established as part of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides a major incentive for cleaner fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the new 45Z Clean Fuel Production Credit (CFPC), how it will impact the production of RD and SAF, and why facilities that can produce fuels with the lowest carbon intensity (CI) stand to benefit the most.

Monday, 08/22/2022

It wouldn’t be hard to work up a checklist of the qualities that a major clean hydrogen hub should offer. Easy access to low-cost natural gas for methane reforming, and to carbon sequestration sites for captured carbon dioxide (CO2). Plentiful wind and solar energy to power electrolyzers that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Lots of available land for clean hydrogen and ammonia production facilities. Nearby refineries and other industrial consumers of hydrogen. And don’t forget export terminals, because the rest of the world will continue to demand U.S.-sourced energy. Well, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, Corpus Christi seems to check all the boxes.

Thursday, 08/18/2022

The 45Q tax credit has been the federal government’s main tool to incentivize the development of a carbon-capture industry. If the original legislation that created the credit in 2008 was intended to get things started, and the credit’s 2018 expansion designed to give the industry a further boost, the newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which focuses on clean energy, despite its name — aims to propel carbon capture into the big time. In today’s RBN blog we look at changes made to the 45Q tax credit under the IRA, from the scope of the enhanced incentives to how they could boost carbon-capture opportunities for all types of projects.

Thursday, 08/04/2022

As a piece of legislation makes its way through Congress, the name it’s given can say a lot about its overall importance and what it intends to accomplish, but also a little bit about the current political environment. Surging inflation has been one of the biggest stories of the past year and politicians of all stripes have been looking for ways to ease the pressure on consumers. Those concerns were a big reason why the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which included several climate- and energy-related measures, ultimately died in Congress late last year. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which Democrats in Washington hope to pass soon, embraces the fight against inflation and includes other significant provisions, but clean energy is at the heart of the bill. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the legislation's climate and clean-energy initiatives — including a methane-reduction program, more tax credits for electric vehicles, and incentives for renewable energy and clean hydrogen — and how they would help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Wednesday, 08/03/2022

It’s one thing if you’re 25 or 30 years old and your 401(k) is just getting started — you’ve got time to build it up, so don’t sweat it — but it’s quite another if you’re 60 or 65 and you’ve still got to sock away a lot of money before calling it quits. It could be argued that the environmental community is facing a quandary very similar to that of an aging boomer short on retirement savings. The fact is that the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) target of achieving net-zero man-made carbon emissions globally by 2050 in order to blunt the human impact on climate change will require massive new investment and a complete and well-coordinated transformation of the world’s energy complex. In the near-term, progress along that path must include an extraordinarily rapid ramp-up in the use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). And like an aging worker whose late discipline may be thwarted by an unforeseen health challenge, as we’ve seen with the recent energy crisis, there’s a lot that could derail progress toward those goals. Is the IEA's goal achievable? Maybe. But, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, it won’t be easy.

Wednesday, 07/27/2022

Over the past few years, the simultaneous drives for action on climate change, diversity in the workplace, and corporate accountability have coalesced into the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) movement. The energy industry has been at the center of all this, of course, because significant volumes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are generated with the production, processing, transportation and –– especially –– consumption of hydrocarbons. But while many energy companies have developed ESG strategies and goals, the ESG movement has also come under increasing scrutiny and criticism –– and from all sides, it seems. So where does the movement stand today, and what are its prospects in a world that is now as focused on energy security and affordability as it is on quickly reining in GHG emissions? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the issues surrounding ESG.

Tuesday, 07/26/2022

It took many decades to build out the U.S.’s natural gas production, processing and transportation infrastructure, and just as long to develop demand for natgas — the many millions of residential, commercial, industrial and power-generation customers that now depend on U.S. gas, both domestically and, more recently, internationally as well. Now, with action on both climate change and energy security top of mind, there’s a big push to add clean hydrogen to the energy mix as quickly as possible, as evidenced by the Department of Energy’s plan to invest up to $8 billion in the development of four or more “hydrogen hubs.” This time, we won’t have decades to build out the clean hydrogen supply, demand and infrastructure that will be needed to make a real difference — and that’s precisely the point being made by the folks in and around Houston, who assert that the region has just what it takes to get a consequential hydrogen hub up and running. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at the federal government’s push to advance clean hydrogen and the Houston-led effort to make the western Gulf Coast a center of hydrogen-related activity.

Sunday, 07/17/2022

When you boil it down, there are only two energy-related responses to Russia’s war on Ukraine. First, there’s a big push to find sources of crude oil, refined products, natural gas and NGLs to replace Russian supplies as quickly as possible. Second, governments on both sides of the Atlantic are scrambling to reaffirm and even expand commitments to lower-carbon energy sources to delink from Russian hydrocarbons as well as meet energy transition goals. Both raise the same question: How fast can the world bring online any new sources of energy on the scale needed? Policymakers would like to believe the answer can be found through the stroke of a legislative pen invoking aspirational language. No one doubts the power of that pen to create incentives or impediments. But the answer to that question is dictated by the realities of the physical world. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the options for accelerating the availability of the minerals, metals and other materials needed to build the required machinery for the energy transition.

Monday, 07/11/2022

As concerns about energy security have come to the forefront, some in the mainstream have begun to pump the brakes on the idea of energy transition at any cost and reevaluate the practicality of some proposed solutions. But that hasn’t changed the long-term outlook for energy transition nor the fact that numerous individual projects focused on alternative fuels, carbon capture, hydrogen and renewable energy are in the works, gaining in prominence and attracting a prodigious amount of investment. There is still an anticipation among investors that the market will increasingly demand greener production methods — they just need to be well-conceived, planned and executed. The good thing for Fidelis New Energy — a Houston-based firm focused on climate-impact infrastructure, including low-carbon, sustainable fuels  — is that, among renewable producers, they’re building a sustainable cost advantage through efficient, integrated design. In today’s RBN blog we look at what Fidelis calls the Grön Fuels GigaSystem.

Thursday, 07/07/2022

Carbon-capture projects have begun to pick up steam in recent months, especially in the Midwest and Great Plains, with three major developments already taking shape and the potential for more. At the same time, the need to move natural gas east from the Rockies has declined over time and Tallgrass Energy Partners — a leading midstream player in that space — is looking for ways to make fuller use of its Rockies Express and Trailblazer gas pipelines. In today’s RBN blog, we look at an agreement between Tallgrass and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to capture and sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a corn-processing complex in Nebraska, how that deal relies on the planned conversion of the Trailblazer Pipeline from natural gas to CO2, thought to be the first of this scale, and why Tallgrass sees potential in carbon-capture projects across the region.

Tuesday, 06/21/2022

One of the biggest, most important steps in the U.S.’s ongoing energy transition will be the selection and build-out of at least four new clean hydrogen hubs –– development supported to a significant degree by an $8 billion commitment in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was signed into law by President Biden in November. Surely there will be a lot of angling among states and regions to land big chunks of that federal money, but it’s a safe bet that one of the new hydrogen hubs will be located along the Texas-Louisiana coast. After all, this stretch of low-lying land not only boasts the U.S.’s highest concentration of existing hydrogen production and consumption, it also offers an extensive network of hydrogen pipelines, easy access to vast amounts of natural gas and renewable power, scores of potential sites for underground hydrogen storage and carbon sequestration, and a slew of marine terminals for exporting hydrogen-packed ammonia to global markets. Best of all, perhaps, the region has the human capital to make a new energy hub happen — heck, look at the infrastructure and markets the folks and companies between Freeport and Lake Charles have already developed for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a detailed look at the federal government’s push to advance clean hydrogen as a fuel of the future and the Houston-led effort to make the western Gulf Coast a buzzing center of hydrogen-related activity.

Thursday, 06/09/2022

California faces a broad set of challenges when it comes to reducing wildfires, which have been increasingly frequent and intense over the last decade — impacting the lives of those dealing with the threat, not to mention effects on the economy and environment. Separately, the state has been working to reduce transportation-related pollution and incentivize the development and use of a wide array of alternative fuels. Yosemite Clean Energy (YCE), which announced plans for its first plant site in late 2021, has an approach it says will not only make the state a cleaner and safer place but also foster the development of new transportation fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at YCE’s plans to turn wood waste into renewable fuels, how its unique “Stump to Pump” approach relies on partnerships with local communities, and the green hydrogen and renewable natural gas it plans to produce at sites across California.

Sunday, 06/05/2022

There is a fundamental difference in the way value is established in renewable, decarbonized energy markets versus traditional commodities. In traditional energy markets, value is defined by natural laws — physics, chemistry, geography. But in the world of renewables and decarbonization, value is primarily determined by man-made laws — RULES that specify what a particular flavor of energy is worth, what is required to prove that worth, and how that value is ultimately captured by market participants. In effect, a molecule’s (or electron’s) pedigree is as important — if not more important — than its energy content. Whether you are deep into renewables markets or you deal with energy commodities that are impacted by the rules, it is critically important that you understand everything about how these rules work and how they are regulated. In today’s RBN blog we’ll begin an exploration into the inner workings of energy transition market mechanisms.

Thursday, 05/26/2022

Supply chains are screwed up. Inflation has returned with a vengeance. And the politics of energy in the U.S. are all over the place, with demands for energy companies to do more today even as plans are being made to phase them out of existence tomorrow. This is today’s world — traditional energy markets learning to live with the impact of renewables, decarbonization and sustainability initiatives, while at the same time dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic and the consequences of a war with a totally uncertain trajectory — and it’s likely to be with us for a long time to come. That was the focus of our Spring 2022 School of Energy and it’s the subject of today’s RBN blog. Warning: Today’s blog includes a couple of blatant plugs for a newly available replay of our recent conference in Houston.