Hydrocarbons — mostly natural gas and coal — are still the energy source behind the lion’s share of electric power generation in the U.S. However, renewables like wind and solar are now the frontrunners when it comes to scheduled capacity additions. In fact, renewables account for about 70% of the total 37.9 gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity under construction in 2021. Recent announcements such as final federal approval for the mammoth Vineyard Wind 1 project — by far the largest permitted offshore wind project in the U.S. to date — only bolster the view that wind power’s role in U.S. power generation will continue to grow through the 2020s. Today, we look at the surge in construction of onshore and offshore wind farms and what it means for the overall power generation mix.
There’s a new wind blowing in energy markets. Renewable supply sources, long considered a noble yet uneconomic cause when compared to traditional hydrocarbon markets, have now taken the forefront in new project development. Gone are the days when environmental impacts could be disregarded. In today’s world, companies’ outlooks are increasingly tied to their prospects for participating in the market’s green evolution, and those that don’t adapt will struggle to attract the capital needed for growth.
Renewable Energy Analytics (REA) has been developed by RBN to address the need for information in this burgeoning space. We cut through the noise and biased opinions to deliver the straight scoop on what actually works in renewable energy markets — and we’ll back it up with the economic and infrastructure fundamentals that underlie RBN’s foundational market analysis. The REA initiative is a vehicle for leveraging our expertise and knowledge of traditional hydrocarbons — oil, gas, and NGLs — into renewable sources like solar, wind, hydro-electric, and foremost in our new suite of analytics, hydrogen.
Upcoming Studio Session
It’s cool to be green, and hydrogen has taken center-stage among capital investors, Wall Street, and traditional energy players alike. What is the hype and what is the reality? In this Studio Session, we will cut through the buzz and get down to the straight-talk on hydrogen technologies, economics, and infrastructure developments, putting it all in language and metrics familiar to anyone conversant in energy markets. Sign up for updates
With all the hype about hydrogen you hear these days, you’d think the gas was just discovered yesterday. But, of course, it’s been around for a while — like back to the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. It does a nice job powering the sun and, when combined with oxygen, provides another building block of life on our planet: water. And that’s not all. For decades, a lot of hydrogen has been used as industrial feedstock to produce low-sulfur refined products, ammonia, methanol, and other useful stuff. However, this hydrogen production isn’t “green,” the color code for the highly exalted hydrogen produced from zero-carbon sources. No, most of the hydrogen used today goes by the drab hue of “gray” and is generally ignored by the carbon-neutral buzz that permeates the decarbonization dialogue. It shouldn’t be disregarded, though. Over 13 Bcf/d of this gray hydrogen is produced on purpose or as a byproduct each day, more than the volumetric equivalent of all Permian natural gas production. And if the carbon dioxide produced along with that hydrogen is stored permanently underground, then gray hydrogen magically becomes “blue” — almost as good as green. Today, we begin an exploration of the gray hydrogen market, and how it has the potential to impact decarbonization goals far more than green hydrogen over the next decade.
With Environmental, Safety, and Governance (ESG) conscientiousness on the rise and the push to rein in greenhouse gas emissions gaining momentum by the day, many traditional players in the hydrocarbon sector are considering alternative energy sources to invest in. Two key questions they ask themselves when evaluating these options are: Does it make economic sense once you’ve factored in tax credits and other incentives, and can it be incorporated into North America’s existing energy infrastructure. Wind and solar power clearly fit the bill. So does renewable diesel, which also benefits from governmental programs and that it can be blended into petroleum-based diesel. Another alternative gaining traction is renewable natural gas, which is “produced” by capturing methane from landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Today, we discuss the potential and pitfalls of “the notorious RNG.”
We get that the primary focus for oil and gas producers, midstream companies, and refiners needs to be on the business side of things — the strategies and capital plans they develop and implement to survive and hopefully thrive, and the day-to-day decisions they make to keep things running smoothly — and that’s what we at RBN devote most of our time to as well. Still, it seems increasingly apparent that many of these same companies need to pay more attention to environmental, social, and governance issues, not only because ESG is a front-and-center concern of investors and lenders but because addressing these issues in the right way can help to improve a company’s operations and prospects. The environmental element of ESG typically gets the spotlight, at least for companies that produce, transport, or process oil and gas, but the social and governance parts are important too.
We get the sense that many hydrogen-market observers are looking for a silver bullet — the absolute best way to produce H2 cheaply and in a way that has an extremely low carbon intensity. If anything has become clear to us over the last few months, however, there isn’t likely to be an “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment anytime soon. Rather, what we have seen so far in regard to hydrogen production has been a veritable smorgasbord of production pathways, with varying degrees of carbon intensity. While costs vary by project, it is also fair to say that a front-runner has yet to emerge when it comes to producing inexpensive hydrogen at scale. There is a silver lining though, if not a bullet, and that is the realization that there are many options when it comes to procuring environmentally friendly hydrogen. Today, we provide an update of currently proposed hydrogen projects.