Renewables

Thursday, 10/07/2021

When most people think about alternative fuels in the transportation sector, they think electric vehicles (EVs): Teslas, Mustang Mach-E’s, F-150 Lightnings, and other zero-to-60 stunners. EVs have certainly jumped to the fore among low-carbon options, but other possibilities may prove to be even better. One is hydrogen-fueled vehicles, which while posing a number of economic and logistical challenges, could eliminate the range anxiety associated with EVs — assuming that a robust, nationwide network of hydrogen fueling stations can be developed. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss hydrogen’s potential as a transportation fuel, including its infrastructure-related challenges and how it qualifies for credits under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Thursday, 09/30/2021

You may not have noticed it, but in news that feels cosmically reflective of life on Earth recently, the moon began to wobble this year — a natural phenomenon that occurs every 18.6 years. While it won’t cause the sky to fall, it will influence our seas, with global tides suppressed in the near-term but amplified in the second half of the cycle. That’s got some watchers concerned about rising sea levels, but it also presents an interesting dynamic to one developing but often overlooked renewable energy source: our planet’s oceans. “Wave energy” proponents believe ocean-focused technologies can someday complement wind and solar, while also being more reliable. In today’s RBN blog, we examine what wave energy is and how it’s produced, the potential pros and cons compared with other renewables, and what type of projects are being developed.

Wednesday, 09/29/2021

With the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow just over a month away, it’s natural to reflect on the progress achieved since the Paris Agreement (signed at COP 21), which is approaching its sixth anniversary. In the past half decade, the world has taken tremendous strides toward decarbonization – not only in rhetoric, but in real and substantial investment. Green hydrogen and carbon capture are among the notable solutions many are pursuing to that end. But perhaps no green business has been in the spotlight as much recently as renewable diesel. Low-carbon fuel standards have spurred a lucrative renewable diesel market that refiners are lining up to access, with units being built and planned across North America. The nationwide buildout is being underwritten by the states that have enacted policies to induce low-carbon solutions, and while the Golden State is paramount among them, Californians are not alone. The largess being generated by those policies is so substantial that it will have an impact on and may incubate other low-carbon technologies that can be paired with renewable diesel to create even lower-carbon fuel sources and capture more of the credits that are ultimately driving the economics of the energy transition. In today’s RBN blog, we identify key manufacturing centers for low-carbon fuel supply growth, the at-times lengthy route the fuels may take to LCFS markets, and the economic incentive structure that justifies all those costs.

Sunday, 09/19/2021

In the recently fervent efforts of oil and gas companies to mitigate their environmental impact and improve their standing with investors and lenders, they are progressively striving to cut their own emissions of greenhouse gases and to offset the GHG emissions that are unavoidable through the use of carbon credits. Cutting emissions from well sites, pipeline operations, refineries, and the like won’t be easy or cheap, but at the least the results are measurable and provable — before, we emitted X, and now we emit X minus Y. The true value of voluntary carbon credits is more difficult to calculate. Sure, each credit is said to equal one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent, but how do you really measure with any certainty how many metric tons of CO2 will be absorbed by 1,000 acres of preserved forest in Oregon, or how much methane won’t be produced by changing the diet of 1,000 cows in Wisconsin? And how can you be sure that slice of Oregon wouldn’t have been left in place anyway, or that the dairy farmer has actually changed what he’s feeding his herd? In today’s RBN blog, we look at voluntary carbon credits, concerns about their validity, and ongoing efforts to ensure that they actually accomplish the goal of GHG reductions.

Sunday, 08/15/2021

Every day, midstream companies in North America transport massive volumes of crude oil, natural gas, NGLs, and refined products to market. Without their pipelines, economic activity would rapidly grind to a halt. Still, environmental critics and ESG-conscious investors and lenders are quick to point out that the commodities that midstreamers pipe are among the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and that, at the very least, pipeline companies should be reducing or even offsetting the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs associated with operating their networks. That’s now happening in a big way — and in a variety of ways — as we discuss in today’s blog.

Thursday, 08/12/2021

A couple of weeks ago, Shell announced a large-scale carbon capture and sequestration initiative at its Scotford refinery complex near Edmonton, AB. It’s one of the largest recent efforts to marry hydrogen production with CCS — an increasingly popular solution informally referred to as “blue” hydrogen. Shell is not alone. Across North America, the idea of capturing carbon dioxide to clean up our collective act is quickly gaining momentum and support. Whether we’re talking about refineries, ammonia plants, steam crackers, ethanol plants, or any other carbon-generating industrial process, capturing the CO2 — making the process “blue” — is seen by many as a way to make significant progress toward climate goals without over-burdening governments or consumers with the sky-high costs associated with some of the more technically challenging energy transition technologies. Today, we discuss the energy industry’s embrace of carbon capture solutions and how it could shape our energy future.

Tuesday, 08/10/2021

Traveled by air in the U.S. lately? Airports and airplanes are packed to the gills. Unruly passengers are making the nightly news and becoming YouTube sensations. Jet fuel shortages are popping up. But there are other developments in air travel too, including a push by the global airline industry to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions. And the heart of that movement is sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. While the blending of SAF with conventional jet fuel is not mandated in the U.S., the alternative fuel is gaining altitude, in part because it can generate layers of credits that can be utilized in various renewable fuel trading programs. In today’s blog, we look at the current status of renewable fuel in the U.S. aviation sector.

Monday, 08/09/2021

The law of unintended consequences may be about to play out in society’s quest to sequester — or permanently store underground via enhanced oil recovery and other means — the carbon dioxide captured at ethanol plants, power generators, and other industrial facilities in the U.S. Why? Well, there are many legitimate, important uses for that manmade CO2, including in food processing and beverage making, among other industries, and diverting large volumes of captured CO2 from them to EOR and other sequestration methods due to highly attractive government incentives may put the squeeze on CO2 supply and send prices soaring. No one said that saving the planet would be easy or uncomplicated. In today’s blog, we discuss a possible hitch in the push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how it might be dealt with.

Sunday, 08/08/2021

Carbon-neutral hydrocarbons may sound like an oxymoron, but an increasing number of international shippers have been assembling and sending out cargoes of LNG whose expected lifecycle carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions have been fully offset by carbon credits. What’s next? No-calorie cherry pie? No-loss gambling on DraftKings? A winning season for the Houston Texans? (Probably not.) As you’d expect, carbon-neutral cargoes of LNG — and crude oil and LPG — are designed to help hydrocarbon sellers and buyers alike meet their goals for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The concept is still relatively new, though, and many of the participants in these deals are still in learning mode, seeking to gain experience with something they expect to see a lot more of soon. In today’s blog, we discuss the relatively short history of this type of shipment and the first signs that carbon-neutral hydrocarbons are about to go mainstream.

Wednesday, 08/04/2021

Although it’s not well publicized, Canada’s oil and gas sector is already a global leader in active projects targeting significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide. These successes — some dating back as far as Y2K — are being used as a springboard for additional projects, all aimed at helping Canada achieve its aggressive GHG-reduction goals for 2030 and beyond. The scale of many of these projects is noteworthy. In today’s blog, we discuss the existing operations and planned projects that together will help the U.S.’s northern neighbor reduce its carbon footprint.

Monday, 08/02/2021

What if crude oil could be extracted from the ground, refined into gasoline and diesel, trucked to your local service station, and used in your SUV to take that next road trip, all the while resulting in LESS CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere? That would mean carbon-negative crude. Crazy talk from a relic of the fossil (fuel) generation? Not so! Carbon-negative crude is being produced today along the U.S. Gulf Coast, assuming you buy the logic of how carbon accounting works for capturing CO2 and using it for enhanced oil recovery — EOR. In today’s blog, we’ll explore what it takes to achieve carbon-negative crude, and why there is vast potential for expanding this pathway to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Sunday, 08/01/2021

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a big push by the government, industry, and the broader public to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to offset those that do occur. Given its carbon-intensive nature, the oil and gas sector is at the heart of this activity, with almost daily announcements about carbon-neutral LNG shipments, carbon-dioxide capture and sequestration projects, and other efforts. The problem is, it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what’s real and what’s not — that is, which efforts have an actual, measurable impact and which are sort of vague or fuzzy and need to be sussed out. Today, we discuss the latest round of announcements by producers, midstreamers, refiners, and others to “green up” their operations and products.

Tuesday, 07/27/2021

New and expanded efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, have been making headlines globally on a daily basis for a while now. Canada’s energy industry has been increasingly contributing to that newsfeed this year, with two large projects announced in Alberta that will capture, use, and sequester large volumes of CO2 generated from the oil sands as well as other sources of oil and gas production in Western Canada. In today’s blog, we review the emissions profile of the Canadian oil and gas sector and discuss two of the largest carbon capture, use, and sequestration projects announced to date.

Wednesday, 07/21/2021

Significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing. More wind power? More solar? Electric vehicles? Yes, yes, and yes. Another great way to slash GHGs is to use man-made or “anthropogenic” carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. EOR is an extraordinarily efficient way to permanently store CO2 deep underground. And today, the economics for EOR are being turned on their head — in a good way. For decades, the acquisition of CO2 has been a significant cost for EOR operators, requiring volumes to be produced from natural geological formations and then to be pumped to the oil fields where the CO2 is used. But things are changing. Now companies are planning to spend big bucks to capture and dispose of their CO2, meaning they may be paying someone to get rid of it. And if they pay, that flips CO2 from an operator cost to a revenue stream. The implications are profound, with operators historically motivated to use CO2 as efficiently as possible set to morph their operations to use as much CO2 as can be safely sequestered. In today’s blog, we continue our series on CO2-based EOR by looking at the coming transition in CO2/EOR economics.

Wednesday, 07/14/2021

The handful of enhance-oil-recovery producers in the Permian Basin secure virtually all of the carbon dioxide they use from natural CO2 reservoirs located thousands of feet below the surface. In essence, they are taking CO2 out of the ground and putting it back in during the EOR process — producing more crude oil and demonstrating that the CO2 is safely and securely stored underground. Now the challenge is to transform this proven process in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. To do that, EOR producers would need to use man-made or “anthropogenic” CO2 that is captured from industrial and other sources. Well, that’s exactly what’s already happening to a significant degree in EOR operations along the Gulf Coast and in the Rockies, with plans by a leading producer in both regions to use “A-CO2” for the vast majority of its CO2 needs within a few years. In today’s blog, we continue our series on CO2-based EOR with a look at how Denbury Inc. is shifting from naturally sourced CO2 to the man-made stuff.