Renewables

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.

Wednesday, 10/05/2022

Lithium is in high demand worldwide for the production of rechargeable batteries used in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle (EV) and utility-scale energy storage markets, as well as a plethora of everyday mobile devices. The problem is, there are relatively few places on the planet that offer rock formations or naturally occurring underground brine reservoirs conducive to the economic production of lithium — and even there the concentrations of lithium in the rock and brine are measured in parts per million. Now, a handful of companies in Alberta and elsewhere are exploring the potential for “direct lithium extraction” from oil and gas well brine, an alternative technique that some view as a potential breakthrough. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the promise — and potential pitfalls — of lithium production from oil and gas brine.

Monday, 10/03/2022

By all appearances, the momentum behind electric vehicles (EVs) has done nothing but increase over the last year, boosted by higher gasoline prices and federal legislation intended to speed the pace of EV adoption. But the transportation sector's transition to electric power and away from the internal-combustion engine (ICE) won't be easy, and may take a lot longer than many expect or hope, due in part to the significant challenges in finding the hard-to-come-by metals and other materials needed for EV production. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the continuing focus on EVs, China’s current dominance in the global market, and how the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is boosting plans to make EV batteries in the U.S.

Tuesday, 09/27/2022

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled its timeline for receiving and reviewing proposals to develop six to 10 clean-hydrogen hubs and said its aim was to decide by the fall of next year which projects will share up to $7 billion in DOE support. The competition for those dollars is sure to be fierce, with some of the strongest proposals likely to come from states like Texas and California that have a lot of renewable energy and ambitions to be leaders in the energy transition. Also, there is a joint effort by three states east and north of Texas to develop a hydrogen hub that would take advantage of their existing and planned hydrogen-production and wind assets, natural gas supply, refinery and pipeline infrastructure, and carbon sequestration potential. In today's RBN blog, we discuss the DOE's recent announcement and the three-state hydrogen-hub plan, which is dubbed H2ALO.

Thursday, 09/08/2022

Last year’s $1 trillion-plus infrastructure law calls for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to invest up to $8 billion over five years to support the development of four or more U.S. hydrogen hubs. It’s a safe bet that the DOE will determine that at least one location along the Gulf Coast is worthy of its support — and maybe even a couple, given the extent of existing hydrogen supply, demand and midstream infrastructure already in place in Texas and Louisiana in particular. We’d also be willing to wager that California will be another beneficiary of the federal government’s hydrogen-hub largess. Not only does the nation’s most populous state have extraordinary potential for clean-hydrogen development, its public and private sectors have been aggressively pursuing climate-friendly energy alternatives for decades. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the various efforts underway to develop hydrogen-related infrastructure — and hydrogen demand — in the Golden State.

Sunday, 09/04/2022

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 the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our second Drill Down Report on carbon capture.