energy transition

Around the world, a lot of smart people in the public and private sectors hold similar views on where we’re all headed, energy-wise. An accelerating shift to renewables and electric vehicles, driven by climate concerns. A not-so-far-away peak in global demand for refined products like gasoline and diesel. There are also what you might call consensus opinions on some energy-industry nuances, like how much global refining capacity will be operational in 2025 and what the spread between light and heavy crude oil will be in the years ahead. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from the new Future of Fuels report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice, including RFA’s different take on a few matters large and small — and all of critical concern to producers, refiners and marketers alike. 

A year ago, as New Year’s Day approached, we were looking ahead into very uncertain market conditions, having lived through a pandemic, crazy weather events, collapsing and then soaring prices, and Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine. Our job was once again to peer into the RBN crystal ball to see what the upcoming year had in store for energy markets. We’ll do that again in our next blog. But another part of that tradition is to look back to see how we did with our forecasts for the previous year. That’s right! We actually check our work. And that’s exactly what we’ll do today: review our prognostications for 2023. 

Crude oil, natural gas and NGL production roared back in 2023. All three energy commodity groups hit record volumes, which means one thing: more infrastructure is needed. That means gathering systems, pipelines, processing plants, refinery units, fractionators, storage facilities and, above all, export dock capacity. That’s because most of the incremental production is headed overseas — U.S. energy exports are on the rise! If 2023’s dominant story line was production growth, exports and (especially) the need for new infrastructure, you can bet our blogs on those topics garnered more than their share of interest from RBN’s subscribers. Today we dive into our Top 10 blogs to uncover the hottest topics in 2023 energy markets. 

We’ve spent a lot of time this year looking at the global move to decarbonize and explaining why there isn’t going to be a straight line leading directly to abundant carbon-free power and a net-zero world. That might be the way a lot of people would like to see it go, but that’s not the reality we’re now facing. All sorts of obstacles have popped up, indicating that the energy industry’s trilemma of availability, reliability and affordability not only clash with each other on occasion, they can also conflict with economic and environmental priorities. Nowhere is that more evident than in the U.S., where small-scale battles over the clean-energy transition are playing out all over the map. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our newly released Drill Down Report on the ways the nation’s clean-energy push is playing out at the state level. 

If it seems like the push for decarbonization has suddenly picked up the pace lately, Michigan provides proof. Home to the Big 3 automakers and for many the symbolic heart of U.S. manufacturing, its efforts to move away from fossil fuels have long been met with skepticism and resistance. But changing attitudes about climate change and renewable power — and full Democratic control of the state government for the first time in 40 years — have led to a swift about-face in the state’s energy policy. In today’s RBN blog, we examine Michigan’s plans to accelerate its transition away from coal-fired power and the long-term challenges that come with it. 

Plans to greatly expand the production of low-carbon energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be found just about everywhere, from national and international policy discussions to debates at the state and local levels. Given the potential for dramatic economic, social, and geopolitical impacts over the coming decades, it’s no surprise that top-down mandates for a transition to a more renewables-centric energy mix and away from fossil fuels can stir up concern over the pace, scale, and ultimate effectiveness of such a massive undertaking. In some places, like California, critical voices are largely drowned out. In other spots, apprehension may fester just below the surface. But in a state like Texas that identifies so closely with the energy industry, the conversation is right out in the open. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how that debate is playing out in Texas, where renewable energy is booming in a state known for fossil fuels. 

When you’re in competition for billions in federal dollars, you need more than just a sensible approach and a strong economic case. You need a real competitive advantage. That’s what Hy Stor Energy believes it has with its proposed Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub (MCHH). It sees off-the-grid renewable power and extensive salt-dome storage capabilities as the surest path to decarbonization for a myriad of industrial needs. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the overall strategy behind the MCHH, the plan to produce 100% green hydrogen, and how Hy Stor hopes to beat the competition and secure Department of Energy (DOE) funding for a regional hydrogen hub.

The U.S.’s effort to prioritize low-carbon energy entails some bumps and bruises along the way, an indication that the energy industry’s trilemma of availability, reliability and affordability can conflict with today’s economic realities and environmental priorities, even in a state like California with abundant financial and clean-energy resources and a commitment to decarbonization. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the state’s lofty goals to phase out fossil fuels, why it has been forced to put its transition away from natural gas and nuclear power on hold, and some of the biggest challenges ahead for the Golden State.

It has become abundantly clear over the past couple of years that energy transition isn’t going to be a straight line leading directly to abundant carbon-free power and a net-zero world. All sorts of obstacles have popped up, indicating that the energy industry’s trilemma of availability, reliability and affordability not only clash with each other, they can also conflict with environmental priorities. The challenge is being felt now in Hawaii, where a commitment to expanding energy production from renewable sources and tamping down the use of fossil fuels while also keeping prices under control and reducing pollution is turning out to be no easy feat. In today’s RBN blog, we look at Hawaii’s recent efforts to phase out coal- and oil-fired power generation, why that’s turned out to be easier said than done, and what it all means for environmental performance and energy prices.

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.

Worried about 2023? Well, you’ve got good reason to be. This year energy markets are at the mercy of a hot war in Europe, the threat of a global recession, looming China/Taiwan hostilities, the impending onslaught of new energy transition programs from recent legislation, and all sorts of other random black swans paddling around out there. With so much uncertainty ahead, predictions this year would be just crazy talk, right? Nah. No mere market murkiness will dissuade RBN from sticking our collective necks out to peer into our crystal ball one more time. Let’s hope it’s no bad bunny.

Worried about 2023? Well, you’ve got good reason to be. This year energy markets are at the mercy of a hot war in Europe, the threat of a global recession, looming China/Taiwan hostilities, the impending onslaught of new energy transition programs from recent legislation, and all sorts of other random black swans paddling around out there. With so much uncertainty ahead, predictions this year would be just crazy talk, right? Nah. No mere market murkiness will dissuade RBN from sticking our collective necks out to peer into our crystal ball one more time. Let’s hope it’s no bad bunny.

As we bid adieu to 2022, it’s once again time for the Top 10 RBN Energy Prognostications, our long-standing tradition where we look into our crystal ball to see what the upcoming year has in store for energy markets. And unlike many forecasters, we also look into the rearview mirror to see how we did with last year’s predictions. Ouch. No, we did not predict a lingering, hot war in Europe in 2022, and that had a variety of ramifications for our scorecard this time around. Even so, we actually feel pretty good about those market calls. Most turned out to be spot-on, and for the others, well, it’s informative just to see what we thought was going to happen in 2022, pre-Ukraine. Then tomorrow we’ll take on the challenge of predicting the energy markets of 2023. But today it’s time to look back. Back to what we posted on January 2, 2022.

Well, you might say energy markets got smacked upside the head in 2022. After a decade of energy abundance, a meltdown in demand in 2020, and what looked like a budding recovery in 2021, energy security had devolved into a back-burner issue. After all, why worry about existing fuel sources when they would soon be replaced by waves of renewable and sustainable fuels? Then, literally overnight, the world changed on February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Prior assumptions about energy security were out the window. Suddenly, the availability, source of production and, of course, the price of traditional energy were front-and-center. In fact, those priorities swiftly overshadowed energy-transition goals. We could see that shift in focus every day at RBN by monitoring the website hit rate of our blogs to see which ones garnered the most interest. This year, all of the top blogs were in some way tied to energy security. So today we dive into our Top 10 blogs based on the number of rbnenergy.com website hits to see how energy security has permeated all aspects of energy markets.

After the catastrophic experience of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas was restructured, with new statutory requirements and a whole new cast of characters. The Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) put in place a number of fixes, including more stringent reliability rules for natural gas suppliers, from producers to transmission pipelines. At the same time, booming LNG exports, largely to Europe, combined with growth in Permian production have created new pressures and opportunities around the Texas energy mix — as well as implications for the ongoing transition to low- or no-carbon energy sources. How can all of these issues be understood and addressed at once — and in a way that doesn’t bore us all to tears? In today’s RBN blog, we outline the major themes to be discussed during the Texas Energy Symposium being planned by the Energy Bar Association and the University of Texas Law School.