Posts from Jason Lindquist

Thursday, 02/02/2023

Pretty much everywhere you look, there’s a focus on decarbonizing the global economy, and a lot of those discussions start with the transportation sector. It generated 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020, putting it at the top of the list, just ahead of power generation and industrial production; combined, the three sectors account for more than three-quarters of the nation’s GHG emissions. For personal transportation, most of the attention has been on electric vehicles (EVs), but since the commercial transportation sector is largely powered by diesel and jet fuel, the push for decarbonization in trucking, air travel, and shipping has largely focused on ways to produce alternative fuels that reduce GHGs. Among those are ultra-low-carbon fuels called electrofuels, also referred to as eFuels, synthetic fuels, or Power-to-Liquids (PtL). In today’s RBN blog, we explain what eFuels are and how they compare to other alternatives, how they are produced, and what opportunity there might be to make a dent in the consumption of traditional transportation fuels.

Thursday, 01/19/2023

If the world is going to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero levels by 2050, a lot of things need to go right, with the success of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) long-term plan balancing on three different pillars. First, there are emissions reductions from improvements to fossil fuels and processes, such as power generation and industrial production. Next, there are advancements in bioenergy, a category that includes biofuels like ethanol, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and renewable diesel (RD). And then there’s direct air capture (DAC) — a minor factor so far, but one with the potential for significant growth, especially given the billions in U.S. funding already set aside for it. In today’s RBN blog, we look at U.S. plans to develop four regional DAC hubs, how those proposals will be evaluated, and the likely timeline for their development.

Monday, 01/16/2023

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.

Wednesday, 12/28/2022

The Biden administration’s first foray into reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, released in November 2021, promised to reduce emissions from hundreds of thousands of existing sites, expand and strengthen emission-reduction requirements, and encourage the use of new technologies. It was clear about one other thing too, namely that more was already in the works. And sure enough, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently followed up with a proposal that significantly broadens the initial plan. In today’s RBN blog we look at that supplemental proposal, its targeting of so-called “super-emitters,” and why third-party groups will play a bigger role in mitigating methane emissions in the years ahead.

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.

Wednesday, 11/30/2022

The Renewable Identification Number, or RIN, market is so misunderstood that even its main participants don’t agree on its financial impact, effectiveness, or even basic fairness. RINs are a feature of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires renewable fuels like ethanol and bio-based diesel to be blended into fuels sold in the U.S. And depending on your point of view — trader, farmer, refiner, blender, consumer, politician — you may have a very different perspective about how the system works. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report that attempts to make sense of the complexities of the RINs market.

Thursday, 11/10/2022

For decades, gas-gathering pipelines located in rural areas largely escaped the federal scrutiny that was primarily focused on transmission pipelines. But all that has changed with final publication of the so-called Mega Rule, which applies federal pipeline safety regulations to hundreds of thousands of miles of gas-gathering pipelines — previously not subject to federal safety regulation — for the first time. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the history behind the three-part Mega Rule, what it’s designed to do, and the challenges pipeline operators will face to stay in compliance.

Thursday, 11/03/2022

A simple problem can be solved with a simple solution, but more complex problems require a more nuanced approach, often using a combination of strategies. That’s the case with plans to mitigate methane emissions, which are not only potent and prevalent, but notoriously hard to quantify, with little common ground among industry, the government and the public about what steps should be taken next. In today’s RBN blog we look at the different approaches the U.S. is taking to regulate methane emissions and address other clean-energy priorities.

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, 10/04/2022

The swift increases in crude oil and gasoline prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February — and the sanctions that were implemented soon thereafter — spurred a lot of concern that the U.S. and global economies would go into a tailspin. In response, government officials here and abroad turned to their strategic reserves as a way to quickly balance the market and rein in prices while buying time for additional oil production to come online. But U.S. production growth and rig activity have hit a wall since June, when releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) started to pick up steam, reducing the prospects for a significant output increase this year. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the changes in the market since the major withdrawals were announced, how the hoped-for bridge to higher oil production has so far failed to materialize, and why it’s unlikely the government will turn to the SPR if prices spike again soon.

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.

Wednesday, 09/28/2022

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers a lot of incentives, mostly in the way of tax credits, to advance the Biden administration’s clean-energy initiatives and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are inducements for everything from carbon capture and electric vehicles to renewable energy and hydrogen production, but very few penalties. One exception is included in the new law’s Methane Emissions Reduction Program (MERP), which features the federal government’s first-ever fee on the emissions of any GHG. In today’s RBN blog, we look at recent attempts to mitigate methane emissions, how the new methane charge will work, and how it could one day be replaced by new federal rules.

Wednesday, 09/21/2022

Economic sanctions can be a powerful tool to punish a country or group, especially if they involve an essential commodity like crude oil. Imposed for a variety of reasons (military, political, social), sanctions can cause serious harm to the targeted entity. But levying them effectively is not as simple as it may seem, and even the most well-intentioned plans can fall short or have unintended consequences or backfire altogether. In today’s RBN blog we look at a plan by the U.S. and its allies to limit the price of Russian crude oil and the significant challenges in designing a cap that is effective and enforceable.

Monday, 09/19/2022

The high cost of gasoline and diesel and their impact on inflation and the global economy has been a major market development this year, with the blame typically being cast on politicians, oil producers and policies intended to limit development of traditional energy resources and encourage decarbonization — and sometimes all of the above. Prices have retreated in recent weeks amid lower consumer demand and worries about the state of the global economy, but long-term concerns about global refining capacity and the possibility of another price spike remain. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the state of global refining.

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.