Posts from Jason Lindquist

As the push for decarbonization in the transportation sector gathers momentum, electrofuels — also known as eFuels, which are produced by using electricity to combine the hydrogen molecules from water with the carbon from carbon dioxide (CO2) — are beginning to attract attention as an alternative fuel with three important selling points in today’s environment. First, eFuels are available now and can be made with current technology, although there is a lot of room for future improvements and growth. Second, because they are considered drop-in replacements, they are essentially indistinguishable from the fossil-based conventional fuels in use today, which means they can be used without any changes to the existing energy infrastructure. Third, they can capitalize on a rapidly growing set of hydrogen and CO2 suppliers eager to secure a diversified set of offtakers. In today’s RBN blog, we look at HIF Global’s approach to eFuels production, its demonstration plant in Chile and its big plans for Texas and beyond.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 set off a wave of repercussions in energy markets and economies the world over. The hope of the U.S. and its allies has been that international pressure and mounting sanctions would cause Russia to swiftly end the war — or at least make it very difficult to finance. But while the war rages on and Russia seems to be coping with the short-term impacts reasonably well, the long-term effects on its energy sector could be much more significant. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how Russia’s twin challenges — finding buyers for its crude oil and its refined products — are more different than they might seem and why Russia’s oil-and-refining sector is in the early stages of a sustained slowdown.

The lack of successful projects has long been a thorn in the side of the carbon-capture industry, with a few high-profile cases falling short of expectations for a variety of economic and technological reasons. When looking for a prime example of how a highly touted (and taxpayer-supported) project can still fall short, the Petra Nova facility southwest of Houston, which completed its three-year demonstration period shortly before being shut in 2020, often comes to mind. But now it’s just a few months away from getting another shot, courtesy of its new owner and recovering oil prices. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the impending restart of the Petra Nova project, how falling oil prices overshadowed its technical successes, and its importance to the carbon-capture industry.

It’s not the most accurately named piece of legislation, but that doesn’t mean the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) might not have an outsized impact on everything from electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen production to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon-capture projects. There’s plenty of potential for things to happen in the long run, but before then, a lot needs to get done — including the rules and regulations that will guide the IRA’s implementation. In today’s RBN blog, we look at why the IRA remains a work in progress, the critical role that rulemaking will play, and potential impediments to the law’s long-term success.

When carbon dioxide (CO2) is captured and stored deep underground, a process known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), it’s supposed to remain there permanently. Although much of today’s emphasis is on moving carbon-capture projects from aspirational to operational, there are long-term challenges to making sure those emissions stay put away for good, even if the odds of a significant leakage are considered remote. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the common risk factors for carbon-capture projects, explain why a site’s post-injection care-and-monitoring period can last for several decades, and detail the leakage risks that project planners must be prepared to handle.

The U.S. is gearing up to provide billions of dollars in financial support for a series of regional clean hydrogen hubs and had what amounts to an informal cutdown at the end of December, announcing that 33 project proponents had been formally encouraged to submit a full application this spring. Although the Department of Energy (DOE) didn’t name any of the projects on the “encouraged” list, we’ve been able to identify many of the proposals — and add five more in today’s blog — even though a lot of project details remain under wraps. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll look at the new projects on our list and examine the major factors that are likely to influence a project’s viability.

The National Environmental Policy Act was created to ensure federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their actions and decisions, but it is the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which serves as the White House’s environmental policy arm, that provides guidance as to how those agencies should evaluate the projects subject to their review. Energy and environmental policy have shifted under President Biden, and interim guidance recently submitted by the CEQ extends efforts to prioritize the administration’s commitment toward lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Still, it’s not easy to swiftly change policy, for a variety of reasons. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the CEQ’s interim guidance and why the real-world impact on energy and environmental policy might be hard to quantify for a variety of reasons, at least in the short term.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.