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Welcome to Our World of Energy!

Our World of Energy (OWOE) is a multi-media campaign that has been created to provide an unbiased view of energy, including pros and cons of each source, to the American public. It is OWOE's intent to help inform the public on where the energy that drives modern life comes from, why this subject is important, and how technology is changing the industry to address modern problems such as climate change, scarcity of resources, and environmental impact.

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February 7, 2023

Blog by Bill Luyties (OWOE Founder and Editor): I had the opportunity and pleasure to visit the Floating Wind Solutions (FWS) 2023 conference in Houston, Tx, last week and thoroughly enjoyed the three days of exhibits, presentations, networking, and reconnecting with colleagues. This was the third annual FWS and by far the largest and best attended with close to 90 exhibitors and approximately 800 attendees. The mood of the participants was very upbeat, as floating wind has experienced a number of positive developments over the last year. While there are still key hurdles to overcome, the industry appears to be on the verge of taking off.

Figure 1: Huisman Windfarm Installation Vessel

Exhibitors included quite a few vendors offering products ranging from fabricated steel components to buoyancy modules for submerged cables to cables and slings, service providers including seafloor imaging, offshore installation, engineering and platform certification, technical societies, and platform concept developers. Two of the exhibitor booths stood out for me. 1) The Huisman booth that included a model of their new concept turbine installation vessel (see Fig. 1). This was a very sophisticated vessel that could transport turbines and assemble and install them offshore using a fully automated, rotating, and heave compensated crane. 2) The VL Offshore (VLO) / University of Texas Dallas (UTD) booth that included a scale model of their concept MARS (Modular Assembly and Reconfigurable System) platform, applicable for semi-submersible and TLP configurations, that was developed to address the lack of large fabrication yards and the option of a floating Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) concept platform (see Fig. 2). (See disclaimer, below.)

Figure 2: VL Offshore booth at FWS 2023 conference

The three primary messages I took away from the conference were:

  1. From a technology standpoint the industry is ready to move rapidly into the commercialization phase. At this time there are 4 floating windfarms in commercial operations (Equinor’s Hywind Scotland and Hywind Tampen; Principle Power’s Kincardine Offshore Wind Farm and Windfloat Atlantic). In addition, there are several floating technology demonstrators in Europe and the world’s largest floating turbine of 18 MW offshore China. And then there are over 80 other floating platform concepts that are in various stages of development, with over of 60 of them already certified by DnV.
  2. From a government standpoint the industry has broad support, particularly in the European Union where most of the development has taken place to date, but now also in the United States where the Inflation Reduction Act contains significant provisions to boost domestic offshore wind development and where many state governments are aggressively pushing offshore wind developments. Of particular interest among the conference attendees was the recently held offshore lease sale in California, where floating platforms will be necessary due to water depth.
  3. From an execution standpoint the industry is faced with substantial obstacles. Each wind farm under consideration for development will require tens to hundreds of platforms. The infrastructure to deliver this many platforms does not yet exist, including manufacturing capacity, fabrication yards, ports, and installation vessels. In addition, the financial markets do not yet understand the development risks and are not prepared to commit the funds needed.

I find floating wind a very intriguing and challenging amalgam of the offshore oil and gas industry and onshore wind industry. Oil and gas developed the basic concepts for floating platforms, mooring and offshore installation in the 1980s and continued to refine those well into this century. All of those components are key parts of a floating wind development. Similarly, the turbines themselves have evolved from the small machines used for the world’s first commercial onshore wind farm to the behemoths designed specifically for offshore, such as the world’s current largest wind turbine with a rated capacity of 18 MW.

The big challenge is that oil and gas floating platforms have been essentially “one-off” facilities. Because of the unique characteristics of each oil field, in terms of production rates, oil and gas characteristics, geographical location, etc., platforms were designed to be optimized for individual needs, and in almost all situations only a single platform was required for a field. This is in stark contrast to floating wind farms where many platforms will be required, all of which can likely be identical, and mass production becomes one of the most important design considerations.

Amongst all the optimism at the conference, I must take exception, however, to one viewpoint that was expressed during one of the “Spotlight on Developers” panel discussions. On the question of how developers should determine the best floating wind concept for their project, the representative from Cerulean Winds felt strongly that this should be left to the EPCI (Engineer, Procure, Construct, and Install) contractor. In fact, he argued that the developer should hand over all aspects of the wind farm development to the contractor, including concept selection, fabrication, installation, financing, and even the first 5 to 10 years of operations and maintenance. Based on experience in the oil and gas industry, putting all development and operation risks on a contractor is only effective if the industry is very mature and the risks are all well known and easily manageable. This is definitely not the situation given the early days of floating wind. Such an approach will most likely result in one of two outcomes: 1) the development cost will be high because the EPCI contractor will factor excessive risk cost into its bid, or 2) the contractor will underestimate the risk and associated cost and the project will fail and/or the contractor will go bankrupt due to lack of funds. Either of those outcomes would be disastrous for the industry.

It will be very interesting to see how all the ideas and concepts and challenges play out over the next several years. Will costs fall to the point where floating wind is cost competitive with other options? Will governments continue to support offshore wind and help remove barriers to developments? Will a handful of floating platform concepts rise to the top and become de facto standards for the industry? Will the infrastructure necessary to support these developments be in place when needed? These are exciting times for the industry, and FWS 2023 did a good job of capturing that excitement.

(Disclaimer: I may be a bit biased here as VLO is a supporter of Our World of Energy and both principles are colleagues, but I do very much like good models, which both VLO and Huisman displayed, and VLO was the only exhibitor looking into VAWTs, which have some unique advantages for floating platforms that should be more widely studied.)


November 28, 2022

Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Welcome dear readers to another blog highlighting more energy follies. The world is a mess on several levels, with equity markets roiling, bonds markets churning and of course inflation running amok. Politicians at every level use every hurricane to announce that catastrophic climate change has arrived, and every excuse except fiscal imprudence as the sinister root cause for inflation (nytimes.com, nbcnews.com). We have Europeans still worrying about heat this winter and OPEC+ machinating oil prices. In response to OPEC+ moves, Washington intelligentsia responded by condemning OPEC while sidelining any effort to increase US oil production let alone finish the Keystone XL pipeline. In Europe, Germany has rapidly fired up previously shut down coal burning power plants, and citizens in Austria are scavenging forests for firewood (euronews.com, abcnews.com). In one panicked moment Germany has fallen back to fossil fuels and will once again pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than when it began its Energiewende. Perhaps the sudden new German energy plan is to accelerate global warming to prevent freezing of its populace?

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October 20, 2022

Guest blog by S.A. Shelley: WARNING: Adult language and un-woke phrases are embedded in this blog.

Writing a good blog takes some forethought and planning. But sometimes, nay too often these days, so many politicians of all stripes are continuing to make horrendously dumb statements regarding energy matters that I feel compelled to write a rebuttal to something that Angela Merkle, the former German Chancellor, said last week.

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October 11, 2022

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, reported at 303 billion barrels in 2019 (BP Statistical Review of World Energy), and yet only produced 723,000 barrels per day (MBPD) in August 2022. In contrast, Saudi Arabia is a close second in total reserves at 298 billion barrels, produced 11 million barrels per day (MBPD) that month. That is, with essentially the same reserves, Saudi Arabia produces over 15 times as much oil. The history behind the collapse of the Venezuelan oil industry is a clear lesson of the failure to understand how to manage a critical natural resource in today’s complex, interdependent world economy. If we turn to Russia, before the invasion of Ukraine it was producing 11.3 MBPD and was the largest exporter of oil to the world’s markets at 7.8 MBPD in December 2021. About 60% of those exports went to European countries. Given the West’s determination to end its dependence on Russian oil coupled with the impact of Western sanctions on Russian finance and industry, it is not hard to see the collapse of the Russian oil industry and a new oil-rich but oil-dysfunctional country ensuing, one which we will start referring to as Eastern Venezuela.

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September 6, 2022

Bill Luyties, OWOE Founder and Technical Editor: Last year OWOE published a blog titled “Don’t Blame the Suppliers. It was intended to help focus the narrative related to climate change from attacks on the supply side of the contributors to climate change, i.e., the big oil companies, to the demand side, i.e., consumers who want big cars and to buy lots of everything. However, since that time I have come across several articles published by the BBC: one published in 2020 titled “How the oil industry made us doubt climate change” and another published earlier this year titled “The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change“. These articles document the efforts of the fossil fuel companies to engage in a public-relations campaign to sow doubt in the science of climate change by following the playbook of the tobacco industry from several decades earlier. Thus, I would like to update the title of that blog to “Don’t Blame the Suppliers, Unless They Are Big Oil”.

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July 24, 2022

OWOE Staff: The battle against climate change is not going well. President Biden’s climate agenda has fallen apart. Russia’s war in Ukraine and its fallout within Europe has led to an increase in coal power and a push to increase world oil output. Germany is proceeding with plans to shut down its last 3 nuclear power plants in December which will eliminate 6% of its annual electricity generation and 11% of its non-fossil based generation. World oil production which peaked in 2019 at 99.7 million barrels per day before the Covid pandemic slashed demand has risen back almost to pre-pandemic levels and is expected to exceed those levels in 2023. We can all lament those factors as lost opportunities, but there are two factors driving Americans’ behavior that make OWOE seriously question whether any real progress can be made. We call them NIMBYism and IWINYism. We will address NIMBYism, or the Not in My Back Yard syndrome, here and cover IWINYism, or the I Want it Now or Yesterday syndrome, in a future post.

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June 9, 2022

or How to Impoverish Newfoundland while Making a Fortune Selling Electricity to New York

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: A few weeks ago, at a speech in Washington D.C the Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Jason Kenney, promulgated the idea of a North American Energy Alliance.

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May 20, 2022

OWOE Staff: The world recently celebrated Earth Day on April 22 – 52 years after the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. Unfortunately, like pretty much all the prior Earth Days, very little concrete progress was committed to addressing the world’s global warming crisis. If I may paraphrase  my favorite environmentalist, Greta Thunberg, it was all “bunny, bunny…blah, blah, blah“. Perhaps the biggest news in the fight against climate changes was Denmark’s proposal for a new corporate carbon tax, which would set a value of 1,125 Danish crowns ($164.21) per tonne of carbon equivalent and make it the highest such tax in the world if implemented. But again, that’s just a proposal. In the meantime, fossil fuel use has recovered from its Covid lows, CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets continue to melt, and environmental damage from storms, fires, and rising sea levels continue. I personally witnessed a real-life example of that the very week of Earth Day when I visited one of my favorite beaches in the world, Cancun. I have been going to the beaches of Cancun almost every year since the early 2000s, and the change to the beach caused by the increase in seaweed over the past few years is dramatic. We all tend to miss the big picture when all we see are incremental changes, but after skipping two years because of pandemic travel restrictions, the magnitude of the beach changes was more obvious and led me to look back at my earlier visits and take a broader perspective. Figure 1 shows the change over the last 8 years, with a) from April 2014 and b) from April 2022, both the exact same stretch of beach.

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May 11, 2022

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: Governments’ penchant for wasting taxpayer money and harming the environment is not a recent phenomenon but it went industrial in 20th century at all levels. At the beginning of the century Mother Nature and society had a tremendous capacity to forgive bad decisions even when some such decisions resulted in millions of deaths over the span of several decades. Human, sorry, people-kind abused Mother Nature and the pocketbooks of taxpayers in the name of progress and energy transition but managed to overcome crises such as anthropogenic acid deposition and the oil embargo of the 1970s. People-kind barely limped out of the 20th century into the 21st century. In all likelihood Mother Nature and taxpayer pocketbooks are now beyond the capacity to forgive our shortcomings and bad decisions for much longer.  Who is to blame for this? Big business has big shame, but most blame lies entirely before the governments who are elected to be wise but are faddish populists with inherent graft and “ism” agendas. Difficult and complex solutions require deep thinkers, not pot-addled Princes of Privilege (shout-out to Justin Trudeau, see notes 1 and 2).

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April 12, 2022

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: It is very difficult to keep up with all the energy changes in the world. Every week, some Big Government Agency, NGO, International Think Tank or Big Company proclaims some new solution to the looming global energy problem of too much of the wrong kind of energy and too often from the wrong place. While most of the analysts and prognosticators seem knowledgeable and well intentioned, OWOE analysts cannot conclude for certain that the resultant big government plans foisted through bureaucrats onto ordinary citizens are based upon sound knowledge and understanding of energy markets, resources, technology and costs.  I emphasize technology and cost because most government edicts are based more upon woke and vote political expedience than anything technically attainable without causing significant long term economic pain, e.g., recent decisions to shut down nuclear reactors. Nor have governments shown themselves to understand the political issues of energy supply, as we now see with Europe stuck paying for Russia’s conquest of Ukraine. We have some insightful and interesting comments about the Russian war, but these won’t be discussed in this blog – maybe later.

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