Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: A long, long time ago in a land far, far to the north, during a training class the instructor told a parable of twelve donuts. Eat one, you are not full; eat two, still not full. But eat all to the twelfth and you will be full. So why not just eat the twelfth donut? Because in all forms of reality, one must make a series of steps to achieve one’s goals. So it is with the energy transition; you have to have several steps and can’t just jump to the last one (candlelit cave dwelling organic farming for all).
Thus, I am saddened by the many Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), especially the most righteous ones in Canada, who demand that all forms of fossil fuel consumption must cease immediately in order for the planet (peoplekind) to survive. That won’t work without instantly throwing society into chaos and jeopardizing peoplekind of all genders, creeds and irrationalities. To achieve the goals of energy transition, one needs a vision and a path, a series of attainable steps. One must also work with existing technology while developing new technologies. A significant first step can be using natural gas as a transition fuel to replace more intense carbon emitting technologies. Natural gas must not be so quickly dismissed by intersectional SJW saboteurs.
Burning Natural Gas for Power Instead of Coal will Cut CO2 Emissions by a Lot (Step 1)
As noted in a prior OWOE blog, the big reason that CO2 emissions have fallen in the U.S. is that coal power plants are being rapidly replaced with gas power plants (which in turn are begin chased out of business by wind turbine and solar power plants). To produce 1 kWh of energy by burning coal produces about 820 grams of CO2 emissions, while burning gas produces about 490 grams of CO2. That’s a CO2 reduction of 40% using gas instead of coal. In 2018, approximately 26% of all the world’s energy was provided by burning coal, and burning gas provided another 23% of the world’s energy (Fig. 1).
In 2018, the world used about 1.61E14 kWh of energy of which coal provided about 4.18E13 KWH and gas provided another 3.70E13 KWh. Calculating how much CO2 was produced by burning coal or gas to supply that energy yields the values in Fig. 2. The combined total in 2018 was about 52,000,000 million tonnes. That’s a lot. But notice that for almost the same amount of energy produced, burning coal emitted almost twice as much CO2 as burning gas.
Now consider that a rational society replaces every coal power plant with a gas plant. The same amount of power could then be produced while reducing CO2 emissions by 13,800,000 tonnes, approx 26% (Fig. 3).
By 2030 the world needs to reduce CO2 emissions by about 23.5 million tonnes in order to stop further global warming. Ergo, using existing technology and swapping out all coal power plants with gas power plants will put us over half way there to meeting this lower CO2 emissions target. Step 1 – no more coal power, use gas instead.
Who Still Uses Coal Power Plants?
With absolute certainty, the number one coal power nation in the world is China, followed much farther back by India and the U.S. (Fig. 4).
The U.S. is rapidly closing coal power plants, Germany is phasing out coal and South Korea is phasing out coal and nuclear. But the elephant on the planet is China. China needs help. China needs LNG imports from Australia, Qatar, Canada (I joke) and piped gas from Russia.
When protesters in Canada shut down LNG projects and gas pipelines, they really are doing more harm to the world than whatever good they intend. More about Canadian energy follies in an upcoming blog.
Gas Plus Hydrogen (Step 2)
In the Orkney Islands, excess renewable energy is being used to generate hydrogen which can then be distributed in existing gas networks. Adding hydrogen, produced using renewable energy, can further significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Firms are developing facilities to produce and supply green hydrogen to the international marketplace. In Australia, the technology to export hydrogen to Japan is being developed, and the world’s first liquid hydrogen carrier (ship) launched just a couple of months ago. Step 2 – blend green hydrogen into existing gas networks.
What Next (Steps 3 and 4)?
Using gas, the world has a technologically doable and quick means to start reducing CO2 emissions. A gas turbine power plant can be built in months and there is a supply glut of natural gas on the world markets that makes gas very cheap and very available now and for quite some time to come. Add some geothermal power (Step 3) and even more CO2 emissions can be cut or avoided using existing technology. But what comes next?
Solar and wind energy are Step 4. In the U.S. we’re already seeing that both these forms of renewable energy are now cheaper than gas power. Globally, developers routinely speak of hundred mega-watt solar power plants, and wind farms, on land or offshore, are already in the GW size range.
What’s Still Missing (Step 5)?
Large scale, long duration means of storing energy for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow is still missing from the solution. Presently, there are two approaches to solving this, grid scale batteries or micro-scale batteries (Tesla Power Walls, or equivalent ). For longer term storage durations of weeks or seasons, energy storage using hydrogen can fulfill a critical role, though a bit more research and development needs to be completed before hydrogen technology is ready for widespread applications. In 2017, personnel from OWOE and VLO spoke with Shell about linking renewables and hydrogen and since then have been happy to see the progress that Shell is achieving toward hydrogen technology. Step 5 – develop energy storage technology, including hydrogen.
The world is undergoing a change in energy production and consumption. It remains to be seen whether new power replicates industrial scale grid applications, such as in the OECD nations, or whether networked micro-grids, such as those popping up in non-OECD nations, will be the best solution in the long run. It’s a question of grid down (Ma Bell) with homeowners paying or networked up (ISPs) with homeowners selling.
Vive l’Alberta Libre!
P.S. My apologies for using 2018 data, as this is the most recent free data available. Most publicly available energy data lags by about one year and is published in late fall or in early winter of the following year. If any OWOE reader would like to share more current data, we would be very grateful.
Guest blog by Mr. R. U. Cirius: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven’t gotten much media attention during the first three months of the year.
UoA Windship renewable energy vessel
Students from the University of Acadians (UoA), not to be outdone by their archrivals at the Massachusetts Technology Institute (MTI) (see story below), have turned their focus toward harnessing wind energy. Last year, after placing 20th of 20 teams at the Canadian National Concrete Canoe Competition, the students decided their expertise was better suited to larger vessels. By focusing their collective background and skills on the problem, they developed a new, high-tech, 100% renewable fuel, cargo vessel which they have named Windship (see Fig. 1). They believe it will revolutionize marine transportation in the 21st century.(more…)
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: In Part 1 of this blog on Oil Supply, l examined the supply-demand history of oil over the past decade, which has set the stage for the dramatic changes in the industry that are just beginning. In this blog I’ll explore some of the likely consequences and will venture to predict some of the dramatic events to come and some of the likely irreversible impacts recent events will have on the world oil industry.(more…)
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: A few years back, I wrote that at some point in the future (now-ish) oil produces may need to resort to providing incentives for ICE buyers, or undertake more extreme measures to ensure sufficient oil demand. Well, oil producers have not yet undertaken either of those steps and, as noted in a recent blog, we’ve now hit peak oil demand. So producers were resorting to the next best means of balancing the supply-demand equation by curtailing supply in order to support oil prices. At best this was a short term solution to a growing long term problem. Now with the beginning of the oil supply war, we see that curtailing supply has failed completely, and, as predicted in my February 2, 2019 blog, somebody has decided to produce the hell out of its reserves while there still is a market for oil. This will not be a short war; it will be long and drawn out, and the eventual winners will not be who everyone now thinks they will be. In Part 1 of my blog on this topic, I’ll examine the supply-demand history of oil over the past decade, which has set the stage for the dramatic changes in the industry that are just beginning. In the upcoming Part 2 I’ll explore the likely consequences.(more…)
Note from your OWOE editor: Houston has always been a city whose fortunes have risen and fallen with the price of oil. Now it is being hit with two crises at the same time – the coronavirus pandemic which is significantly cutting oil demand, and the Saudia Arabia-Russia battle for market share which is flooding the world with oil and forcing down its price (see Fig. 1). The result has been immediate and drastic. The almost instantaneous drop in price from the $50-60 per barrel range to the $20-30 per barrel range is worse than the drop in 2014 that almost destroyed the US oil business, with some analysts predicting the possibility of $5/bbl oil. Oil companies are looking at every way possible to cut spending quickly, including cancelling projects, idling rigs, instituting hiring freezes, and laying off staff. Add on top of that the fear of transmission of the coronavirus and need for social distancing are having what could be a long-term impact on oil demand as well as making it even harder to work, assuming one is fortunate to keep a job in this climate.(more…)
Guest blog by SA Shelley: (Note from your OWOE editor: This demand blog was written a few weeks before the oil supply war started. The oil supply war and corresponding drop in oil prices will be discussed in an oil supply blog in a few weeks. However, the author firmly believes that COVID-19 and a likely economic recession are short term demand shocks. Long term demand decline resulting from shifts in technology and consumer behavior, key issues addressed in this blog, is inevitable.)
The world has hit peak oil demand. I wrote it, I’m standing by it, and no apologies to anyone for this.(more…)
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: There still is continuing debate in California as to how much of what kinds of renewable energy are needed in order to achieve net-zero energy by 2045 . California is blessed with an abundance of renewable energy resources, especially solar, wind and geothermal, and California is still the 6th or 7th oil and gas producing state in the country (see also ShaleXP). But California has not yet harvested any of its significant renewable offshore energy resources.(more…)
Guest blog by Amanda Tallent: Although the principle of wanting warmth and light in our homes has been constant, the way that we provide these necessities has evolved tremendously over the last 150 years. This makes the future exciting to think about, as we are finding new ways to be sustainable yet innovative when it comes to providing energy in the United States and globally. The team at The Zebra has given insight on the topic, sharing the history and probable future of energy use.(more…)
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: As some people, including most notably the Prime Minister of Canada, are confused about greenhouse gas emissions, both during production of electricity and during transportation, I feel that it is time to write a quick blog about this. I will focus mostly on CO2 emissions, which are believed to be the predominant greenhouse emissions driving global warming, even though the effect of methane (CH4) emissions on warming are roughly 20 times as potent (see edf.org, greenplanet.org, and Scientific American), and some other industrially produced gases that are ubiquitous in modern life are yet exponentially more potent.(more…)
It’s a new year and a new decade and time to make a bold prediction regarding developments in the energy industry and associated transportation industry. The last few years have been a wild ride for electrical vehicles (EVs) with Tesla continuously in the headlines. Will Tesla go bankrupt? Will Tesla change the way the world views automobiles? Is Tesla stock a good buy at $250/share (2019) or $550 (2020)? But other automakers have made their own headlines: Jaguar began sales of its iPace EV, Volkswagen began sales of its eTron, and Ford introduced its Mustang Mach-E. A prediction concerning EVs is warranted, but OWOE is going to go beyond EVs and make a prediction concerning the broader automobile industry: Within this next decade one of the three US legacy car makers will cease to exist.(more…)