The World Never Thanks Naval Architects

Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: For almost all of human history, trade has been facilitated by water borne craft. Mesopotamia? They had boats on the rivers and in the gulf. Egypt? Boats on the river. Rome? Boats hauling grain from Egypt to Rome. China?  The Chinese were sailing and trading along East Asia for thousands of years.  By the time of the Clipper ships, naval architects had mastered wind power such that a clipper ship could make a transatlantic voyage in about 12 days . A modern fossil-fueled container ship can make the same voyage in about 8 days.  By 2018 goods carried on ships amounted to nearly 11 billion tonnes with some economists estimating that between 80% to 90% of all goods produced globally travel by ships across some water at some stage of production.

Ships today tend to be powered by fossil fuels, and when looking at the amount of CO2 emitted per tonne of cargo moved per kilometer, ships are by far the most efficient way to move goods (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 – CO2 Emissions by Various Transport Methods

The problem is that because there is so much world trade moved by ships, the shipping industry itself emits more C02 (around 3% of global emissions) and other pollutants (18%) than most countries. The European Union foresees the problem getting much worse by 2050, expecting CO2 emissions from shipping to increase by another 50% over current levels. This presents a problem as the world tries to limit and maybe even reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. The simple solution of course is to shut down global trade.

The other solution is to implement new technologies to make shipping less reliant upon fossil fuels. We’ve noted in a prior blog that Japan has started to build liquefied hydrogen carriers to transport hydrogen from Australia to Japan. Now, some shippers are starting to look at new ships to run on hydrogen fuel, both in combustible form and in fuel-cells. In spite of push back from LI-Ion proponents, hydrogen fuel makes a lot of technical and economic sense for big things that move slowly over vast distances. Things like ships, super yachts, trains and inter-city trucks. This is all good if the hydrogen is green hydrogen, sourced renewably.

Alternatively, some shippers are looking at returning to sail power. This might work well if customers will accept slower crossing times (from 8 to 12 days, for example).

But will this be enough?  There are over 40,000 registered ships plying the world’s seas, and many thousand more of dubious status hopping about from port to port. In some areas, ships that are 100 years old still trade (see note 1). Returning to the European Union estimate that CO2 emissions will increase 50% by 2050, then let’s assume that ship numbers will also have to increase by the same percentage. That means that by 2050, about 20,000 new ships will be navigating the seas in addition to the 40,000 registered ones now afloat. If we’re really serious about stopping all forms of CO2 emissions growth then we better start building nothing but hydrogen or wind powered vessels from here on at the rate of about 500 a year. Boom times for the shipyards that figure this out.

Vive l’Alberta Libre!

S.A.Shelley (see notes 2, 3, 4 and 5)

Notes:

(1) I can confirm this because I’ve surveyed such vessels in my working life and I’ve had the adventure of actually sailing on such vessels in some of the more remote parts of the world

(2) Being a true Naval Architect, when I first moved to Houston, I was puzzled by some of the unorthodox offshore oil and gas engineering practices until I realized that those practices were a continuation of near-shore, coastal civil engineering practices that just followed the fields into deeper water.  

(3) In the movie Titanic, I cried when the ship sank.

(4) Recently, Germany had some delivery problems with their newest frigate design. The problems included being overweight with a permanent list upon delivery (not much different from oil and gas platforms at times). I’ve worked on and had the chance to inspect a lot of naval vessels from many different navies, and for a small stipend to a Swiss account, I’d be happy to tell folks which ships have similar problems, as well as problems with gearboxes, propellers and weapons systems. Other information about real vessel speeds and maneuvering capabilities can also be provided for a good bottle of whisky or two.

(5) There goes my security clearance.

Wishful Thinking vs. Reality

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: On the morning of October 25, on CNN, Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke about fracking and how it is necessary to ban all fracking in the U.S. by 2025.

Fracking for energy is responsible for the overwhelming majority of gas supplies that feed America’s economy, including the heating of homes. As noted in previous blogs and based upon scientific fact, not woke feelings, burning natural gas is one of the cleanest ways to continue powering economies while economies transition. Yes, there are problems with fracking, including leakage of methane from poorly tapped wells, but with political imperative these problems can be fixed, now-ish without doing major economic damage.

Continue reading Wishful Thinking vs. Reality

Green Energy in Germany, How’s it Really Going?

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: With so much talk about Green New Deals (U.S.A.) and a Green Way Forward (Canada) these days, I thought it might be worth looking at the poster child for green energy, Germany and its frequently lauded Energiewende . Way back in 1971, the Germans started thinking about ways to shift their energy mix in order to promote sustained economic prosperity, especially, at that time, in the face of Global authoritarian (communist) threats. It was necessary then to find ways to reduce West Germany’s dependence on the Soviet bloc for energy supplies. After all, in case of war, one cannot expect one’s enemy to continue supplying fuel for one’s tanks and jet fighters.

Continue reading Green Energy in Germany, How’s it Really Going?

The Dangerous Decline of Good Engineering in Houston and Worldwide

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: OWOE bloggers and other industry analysts often discuss technical and economic aspects about energy, such as oil demand or cost of renewables. But not enough attention has been focused on the changes in business thinking that has reduced engineering capability in Houston since the oil downturn in 2014.

Continue reading The Dangerous Decline of Good Engineering in Houston and Worldwide

Natural Gas Is THE Transition Fuel

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.

Continue reading Natural Gas Is THE Transition Fuel

More interesting energy stories that you haven’t heard

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.

Continue reading More interesting energy stories that you haven’t heard

Oil Supply – If Everyone Produces, Everyone Goes Bust Part 2

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.

Continue reading Oil Supply – If Everyone Produces, Everyone Goes Bust Part 2

Oil Supply – If Everyone Produces, Everyone Goes Bust – Part 1

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.

Continue reading Oil Supply – If Everyone Produces, Everyone Goes Bust – Part 1

Coping with two crises

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.

Continue reading Coping with two crises

The World is at Peak Demand

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.

Continue reading The World is at Peak Demand