Cryogenic air separation: the economics?

This data-file calculates the economics and energy consumption of cryogenic air separation units, important in the production of industrial gases for metals, materials and medical applications. But air separation units also explain c1% of global energy use.

We estimate an oxygen price of $120/ton is required for a new air separation unit to generate a 10% IRR. You can stress-test the economic sensitivities in the data-file.

The largest cost component is electricity. Hence using air separation units flexibly to absorb intermittent renewables (note here) makes excellent sense, from both the perspectives of economics and CO2  emissions.

Onshore wind: the economics?

This data-file models the costs and the economics of constructing a new onshore wind power project, based on technical papers and a detailed line-by-line capex cost build-up.

A typical onshore wind project requires a 6.75c/kWh power price and a $50/ton CO2 price in order to generate an unlevered IRR of 10%. However, investors may be inclined to view 5-6% IRRs, lowering the incentive price to 5-6c/kWh even without a carbon price.

The main cost is capex, which varies between $1,000-3,000/kW (below). The data-file  gives a detailed  breakdown, across materials, fabrication, transport, installation and linking to our other models. Larger turbines will reduce future costs, as stress-tested in the cost tab.

Inspection costs: drones versus traditional quality control?

This data-file estimates the costs of drone inspections, for the construction and resources industries, using bottom-up numbers from technical papers.

Costs per hour can be 30% lower than for traditional quality control inspections. A single drone, including software licenses likely costs c$30k, which is disaggregated line-by-line.

Our notes from technical papers are also included in the data-file.

Energy transition technologies: the pace of progress?

This data-file aggregates 20 different TSE patent screens, to assess the pace of progress in different energy technologies. Our short, 3-page summary note on the findings is linked here.

Lithium batteries are most actively researched, with 8,300 patents filed in 2019 ex-China. Autonomous vehicles and additive manufacturing technologies are accelerating fastest, with 10-year patent filing CAGRs of 22% and 53% respectively.

Wind and solar remain heavily researched, but the technologies are maturing, with patent activity -36% and -76% from peak, respectively. The steepest deceleration of interest has been in fuel cells and biofuels, declining at -10% pa and -7% since 2009.

It remains interesting to compare the pace of progress within sub-industries; for example, more supercapacitor patents were filed in 2019 than nuclear patents; while hydraulic fracturing patents remain the most intense focus area within conventional oil and gas.

One hundred years of innovation: global patent filings from 1920?

This data-file breaks down the number of patents that have been filed globally since 1920, across 150 different categories, to illustrate the pace of technological progress, across each industrial sub-segment.

The data are also sub-divided by geography, across the US, China and Japan, which are contrasted in c30 charts. Depressingly, the US’s share of global patent filings has recently declined back toward all time lows, while a vast acceleration has seen China filing 70% of all global patents.

China’s lead is also widening in 135 out of 150 patent categories in our data-set. This may suggest trade tensions are on course to accelerate further. It also holds implications for policymakers, as Western decarbonization must be balanced with industrial competitiveness.

The Top 40 Private Companies for an Energy Transition

This data-file presents the ‘top 40’ private companies out of several hundred that have crossed our screens since the inception of Thunder Said Energy, looking back across all of our research.

For each company, we have used apples-to-apples criteria to score  economics, technical readiness, technical edge, decarbonization credentials and our own depth of analysis.

The data-file also contains a short, two-line description follows for each company, plus links to our wider research, which will outline each opportunity in detail.

LNG liquefaction: what challenges and opportunities?

This data-file tracks patent progress into LNG liquefaction plants from 2020, by reviewing forty recent patent filings from leading companies in the industry (integrated oil companies and service providers).

We reach three key conclusions:  (1) LNG capex costs should not be overly fixated upon, as they can come at the expense of higher opex and emissions intensities. (2) The next generation of modular plants offer a step-change from the first generation. (3) And new process technologies are helping to improve efficiency across different LNG process units and their fabrication.

The full data-file spells out our conclusions,  with details on each of the underlying patents, a review of companies filing LNG patents in 2020.

Wind and solar capacity additions?

This model calculates how large global wind and solar additions would need to be, in GW per year, to deliver our roadmap to ‘net zero’.

Annual capacity additions need to treble, we find. This is an enormous scale-up, which likely also entails a trebling of global wind and solar spending.

The model is disaggregated region-by-region, and dovetails with our other models of decarbonizing the US, China, and broader gas-and-power use in Europe. 85% of the capacity growth must also take place outside of Europe and the US.

Please download the model in order to stress test the rate of capacity additions by region, renewables’ decline rates, asset lives and the grid shares.

US Air Passenger Miles and Fuel Economy?

This data-file tabulates statistics on the US aviation sector, from the Bureau of Transport Statistics, to compute the fuel economy of US air travel, per plane-mile and per passenger-mile.

In 2019, 10M US flights carried 930M passengers 1.1 trn passenger-miles. The latest data in the file run to February-2020. The latest date in the file run through the end of 2020, and show flights down 40%, passengers per flight down 40% and total passenger miles down -65% for 2020.

Fuel economy per passenger mile has risen at a 2.8% CAGR since 2003. Flight numbers have fallen by -0.4% pa and flights have become 0.8% longer.  But load factors have improved by 0.7pp each year, spreading 0.5 plane miles per gallon across more passengers. Low load factors worsened fuel economy by c40% in 2020.

Hydro electric power: the economics?

This data-file models the costs and the economics for constructing a new hydro electric power project, based on technical papers and past projects around the industry. CO2 intensity is effectively nil, even after reflecting the embedded energy of concrete, steel and construction.

A typical hydro project requires a 10c/kWh power price and a $50/ton CO2 price in order to generate an unlevered IRR of 10%. However, investors may be inclined to accept 5-6% IRRs as appropriate for infrastructure assets, lowering the incentive price to 6c/kWh. Cash opex is 2c/kWh.

The main cost is capex, which varies between $500 and $8,000/kW. Our own capex estimates are broken down below.  You can stress tests all the input assumptions in the full data-file.