The Top Public Companies for an Energy Transition

This data-file compiles all of our insights into publicly listed companies and their edge in the energy transition: commercialising economic technologies that advance the world towards ‘net zero’ CO2 by 2050.

Each insight is a differentiated conclusion, derived from a specific piece of research, data-analysis or modelling on the TSE web portal; summarized alongside links to our work. Next, the data-file ranks each insight according to its economic implications, technical readiness, its ability to accelerate the energy transition and the edge it confers on the company in question.

Each company can then be assessed by adding up the number of differentiated insights that feature in our work, and the average ‘score’ of each insight. The file is intended as a summary of our differentiated views on each company.

The screen is updated monthly. At the latest update, in February-2021, it contains 200 differentiated views on 100 public companies.

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.

Biomass to biochar: the economics?

This data-file captures the economics of producing biochar from waste biomass that would otherwise be likely to decompose. Other products are bio-oil and bio-gas, with the mix depending on reactor temperatures.

Biochar is a carbon negative material, according to our carbon accounting, locking as much as 0.5kg of CO2 into soils and construction materials per kg of dry biomass inputs.

It can also be highly economical, with a base case IRR of 25%. Our full model allows you to stress-test input assumptions. Our own inputs are derived from a series of technical papers, summarized in the final tab.

Offshore offsets: nature based solutions in the ocean?

Nature based carbon offsets could migrate offshore in the 2020s, sequestering 3GTpa of CO2 for prices of $20-140/ton. In a more extreme case, if CO2 prices reached $400/ton, oceans could potentially decarbonize the whole world. This note outlines the opportunity in seaweed and kelp cultivation. It naturally integrates with maritime industries, such as offshore wind, offshore oil and shipping. Over 95% of the 30MTpa seaweed market today is in Asia, but Western companies are emerging.  

Companies buying nature-based carbon offsets?

This data-file aims to tabulate how 35 leading companies globally are purchasing nature-based carbon offsets, in order to offset their CO2 emissions.

The data-file includes the rationale for the purchases, the projects supported, how they are verified, their scale and their cost.

We find appetite for carbon offsets accelerating. 60% of the projects are reforestation projects, 2.5x more prevalent than forest conservation. 70% are undertaken indirectly through partners, versus 30% undertaken directly. 95% of indirect projects have sought third-party verification, while 60% of direct projects have self-verified.

Companies in hard-to-abate sectors, such as transport and materials were more likely to prefer carbon-offsets, while those in easy-to-abate sectors, such as tech, finance and media have been more likely to purchase nature-based carbon credits as a ‘last resort’ after exhausting other options.

Mangrove restoration: what costs for carbon offsets?

This data-file calculates the economics of carbon-offsetting via mangrove restoration projects, including a full breakdown of costs. This matters as mangroves are a crucial blue carbon eco-system.

In the US, we estimate a $130/ton CO2 price is required for a 10% IRR, of which c30% is the cost of labor (to plant seedlings at $15/hour) and c30% is land leasing.

In the emerging world, a $15-35/ton CO2 price suffices for a c 10% IRR. The lower costs may be an argument for developed world countries to partner with emerging world countries to promote cost-effective carbon sequestration.

Finally, if the projects are viewed as a charitable undertaking simply required to break even (while restoring nature, offsetting CO2 and lifting local people out of poverty), then the best projects in the emerging world can have a CO2 cost as low as $3/ton.

Please download the data-file to stress-test the inputs and assumptions.

CO2 from electric vehicles versus ICEs and hydrogen?

This data-file tabulates the CO2 intensity of producing and charging lithium ion batteries for automotive use, split across 10 different components, informed by the technical literature. Producing the average EV battery emits 9T of CO2 (chart below).

Electric Vehicles should nevertheless have c50% lower emissions than gasoline vehicles over their entire useful lives, assuming equivalent mileages. Although we see gasoline vehicles’ fuel  economies improving.

Manufacturing EVs has an energy deficit, which means the ascent of EVs could increase net fossil fuel demand all the way out to 2037 (note here).

This data-file can be used to calculate the crossover point, which comes after around 3.5 years and c50,000 miles (chart above). The numbers will vary as a function of grid composition, technical improvements and vehicle specifications.

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.

Biofuel technologies: an overview?

This data-file provides an overview of the 3.5Mbpd global biofuels industry, across its main components: corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, vegetable oils, palm oil, waste oils (renewable diesel), cellulosic biomass, algal biofuels, biogas and landfill gas.

For each biofuel technology, we describe the production process, advantages and drawbacks; plus we quantify  the market size, typical costs, CO2 intensities and yields per acre.

While biofuels can be lower carbon than fossil fuels, they are not zero-carbon, hence continued progress is needed to improve both their economics and their process-efficiencies.

Our long-term estimate is that the total biofuels market could reach 20Mboed (chart below),  however this would require another 100M of land and oil prices would need to rise to $125/bbl to justify this switch.

The data-file also contains an overview of sustainable aviation fuels, summarizing the opportunity set, then estimating the costs and CO2 intensities of different options.

Shifting demand: can renewables reach 50% of grids?

25% of the power grid could realistically become ‘flexible’, shifting its demand across days, even weeks. This is the lowest cost and most thermodynamically efficient route to fit more wind and solar into power grids. We are upgrading our renewables ceilings from 40% to 50%. This 22-page note outlines the growing opportunity in demand shifting.