Methanol: the next hydrogen?

Methanol is becoming more exciting than hydrogen as a clean fuel to help decarbonize transport. Specifically, blue methanol and bio-methanol are 65-75% less CO2-intensive than oil products, while they can already earn 10% IRRs at c$3/gallon-equivalent prices. Unlike hydrogen, it is simple to transport and integrate methanol with pre-existing vehicles. Hence this 21-page note outlines the opportunity.

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.

Methanol production: the economics?

This model captures the economics and CO2 intensity of methanol production in different chemical pathways.

Different tabs of the model cover grey methanol production from gas reforming, blue methanol from blue hydrogen and industrially captured CO2, green methanol from green hydrogen and direct air capture CO2, and finally bio-methanol.

Inputs are taken from a wide survey of technical papers, cost breakdowns and energy intensity data. These are also broken down in the data-file.

Based on the analysis, we see interesting potential for bio-methanol and blue methanol as liquid fuels with lower carbon intensity than conventional oil products. You can stress-test input assumptions in the underlying model tabs.

Managed reforestation: growth rates by tree species over time?

We have tabulated data into the growth rates of over 2,500 trees, in over a dozen locations globally, based on tree ring measurements, reported by the National Center for Environmental Information.

The objective is to assess whether growth rates are faster at younger or older trees, given that biomass accumulation is correlated with tree widths. We find that tree widths continue rising steadily over 100-500 years, with radiuses growing at an average pace around 2mm per year.

However, growth rates are fastest in early years. As a rule of thumb, they will slow down by 25% after 20-years, 40% after 40-years and 50% after 60-years. This may be an argument for forest management and sustainable harvesting as more reforestation projects are undertaken to combat climate change (note here).

Relatively faster growing species tend to remain relatively faster growing even after longer time-frames. This may be an argument for rigorous species selection, as discussed further in our data-file here.

Costs of climate change: a paradox?

The unmitigated costs of climate change will likely reach $1.5trn per annum after 2050, exerting an enormous toll on the world. However, the costs of the energy transition will exceed $3trn per annum. Unfortunately, this might seem to undermine the economic justification for combatting climate change. Does this matter and what does it mean?

CO2 electrolysis: the economics?

Carbon monoxide is an important chemical input for metals, materials and fuels. Could it be produced by capturing CO2 from the atmosphere or using the amine process, then electrolysing the CO2 into CO and oxygen?

This data-file models the economics of CO2 electrolysis, including recent advances from leading industrial gas companies, and by analogy to hydrogen electrolysis.

10% IRRs can be achieved at $800/ton carbon monoxide pricing, which can be competitive with conventional syngas production, and far more economic than small-scale distribution of CO containers.

The data-file contains input assumptions, detailed notes from half-a-dozen recent technical papers, and short summary of different companies’ initiatives, including Haldor Topsoe, Siemens, Covestro, Methanex and Carbon Recycling.

Ten Themes for Energy in 2021?

This 25-page note outlines our top ten themes for 2021. We fear Energy Transition will continue building into an investment bubble. But also appearing on the horizon this year are three triggers to burst the bubble. We continue to prefer non-obvious opportunities in the transition and companies with leading technologies.

Decarbonizing global energy: the route to net zero?

This 26-page report aggregates all of our work in 2020 and presents the best route to reach ‘net zero’ CO2. The global energy system can be fully decarbonized by 2050, for an average CO2 cost of $42/ton. Remarkably, this is almost half the cost foreseen one year ago. 85Mbpd of oil and 375TCF pa of gas are still required in this 2050 energy system, together with efficiency technologies, carbon capture and offsets.

How much land is available for reforestation?

2.3bn hectares of land have been deforested, releasing c25% of all anthropogenic emissions. This 19-page note reviews the technical literature, gathers detailed data and concludes 1.2bn hectares can be reforested. Consequently, there is room for 85Mbpd of oil and 400TCF of gas in a decarbonized energy system, while half of all ‘new energies’ technologies are overly expensive and may not be needed in the transition.