Aerial Vehicles: why flying cars fly

Aerial vehicles will do in the 2020s what electric vehicles did in the 2010s. They will go from a niche technology, to a global mega-trend that no forecaster can ignore.

These conclusions stem from a deep-dive analysis into the technology, the fuel economies and the costs, all of which will be transformational.

This 20-page written-insight summarises the evidence, reviewing over 100 different companies’ efforts, checking the equations of flight for leading concepts, and bridging to competitive costs. Aerial vehicles accelerate the energy transition.

Oil Companies Drive the Energy Transition?

There is only one way to decarbonise the energy system: leading companies must find economic opportunities in better technologies. No other route can source sufficient capital to re-shape such a vast industry that spends c$2trn per annum. We outline seven game-changing opportunities. Leading energy Majors are already pursuing them in their portfolios, patents and venturing. Others must follow suit.

Chemical Looping Progress?

Chemical Looping Combustion is a next-generation technology for carbon capture, with potential to “clean up” fossil fuel power and obviate CO2 emissions. Costs and energy penalties are dramatically lower than current technologies. E.g., TOTAL is trialling CLC to create power from petcoke.

But does it work? To answer this question, we have tabulated data from the technical literature on tests (to-date) of 40 chemical looping combustion pilots, which have run collectively for 10,000 hours.

Operational data are also presented from one trial, suggesting a 38% conversion efficiency of the energy in fossil fuels, leading to economic cost estimates (below).

Shale EOR: the economics

This model assesses the economics of a shale-EOR huff’n’puff project. NPVs and IRRs can be stress-tested as a function of oil prices, gas prices, production-profiles, EUR uplifts and capex costs. Our input assumptions are derived from technical papers. We think that economics are increasingly exciting, as the technology is de-risked. As more gas is stranded in key shale basins, base case IRRs rise from c15% well-level IRRs to c20%.

The World’s Great Gas Fields and Their CO2

The CO2 content of gas fields is going to matter increasingly, for future gas development decisions: CO2 must be lowered to 50ppm before gas can be liquefied, adding cost. Moreover, it is no longer acceptable to vent the separated CO2 into the atmosphere.

Large, low-CO2 resources like the Permian, Marcellus and Mozambique are well-positioned to dominate future LNG growth.

This data-file tabulates 30 major gas resources around the world, their volumes, their CO2 content and how the CO2 is handled.

Small-Scale LNG liquefaction Costs: New Opportunities?

Cutting-edge LNG technologies can deliver 15% pre-tax IRRs, taking in $3/mcf gas and selling $10/mcf LNG: even after scaling down to nano-sized 4kTpa units. This data-file shows our workings, across six tabs.

The model tabulates our best-estimates into the costs of typical small-scale LNG projects (SMR and Nitrogen Expansion, below).

We also present and contrast a novel small-scale LNG technology, Galileo’s Cryobox, including economic sensitivities (below).

LNG in transport: scaling up by scaling down?

Next-generation technology in small-scale LNG has potential to reshape the global shipping-fuels industry. Especially after IMO 2020 sulphur regulations, LNG should compete with diesel. This note outlines the technologies, economics and opportunities for LNG as a transport fuel.

How do LNG costs vary with plant size?

This data-file tabulates a dozen data-points on LNG plant opex, from company disclosures, the technical literature and academic papers. Opex is a function of plant size, and tends to fall by $0.3/mcf for each 10x change in plant capacity.

LNG as a Shipping Fuel: the Economics

This model provides line-by-line cost estimates for LNG as a shipping fuel, compared against diesel. We used industry data and academic studies to estimate the all-in costs for (a) trucking LNG (b) small-scale LNG and (c) LNG bunkering, to supply a relatively fuel-intensive shipping route.

After IMO 2020 regulations buoy diesel pricing, it should be economical to fuel newbuild ships with small-scale LNG; and in the US it should be economical to convert pre-existing ships to run on small-scale LNG.

Fast-charge the electric vehicles with gas?

When electric vehicles are widespread, how will we fuel them? Our model shows the economics can be compelling for powering fast-chargers using gas turbines.

The electricity would cost 13c/kWh, at $3/mcf input gas (e.g., in the US), 20% utilisation of the infrastructure and a c7.5% pre-tax IRR.

Carbon emissions are lowered by c70% compared to oil-fired vehicles. And the grid is spared the strain of sudden demand surges.

Is upside suggested for gas? Utilisation of the fast-charging infrastructure is much more important to the overall economics than the gas price. This means that greater EV adoption can accommodate considerably higher gas prices.

Our model is constructed as a sensitivity analysis, based on economic data from gas turbines (chart below), so you can flex the assumptions.