Heliogen: concentrated solar breakthrough?

Heliogen has set a new record for concentrated solar power in November 2019, generating >1,000C temperatures from an array of c370 hexagonal mirrors, which are precisely controlled using computer vision. This is almost 2x traditional CSP plants which achieve c560C temperatures.

We have reviewed 21 patents from Heliogen’s predecessor company, eSolar, in order to understand its IP. Not only can it control heliostats more precisely than prior companies, but this allows the heliostats to be down-sized, conferring material cost-savings.

This data-file summarizes the technology, the patents, the costs (in c/kWh and $/mcfe) and the opportunity to decarbonise industrial heat and power generation.

Portfolio Construction for Energy Majors?

This data-model calculates risk-adjusted returns available for different portfolio weightings in the energy sector, as companies diversify across upstream, downstream, chemicals, corporate, renewables and CCS investments. The methodology is a mean-variance optimisation based on modern portfolio theory.

Should Oil Majors become Renewable Energy Majors? Our model indicates returns would decrease by allocating more capital to renewables, but certain renewable allocations can nevertheless increase risk-adjusted returns, as quantified using Sharpe Ratios.

Please download the model to test the impacts of flexing portfolio weightings; either at our own risks, returns and diversification benefits; or under your own assumptions which can be tweaked in the model.

Hybrid horizons: industrial use of batteries?

Gas and diesel engines can be particularly inefficient when idling, or running at 20-30% loads. At these levels, their fuel economy can be impaired by 30-80%. This is the rationale for hybridizing engines with backup batteries: the engines are always run at efficient, 80-100% loads, including to charge up the batteries, which can better cover lower intensity energy needs.

Hybrid passenger cars are the best known example, since Toyota re-introduced them in the late 1990s. c25-30% energy savings are achieved, including through engine down-sizing and regenerative breaking

Industrial applications are also increasingly taking hold as battery costs come down, achieving even higher, 30-65% energy savings. This data-file summarizes a dozen examples, from oil and gas, marine, construction and even the machinery at LNG plants.

Solar Use within the Oil Industry?

This data-file tabulates 20 solar projects being undertaken within the oil industry, in order to clean up production and reduce emissions. More projects are needed, as the total inventory will obviate <1% of oil industry CO2 by 2025.

For each project, we estimate total TWH of power generation per annum, the CO2 emissions avoided, the timeline; and we also summarize the project details.

Leading examples include the use of concentrated solar for steam-EOR in Oman and California, Solar PV in the Permian, and leading efforts from specific companies: such as Occidental, Shell, Eni and other Majors.

Development Concepts: how much CO2?

This data-file quantifies the costs and CO2 emissions associated with different oilfield development concepts’ construction materials.

We have tabulated c25 projects, breaking down the total tonnage of steel and concrete used in their topsides, jackets, hulls, wells, SURF and pipelines.  Included are the world’s largest FPSOs, platforms and floating structures; as well as new resources in shale, deepwater-GoM, Guyana, pre-salt Brazil and offshore Norway.

Infill wells, tiebacks and FPSOs make the most efficient use of construction materials per barrel of production. Fixed leg platforms are higher, then gravity based structures, then FLNG, and finally offshore wind (by a factor of 30x).


Shipping in batteries: the economics?

What if it were possible to displace diesel from high-cost, high-carbon “island” electricity grids, by charging up large batteries with gas- and renewable power, then shipping the batteries?

This model assesses the relative economics and relative CO2 emissions of such a possibility. The model is sensitive to oil prices, battery prices, hurdle rates and alternative power prices.

Economics should improve as battery prices fall. But costs are already competitive for several island grids, while CO2 intensity can be halved. Our numbers have been informed by disclosures from Gridspan Energy, a leading company in this space.

Hydrogen opportunities: an overview

This data-file provides an overview of eleven different processes for commercial hydrogen production: including their energy-economics, costs and CO2 emissions; plus a qualitative description of their opportunities, challenges and technical readiness.

Covered technologies include steam methane reforming, fossil fuel gasification, pyrolysis, renewable electrolysis, fuel cell electrolysis, solar photoelectrocatalysis and solar photocatalysis.

Our conclusion is that natural gas remains the most viable fuel source on a weighted basis, considering both cost and carbon emissions, It may also be easier to de-carbonise natural gas directly than via the hydrogen route.

Investing for an Energy Transition

What is the best way for investors to drive decarbonisation? We argue a new ‘venturing’ model is needed, to incubate better technologies. CO2 budgets can also be stretched furthest by re-allocating to gas, lower-carbon oil and lower-carbon industry. But divestment is a grave mistake.

Production profiles: renewables vs oil and gas?

Wind, solar, oil and gas are all capable of supplying comparable energy at comparable prices: 5c/kWh wind and solar is economically competitive with c$50 oil and $6/mcf gas, over a 30-year project-cycle.

But production profiles matter. Oil and gas assets generate 2-3x more energy than renewables in early years; and 50-80% less energy in later years. So dollars invested in oil and gas go 2-3x further in the short-run. To meet the same initial demand from renewables, one must currently spend 2-3x more.

Further renewables deflation of c50-70% is required before the world can truly “re-allocate” capital from fossil fuels to renewables without causing near-term shortages. In the mean time, it is necessary to attract adequate capital for both resource types.

This short data-file underpins the chart and considerations discussed above.

Next-generation nuclear: the cutting edge?

This data-file screens 15 companies at the cutting edge of nuclear technology, to assess whether fission or fusion breakthroughs can realistically be factored into long-run forecasts of energy markets or the energy transition.

Our conclusion is “not yet”. Despite many signs of exciting progress, the average technical readiness in our sample is TRL 4 (testing components). Four companies are working to lab-scale prototypes. Energy gains and system stability remain key challenges.

The database summarises each company, including its technology, location, employee count, notable backers and technical technical readiness. Our notes also cover expected costs or timings, where disclosed.