Molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs) could be a game-changer for CCS and fossil fuels. They are electrochemical reactors with the unique capability to capture CO2 from the exhaust pipes of combustion facilities; while at the same time, efficiently generating electricity from natural gas. The first pilot plant was due to be tested in 1Q20, by ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy, but was deferred. Economics range from passable to phenomenal. The opportunity is outlined in our 27-page report.
Pages 2-4 outline the market opportunity for more efficient carbon separation technologies, which can be retrofitted to 4TW of pre-existing power plants, without adding $50/T of cost and 15-30% of energy penalties per traditional CCS.
Pages 5-13 outline how MCFCs work, including their operation, development history, how recent patents promise to overcome reliability problems, and their emergent adaptation to carbon capture.
Pages 14-18 assess the economics, both in absolute terms, and by comparison to new gas plants and hydrogen fuel cells. CCS-MCFC economics range from passable to phenomenal, at recent power prices.
Pages 19-23 suggest who might benefit. FuelCell Energy has received $60M investment from ExxonMobil, hence both companies’ prospects are explored.
Appendix I is an overview of incumbent CCS technologies, and their limitations.
Appendix II is an overview of six different fuel cell types, comparing and contrasting MCFCs.
Decarbonisation is often taken to mean the end of fossil fuels. But it is more feasible simply to de-carbonise them, with next-generation combustion technologies.
This 19-page note presents our top two opportunities: ‘Oxy-Combustion’ using the Allam Cycle and Chemical Looping Combustion. Both can provided competitive energy with zero carbon coal & gas.
Leading Oil Majors are supporting these solutions, to create value while advancing the energy transition.
Carbon capture remains an “orphan technology”, absorbing just c0.1% of global CO2. The costs and challenges of current technologies are profiled on pp2-4.
Energy penalties are particularly problematic. Paradoxically, the more CCS in our models, the longer it takes to de-carbonise the energy system (see pp5-6).
Next generation combustion-technologies are therefore necessary…
Allam Cycle Oxy-Combustion burns CO2 in an inert atmosphere of CO2 and oxygen. We evaluate a demonstration plant and model strong economics (see pp12-15).
Chemical Looping Combustion burns fossil fuels in a fluidized bed of metal oxide. We profile the technology’s development to-date, net efficiency and levellised costs, which are passable (pp8-11).
Oil Majors are driving the energy transition. We count ninety patents from leading companies to process CO2, including 30 to de-carbonise power. The best advances are profiled from TOTAL, Occidental, Aramco and ExxonMobil. (See pp16-19).
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.
Pages 2-3 show that today’s technologies are not sufficient to decarbonise the global energy system, which will surpass 100,000TWH pa by 2050. Better technologies are needed.
Pages 4-6 show how Oil Majors are starting to accelerate the transition, by developing these game-changing technologies. The work draws on analysis of 3,000 patents, 200 venture investments and other portfolio tilts.
Pages 7-13 profile seven game-changing themes, which can deliver both the energy transition and vast economic opportunities in the evolving energy system. These prospects cover electric mobility, gas, digital, plastics, wind, solar and CCS. In each case, we find leading Oil companies among the front-runners.
Global energy investment will need to rise by c$220-270bn per annum by 2025-30, according to the latest data from the IEA, which issued its ‘World Energy Investment’ report this week. We think the way to achieve this is via better energy technologies.
Specifically, the world invested $1.6bn in new energy supplies in 2018, which must be closer to $1.8-1.9bn, to meet future demand in 2025-30– whether emissions are tackled or not. The need for oil investment is most uncertain. More gas investment is needed in any scenario. And renewables investment must rise by 15-100%.
Hence the report strikes a cautious tone:“Current market and policy signals are not incentivising the major reallocation of capital to low-carbon power and efficiency that would align with a sustainable energy future. In the absence of such a shift, there is a growing possibility that investment in fuel supply will also fall short of what is needed to satisfy growing demand”.
We do not think the conclusions are surprising. Our work surveying 50 investors last year found that fears over the energy transition are elevating capital costs for conventional energy investments (below).
Meanwhile, low returns make it challenging to invest at scale in renewables.
We argue better energy technologies are the antidote to attracting capital back into the industry. That is why Thunder Said Energy focuses on the opportunities arising from energy technologies. Please see further details in our recent note, ‘What the Thunder Said’. For all our ‘Top Technologies’ in energy, please see here.
IEA (2019). World Energy Investment. International Energy Agency.
Energy transition is underway. Or more specifically, five energy transitions are underway at the same time. They include the rise of renewables, shale oil, digital technologies, environmental improvements and new forms of energy demand. This is our rationale for establishing a new research consultancy, Thunder Said Energy, at the nexus of energy-technology and energy-economics.
This 8-page report outlines the ‘four goals’ of Thunder Said Energy; and how we hope we can help your process…
Pages 2-5 show how disruptive energy technologies are re-shaping the world: We see potential for >20Mbpd of Permian production, for natural gas to treble, for ‘digital’ to double Oil Major FCF, and for the emergence of new, multi-billion dollar companies and sub-industries amidst the energy transition.
Page 6 shows how we are ‘scoring’ companies: to see who is embracing new technology most effectively, by analysing >1,000 patents and >400 technical papers so far.
Page 7 compiles quotes from around the industry, calling for a greater focus on technology.
Page 8 explains our research process, and upcoming publication plans.
In 2018, we reviewed 250-years of energy transitions, arguing that another great energy transition is now on hand.
It will occur over the next century. Thus for another hundred years, today’s energy industry will remain vitally important. In addition, new sources of supply will create unimaginable new sources of energy demand.