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THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 12 Oct 2015, 13:14:57

pstarr wrote:Efficiency is not the only measure. H2 electrolysis has many advantages. The flexibility of hydrogen fuel for one. It is a gas that can be compressed, stored, moved in pipelines. With a fuel-cell it is converted directly back into electricity to power an EV. Or it can be burned directly in an ICE (with minor carborator adjustment. It can power a large gas turbine.

The simplicity of the H2 system is an important advantage. It is truly sustainable. The electrolysis hydrogen generator equipment has a long shelf life. The only part to wear out (and would need replacement) are the simple metal electrodes. Whereas the other devices (pumped storage compression etc.) are very mechanical. So H2 would be amortized while the other equipment needs constant maintenance.

So H2 would be the way to go in an ideal world, where we had powered down and replaced our autocentric dispersed manufacturing and living arrangement with a sensible post-peak infrastructure. As it is we don't have enough energy, time, or the money to build out an effective fuel storage system. FUBAR.


Hydrogen is a terrible medium for storing energy. It has a great affinity for almost every container or pipeline material you can name seeping through or chemically binding to the material making it increasingly brittle over time. Even worse it has a flammability factor higher than any other gas I am aware of being able to ignite with as little as 6 percent fuel to oxidizer ratio. On top of those three issues even in its highest practical compression potential it has very low energy density. Even pure liquid super cooled hydrogen has less than half the energy density of gasoline and because it is cryogenic multiplies all the other problems by orders of magnitude.

If you insist on electrolizing water for hydrogen you need to use Fischer-Tropsch chemical reformulation to bind it with Carbon into Methane or Nitrogen into Ammonia, both of which solve almost all of the problems I pointed out with direct Hydrogen economies.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby pstarr » Mon 12 Oct 2015, 13:51:09

I knew that Tanada, I always argued the same.
pstarr back in 2009 wrote:But there are so many reasons why hydrogen fuel cell vehicles don't fly (or drive :)).
--hydrogen atoms are tiny and thus a distribution system will leak gas at too many opportunities,
--h2 must be stored at 10,000 psi in auto gas talks--very dangerous
--electrolysis reformers and compressors to make h2 are expensive.
--natural gas->h2 is not a good solution--leave it as gas and use it directly
--fuel cells are not the way to go--expensive, use rare materials (titanium etc.)

I guess I got bored watching the track wreck in slow mo.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby StarvingLion » Tue 13 Oct 2015, 13:19:16

The Hydrogen Economy is alive and not well, like the nuclear industry in general.

Westinghouse announces Lead Cooled Fast Reactor initiative

http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com.a ... -fast.html

"Perhaps of major importance outside the electric utility field is the ability of the LFR, because of the high temperature of its coolant, to be very useful in the generation of process steam -- making economic production of hydrogen closer to reality, as well as being of benefit to industrial processes of all types. "

The Department of No Energy will develop a reactor in the year 2395.
America cannot afford combustion.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby StarvingLion » Tue 13 Oct 2015, 13:37:03

I love the EV-KOOKS notion of "unbelievable progress":

1. Solar revolution through endless subsidies
2. Rehashed fission reactor designs that don't work
3. Fusion scams

The tech billionaires at SillyCon Valley are the 21st century rendition of the idea:

COSTUME JEWELRY IN EXCHANGE FOR LAND

While the tech overlords demonize carbon to the retarded masses, they then buy up coal deposits for peanuts while the retard gawks at his/her flashing pixels on the tiny screen while living in a rabbit hutch.

The mass genocide is just around the corner.
Last edited by StarvingLion on Tue 13 Oct 2015, 14:03:32, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby StarvingLion » Tue 13 Oct 2015, 13:46:15

Good news, people, you are saved!. The 1%ers of [Fabricated]Science have just announced that if you give their energy device a 24 hour blow job, and collect the soot from the chimney after burning all your trees down, you will have fuel!

-----------------------------------

"The scientific aims are bold, but the gains can be enormous. The new CADIAC research centre at Aarhus University will be the most ambitious venture in the world to date to find the best methods to convert CO2 into medicine, plastic and useful chemicals. Even on Mars.

CO2, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid gas. Waste product, pollution, greenhouse gas. The demon goes by many names.

However, it might also deserve a positive nickname - a sustainable resource. But this means that it has to work - or rather, that we find better ways to get it to work - and generally speaking, CO2 molecules are not very cooperative.

CO2 molecules are actually very stable, and in normal circumstances, they do not react chemically with other substances. It is therefore necessary to expose the substances to abnormal conditions.

In the course of the last few decades, researchers and companies all over the world have entered into a race to discover or develop catalysts that not only get CO2 to react with other substances and form new materials, but are also safe, stable and cost-effective.

New star team joins the race

A new competitor has now joined in. CADIAC (Carbon Dioxide Activation Centre) is providing an international team of researchers who are some of the world's leading experts in the catalysis and activation of CO2.

Backed by a grant of DKK 60 million from the Danish National Research Foundation, CADIAC will be located at iNANO, Aarhus University, but the new basic research centre will actually carry out its research at many addresses.

This is due to a partnership between researchers at the University of Michigan (USA), the University of Rostock (Germany), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), the University of Paris (France) and Aarhus University (Denmark), the latter of which is represented by the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Engineering.

Two of the partners - Professor Melanie Sanford (University of Michigan) and Professor Matthias Beller (Leibniz Institute for Catalysis) - are among the top one per cent of the most frequently cited researchers in the world.

The director of the new basic research centre is Professor of Chemistry Troels Skrydstrup, who has considerable experience in fields including catalysis, as well as management experience from his time as head of the Department of Chemistry and interim head of iNANO. Aarhus University is also represented by Professor Kim Daasbjerg, who is responsible for a number of ground-breaking results in catalysis and electrochemistry.

As part of their close collaboration, the partners will exchange PhD students, enabling them to move between the different research groups and laboratories, thereby gaining access to the world's most advanced technologies - as well as courses that may not be available in their home countries.

Towering ambitions

The ambitious aim of the research centre is to acquire fundamental new knowledge about the activation of CO2 by carrying out work that cuts across four disciplines - catalysis, materials chemistry, surface chemistry and electrochemistry.

This involves not only developing completely new catalysts and catalysis technologies - one of the aims is also to develop materials that can capture CO2 close to the catalyst, making it unnecessary to transport containers of CO2.

The vision is to make it possible in the future to collect CO2 as a raw material directly from chimneys, exhaust pipes or exhaled breath, immediately converting it to valuable materials such as plastic, medicine or fuel.

If successful, it may even affect future manned missions to Mars. The astronauts will be able to 3D print many of their tools and building materials when they arrive - with plastic derived from Mars' atmosphere, which consists mainly of CO2 - thus saving precious rocket fuel.

It sounds bold - and it certainly is. As Professor Skrydstrup wrote in his application to the research foundation, "The scientific risks are high in the sense that such complex integrated and multifunctional chemical systems have never been made before. But if it succeeds, the gains will be enormous."
America cannot afford combustion.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby StarvingLion » Tue 13 Oct 2015, 14:18:40

The Nuclear Fools are especially humorous. These educated dummies still haven't progressed to the point where they understand the earth is already filled up with polluted industrial and mining sites that need remediation. Surely dumping 15000 nukes on top of that is going to put just a little more stress on this economic "system" of Spending Other Peoples Money.

Nuclear Phd Dunce: "Decommission a nuke every single day forever? Sure, whats the problem?"
America cannot afford combustion.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 05 May 2016, 09:37:29

New interview by Mark Lynas of 6 degrees will change the world fame has just been released. Much more at link below quote.

The idea that renewable energy can power the UK is an “appalling delusion”, according to the final interview given by former chief scientific adviser, the late Professor Sir David MacKay.

The sensible energy and climate change plan for the UK, MacKay said, was for the country to focus on nuclear power and carbon capture storage technology, which traps the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. In that scenario, the amount of wind and solar the UK needed would be almost zero, he said.

However, solar could be a very important power source in other countries, he said, where sunny summers coincided with a big demand for electricity for air conditioning. Prof MacKay also said electric cars are going to be a “massive hit” but said he was “very disappointed” by the lack of progress on CCS, after the government cancelled a pioneering £1bn programme at the last minute.

Prof MacKay was a physicist at the University of Cambridge and served as chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) from 2009-2014. He had gained public prominence after writing a book, Sustainable Energy - without the Hot Air, which assessed the potential of energy technologies from physical principles.

The interview with author Mark Lynas was given 11 days before his death from cancer on 14 April and released with the permission of his wife.

Prof MacKay argued that solar, wind and biomass energy would require too much land, huge battery back-ups and cost too much to be a viable option for the UK.

“There is this appalling delusion that people have that we can take this thing that is currently producing 1% of our electricity and we can just scale it up and if there is a slight issue of it not adding up, then we can just do energy efficiency,” he said. “Humanity really does needs to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics – we need a plan that adds up.”

Prof MacKay had previously avoided being drawn into the political debate about energy, but told Lynas: “I have always tried to avoid advocating particular solutions but maybe because time is getting thinner I should call a spade a spade.”


http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ ... vid-mackay
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby Subjectivist » Tue 17 May 2016, 12:48:46

Here is an net resting report from South Africa,

South Africa: Eskom’s Molefe disappointed by renewables

In South Africa, Brian Molefe, CEO of the state-owned power utility, Eskom, has stated that the power generated by renewable energy technology has not helped the utility.

Speaking at the quarterly state of the system briefing hosted last week in Cape Town, Molefe said renewable energy has failed to provide the required energy when Eskom needed it the most, reports Moneyweb.

Eskom’s CEO says renewable energy will improve in the next 10 years with the development of storage.

RETWEET THIS QUOTE He said the technology has not yet advanced enough for it to perform efficiently and make a meaningful contribution in supplying electricity to the country.

According to the media, Molefe said renewables in practice are available from 9am to 3pm, which is not when Eskom needs them. He stated that solar power is only available when the sun shines, which excludes the evening peak in winter. Wind power is at its best in the early hours of the morning and late at night, when Eskom already has surplus power.

http://www.esi-africa.com/news/south-af ... enewables/
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby Tanada » Sun 31 Jul 2016, 22:23:31

Electricity from new wind and solar power is 2.5 to five times more expensive than electricity from existing conventional power sources, according to a study published Tuesday by the free-market Institute for Energy Research (IER).

IER’s study found that new solar and wind power are nearly five and 3.5 times more expensive, respectively, than electricity from existing nuclear reactors. IER also found green energy systems become more expensive and damaging to the power grid the more they’re used.

“Much of our existing coal and nuclear fleet could continue to provide affordable, reliable electricity for decades to come if not for policies like the Obama administration’s carbon regulations or the deal struck in California to shut down Diablo Canyon,” Thomas Pyle, the IER president, wrote in a press statement.

IER used government energy data to determine the externalized cost imposed on the power grid by the intermittent nature of wind and solar power. IER’s study is intended to show government officials the actual cost of retiring coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with new wind farms and solar panels.

“Unnecessarily shutting down our existing generation in favor of expensive and intermittent wind and solar power means Americans will be left with higher electricity bills and less money in their pockets,” Pyle said.”This will have the harshest impact on poor and middle class families who spend more of their hard-earned money on energy costs. This study adds a much-needed reality check to the debate over our nation’s electricity policy.”

Government data has been repeatedly used by green energy proponents to claim that wind and solar power are cost effective, but as IER’s report points out, this doesn’t take into account the intermittent nature of these energy sources or the strain on the power grid and subsidies involved. Countries using large amounts of wind and solar power are forced to pay these costs.

The German government, for example, spent $1.1 trillion to support wind power, but the average German pays 39 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity due to the intense fiscal support for green energy. The average American only spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Solar and wind power get 326 and 69 times more in subsidy cash than conventional sources per amount of energy generated, according to 2013 Department of Energy data.

The average American’s electric bill has gone up 10 percent since January 2009, according to government data. This occurs even though the country is experiencing record low costs for generating electricity thanks to America’s new natural gas supplies created by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The cheapness of new natural gas hasn’t translated into lower monthly payments for consumers due to new enivornemental regulations and attempts to boost solar and wind power. The state with the quickest rising power prices in the U.S. was in wind-rich Kansas. Prices there rose from 8.16 cents per kilowatt-hour in January, 2009, to 11.34 cents in January, 2015. That’s a 39 percent increase in the price of electricity, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

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http://dailycaller.com/2016/07/26/study ... nal-power/
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby vox_mundi » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 11:51:54

Tanada wrote:
Electricity from new wind and solar power is 2.5 to five times more expensive than electricity from existing conventional power sources, according to a study published Tuesday by the free-market Institute for Energy Research (IER).

... The Daily Caller News Foundation ...


Please consider the source:

The Institute for Energy Research (IER), founded in 1989 from a predecessor non-profit organization registered by Charles G. Koch and Robert L. Bradley Jr., advocates positions on environmental issues including deregulation of utilities, climate change denial, and claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless.

It is a member of the Sustainable Development Network. The IER's President was formerly Director of Public Relations Policy at Enron.

IER has been established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group. It is a "partner" organization of the American Energy Alliance[1], a 501c4 organization which states that it is the "grassroots arm" of IER.[2]

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) describes itself as "the independent grassroots affiliate of the Institute for Energy Research (IER). AEA’s mission is to enlist and empower energy consumers to encourage policymakers to support free market policies. These policies lead to abundant, affordable, and reliable energy for all Americans."[1] It was founded in 2008 by Thomas Pyle, who previously lobbied on behalf of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and Koch Industries and who previously worked for Congressman Tom Delay (R-TX), when Delay served as Whip and before Delay, as House Majority Leader, stepped down from the U.S. House of Representatives under an ethical cloud.

According to the ExxonMobils Corporate Giving Reports the IER received 307.000 US$ from the oil company or its foundation between 2003 and 2007.[9] The institute also received 175.000 US$ from Koch Industries according to a Greenpeace report.[10]

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/In ... y_Research
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Am ... y_Alliance


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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 13:50:44

As measured by the report (it "...used government energy data to determine the externalized cost imposed on the power grid by the intermittent nature of wind and solar power. IER’s study is intended to show government officials the actual cost of retiring coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with new wind farms and solar panels."

So while it may be true but so what? As I understand it the cost is calculated assuming ff plants are shut down and replaced with alt sources. Well da! Of course it cost more then maintaining excisting ff plants. But if one added up the cost of all those ff plants, adjusted for inflation of course, the difference might not be that much especially if one includes their externalized costs.

The value of alts is best as substitutes for NEW FF PLANTS. Which is why Texas is one of the leading wind energy producers ON THE PLANET. We haven't shut down one Btu of ff sourced energy. We are also building the largest CO2 sequestration project on the planet so we can keep burning our 100 supply of very dirty lignite.

So again this foolish all or nothing position taken by both sides of the debate gains us NOTHING. If the largest ff producing state (and largest coal burner by a very wide margin) can also become a leader of alt development why can't other states at least make more of an effect?
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby kublikhan » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 17:02:32

IER is a fossil fuel lobby group:

Although the IER presents itself as an objective science-based institute, many reports and watchdog organizations have disputed this, citing funding from oil industry companies and describing IER's work as ignoring science and focusing on its right wing agenda. In 2009, an article in Mother Jones magazine said IER was among the most prominent organizations promulgating climate disinformation. The institute is considered a front group for the fossil fuel industry.
Institute for Energy Research

I would rather quote a less biased source like the EIA:

Technology _Levelized Cost($/MWh)
Conventional Coal 95.1
Advanced Nuclear 95.2
Nat Gas CC 75.2
Wind 73.6
Estimated levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for new generation resources

IEA:

Wind energy is developing towards a mainstream, competitive and reliable power technology. Globally, progress continues to be strong, with more active countries and players, and increasing annual installed capacity and investments. Technology improvements have continuously reduced energy costs, especially on land. The industry has overcome supply bottlenecks and expanded supply chains.

Wind energy, like other power technologies based on renewable resources, is widely available throughout the world and can contribute to reduced energy import dependence. As it entails no fuel price risk or constraints, it also improves security of supply. Wind power will enhance energy diversity (unless it is already the dominant source) and hedges against price volatility of fossil fuels, thus stabilising costs of electricity generation in the long term. Wind power entails no direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and does not emit other pollutants (such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen); additionally, it consumes no water. As local air pollution and extensive use of fresh water for cooling of thermal power plants are becoming serious concerns in hot or dry regions, these benefits of wind become increasingly important.
Wind - International Energy Agency

Or the IMF:

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change. “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.” The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. That would be a giant step towards taming global warming, an issue on which the world has made little progress to date.
Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby StarvingLion » Mon 01 Aug 2016, 17:21:22

Which is why Texas is one of the leading wind energy producers ON THE PLANET.


No, Its because all the oil and gas companies in Texas are bankrupt.

Duh

And the wind scams will turn it into a 3rd world slum.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby onlooker » Wed 04 Jan 2017, 15:41:35

https://nicholas.duke.edu/about/news/te ... ns-targets
Tenfold Jump in Green Tech Needed to Meet Global Emissions Targets
“"If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money"”
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Wed 04 Jan 2017, 16:30:41

Thanks looker. I dug into the link but didn't find the details I was looking for. As I've started to do elsewhere I questioning some of those growth projects. But not so much the increase in alt energy but the decrease in fossil fuel sourced energy. So what if we increase energy production from sustainable alt source 20% but keep keep producing the same amount of ff sourced energy and keep emitting the same amount of GHG.

I just made that point elsewhere: the increase in Btu's frtom the alts isn't the important number: its how many Btu's of ff energy are being replaced by the alts? And there's still another important number: how many PLANNED ff projects will be replaced by alt sources?

What usually just see is some number for added alt energy production as if just increasing the number of wind turbines or solar panels automatically reduces the amount of GHG being produced. It isn't if that increase isn't in the form of substitution.

Same aspect of the debate as to whether there's a meaningful transition underway to EV's. I argue that selling 1 EV in the world for ever 98 ICE's in 2016 isn't even a minor transition but digging the world into a bigger hole with respect to vehicle GHG production. It would be the same as building a solar array with X MW capacity while building a coal fired plant with a 98X MW capacity: the situation did not improve...it got much worse.

So back to your link: they say a magnitude increase in alt energy production is needed in the future. But is that an increase in alt energy production or an increase in alt energy sources REPLACING fossil fuel energy sources? Those ared two very different dynamics when it comes to climate change.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby onlooker » Wed 04 Jan 2017, 16:35:37

You hit the nail on the head Rock. And thanks for your expert analysis of this whole energy dynamic. Yes it seems for now Alternatives are filling the role of supplements to FF energy not replacements. I suspect the Article is referring more to replacing than supplementing.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Wed 04 Jan 2017, 16:58:49

Looker - "...now Alternatives are filling the role of supplements to FF energy not replacements." Which is a good thing. I can gaurerntee you had Texas not built out wind power we would have built the equivalent capacity in dual NG/lignite burning plants.

Texas will always produce as much energy as it needs regardless of GHG emissions. Count on it.
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby onlooker » Sat 04 Feb 2017, 17:02:22

This article is demonstrating how some claims are pure hyperbole about Alternative energy. The matrix of energy continues to be by far fossil fuel energy and with each day that passes we must hurry to build out renewable/alternative energy as Fossil fuels especially Oil are not going to last forever and in fact we may be reaching soon critical minimum levels.
https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2017/ ... enewables/
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Peak oil? Majors aren’t buying into the threat from renewabl

Unread postby AdamB » Thu 09 Nov 2017, 23:36:04


Two decades ago, BP set out to transcend oil, adopting a sunburst logo to convey its plans to pour $8 billion over a decade into renewable technologies, even promising to power its gas stations with the sun. FILE PHOTO - A combination of file photos shows the logos of five of the largest publicly traded oil companies; BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total. REUTERS/File Photo That transformation - marketed as “Beyond Petroleum” - led to manufacturing solar panels in Australia, Spain and the United States and erecting wind farms in the United States and the Netherlands. Today, BP (BP.L) might be more aptly branded “Back to Petroleum” after exiting or scaling back its renewable energy investments. Lower-cost Chinese components upended its solar panel business, which the firm shed in 2011. A year later, BP tried to sell its U.S. wind


Peak oil? Majors aren’t buying into the threat from renewables
Peak oil in 2020: And here is why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0
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Re: THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Unread postby Tanada » Sun 12 Nov 2017, 21:10:57

By Ernest Scheyder and Ron Bousso HOUSTON/LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Two decades ago, BP set out to transcend oil, adopting a sunburst logo to convey its plans to pour $8 billion over a decade into renewable technologies, even promising to power its gas stations with the sun.

That transformation – marketed as “Beyond Petroleum” – led to manufacturing solar panels in Australia, Spain and the United States and erecting wind farms in the United States and the Netherlands.

Today, BP might be more aptly branded “Back to Petroleum” after exiting or scaling back its renewable energy investments. Lower-cost Chinese components upended its solar panel business, which the firm shed in 2011. A year later, BP tried to sell its U.S. wind power business but couldn’t get a buyer.

“We made very big bets in the past,” BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley told Reuters in an interview. “A lot of those didn’t work. We’re not sure yet what will be commercially acceptable.”

The costly lesson of the biggest foray yet by an oil major into renewable energy was not lost on rival firms.

Even as governments and environmentalists forecast a peak in oil demand within a generation – and China and India say they may eventually ban gasoline and diesel vehicles – leaders of the world’s biggest oil firms are not buying the argument that their traditional business faces any imminent threat.

A Reuters analysis of clean energy investments and forecasts by oil majors, along with exclusive interviews with top oil executives, reveal mostly token investments in alternative energy. Today, renewable power projects get about 3 percent of $100 billion in combined annual spending by the five biggest oil firms, according to energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total are instead milking their drilling and processing assets to finance investor payouts now and bolster balance sheets for the future. They believe they can enter new energy sectors later by acquiring companies or technologies if and when others prove them profitable.

“There is no sign of peak demand right now,” said Chevron CEO John Watson, an economist by training, who is retiring in early 2018. “For the next 10 or 20 years, we expect to see oil demand growth.”

The International Energy Agency forecasts a 10 percent rise in oil demand through 2040, reflecting the consensus among oil firms. The earliest estimate for peak oil demand from any oil company is late next decade, by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden.

History shows energy transitions – from wood to coal to oil – take a long time. Coal’s contribution to world energy consumption peaked recently at 28 percent and remains above the share from natural gas, though just below oil’s one-third.

Profit, if any, from the majors’ decades-long interest in renewable energy ventures is unclear. None of the largest oil companies disclose earnings from their solar, wind or biofuels ventures.

Investors such as Alasdair McKinnon, portfolio manager at Scottish Investment Trust, believe oil will sustain shareholders far into the future.

“There isn’t a viable alternative to fossil fuels on the horizon,” he said. “We’re not buying into the long-term demand destruction for oil.”

The confidence in oil’s future relies largely on rising consumption from emerging economies. Exxon forecasts that transportation will require 25 percent more fuel by 2040, propelled by growth in Asia. Chevron’s analysis of the India and Nigeria markets, meanwhile, concludes that infrastructure needed for electric cars is unlikely to be built.

Cars account for about a fifth of oil consumption, BP estimates. So if electric vehicles do eventually capture mass markets, oil firms would still expect growing demand from the air, rail and trucking industries.

Natural gas – now a smaller business than oil for most majors – can grow to nearly a quarter of allenergy used by displacing coal in power generation and through expanded uses in chemicals, these companies forecast. Natural gas can also fuel the power needed for electric cars.

Although Shell forecasts peak oil demand coming earlier than its rivals, it is preparing for that prospect mostly with massive natural gas investments. The firm last year spent $54 billion acquiring BG Group, which derives half its production from gas. Chevron, Exxon and Shell recently have spent billions of dollars on new liquefied natural gas projects across the globe.

Exxon declined to comment for this article.
SHORT-SIGHTED STRATEGY?

Critics of oil majors’ cautious renewable strategy – including some big investors – say the firms are being short-sighted in their trust that change will come slow, or that one fossil fuel will gradually replace another. Just as cheap natural gas is supplanting coal, even cheaper wind or solar eventually will displace gas, they argue.

South Australia is soon to become a proving ground for a project could pave the way for renewable power to supplant fossil fuels for peak electricity – a combined wind farm and grid-scale battery storage facility, by electric-car maker Tesla Inc and operator Windlab Ltd.

Fossil fuel companies need to quickly reorient themselves to the low returns of the solar and wind industries, said Jules Kortenhorst, a former Shell executive who runs the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit energy research organization.

“You cannot flip a switch on a Monday morning from being one to another,” he said. “Paychecks in the oil and gas industry are based on fundamentally believing that the world cannot see economic growth without fossil fuels.”

To achieve the same share of the renewables market that the largest publicly-traded oil companies now hold in oil and gas would require an investment of about $350 billion over the next 18 years, estimates Wood Mackenzie. Such spending would cut into the generous dividends that oil firms’ shareholders have come to expect.

“We think it will be a real challenge for these companies to change their business model,” said Nathan Fabian, director of policy at Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a United Nations-backed group.

PRI has guidelines calling for investment analysis that weighs environmental, social and governance issues. Its principles have been adopted by investors with $70 trillion in assets under management.
SMALL SCALE RENEWABLES INVESTMENTS

Oil companies have made relatively modest investments a wide range of renewable technologies. Chevron has a smattering of mostly small wind and solar ventures; Shell invests in sugar-cane ethanol in South America, wind farms in the United States and electric-car charging stations in Europe; and BP still owns the U.S. wind farms it once tried to sell.

John Browne – who as BP’s CEO two decades ago helped launch the early investments in renewables – said he still believes the renewable power will grow.

“It will take time,” he said in an interview with Reuters last month. “And they have time.”

Shell pledged to invest up to $1 billion a year by 2020 in what it calls “new energies.”

Total said this year it would spend $500 million annually on developing alternatives. But soon after that announcement, it unveiled its $7.5 billion acquisition of Maersk Oil, part of a plan to pump more crude from Norway’s North Sea.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne in October explained the focus on economics at an October oil conference in London.

“When you ask our customers what their priority is, either in developed economies or in emerging countries, price comes first,” he said. A hasty shift to renewables, he said, “could bring great economic and social damage to our 6 billion customers.”

Exxon Mobil is backing research into biofuels, joining with gene modification firm Synthetic Genomics to coax algae to produce more lipids, an oil substitute. It hasn’t detailed its investment but said the effort remains far from commercialization. By comparison, Exxon this year spent $5.6 billion on U.S. shale oil assets.
BATTERY-POWERED CARS, PLANES

Some of the oil industry’s largest customers are planning a shift to renewable alternatives, especially in transportation, which accounts for about a quarter of annual energy consumption.

Ford Motor Co earlier this fall disclosed it would aim, by 2030, to derive a third of its sales from battery-powered cars and another third from gas-electric hybrids.

A startup backed by Boeing Co and JetBlue Airways Corp recently announced plans for a small hybrid jet by 2022, using batteries from Tesla and battery supplier Panasonic Corp.

Yet oil firms continue to forecast aggressive growth in liquid fuels. Exxon predicts 90 percent of the transportation industry will rely on petroleum through 2040.

BP projects the world’s auto fleet doubling to 1.8 billion vehicles by 2035, with only 75 million of those powered by electricity.

“We’ll see if (electric cars) can be delivered in a way that doesn’t require large subsidies” from governments, Chevron’s Watson told Reuters. “That’s what we’re seeing now.”

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Ron Bousso in London; Additional reporting by Simon Webb in Rio De Janeiro; Editing by Gary McWilliams and Brian Thevenot)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.


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