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White Could Be The New Black For Big Oil


A metal once dubbed “white petroleum” might soon draw the world’s oil companies back to a sector they abandoned decades ago, mining.

It was during the 1970s that major oil producers such as ExxonMobil and BP operated a wide range of copper, uranium, zinc and titanium projects alongside their traditional petroleum business units.

The logic back then was that oil and minerals shared a common skills base of “earth sciences” such as geology and geophysics necessary to make discoveries, and common industrial abilities in the extraction and processing of raw materials.

White Over Black

In fact the differences between the so-called soft rocks which contain oil and gas, and the hard rocks which contain most metals, were greater than the common threads, with another big difference being a different core of customers.


Filling up. Less gasoline and more electricity.


The oil industry also faces a rolling crisis of low prices and the threat of punitive government regulations on carbon pollution as well as the loss of customers to new energy sources such as wind and solar

Electric vehicles (EVs), the fastest growing sector in transport, do not need petroleum, relying instead on a mix of metals in their batteries such lithium, the material with the nickname of “white petroleum” because in its natural form it is white.

The extent of the problems confronting oil were crystallized in two events this week.

GM Switching To Lithium Power

First came news that one of the world’s biggest vehicle makers, General Motors, would stop making traditional petroleum powered vehicles in 2035, joining a trend which started in Europe where big car makers are rushing to roll out more EVs.

GM is a long way behind Tesla, the EV leader, but it is keen to close the gap.

Then came the huge losses posted by two of the world’s oil giant, ExxonMobil and BP which are being driven by activist investors to slash their carbon pollution footprints.

So, on one side of this power squeeze are customers heading for the exit and on the other shareholders demanding change.

Oil Falls While Lithium Grows

In their announcements this week, ExxonMobil and BP promised to boost their investment in low carbon businesses and alternative energy.

ExxonMobil’s loss of $22 billion included a $19 billion write-down of underperforming oil assets. BP’s loss totaled $5.7 billion and was the first since the British oil giant was hammered by the Deepwater Horizon blow-out and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 11 years ago.

Dominating the problems of the oil industry are the prices of oil and gas which were flattened earlier this year by the combination of excess production and collapsed demand in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just add lithium. Photo by Dan Tian/Xinhua via Getty Images

Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Those factors saw oil fall below $20 a barrel while one futures contract briefly turned negative.

Short-term price pressures, however, are nothing compared with the long term challenge of peak oil, a term which has flicked from its original meaning of peak supply to a modern interpretation which is peak demand.

Like oil, lithium has been buffeted over the past two years by excess supply and sluggish demand, but the long-term outlook for lithium is remarkably buoyant whereas oil faces a long slide downhill and a fight for market share which will see the survival of producers with the lowest costs.

In simple terms oil has peaked and is in retreat, lithium and the other battery metals are just starting their ascent.

Growth v Contraction

A third event this week which highlighted the difference between oil and new energy was an announcement from Albemarle Corporation, one of the world’s biggest lithium miners, that it is raising $1.3 billion to accelerate growth projects in Australia, Chile and Nevada.

Coming within hours of ExxonMobil and BP reporting big losses from oil operations the capital raising and lithium expansion plans of Albemarle demonstrated the difference between an industry in decline and one which is growing.

For investors, the potential for oil companies to re-discover their interest in mining, particularly for battery metals, is another reason to keep an eye on nickel and lithium stocks.

Acquiring a white petroleum business would be a logical move for a company such as BP which is trying to phase out of the “black petroleum” business and become a clean energy leader.

So far the dominant clean energy investments of big oil producers have been in wind turbines, solar farms and emissions management such as carbon capture and storage.

Adding a lithium asset to the asset mix would be a natural step down the clean energy path.\


69 Comments on "White Could Be The New Black For Big Oil"

  1. Cloggie on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 2:06 am 

    “Dream on if you think you can live in northern winters without FFs. LMAO!”

    Nobody claims that in 2021 any European country can do without fossil fuel.

    What part of “2050” don’t you understand?

    THIS is the way forward: seasonal storage of (solar) heat:

    “District Heating with Seasonal Storage in Vojens Denmark”

    Or this:

    “Germany Taps Its Geothermal Potential”

    Or even better, this:

    “Eavor Geothermal”

    This can be done near every small town in Europe… if you put yourself to it.

    Better save your money for energy storage, Europe, rather than yet another stupid holiday in Farawayistan, catching some exciting virus, or that new car you don’t need.

  2. Cloggie on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 2:23 am 

    South-Korea is building the largest wind park in the world: 8.2 GW, 36 billion, completion date 2030.

    With a capacity factor of 50% that wind park will be delivering 7% of Korean electricity consumption, for a price of 3 cent/kWh. State subsidy: merely 2%.

    South-Korea has a population of 52 million and is wasting electricity like there is no tomorrow: 10,100 kWh/capita. USA 12,150, Netherlands 6,400, Germany merely 6,000. EU average: 6,000 (half of the US).

    That’s why the renewable energy transition is a much less of a daunting task for Europe than for the US, where they seem to operate with open windows, rather than with a thermostat to regulate temperature.

  3. FamousDrScanlon on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 1:35 pm 

    clog, build away. I’m all for non ff energy generation & Natgas fired boilers over coal, but the scale is daunting & climate change is in runaway mode. The hour is very late.

  4. Cloggie on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 2:21 pm 

    “but the scale is daunting & climate change is in runaway mode.“

    In 1960 I was a toddler en my country used 10% of the electricity we use today. We were happy then.

    Before 1870 there was no grid.

    In 1613 this was a orphanage in the Netherlands:

    No electricity.

    The lesser electricity, the lesser the human snowflake quality.

  5. FamousDrScanlon on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 7:30 pm 

    clogO, can you say positive self reinforcing feedback loops? Do you even understand what they are? They are an unstoppable hammer that is going to continue to smash the fuck out of your precious techno industrial civilization with ever more powerful storms, hurricanes, floods, droughts, heatwaves & dozens of other consequences.

    All the green-clean energy projects don’t mean shit. Do you understand inertia? You claim to understand physics – I think not. The unstoppable forces in play are going to eat the puny humans for breakfast.

    clog, which part of unstoppable do you not comprehend?

    How about ‘faster than previously expected’ – do you get that?

    Arctic permafrost releases more carbon dioxide than once believed

    “Rising global temperatures are causing frozen Arctic soil— permafrost—in the northern hemisphere to thaw and release CO2 that has been stored within it for thousands of years. The amount of carbon stored in permafrost is estimated to be four times greater than the combined amount of CO2 emitted by modern humans.

    Research results from an international team, which includes a researcher from the University of Copenhagen among others, suggests that the newly discovered phenomenon will release even larger quantities of CO2 than once supposed from organic matter in permafrost—a pool of carbon previously thought to be bound tightly and safely sequestered by iron.”

  6. FamousDrScanlon on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 7:56 pm 

    The Siberian Tundra Is Doing That Exploding Thing Again

    “The Siberian tundra is still out here exploding. A new study from the Woodwell Climate Research Center has identified three new craters in the region’s increasingly volatile permafrost, and the climate crisis is to blame.”

    “In addition to uncovering the three new holes, the model showed previously unseen stark changes across the two peninsulas. It found that between 1984 and 2017, about 5% of the examined area has seen observable ecosystem changes, including “shifts in vegetation, elevation, and water extent.” Entire lakes have disappeared, draining out completely as the permafrost—frozen ground made of soil, rocks, and water—that forms their outer edges and bottoms melted away amid rising temperatures. Huge swaths of the region have also become greener because higher air and soil temperatures have increased plant growth. Due to permafrost thaw and ice melt, parts of the region are also sinking.

    All of these changes spell trouble for Arctic ecosystems and the rest of the world.”

  7. FamousDrScanlon on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 8:10 pm 

    Hottest January record breaks in 72 sites of Turkey

    “Turkish State Meteorological Service observed some extreme rise in temperatures in 72 sites of the country last month.

    According to the data by the Turkish State Meteorological Service, the average temperature over the previous years during January has been 2.7 degrees Celsius.

    However, this January, due to warmer weather, the average temperature has increased by 2.7 degrees Celcius, reaching 5.4 degrees Celsius.

    The sites that observed the highest rise, making it to the top of the list, are the northern province of Kastamonu’s Cide district, the Central Anatolian province of Sivas as well as the Central Anatolian province of Kahramanmaraş’s Göksun district.

    Meanwhile, experts have issued a nationwide snowfall warning starting from Feb. 12, with average temperatures expected to drop as low as 15 degrees Celsius.”

    If that big temperature plunge & snow dump happen it’ll be yet another case of extreme swings within a system (climate) which is bad news. Extreme swings within any system are indicative of instability.

  8. FamousDrScanlon on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 8:17 pm 

    ‘They were warned’: Experts on India’s Himalayan glacier disaster

    Experts tasked by India’s Supreme Court to study impact of receding glaciers on dams had warned the government in 2014 itself.

    “At least 31 people have died, 165 people are missing and many more are feared to have died, as the rescue operation continues in Chamoli district of northern Uttarakhand state.

    The deluge first smashed into a small dam, gathering more energy as it grew heavier from the debris it collected along the way. Then it smashed into a larger, under-construction dam and gathered even more energy.

    Chopra and other experts had been tasked by India’s Supreme Court to study the effect of receding glaciers on dams. They had warned that warming temperatures due to climate change was melting the Himalayan glaciers and facilitated avalanches and landslides and that constructing dams in this fragile ecosystem was dangerous.”

  9. FamousDrScanlon on Thu, 11th Feb 2021 8:47 pm 

    Chevron’s Oil Spill Is Its Latest Injustice Foisted on Bay Area Communities

    “As the pandemic drags on, some residents of the Bay Area faced a different kind of health emergency on Tuesday: an oil spill. Around 600 gallons of an oil-and-water mixture spilled from a Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California into the San Francisco Bay, the company told local health authorities.

    The company announced the spill on Tuesday afternoon, saying a “sheen was observed” (great passive voice, Chevron) on the water. Local media captured video footage of the slick spread across the waters of the bay as booms were deployed to corral it. The incident triggered a Level 2 health advisory from the local health department for residents of three surrounding communities, which was lifted later in the evening. Other agencies said that they are continuing the investigation this morning, especially watching for any impacts the spill might have on wildlife.”

    I’ve done many shutdowns at oil refineries in western Canada & they are lovely lovely places. By all means buy a home close to one. Great environment for the kids to spend their formative years in.

    Negative Effects of Living Near an Oil Refinery

    Report: Oil and Gas Production Is Making People Sick in Rural Texas

    “The price of living near oil and gas shouldn’t be giving up your health.”

    Fucking pussies. A little Cancer never hurt anyone.

  10. Cloggie on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 1:07 am 

    “I’m all for non ff energy generation & Natgas fired boilers over coal”

    “can you say positive self reinforcing feedback loops? Do you even understand what they are? They are an unstoppable hammer that is going to continue to smash the fuck out of your precious techno industrial civilization with ever more powerful storms, hurricanes, floods, droughts, heatwaves & dozens of other consequences.”

    Drama queen.

    So what is it going to be? Adapt our behavior and energy generating patterns or engage in scenic furious nihilism that makes fun of and denounces every attempt to bring about change?

    But then again, your tribe is about destruction only.


    The greatest cancer monkeys live in Vancouver, famousdrapneaman’s turf.

  11. Cloggie on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 2:05 am 

    Hand wringing doesn’t count as an evolutionary valid response to crisis. Building real solutions does:

    “Hornsea 1.4 GW Ofshore Wind Farm on Track”

    Useless “super cancer monkeys” are only walking in the way.

  12. Cloggie on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 2:41 am 

    Vestas introduces the new 15 MW offshore wind turbine:

    One such machine can service 20,000 households. Cost of such a machine, including foundation and installation: $19 million or a ridiculously low investment $950 per household, for which you get 30 years “free electricity” or $30/year. Add to that wiring and storage.

    Not difficult to see that (European) offshore wind will take the world by storm, pun intended.

    Ssssh, don’t tell the Americans, you might bring them to ideas. They conveniently think that renewables can’t exist without fossil fuel and hence they put themselves at a distance by not investing in a branch of sport with a bright

  13. Cloggie on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 4:03 am 

    Why solar parks in the Netherlands suck:

  14. Cloggie on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 4:28 am 

    Brexit fall-out: out of the blue, Amsterdam races to #1 position in Europe, overtaking from London, as the most important share-trading platform:

    Compared to last-year, Amsterdam quadrupled, London lost 40%. Frankfurt and Paris gained too from the Brexit-debacle.

    This is welcome news for the Netherlands, otherwise the largest victim in Europe of the Brexit-lunacy, as it lost one of its most important export markets and the otherwise Dutch economic powerhouse is projected to have the lowest growth in Europe this year.

    “Covid recession is officially the worst in 300 YEARS as Rishi Sunak warns of more pain to come”

    Spoiler: Covid is masking the Brexit fallout, probably the pain Sunak is pointing at.

  15. Cloggie on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 12:56 pm 

    The Swedish company SeaTwirl is working on a floating offshore vertical axis wind turbine, which could be interesting for countries with a deep water sea board, like Japan, China and the US.

    “SeaTwirl Floating Wind Power”

    After completion of testing a 30 kW model in Sweden, they are ready for prime time with 1 MW. A site has been identified near the Norwegian coast. No orders yet.

  16. FamousDrScanlon on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 1:21 pm 

    clog, Wikipedia is not an acceptable source. No educational institute in N America will accept Wikipedia as a source. Cite them & it’s = F.

    Perhaps Europeans have lower standards.

    Most energy per capita stats leave out the obscene amounts of energy used by the US war machine, a big portion of which should be added to Europe since it’s used to protect your helpless asses from the Russians.

    Holy fuck are y’all in for a shock when the empire goes home. Perhaps the change won’t be that much different – from sucking American cock to sucking Russian cock.

    You are still trying to deflect that whole inertia & unstoppable part of runaway climate change.

    It triggers you every time & every time you play your sad morality cards – Canadians are energy pigs (true) & I’m a nihilist (sometimes I am). So? Neither has anything to do with inertia or unstoppable positive self reinforcing feedback loops.

    It’s a pickle. No amount of non ff energy projects can make a difference. A wise species would never have put themselves in this position. Say the humans got wise overnight – the only energy projects they would build would be the most robust ones – ff or other.

    Very few countries are preparing for climate consequences on the national level. The Dutch are one of the few. China.

    It’s like war is coming, the enemy is on the march & we’re bickering & amusing ourselves.

    The only option left to the humans in regards to climate consequences is to prepare & it’s largely being ignored.

    Oh well, blame it on me for being a high consuming nihilist.

    Steak (Alberta beef) for dinner again tonight. I’ll cook it on my Natgas barbecue & leave the patio door open & crank the house heat up.

  17. FamousDrScanlon on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 1:23 pm 

    Corrupt Wikipedia No Longer Deems FOX News as “Generally Reliable” — Joins Gateway Pundit and Epoch Times as Censored Websites

  18. FamousDrScanlon on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 1:26 pm 

    Wikipedia Co-Founder: Site’s Neutrality Is ‘Dead’ Thanks to Leftist Bias

    “Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, published a blog post this month declaring that the online encyclopedia’s “neutral point of view” policy is “dead” due to the rampant left-wing bias of the site. Noting the article on President Donald Trump, Sanger contrasted its extensive coverage of presidential scandals with the largely scandal-free article on former President Barack Obama.

    Sanger also criticized Wikipedia’s coverage of religion and other controversial topics. After Fox News reported on his blog post, many Wikipedians ignored the bias Sanger identified and instead responded by attacking the conservative outlet as well as Sanger.”

  19. Biden's hairplug on Fri, 12th Feb 2021 2:38 pm 

    “Wikipedia is not an acceptable source. No educational institute in N America will accept Wikipedia as a source. Cite them & it’s = F.”

    LOL You don’t want to be found dead in a woke North-American “academic” institution.

    You are only embarrassed about your own cancer monkey status as the world’s biggest CO2 farter.

    You are in primitive denial.

    The real source btw is not Wikipedia, but the “Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR)”

    You should be ashamed of yourself, you planet killer!

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