Tracking the Energy Transition: Waste Power Joins the Likes of Hydrogen and Sunlight
Collaboration seems to be the name of the game as a slew of companies get together to drive the energy transition. These companies are focusing on alternative sources of methane, new ways of making hydrogen, and new ways of keeping track of it all.
Waste Not …
Clean Energy Fuels and BP announced that their renewable natural gas (RNG) joint venture will build on previously announced plans to finance and develop new projects at dairy farms, starting in the Midwest.
Located in South Dakota and Iowa, the dairy farms, with more than 30,000 cows, have the estimated potential to convert the methane produced from waste into more than 7 million gallons of RNG annually.
Agriculture accounts for nearly 10% of US greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the idea is that capturing methane from farm waste can lower these emissions. RNG is used as a transportation fuel and has lower GHG emissions on lifecycle basis when compared with conventional gasoline and diesel. The California Air Resources Board has given similar projects a carbon intensity (CI) score of weighted average of −320 compared with CI scores of 101 for conventional diesel fuel and 15 for electric batteries.
The first RNG production facility from the collaboration is expected to be operational in 2022.
Elsewhere, Enbridge and Vanguard Renewables announced a partnership to design and build eight RNG project sites across the United States, where organic waste will be transformed into carbon-neutral RNG. The eight RNG will be located near Food Processing Suppliers Association member processing facilities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Under the partnership, Vanguard, a developer of RNG infrastructure, will build and operate digesters used to convert food and farm waste into RNG, while Enbridge will invest in the RNG upgrading equipment that will turn RNG into pipeline-quality natural gas. Enbridge will also help transport and sell that natural gas to large multinational companies with aggressive decarbonization goals.
Collectively, these eight sites are expected to create about 2 billion ft3 of RNG annually through methane capture and conversion.
That’s enough to displace about 110,000 metric tons of CO2 that would otherwise be released into the air—the equivalent of taking nearly 25,000 cars off the road.
Enbridge said it expects to invest more than $75 million, collectively, for upgrading equipment and pipeline infrastructure at these facilities.
In keeping with the trend, engineering firm KP Engineering has entered into a mutual collaboration agreement with OMNI Conversion Technologies, a Canadian company focused on producing clean green energy by converting energetic waste into what it calls OmniSyngas and OmniRock. The collaboration will enable the companies to supply equipment and technology to produce hydrogen from waste with a negative carbon footprint at less than half the cost of electrolysis.
KPE and OMNI will comarket OMNI’s patented technology. They will exclusively collaborate with each other to provide an integrated modular solution for converting a variety of minimally prepared wastes to hydrogen, while capturing CO2 for subsequent use or sequestration.
Get Along To Go Along
Hyzon Motors, a supplier of hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles, and TC Energy announced an agreement to collaborate on development, construction, operation, and ownership of hydrogen production facilities across North America.
The hydrogen production facilities will be used to meet hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle demand by focusing on low-to-negative carbon intensity hydrogen from renewable natural gas, biogas, and other sustainable sources.
Under the agreement, the companies will evaluate sites across multiple states and provinces to develop hydrogen production facilities with the goal of hydrogen delivery to fuel heavy-duty vehicles. The hubs will be prioritized near existing and potential customer demand with a goal to produce up to 20 tonnes of hydrogen per hub per day. TC Energy will operate the hubs, supply the power and gas commodities, and provide asset development, management services, and power and gas sales marketing.
Getting in Gear
Global solar company Lightsource BP, together with Xcel Energy and EVRAZ North America, dedicated its new 300-MW Bighorn Solar project. Lightsource BP, a 50/50 joint venture with BP, unveiled the solar project that will help reduce emissions and support more than 1,000 jobs at EVRAZ’s Pueblo steel mill, the world’s first steel mill to be powered largely by solar energy.
The project is primarily located on 1,800 acres of land on EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel property in Pueblo, Colorado. It is the largest on-site solar facility in the US dedicated to a single customer, with more than 750,000 solar panels providing nearly all the plant’s annual electricity demand. The plant already recycles scrap metal to produce new steel products.
“This project proves that even hard-to-abate sectors like steel can be decarbonized when companies come together with innovative solutions,” said Kevin Smith, the CEO of Lightsource BP, Americas.
The Bighorn Solar project is currently generating electricity into the grid and is expected to come fully online in November 2021.
Repsol said it expects to start up the first electrolyzer in the northern Spanish region of the Basque Country in the second half of 2022 to produce renewable hydrogen at its Petronor refinery. The facility is planned to have a capacity of 2.5 MW and involve an investment of €8.9 million, also covering the construction of the necessary infrastructures for the use and distribution of the renewable hydrogen produced.
The electrolyzer will serve Petronor’s own refinery and different entities at the nearby Margen Izquierda Technology Park, located in the municipality of Abanto-Zierbena. These include the Energy Intelligence Centre and the first hydrogen plant in the Basque Country, a facility promoted by the Basque Energy Agency and Repsol that will supply the technology park’s own mobility logistics platform made up of light vehicles and buses.
The project will be carried out by the engineering firms Sener and John Cockerill, while the pipelines that will transport the renewable hydrogen produced at Petronor to the Margen Izquierda Technology Park will be constructed by Nortegas.
This project is part of the Basque Hydrogen Corridor Initiative, promoted by Petronor and Repsol to accelerate the economic recovery of the Basque Country, and Spain as a whole, while advancing the decarbonization of the economy and promoting strategic sectors such as energy, mobility, industry, and services. The consortium has so far managed to bring together 80 companies, institutions, and research centers that plan to mobilize €1.431 billion until 2026. These funds will be earmarked for the execution of 40 projects throughout the hydrogen value chain, with the aim of creating more than 1,300 jobs and positioning the region as an international hub in renewable hydrogen.
Speaking of electrolysis, INEOS announced that it plans to invest more than €2 billion into electrolysis projects to make zero-carbon green hydrogen across Europe. Its first plants will be built in Norway, Germany, Belgium with investment also planned in the UK and France.
INEOS, through its subsidiary INOVYN, is already Europe’s largest existing operator of electrolysis, the critical technology necessary to produce green hydrogen for power generation, transportation, and industrial use.
This will be Europe’s largest ever investment in electrolysis projects to make green hydrogen with the potential to transform zero carbon hydrogen production across Europe.
The first unit to be built will be a 20-MW electrolyzer to produce clean hydrogen through the electrolysis of water, powered by zero-carbon electricity in Norway. This project is expected to lead to a minimum reduction of an estimated 22,000 tonnes of CO2 per year by reducing the carbon footprint of INEOS’ operations at Rafnes and serving as a hub to provide hydrogen to the Norwegian transport sector.
In Germany INEOS plans to build a larger scale 100-MW electrolyzer to produce green hydrogen at its Koln site. Hydrogen from the unit will be used in the production of green ammonia.
The Koln project is expected to result in a reduction of carbon emissions of over 120,000 tonnes per year.
INEOS is developing other projects in Belgium, France and the UK, and the business expects to announce further partnerships with leading organizations involved in the development of new hydrogen applications.
Scepter, a company that uses global Earth and space-based data to measure air pollution in real time, has announced a collaboration with Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER).
AER has made its name sensing, simulating, modeling, and predicting weather-related phenomena in the atmosphere, ocean, and space for a wide spectrum of federal agencies and commercial customers since 1977. AER’s greenhouse-gases team has decades of experience in combining remote sensing and dispersion modeling to measure greenhouse-gas emissions locally and globally.
The alliance with AER will allow Scepter to sharply and quickly boost its atmospheric data-collection and data-fusion capabilities for both industry and government. “We brought in a top player to accelerate our time to market, sort of like bringing in the Marines,” said Scepter CEO Philip Father.
Scepter said it will deploy an array of satellites with multiple sensors on each to monitor not only methane but also particulate matter and other pollutants in real time. This technique complements other available sensor platforms operating at different heights such as aircraft, drones, and ground sensors. Scepter’s big data capabilities, in turn, can fuse the entire sensor stack for a more accurate understanding of the dynamic nature of the atmosphere.
The Global CCS Institute released an updated database that now tracks carbon capture and storage (CCS) networks as well as projects, storage, and regulations around the world. First released in 2018, the CO RE database provides data on CCS and its vital role in achieving global climate targets.
CO RE’s CCS Readiness Index tracks a country’s requirement for CCS, its policy, law, regulation and storage resources development, identifying nations which are leading the creation of enabling environments for commercial CCS deployment.
“We’re seeing significant positive movement in the CCS readiness scores, particularly across Europe, which is largely due to a higher carbon price, ambitious emission targets and numerous supportive policy developments,” said Alex Zapantis, the institute’s general manager for commercial.
University of Alberta research is making new strides in discoveries about capturing and storing carbon—while also yielding a high-value end product from carbon dioxide.
A process that injects the greenhouse gas deep below ground, then circulates it to extract heat and geothermal energy, has proven viable in a feasibility study by researchers at the university.
The discovery moves the technology a step closer to pilot testing and, ultimately, to becoming part of a low-carbon economy, said
Alireza Rangriz Shokri, a research associate who conducted the study.
“This is a step forward to commercializing the technology, and, if successful, it’s a potential breakthrough for sustainable energy production,” he said.
Known as CO2 plume geothermal, or CPG, technology, the process extends beyond the concept of just capturing and sequestering CO2, he added.
The heat and geothermal energy extracted from the CO2 could be used to generate electricity and become a revenue stream that helps offset the costs of carbon capture and storage, Shokri said.
Geothermal energy could become a crucial player in the energy transition away from fossil fuels, but only if we can drill down far enough to unleash its full potential. Matt Houde of Quaise made that point at the 2021 Geothermal Rising conference and then went on to describe the first test campaign to bring a potentially disruptive drilling technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) into the world at large.
The test campaign involves researchers from industry, MIT, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The campaign is based at ORNL and supported by a grant from the US Department of Energy through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
Quaise is working to replace conventional drill bits that mechanically break up the rock with millimeter wave energy (cousins to the microwaves many of us cook with). Those millimeter waves literally melt then vaporize the rock to create ever deeper holes.
Houde emphasized that the general technology, such as the gyrotron machine that produces the millimeter wave energy, is not new. “We’re leveraging some 70 years of research toward nuclear fusion as an energy source,” he said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because fusion has pushed this technology to the point where it can serve our purposes. We simply have to optimize it for deep drilling.”
The Quaise technique also takes advantage of conventional drilling technologies such as those developed by the oil and gas industries. The company will still use these to drill down through surface layers to bedrock, which was what they were optimized for.
Chevron issued an updated climate change resilience report that further details the company’s ambition to advance a lower-carbon future. Chevron adopted a 2050 net zero aspiration for equity upstream Scope 1 and 2 emissions. The report describes how Chevron is incorporating Scope 3 emissions into its greenhouse-gas emission targets by establishing a Portfolio Carbon Intensity (PCI) target inclusive of Scope 1 and 2 as well as Scope 3 emissions from the use of its products.
Chevron’s new PCI target assists with transparent carbon accounting and company comparison from publicly available data. The target covers the full value chain, including Scope 3 emissions from the use of products.
The company said it plans to publish a PCI methodology document and online tool to enable third parties to calculate PCI for energy companies.
By Any Other Name
Qatar Petroleum, the world’s largest producer of liquified natural gas, has changed its name to Qatar Energy. Its CEO said the new name better reflects its strategy of focusing on energy efficiency.
“It’s more of a reflection of what we’re actually doing that wasn’t reflected by the name that we had,” said CEO Saad al-Kaabi. He added that natural gas would remain part of the energy transition and would be needed for at least a few decades.
Out of Thin Air
CarbonCapture, a climate technology company that makes machines that remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere, announced the closing of a $35 million Series A funding round. CarbonCapture will use the funds to accelerate product development efforts and establish initial deployments of its renewable-energy-powered Direct Air Capture (DAC) systems in locations throughout the US, starting with the Tamarack Nickel Project in central Minnesota in partnership with Rio Tinto and Talon Metals.
CarbonCapture has developed a set of technical innovations that enable, for the first time, the use of zeolites for capturing CO2 as part of a commercial DAC system. A class of molecular sieves, zeolites are inorganic, inexpensive, long-lasting, and nontoxic. Moreover, they already are manufactured in large quantities for multiple industrial applications, eliminating a major barrier to economically scaling DAC to gigaton levels.
Prime Movers Lab led the Series A investment. Also participating in the round was international mining and metals company Rio Tinto, Idealab Studio, Idealab X, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, and several additional firms and family offices. Equity financing raised by CarbonCapture since its inception now totals more than $43 million.
The Namibian government has issued a notice of award stating its intention to appoint HYPHEN Hydrogen Energy as preferred bidder to develop the country’s first large-scale vertically integrated green hydrogen project in the Tsau ǁKhaeb national park. The project, worth an estimated $9.4 billion, is expected to ultimately produce 300,000 tons of green hydrogen per year for regional and global markets, either as pure green hydrogen or in derivative form such as green ammonia.
The announcement followed a competitive tender process and following the conclusion of mandatory legislative processes and the entering into of the relevant contractual agreement will afford HYPHEN the right to construct and operate the project for a 40-year period following the conclusion of the feasibility study and sign-off from the government.