Royal Dutch Shell Report Spells Big Changes for Energy

by John Brian Shannon

Royal Dutch Shell has published a startling report in which it lays out it’s future view and it has detailed huge global implications for citizens, governments and the energy industry.

Shell’s New Lense Scenarios (policy paper) paints a picture of a new order among the different kinds of energy and how energy use will change between now and 2100.

Two different scenarios are discussed and named. The two, named ‘Mountains’ and ‘Oceans’ take different views of the many factors likely to affect the industry over the next 87 years,  but there is more consensus than disagreement between the two views.

The boom in natural gas figures prominently in both scenarios with natural gas dramatically ramping-up to become the number one kind of energy in the world by 2030.

“In 2030, natural gas becomes the largest global primary energy source, ending a 70-year reign for oil.” — NLS report

Due to enhanced Carbon Capture and Storage, clean combustion technology and the use of CO2 gas for industrial processes by 2100, Shell sees global emissions of carbon dioxide dropping by 2100, to nearly zero.

A quote from the report’s main authour Jeremy Bentham, speaks volumes about the anticipated level of demand for natural gas; “The underlying pent-up demand for gas is very strong…we see it being sucked up, every molecule.”

By 2060, the report has PV solar power moving into number one position to provide at least 38 percent of global energy supply — well up from today’s distant ranking of 13th place. See; Shell Sees Solar As The Biggest Energy Source After Exiting It in 2009.

Due to enhanced Carbon Capture and Storage, clean combustion technology and the use of CO2 gas for industrial processes by 2100, Shell sees “global emissions of carbon dioxide dropping to near zero by 2100”.

By 2100, energy from oil will account for only 10 percent of worldwide energy use and natural gas will account for just 7.5 percent of the global total, Shell said.

What might lie ahead 50 years from now… or even in 2100? We consider two possible scenarios of the future, taking a number of pressing global trends and issues and using them as “lenses” through which to view the world.

The scenarios provide a detailed analysis of current trends and their likely trajectory into the future. They dive into the implications for the pace of global economic development, the types of energy we use to power our lives and the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

The scenarios also highlight areas of public policy likely to have the greatest influence on the development of cleaner fuels, improvements in energy efficiency and on moderating greenhouse gas emissions.

Mountains

The first scenario, labelled “mountains”, sees a strong role for government and the introduction of firm and far-reaching policy measures. These help to develop more compact cities and transform the global transport network. New policies unlock plentiful natural gas resources – making it the largest global energy source by the 2030s – and accelerate carbon capture and storage technology, supporting a cleaner energy system.

Oceans

The second scenario, which we call “oceans”, describes a more prosperous and volatile world. Energy demand surges, due to strong economic growth. Power is more widely distributed and governments take longer to agree major decisions. Market forces rather than policies shape the energy system: oil and coal remain part of the energy mix but renewable energy also grows. By the 2060s solar becomes the world’s largest energy source. – Shell

Download New Lens Scenarios PDF (PDF, 9 MB) – opens in new window

After selling off it’s global solar holdings in 2009, except for those located in Japan, Shell, having taken a long, studious look into the future, has since embraced PV solar as never before and is presently buying back it’s own shares at a brisk pace.

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JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

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The Next Trillion-dollar Business

by John Brian Shannon

High energy costs to pump crude oil from the bottom two-thirds of an oil reservoir is one of two main reasons that some of the largest oil wells have been capped and abandoned. Therefore, until recently much of the global proven reserves have lain dormant in so-called ‘ageing’ or ‘spent’ oilfields.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) can allow oil companies to resume extraction of crude oil at previously abandoned facilities.

This kind of CCS is a fine way to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions by storing the CO2 deep underground forever — and helping to help bring crude oil to the surface.

https://i0.wp.com/www.ico2n.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/ICO2N-Enhanced-Oil-Recovery-Carbon-Capture-and-Storage.jpg
ICO2N Enhanced Oil Recovery – Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage

Recently, and where vast quantities of CO2 are available locally from industry, millions of tons of CO2 gas have already been pumped deep into the underground crude, increasing the volume and raising the overall pressure of the oil reservoir, thereby ‘forcing’ more crude oil to the surface. This is starting to become a common practice in Canada, the U.S.A., and in Saudi Arabia.

More often than not, this process has made economic sense based on it’s own economic merit, but government subsidies have also been employed on and off over the years — on an experimental and case-by-case basis.

So, why isn’t this being done everywhere if it is such a great idea? It turns out that much of the industry-produced CO2 that is available for CCS use is already being used for that purpose. But two factors have (so far) limited more CCS injection for oilfield rejuvenation:

  1. The remote locations of some oilfields can limit the use of industrial CO2 emissions for use, as pipelines to deliver the gasses to capped wells are expensive.
  2. The high energy costs of pumping supercritical (liquified) greenhouse gasses deep underground at high pressure — and pumping the crude oil up the pipe and out through the wellhead

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And… Voila! Just like that, high energy costs are no longer a factor in that equation — thanks to the dramatic fall in solar panel prices over the past 26 months! What?

It’s true! Up ‘till now, the high cost of all kinds of energy have prevented many CCS projects from going forward, as Carbon Capture and Storage requires huge amounts of energy. But solar costs have now dropped so dramatically that free energy from the Sun is being harnessed to inject liquified CO2 deep underground to rejuvenate massive oilfields — while at the same time, sequestering millions of tons of harmful greenhouse gasses.

Semprius Inc. 33.9% efficiency solar panel arrays mounted on Solar Tracker

It’s a win-win for the environment. Some might argue that point. But each year, our civilization is consuming more crude oil producing billions more tons of greenhouse gasses.

“The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year…” — Wikipedia Fossil Fuel

We can continue to allow those gasses to escape unimpeded into the atmosphere, further warming the planet — or we can inject billions of tons of these gasses underground where they will stay for millennia.

The millions of tons of CO2 per year already being injected underground (now) and billions of tons of CO2 per year (in the near future) can only be seen as positive. If only all of the industry-produced CO2 could be so treated! Suddenly, that noble goal seems a lot closer to becoming a reality.

Who could have predicted that the oil industry and the solar industry would become such strong and complementary partners in this great and lofty enterprise?

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JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

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Green Buildings: A great step in the right direction!

by John Brian Shannon

Of all of the energy produced and used by humans worldwide, approximately one-third is used for all forms of transportation. This kind of energy is the ‘dirtiest-third’ contributing substantially to total atmospheric emissions when compared to other kinds of energy usage.

Another third of the energy consumed by our civilization is used by industry, which also contributes to atmospheric emission levels — and depending on where you live in the world, the environmental effects of that pollution can range from negligible to toxic.

The last third of energy consumption on the Earth is used for residential and commercial uses. When you turn on the heat, the lights, or look at illuminated signs and streetlights on your way to the air-conditioned shopping mall, these are all examples of residential and commercial energy use.

When we talk about the emissions from the three main kinds of energy users, the question arises; Which of the three can lower emissions at reasonable cost?

Another related question; Is green energy the answer, or is conservation?

It turns out that conservation beats anything else, hands down. No matter how clean your car operates for each mile you drive it — for each mile that you don’t drive it, the car produces zero emissions. The same holds true for cities that shut-off or power-down their streetlights after midnight. No matter how energy-efficient streetlights are these days, they still use less power turned OFF, when compared to turned ON.

Of course, we need energy to live in our modern world – that is a given. But it seems right to reduce wasted energy and one of the most cost-effective ways to do this is to employ conservation AND green energy in our buildings.

Until recent decades, energy wastage for commercial buildings and residential buildings was truly mind-boggling (sometimes much more than 50%) but great progress has been made and continues to be made in the fields of energy conservation and energy-efficient buildings.

Buildings which employ such technologies can become LEED certified if their architects apply for that certification — and the buildings meet the strict criteria, which confers a high level of efficient design and engineering technologies on a building, resulting in low emissions and low energy use. We call this having a Low Environmental Footprint here in North America, while in the UK such buildings have a Zero Net Building status.

Under the leadership of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Washington, DC, is setting a great example for other cities by rapidly becoming a world leader in clean and green buildings.

The Living Building Challenge is part of numerous efforts by the city to reach Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable D.C.” initiative, which includes 11 key categories for environmental/fiscal improvement. The categories include goals such as cutting the energy consumption [of] the entire city by half, being able to bring in locally grown food within a quarter mile of the city and have it consumed by 75 percent of D.C. residents, as well as triple the number of small businesses within the city. — Carl Pierre, InTheCapital.com

JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

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Clean Energy: How To Get There From Here!

by John Brian Shannon

Everyone knows more electricity is needed in developed nations and electrical needs in developing nations are skyrocketing. No problem there — everyone deserves to live a good lifestyle and enjoy our modern technology to the fullest.

The problem occurs in the means used to generate that electricity. Some kinds of electrical power generation cause huge billowing clouds of pollution 24-hours per day, every day of the year.

All of this adds up to astronomically high costs for electrical power producers and users, which can be measured in several different ways.

For instance, new conventional nuclear  power plants can cost up to $20 billion dollars each. Added to that cost, is the cost incurred to store thousands of tons of (so-called) spent nuclear fuel. Some spent fuels must be stored in air-conditioned bunkers for up to 20,000 years, with never more than 36 hours of A/C interruption. The costs of that are so high, they can’t even be calculated.

New coal plants cost about $250 million dollars/per hundred megawatts. A hundred megawatts isn’t much, by the way – enough to power 16,000 power-hungry A/C homes in the U.S. or about 29,000 homes in China. Some coal-fired power plants cost upwards of $1 billion dollars. The cost of the coal must be added to the equation from day one – the price of which rises and falls typically between $80.00 and $160.00 per ton, plus the significant transportation costs. It may interest you to know that China burned 3 billion tons of coal last year, emitting 7.2 billion tons of CO2 and other toxic gasses. Approximately 410,000 Chinese people die every year as a result of pollution-related deaths.

Natural gas power plants are clean, they cost a little more than comparable coal plants and the only real drawback is they emit huge volumes of CO2. Unlike coal, they emit little in the way of other toxic gasses or soot. Again, a costly and continuous and supply of natural gas must be available every day of the year.

No matter which choice is made, the construction of electrical generation power plants incurs high costs to nations — and the cheapest options come with the highest fuel and health-care costs.

In the United States, nuclear power receives significant subsidies on the order of $3.50 billion per year on average and oil and gas receive $4.86 billion subsidy dollars per year on average.

fossil-fuel-subsidies-490x407

We can see from the chart above that in the United States most forms of electrical power generation are heavily subsidized. Who could afford electricity otherwise?

If solar, wind and geothermal energy were subsidized at the same per kilowatt rate as Oil & Gas, Coal, or Nuclear — total U.S. emission levels would drop dramatically and Americans would be breathing much cleaner air.

National health-care costs would drop, acid rain damage would decrease to near zero, crop damage from power plants would become a thing of the past and meeting international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol would become boringly simple.

To have the enjoyment of breathing clean air and the other benefits listed above, all governments should calculate the highest subsidy they pay per kilowatt hour and then begin paying ALL electricity providers that same per kilowatt hour subsidy.

Solar power, wind power and geothermal would then become ultra-competitive with coal, N-power and Oil & Gas. Every large rooftop area, such as big box retail outlets like IKEA stores for one good example, could assist national power production and air-quality goals by lowering demand on the grid and potentially adding power to it, while helping to enhance the health of citizens.

One nation has already begun such a program and is right on schedule. Denmark has decided that all energy, including transportation energy(!) will come from renewable sources by 2050 and they have made substantial progress in only a few short years.

Even with the patchwork and grossly unlevel subsidy regimes in place in the United States, this transition is already occurring. Organizations from the U.S. Navy, to IKEA and WalMart, some cities and towns, the Big Three auto manufacturers and many more businesses and organizations, are converting their unused rooftop spaces and vacant land into clean power stations — thereby tapering the need for behemoth, pollution-spewing power plants.

If governments standardized the subsidies they already pay for Oil & Gas, Coal and Nuclear power (instead of paying billions of dollars to some power providers — whilst paying pennies to others) we would all breathe a lot easier.

We need oil & gas, coal, natural gas and conventional nuclear power to feed our grids, what I’m  advocating for is directly comparable subsidies for all electricity providers, including green energy — and there are no real reasons why such subsidy levelization couldn’t soon happen in every country.

ABOUT JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

I write about green energy, sustainable development and economics. My blogs appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint, EnergyBoom, Huffington Post, United Nations Development Programme, WACSI — and other quality publications.

“It is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.”

Green Energy blog: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Economics blog: https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JBSCanada