Thu 31 Dec 2009
Ok we are 14 hours away from the year 2010 so I am going to have to post several top 10 lists. It seems that everyone has to have one. Since that is the case I will use theirs. But first I have to say:
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Our First top 10 is from the Energy Tribune but actually originates with:
Posted on Dec. 28, 2009
The Top Ten Energy Stories of 2009 Ed. note: This item originally ran in Robert Rapier’s R-Squared Energy Blog.
Here are my choices for the Top 10 energy related stories of 2009. Previously I listed how I voted in Platt’s Top 10 poll, but my list is a bit different from theirs. I have a couple of stories here that they didn’t list, and I combined some topics. And don’t get too hung up on the relative rankings. You can make arguments that some stories should be higher than others, but I gave less consideration to whether 6 should be ahead of 7 (for example) than just making sure the important stories were listed.
- Volatility in the oil marketsMy top choice for this year is the same as my top choice from last year. While not as dramatic as last year’s action when oil prices ran from $100 to $147 and then collapsed back to $30, oil prices still more than doubled from where they began 2009. That happened without the benefit of an economic recovery, so I continue to wonder how long it will take to come out of recession when oil prices are at recession-inducing levels. Further, coming out of recession will spur demand, which will keep upward pressure on oil prices. That’s why I say we may be in The Long Recession.
- The year of natural gasThis could have easily been my top story, because there were so many natural gas-related stories this year. There were stories of shale gas in such abundance that it would make peak oil irrelevant, stories of shale gas skeptics, and stories of big companies making major investments into converting their fleets to natural gas.Whether the abundance ultimately pans out, the appearance of abundance is certainly helping to keep a lid on natural gas prices. By failing to keep up with rising oil prices, an unprecedented oil price/natural gas price ratio developed. If you look at prices on the NYMEX in the years ahead, the markets are anticipating that this ratio will continue to be high. And as I write this, you can pick up a natural gas contract in 2019 for under $5/MMBtu.
- U.S. demand for oil continues to declineAs crude oil prices skyrocketed in 2008, demand for crude oil and petroleum products fell from 20.7 million barrels per day in 2007 to 19.5 million bpd in 2008 (Source: EIA). Through September 2009, year-to-date demand is averaging 18.6 million bpd – the lowest level since 1997. Globally, demand was on a downward trend as well, but at a less dramatic pace partially due to demand growth in both China and India.
Then there is Greentech Media:
Top Ten Energy Storage of 2009
Electric vehicles boost lithium-ion batteries, DOE dollars for grid storage, ice-making air conditioners, and a smart grid to rule them all.
Energy storage – you can’t do electric vehicles without it, and it sure would make renewable solar and wind energy a lot more useful.
That’s the imperative behind 2009’s push into energy storage – from the fast-moving world of batteries for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the slower development of a variety of technologies for storing power on the electricity grid.
1. A123, Green Tech’s First IPO of 2009: A123 Systems broke the green tech IPO drought in September, when it debuted its shares to the public markets and was immediately rewarded with a doubling of their price. But the lithium-ion battery maker has since seen shares fall to close to their initial offering price of $13.50, perhaps linked to the scaling back of electric vehicle plans by customer Chrysler. A123 is also making batteries for grid energy storage, bridging two worlds that have until now been mostly separate.
2. The Government Boosts Vehicle Batteries” Next-generation batteries wouldn’t be where they are today without the billions of stimulus dollars the federal government has aimed at the sector. In August, the Department of Energy handed out $2.4 billion to such companies as EnerG2, A123 Systems, Johnson Controls, eTec, EnerDel, Saft and Chrysler and General Motors, most of it to build battery factories in the United States – a key goal of the grants, given Asia’s dominance in battery technology and manufacturing.
3. Fuel Cells’ Waning Fortunes? What the federal government has given to batteries, it has taken away from a once-favored alternative – fuel cells. Technologies to convert hydrogen into electricity and water are clean, but they also require a massive infrastructure to deliver hydrogen – which is mostly made today by cracking natural gas – to millions of vehicles. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said he will cut back drastically on DOE funding for vehicular fuel cell research, which he described as decades away from commercial viability. In the meantime, fuel cells soldier on in the stationary power generation market, and are finding niches in forklifts and other short-range heavy vehicles, as well as in military applications.
But wait? Panasonic has started to deliver fuel cells that burn natural gas to produce heat and electricity in Japan and Bloom Energy is expected to come out of its hidey hole soon to talk about devices that pretty much do the same thing for industrial customers. By exploiting heat and power, these fuel cells can be 80 plus percent efficient.
What better way to end the new year but with the Department of Defense:
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Not sure if you’ll agree, but from my vantage point, this was the first year that merits a DOD Energy top ten. Folks who’ve been at this enterprise a long time, like Tom Morehouse and Chris DiPetto at OSD (and a small handful of others in the Services), have been doing energy grunt work without a heck of a lot of support or credit (that’s my take, not theirs). Over the past decade there have been isolated wins and signs of improvement, but nothing sustained.
But this year something changed, and I have to give credit to the increasing strength of the convoy connection. It’s finally shown everyone that being smart and proactive on energy issues isn’t the domain of Birkenstock wearing, granola eating, tree hugging peace-nicks. The clear (and easy to understand and communicate) link between fuel convoys and 1) causalities, 2) costs, and 3) mission degradation.
I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out (that’s a good thing). But without further adieu, here’s the list for the year, in no particular order:
- Gigantic Army solar installation off the ground at Fort Irwin in California’s Mojave Desert to advance conversation beyond Nellis. Score – Fort Irwin: 500+ Megawatts, Nellis AFB: 14 Megawatts
- Boeing’s high tech, super efficient 787 Dreamliner finally flew. Basis for future tanker/transport?
- Convoy lessons brought the concept of proactive energy planning fully out of its Birkenstock phase … for everyone.
- Energy audits in Afghanistan commence with Marines. It’s called MEAT, for Marine Energy Assessment Team, see here and here.
- Like DARPA to advance US space tech post Sputnik, ARPA-E‘s mission is to turbocharge US competitiveness in energy tech (ET).
- 3 of the 4 Services hold major confs exclsively on energy issues. The Navy version in particular generated a huge amount of great info
HAPPY NEW YEAR