Oil and Gas Offer Practical Path to Net-Zero

The Dallas Morning News • by Dr. Nansen G. Saleri and Dr. Christine Ehlig-Economides • 05/19/2022

  • Alt

Energy vulnerability is not a viable option for America. The tragic events in Ukraine have shown how a drop in energy supply can trigger an asymmetric effect on consumer prices. US inflation in March would have reached its highest level in four decades at 8.5%. Even more disconcerting are the disastrous national security consequences for an energy-fragile America in an uncertain world.

This year, Hannibal, Ohio, marked an important milestone on Earth Day, April 22, toward reaffirming the country’s energy independence priorities. The Long Ridge Energy Terminal will be the first power plant in the United States to use hydrogen fuel (5% mixed with natural gas). This will yield extremely favorable geopolitical dividends in America’s quest for net zero goals without compromising its exceptional energy prowess anchored in the country’s abundant oil and gas resources.

Several major projects underway in the United States, Canada and Europe promise to reshape the energy transition roadmap for the Western world, all focused on hydrogen production and net zero. What is unique about the Hannibal plant, however, is that it is about to introduce a revolutionary model to American power plants to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When upgraded with emerging technologies by early 2023, the Hannibal plant could usher in the entry of hydrogen as a staple of net-zero electricity generation in America. This represents a practical, cost-effective, and immediate route to significantly reducing emissions in power generation compared to current US practices.

A promising new technology developed by Omnis Global Technologies, and in advanced testing, can enable on-site hydrogen production at existing or new power plants using hydrocarbons as feedstock and/or fuel via ultra-high temperature ( 1,300 to 2,600 degrees Celsius) pyrolysis process. Its novelty lies in the elimination of the massive capital expenditures and multi-year lead times associated with new hydrogen manufacturing methods.

Another advantage arises from the simultaneous production of high-value graphite ore which favorably boosts the economics of the project. The current market value of graphite products ranges from $300 to $800 per ton. On March 31, President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to secure reliable supply chains for minerals, including graphite, critical to a clean energy transition and future electricity infrastructure.

Is this a possible revival of American power plants? The modular design and on-site constructability of emerging hydrogen technologies provides a golden opportunity to rejuvenate America’s existing electrical infrastructure without disruption while dramatically reducing capital requirements and reducing lead times to new power stations. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are approximately 11,000 power plants in the United States producing 4.1 trillion kWh of electricity. They account for almost a quarter of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions, or 5.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Therefore, power plants present an attractive platform for net zero reduction plans. Many industrial plants can also benefit from on-site modular hydrogen technologies, further amplifying the potential gains.

While it is plausible to rationalize the green policies of the European Union before the war in Ukraine, the marginalization of fossil and nuclear resources can best be described as an irrational romanticism that could have contributed (along with an overreliance on supply in Russian gas) to energy price shocks for European countries. consumers. The idea that the energy transition must be disruptive and impose a “Sophie’s choice” between the country’s hydrocarbon wealth and renewable energies is misplaced. The Hannibal power plant, although a modest first step, is a reminder that the energy transition towards decarbonization can happen faster, easier and with superior results (economically, ecologically and socially), by taking advantage of oil, gas and coal and not by avoiding it.

Today, some argue that running away from oil and gas is the right strategy. We do not agree. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2022 Energy Outlook, the total technically recoverable resources of 3,000 TCF of gas is enough to last nearly a century at current consumption rates. US oil companies are well positioned to play a leading role in the energy transition by reallocating – not abandoning – the country’s hydrocarbon wealth to provide energy and high-carbon products aligned with the goals of net zero. As Einstein noted, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” New technologies add to the urgency of change in some of our current sustainability and net zero paradigms.

A modular, incremental, and steady model of energy decarbonization is the best way forward for America. Hydrogen can be a critical component in rapidly reducing emissions from power plants as part of a range of other pathways. In short, oil, gas and hydrogen should act as allied accelerators to net zero.

Nansen G. Saleri is President, CEO and Co-Founder of Quantum Reservoir Impact, a strategic consulting and advanced analytics firm. Christine Ehlig-Economides is Professor and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair at the University of Houston. They wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.