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A Game-Changing Energy Discovery

lithium-ion batteries transportation

A Game-Changing Energy Discovery

Many of the world’s largest economies are betting on batteries. While the challenges become clearer by the day, if batteries will bolster the move toward a reliable alternative energy source, lithium is critical. Up until recently the largest lithium reserves were relatively known, but a recent discovery of an ancient supervolcano in Nevada just might be the world’s largest lithium deposit to date. 

Chile is currently home to the world’s largest lithium reserves and the South American country is the world’s second-largest producer. Australia follows with Argentina, China, and the US rounding out the top five. This new discovery will potentially nudge the US up the list and radically alter the supply landscape. Last year, the average battery-grade lithium carbonate price was $37,000 per metric ton. Some estimates point to the supervolcano’s potential worth just shy of $1.50 trillion. 

The Nevada supervolcano was believed to have formed roughly 19 million years ago. Previous eruptions are thought to have pushed minerals to the surface via faults and fractures leaving lithium-rich smectite clay. In nearby Thacker Pass, the firm Lithium Americas had drilled 13.7 million tons of lithium carbonate, previously thought to be the largest US deposit. The supervolcano’s deposit is estimated to be in the range of 40 million tons. 

China is a dominant player in lithium refinement with approximately 90% of the metal mined at a global scale refined in the Asian superpower. If the US could move to refining its own deposits this has the potential to change the dynamics from a supply, price, and geopolitical perspective. The US currently imports hundreds of millions of lithium-ion batteries every year with China, South Korea, and Japan as the principal suppliers. Since 2020 the total import value of batteries has tripled, numbering $13.9 billion in 2023. 

As with most extractive industries, there are environmental concerns. The Bannock, Paiute, and Shoshone people are protesting what they deem would be “100 acres of disturbance” on sacred Native American land on the Nevada/Oregon border. Another group, the People of the Red Mountain, claim upwards of 91 cultural sites in the proposed drilling area and are concerned over the longer-term effects of lithium extraction. Extraction entails the use of 500,000 + liters of water per ton of lithium and the digging of up to 30 million tons of earth. 

In Argentina, environmental groups complain of contaminated streams near the lithium operation Salar de Hombre Muerto while the Chilean landscape is littered with mountains of discarded canals and salt that have resulted in an odd, unnatural blue hue. The upcoming battles will likely be regulatory in nature.  




The Future of Energy Investing: Where to Invest in 2023 and Beyond

Let’s make this clear right from the outset: The future of energy investing is in renewable, clean, and green energy. Renewable energy is projected to grow steadily over the next 3 decades, accounting for at least 50% of global energy production/consumption by 2050. Solar power, in particular, will be big over the coming years according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Shifting from the dirty fossil fuels that dominate today’s energy market to a renewable energy future will require a huge investment. Top energy companies around the world have already taken note of this and are putting their money into clean energy. Shell, for example, has pumped more than $2 billion into renewable energy over the last 5 years. A recent study by Octopus, an alternative-investment manager, shows that pension funds and other institutional investors are betting on renewables as the best investment route to go. These institutional investors are projected to invest in excess of $700 billion in renewables over the next decade.

Why invest in clean energy? Because it is ethical and lucrative. You will be helping the world combat the negative effects of climate change and at the same time enjoying a solid return on investment (ROI). Here are 3 lucrative and ethical clean energy investment routes you can take in 2023 and beyond:

1.  LNG

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is touted by many energy experts as the transition fuel that will bridge the gap between dirty fossil fuels and clean, renewable energy. It’s easy to see why LNG is the perfect transition fuel. First, there are massive reserves of natural gas around the world. Each continent has enough natural gas to last more than 100 years at current rates of production. Secondly, LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel available today. Compared to other energy sources such as diesel, oil, and coal, LNG has negligible greenhouse gases, soot, and particulate emissions. It is, indeed, ethical to invest in LNG.

Besides being an ethical investment, LNG is also quite lucrative considering that its market has full support from governments around the world. Governments are committed to the long-term viability of a sustainable and responsible energy sector, and LNG promotion and adoption are right at the heart of that commitment. Investing in the LNG sector gives you access to incentives, international market insights, subsidies, and other valuable resources from governments.

Investing in LNG presents you with endless business opportunities throughout the natural gas value chain. These opportunities include upstream exploration, natural gas liquefaction at the source, shipping, regasification, pipeline infrastructure, LNG terminals, and city gas distribution (CGD) networks. You can put your money anywhere within that value chain and make a decent ROI. The LNG sector also presents you with a chance to have a positive impact on local communities, especially the underserved, unserved, and the forgotten. You get to provide employment opportunities to local communities, on top of providing them with affordable clean fuel for both domestic and industrial use. 

Many companies are betting their money on LNG. Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific International Holdings (AG&P), for example, has made huge investments in underserved markets in the Philippines and India. The Joseph Sigelman-led company helps create jobs, injects money into local communities in the form of investments, employment opportunities, and even taxes, and revives manufacturing and industrialization in rural Asia. Its floating storage unit (FSU) in Batangas Bay, for example, is revamping manufacturing and industrialization in the Luzon region, Philippines. On the other hand, Cheniere Energy, the biggest U.S. LNG exporter, is bringing jobs back to Louisiana and Texas as it pursues more liquefaction expansion opportunities. 

2.  Solar

Solar is the fastest-growing clean energy and arguably the most viable option in combating climate change. This is because solar energy is readily available from the sun and can be tapped and used in small quantities for domestic use or in large quantities for industrial use.

In the US, the Biden administration has injected $82 million into domestic solar manufacturing, a move that’s likely to triple the solar market in the country over the next five years. Europe, through the REPowerEU Plan, has also stepped up its investment in solar energy infrastructure.

Some of the solar energy companies you can consider investing in include First Solar Inc. (FSLR), a company that deals with solar panels and photovoltaic power plants. Another option is Enphase Energy (ENPH), a software-driven home energy solutions provider that specializes in solar and battery systems.

3.  Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

CNG-powered cars are changing our everyday transportation. CNG is free of sulfur, benzene, and lead toxins. It’s non-corrosive and produces negligible amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other suspended particles during combustion. CNG vehicles are, therefore, cleaner, more efficient, and more sustainable than diesel cars. Their maintenance and operation costs are competitive too because without lead, the longevity of their spark plugs is enhanced.

In India, the market share of CNG cars hit a record high of 8.60% in 2022, up from 6.30% in 2021. It’s projected that this figure will rise to up to 10% in 2023. The global demand for CNG vehicles is projected to grow to more than $312 billion over the next decade, up from $110.5 billion in 2022. This steady growth shows you how lucrative CNG investment will be in the near future. You can borrow a leaf from Joseph Sigelman’s huge investment in CNG stations in Asia. His company, AG&P, is in the process of building a network of 1,500 CNG stations to serve India’s transport sector.

Final word

Changing government incentives will push the world towards renewable and sustainable energy. Consumers are also more cautious than ever before about global warming and climate change. Any investor looking to invest in the energy sector must, therefore, buy shares in sustainability-focused energy stocks.


lithium-ion batteries transportation

LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Designs Non-Metal Battery To Replace Lithium Battery

As the demand for electric vehicles, cell phones, and computers continues to grow, so does the demand for lithium used in lithium-ion batteries. While this soft, alkali metal known as “white gold” is abundant in certain countries, the mining process and safety issues are of concern to researchers. One such researcher is LSU Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Ying Wang, who is using a Board of Regents grant to design a non-metal rechargeable battery that could one day replace lithium batteries on Earth and in space.

Wang and her group of LSU ME students have been working on a non-metal battery with a water-based electrolyte that is safer than an electrolyte in a lithium battery, which uses flammable and toxic organic solvents.

Wang has spoken with NASA personnel about the battery and its potential use in space.

Wang’s ammonium-ion battery has an aqueous electrolyte containing high-concentration salts that result in a significantly depressed freezing point for operation at sub-zero temperatures in space systems. The anti-freezing electrolyte can be simply prepared by dissolving ammonium salt in water. The salt concentration will be varied and optimized to achieve the lowest freezing point, maximized ionic conductivity, and electrochemical performance of the battery. The battery will be tested under extreme conditions as is required by NASA.


The Future of Natural Gas in the World of Energy

Over the last two decades, natural gas has gradually and consistently etched its place as a critical player in the global energy supply chain. As natural gas gains prominence, the demand for other fossil fuels has either stagnated or declined. The use of coal, for example, has declined consistently over the last 3 decades. Within the same timeframe, the demand for natural gas has grown slowly but steadily. That’s impressive considering the volatility of the energy market over the recent past. But now that the energy sector is trying to abandon fossil fuels in favor of cleaner, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, what’s the future of natural gas? 

Natural Gas as the Bridge Fuel to a Sustainable Future

The goal is to replace coal and other harmful fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. However, the energy sector is yet to build the necessary wind, solar, and hydropower infrastructure for a stable renewable energy supply. There has to be a transition fuel to cover the deficiencies of renewable energy. Natural gas stands out as the most reliable transition fuel; it will for the next couple of decades help the world edge closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

However, transporting natural gas is a huge logistical challenge because gas can only be distributed by pipelines. But natural gas fields are scattered all over the world, most of them being far away from the towns where the end users live. To make it easier to transport by road and sea, and to store it safely, natural gas is liquefied at -162°C to turn it into liquid (liquefied natural gas or NLG). It is then re-gasified and piped to the end user via pipelines.

LNG is a cleaner alternative to coal and oil because, when burning, it emits the least conventional air pollutants among all fossil fuels. Its carbon and sulfur dioxide emissions, as well as dust and other particulates, are significantly fewer than burning coal or oil. Its combustion technology is also far more advanced than the best available coal technology.

Critics of LNG raise concerns about its high methane content, which is between 85%-95%. However, LNG companies around the world have proved their ability to police methane leaks even without regulatory pressure. Most of these companies have invested heavily in leak detection technologies that track and report leakages for speedy interventions.

UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report calls for a rapid transformation of the energy sector in order to contain a full-blown climate crisis. This will be possible by 2030 with LNG as a transition fuel. LNG can be used for electricity production, as a fuel for trucks, and for household heating.

What’s the Future of LNG in a Renewable Future?

Even when solar and other renewable energy sources will be sufficient to satisfy the global energy market, countries will still have to invest in natural gas. This is because transitioning to wind and solar cannot replace fossil fuels in aviation and marine shipping. Industrial sectors, e.g. iron smelting, will still be dependent on fossil fuels many decades from now. If fossil fuels cannot be fully replaced by renewable energy, then LNG has to be the fossil fuel that the world has to fall back to. It’s cleaner and more reliable, after all.

Notable Projects Shaping the Future of LNG

The LNG industry has shown resilience in the face of criticism by doubters and 2 years of pandemic-driven disruptions. The sector is still strong and the demand for LNG is on an upward trajectory. Investors in the sector are investing millions of dollars into modernizing LNG facilities in anticipation of a future LNG boom.

Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific International Holdings (AG&P) is making huge strides in India’s LNG market. The downstream LNG development company has been a huge revelation in the Asian energy sector over the last decade. The company is now partnering with the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development to invest up to $120 million in new LNG projects in India. The Singapore-based company, under the brand name AG&P Pratham, is on a mission to revolutionize India’s city gas distribution network. The focus of CEO Joseph Sigelman is to create an uninterrupted supply of LNG, compressed natural gas (CNG), and piped natural gas (PNG) for Indian industries and households.

North Field Expansion Project in Qatar is another LNG project for the future. The existing infrastructure produces 77 million TPY (throughput yield) of LNG, with the expansion set to increase production to 110 million TPY by 2025. Consequently, Qatar will become the largest LNG exporter globally and a leader in Asia’s green energy transition. In Africa, Mozambique LNG is investing in offshore LNG projects in Mauritania and Senegal that will play a critical role in West Africa’s transition to a sustainable energy future. Lastly in Croatia, Hrvatska LNG recently launched the Krk Island LNG Terminal that’s touted to spearhead the energy transition in southeastern Europe. The new facility has an estimated storage capacity of 2 million TPY. 

Final word

The future of LNG is bright. With the power of incumbency as a long-serving fuel in many countries, LNG will give renewable energy sources a run for their money for a long time. Besides, LNG delivers environmental benefits that can aid the world in its pathway to a lower-carbon future. 



Decarbonizing Hydropower with Industrial Coatings and Repair Composites

Considering the imminent exponential growth of the hydropower industry, it is essential that an arsenal of strategies is implemented in order to raise the sustainability standards within hydropower facilities – driving the industry towards a net zero future.

Of these strategies, protective coatings and repair composites have an important part to play. By intrinsically improving the integrity of key hydropower assets, these products help to accelerate the drive towards more sustainable hydropower facilities and, therefore, the decarbonization of the sector.

Industrial coatings support decarbonisation of hydropower industry (Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash)

The Carbon Footprint of Hydropower

While the environmental benefits of hydropower far outweigh fossil fuel alternatives, like most alternative energy sources, hydropower is not without its carbon footprint. Indeed, all energy sources, even renewables, produce carbon emissions in their lifecycle, due to the emissions caused by their manufacture, construction and operation.

While there are some hydropower facilities, such as Iceland’s Landsvirkjun, which have pledged to become carbon neutral, on average, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that hydropower has a median greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity of 24 gCO₂-eq/kWh. This is the grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated allocated over its life-cycle. By comparison, the median figure for coal is 820 gCO₂-eq/kWh.


Average life-cycle CO2 equivalent emissions (source: IPCC)

Hydropower Capacity Needs to Double by 2050 

The need to mitigate this carbon footprint somewhat ratchets up when considering the huge role hydropower is set to play in supporting a net zero emissions by 2050 pathway (in line with The Paris Agreement).

In the International Energy Association’s (IEA) ‘Net Zero by 2050’ Roadmap (revised version 2021), the required growth of hydropower is colossal. The Roadmap states that hydropower capacity needs to ‘double by 2050’, positioning the industry as ‘[…] the third-largest energy source in the electricity mix by 2050.’


Image source: International Energy Association’s (IEA) ‘Net Zero by 2050’ Roadmap

A Call to Modernize Aging Plants

While it is essential that hydropower capacity ‘doubles’ by 2050, one way of increasing this capacity is by, what the IEA describes as ‘modernizing aging plants’. In fact, their Roadmap details how between now and 2030, USD 127 billion – or almost one-quarter of global hydropower investment – will be spent on modernizing aging plants. 

In regards to these ‘aging plants’, according to the IEA, in North America, the average hydropower plant is nearly 50 years old and in Europe, the average is 45 years old.

The report goes on to say how: ‘These aging fleets – which have provided affordable and reliable renewable electricity on demand for decades – are in need of modernization to ensure they can contribute to electricity security in a sustainable manner for decades to come.’

Extend Lifespan of Hydropower Assets with Industrial Coatings and Composites

Industrial protective coatings and epoxy repair composites play a fundamental role in ‘modernizing aging plants’, which in turn, supports the decarbonization of the hydropower industry.

By investing in this polymeric technology, aged assets can be repaired, protected and improved for the long term. This process successfully helps to mitigate the carbon footprint of hydropower facilities as it breathes new life into assets that would otherwise be decommissioned, replaced or sent to landfill.

Companies such as Belzona (established in 1952) have a portfolio of protective coatings and repair composites that have been used to improve the efficiency and performance of hydropower assets for decades.

Based on the level of erosion resistance required, the epoxy paste, Belzona 1111 (Super Metal) and composite repair polymer, Belzona 1311 (Ceramic R-Metal), can be specified for rebuilding damage and restoring efficiency in areas such as turbines, wicket gates and turbine casings.

The efficiency-improving capabilities of these systems can be demonstrably identified in the two-part epoxy coating, Belzona 1341 (Supermetalglide). With this high-performance coating, the efficiency of fluid-handling equipment, such as pumps, can be increased by up to 7% on new equipment and up to 20% on refurbished equipment. 


Francis turbine prior to application, visibly damaged

First coat of epoxy coating, Belzona 1341 (Supermetalglide), applied

As seen in the graph below, in a study carried out by Leeds University, it was found that when compared to polished stainless steel, Belzona 1341 (Supermetalglide) was 15 times smoother.

Roughness comparison between polished stainless steel and Belzona 1341 (Supermetalglide). Surface inspection: Leeds University

The two-part polyurethane resin, Belzona 2141 (ACR-Fluid Elastomer), can be deployed in areas that are particularly subjected to high levels of cavitation, such as Kaplan turbine blades. This system offers an outstanding level of protection against cavitation at ultra-high velocities (up to 115 knots with no damage).

Application of  Belzona 2141 (ACR-Fluid Elastomer) on Pelton turbine nozzle head

Belzona’s range of polymeric systems can be specified in the following application areas, amongst others: turbines, penstock gates, generators, spiral casings, draft tubes, transformers, powerhouses, control valves, dams, stilling basins and spillways.

Mitigating Hydropower’s Carbon Footprint 

By investing in industrial protective coatings and epoxy repair composites, the lifespan of hydropower assets can be considerably prolonged. In turn, this supports more sustainable operations within hydropower facilities and, therefore, helps to mitigate the carbon footprint of the industry.