Essays, Blogs, and Stories

MINING’S HUMAN ELEMENTS: ANTHROPOLOGIST SEEKS TO BRIDGE DIVIDE BETWEEN INDUSTRY, SMALL-SCALE OPERATIONS January 2, 2020

MINING’S HUMAN ELEMENTS: ANTHROPOLOGIST SEEKS TO BRIDGE DIVIDE BETWEEN INDUSTRY, SMALL-SCALE OPERATIONS

Assistant Professor Nicole Smith is the only social scientist in Mines’ Mining Engineering Department, but that’s par for the course for any anthropologist worth his or her salt.  “I’ve always been interested in why people do what they do and how it differs across the world,” said Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Minnesota.  January 2, 2020.

MINING PLASTIC: HARVESTING STORED ENERGY IN A RE-USE REVOLUTION December 2, 2019

MINING PLASTIC: HARVESTING STORED ENERGY IN A RE-USE REVOLUTION

To spur action, the perception of discarded plastics must change from burdensome waste to a physical store of non-renewable resources. Major investment in developing catalysts, processes, and infrastructure for energetically efficient chemical recycling is critical. It is time for governments to commit to “mining” plastics. December 2, 2019.

THE SHIFTING ENERGY LANDSCAPE AND THE GULF ECONOMIES’ DIVERSIFICATION CHALLENGE December 1, 2019

THE SHIFTING ENERGY LANDSCAPE AND THE GULF ECONOMIES’ DIVERSIFICATION CHALLENGE

Payne Fellow Samantha Gross writes about the hydrocarbon-dependent countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) face challenges in adjusting to the new reality in energy markets. Growing oil and gas production in the United States and growing concern about climate change mean that their hydrocarbon revenues are likely to decline over the long run. At the same time, growing populations and a rentier social contract make declining revenues a challenge for governance and stability. December 2019.

NEW OIL FINDS COULD MEAN A TRIPLING OF GUYANA’S GDP November 26, 2019

NEW OIL FINDS COULD MEAN A TRIPLING OF GUYANA’S GDP

This year, ExxonMobil announced its 11th and 12th oil finds in the small South American country of Guyana. The estimates of recoverable crude in the country now stand at roughly 5 billion barrels. On a per capita basis, this would put Guyana among the top 10 oil producers in the world. Whether the people of Guyana see much benefit from the windfall could have much to say about the fate of the oil industry, which is facing an uncertain future during an ongoing energy transition. November 26, 2019.

NEW COALITION IN GULF MAY NOT FARE AS WELL AS OLD November 21, 2019

NEW COALITION IN GULF MAY NOT FARE AS WELL AS OLD

Representatives from Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Albania and the United States opened a command center in Bahrain November 7, launching Operation Sentinel, a security initiative for protecting the Strait of Hormuz. The operation is a response to recent attacks on ships in the strait and Saudi facilities. Vessels watch chokepoints and maintain patrols in the strait that is 21 nautical miles wide and territorial waters for Iran and Oman, within their regulatory control under international law. “While such security coalitions have been successful in the past, applying the same approach in the Middle East may not improve conditions and may even exacerbate tensions,” explain Gregory Clough and Morgan D. Bazilian. November 21, 2019.

35 MINERALS THAT ARE CRITICAL TO OUR SOCIETY November 19, 2019

35 MINERALS THAT ARE CRITICAL TO OUR SOCIETY

Just like essential nutrients are necessary for a healthy body, critical minerals are necessary for a healthy economy. And a healthy national security. And a healthy educational system. Basically all aspects of an overall healthy society in these modern times. The United States Geological Survey Report on a Critical Mineral List discusses 35 mineral commodities that we are dependent on.  November 19, 2019.

SAUDI ARAMCO JOINS INITIATIVES TO REDUCE FLARING TO ZERO BY 2030 November 6, 2019

SAUDI ARAMCO JOINS INITIATIVES TO REDUCE FLARING TO ZERO BY 2030

Saudi Aramco said on Wednesday it was joining the World Bank’s initiative to reduce gas flaring to zero by 2030.  The Payne Institute’s Earth Observation Group is proud to provide the flaring data that underlies this important initiative.  November 6, 2019.

FOUR SCENARIOS OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION: DRIVERS, CONSEQUENCES, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR GEOPOLITICS November 3, 2019

FOUR SCENARIOS OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION: DRIVERS, CONSEQUENCES, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR GEOPOLITICS        

This opinion article offers insights into the geopolitics of the ongoing global energy transition. In doing so, it draws heavily on a workshop in Berlin in late 2018, and a subsequent paper in the journal Nature. Four scenarios are presented. By comparing and contrasting the different scenarios, the article highlights the potential winners and losers of the different scenarios, and the geopolitical consequences. It also sketches the implications for policy, theory, and scenario thinking more broadly. November 3, 2019.

THE FUTURE OF OIL AND GAS COMPANIES November 1, 2019

THE FUTURE OF OIL AND GAS COMPANIES

Navigating the energy transition is a tricky business. On the one hand, the transformation of the global energy sector into a lower-carbon one appears likely in the future, as the need to combat climate change has stirred politicians and the public alike and the markets for low-carbon energy technologies have continued to grow. On the other hand, despite the growth of the clean-energy markets, the level of greenhouse gas emission has continued to rise. Global oil demand has also continued to rise, and has now reached over 100 million barrels per day. November 1, 2019.

MORGAN BAZILIAN’S PREFACE TO THE ENERGY STRATEGY REVIEWS SPECIAL ISSUE ON THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION November 1, 2019

MORGAN BAZILIAN’S PREFACE TO THE ENERGY STRATEGY REVIEWS SPECIAL ISSUE ON THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION

The global energy landscape is changing dramatically. High levels of uncertainty inherent in the system, as well as the enormous impacts energy has on development, security, the environment, the economy, and geopolitics, all provide the impetus for this Special Issue of Energy Strategy Reviews. November 2019.

SAUDI ARAMCO’S IPO: A CASE OF BAD TIMING? October 31, 2019

SAUDI ARAMCO’S IPO: A CASE OF BAD TIMING?

It’s hard to imagine Aramco not wanting to turn back time to an easier period when getting an IPO to market seemed feasible. This week’s announcement seems like a soft launch for what was supposed to be the largest and most anticipated IPO in history, dwarfing Apple and Amazon.  October 31, 2019.

CALIFORNIA POWER CUTS COULD DRIVE SALES OF GAS-POWERED GENERATORS October 29, 2019

CALIFORNIA POWER CUTS COULD DRIVE SALES OF GAS-POWERED GENERATORS

The risk of wildfires in California prompted what may be the largest deliberate power cut in U.S. history. The growing frequency of such precautions could incentivize residential and commercial customers to turn to on-site power generation.  Such a shift could mean a boon for solar energy systems, but also a comeback for gas-powered generators in areas bearing the brunt of extreme dry weather exacerbated by climate change. October 29, 2019.

THE EMERGING COMPETITION FOR SPACE SOLAR POWER October 21, 2019

Payne Fellows argue that due to aerospace innovations like usable rocketry and growing international space participation, the global space sector is on the verge of a renaissance. Proposed NewSpace activities, like space tourism, space mining, or orbital manufacturing, seem to come straight from science fiction but could now arrive within a decade. However, the space technology with the biggest potential may be one that benefits all of humanity: production of solar power in outer space for use on Earth. October 21, 2019.

MANAGING FISHERIES FROM SURFACE AND SPACE October 1, 2019

MANAGING FISHERIES FROM SURFACE AND SPACE

The Payne Institute’s Earth Observation Group researcher Hsu (David) Feng Chi reports on cross-matching of vessel tracking data and satellite data sheds light on ‘dark vessels’ that may be fishing illegally.  October 2019.

SAVING LIVES AND GENERATING ENERGY FROM NATURAL GAS IN RWANDA’S LAKE KIVU September 30, 2019

SAVING LIVES AND GENERATING ENERGY FROM NATURAL GAS IN RWANDA’S LAKE KIVU

Payne Scholar Jusse Hirwa travels to Rwanda and reports on Saving Lives and Generating Energy from Natural Gas in Rwanda’s Lake Kivu. There are two problems, and one solution: an eruption can be prevented by extracting the gas, discarding the CO2, and using the methane gas — thus, turning a potential disaster into a tangible benefit. September 30, 2019.

MINES/NREL ADVANCED ENERGY SYSTEMS (AES) DEGREE PROGRAM – TESTIMONIAL September 29, 2019

MINES/NREL ADVANCED ENERGY SYSTEMS (AES) DEGREE PROGRAM – TESTIMONIAL

Through a new interdisciplinary graduate program, CO School of Mines and NREL prepare researchers at the doctoral level and professionals at the master’s level to address the full complexity of tomorrow’s energy challenges. Hear from a current PhD student and apply for the Fall 2020 cohort.  September 29, 2019.

MORGAN BAZILIAN CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY ON THE MINERAL AND METAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION September 17, 2019

MORGAN BAZILIAN CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY ON THE MINERAL AND METAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Dr. Morgan Bazilian giving a congressional testimony to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate regarding the “Mineral and Metal Foundations of the Energy Transition.” Morgan Bazilian Testimony | Full Senate Hearing | Read Full Testimony. September 17, 2019.

EPA’S RELAXED METHANE REGULATIONS COULD COST NEW ENERGY JOBS September 13, 2019

EPA’S RELAXED METHANE REGULATIONS COULD COST NEW ENERGY JOBS

The proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back regulations on methane emissions not only poses environmental risks, but also jeopardizes new leak-detection technologies that could create high-paying jobs nationwide.  September 13, 2019.

URBAN ELECTRIFICATION: KNOWLEDGE PATHWAY TOWARD AN INTEGRATED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AGENDA August 22, 2019

URBAN ELECTRIFICATION: KNOWLEDGE PATHWAY TOWARD AN INTEGRATED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

This paper outlines a vision for advancing a research and development (R&D) agenda to thoroughly examine the characteristics and relationships among urbanization, electrification, and cities, including the imperative of shifting renewable sources for electricity. It uses a systems approach to trace current knowledge and identifies knowledge gaps on diverse and not yet connected elements of this emerging field, while calling for a more active collaboration among engineering, and physical and social sciences in the development of an integrated R&D agenda. August 22, 2019.

ENERGY TRANSITIONS AND LOCAL ACTION: THE CASE OF COLORADO’S COAL TRANSITION August 21, 2019

ENERGY TRANSITIONS AND LOCAL ACTION: THE CASE OF COLORADO’S COAL TRANSITION

The energy transition is underway. While this transition is occurring across many dimensions of the energy value chain having a dynamic impact on consumers and producers alike, it is often simply described as a move to a cleaner, low- or zero-carbon system. The contours of the pathway remain unclear, but certain aspects are already visible. The dramatic rise in solar and wind power generation in electricity systems and the rise of electric vehicles are occurring in multiple economies across the globe as is an increased focus on energy efficiency. August 21, 2019.

GLOBAL ENERGY TRANSPORT SECURITY August 20, 2019

GLOBAL ENERGY TRANSPORT SECURITY

 A series of attacks and detentions for oil cargo ships this year have made the Strait of Hormuz a geopolitical hotspot once again, harkening back 35 years to the so-called “tanker wars,” part of the Iran-Iraq War. And while Hormuz’s role as the world’s primary most important oil transit route has not changed, much else about the energy security landscape has – especially growth in liquefied natural gas markets. The concerns around disruptions to oil markets are now salient for natural gas markets as well. August 20, 2019.

ELECTRICITY AS COERCION: IS THERE A RISK OF STRATEGIC DENIAL OF SERVICE? August 20, 2019

ELECTRICITY AS COERCION: IS THERE A RISK OF STRATEGIC DENIAL OF SERVICE?

Increasing the interconnection of electricity systems both within and between countries has much promise to help support clean energy power systems of the future. If the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing in one place, an electricity grid with high voltage transmission lines can move electricity to where it is needed. This shared infrastructure and increased trade can possibly serve as a basis for peace between neighbors in conflict, but it may also serve as a tool of coercion if the electricity can be cut off by one party. August 20, 2019.

APPLYING MACHINE LEARNING TO GEOTHERMAL EXPLORATION August 8, 2019

APPLYING MACHINE LEARNING TO GEOTHERMAL EXPLORATION

Payne Institute Faculty Expert Sebnem Duzgun, professor and Fred Banfield Distinguished Endowed Chair of Mining Engineering at Colorado School of Mines, has been awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to apply new machine learning techniques to geothermal exploration.  Duzgun will receive $500,000 over 18 months for her project, which was one of 10 nationwide recently selected for DOE funding. August 8, 2019.

THE UNITED STATES’ GAS FLARE-UP: WHY AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC PROBLEM THAT WAS ON THE DECLINE IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE July 28, 2019

THE UNITED STATES’ GAS FLARE-UP: WHY AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC PROBLEM THAT WAS ON THE DECLINE IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE

When companies drill for oil, the process can also release natural gas (primarily composed of methane) as a byproduct, called associated gas. For safety reasons and to release pressure in the system, the associated gas needs to be removed. Typically, this has been done by venting (releasing) or flaring (burning) the gas. Of the two, flaring is preferable, since it converts methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas to carbon dioxide, a less powerful one. But natural gas flares are still wasteful and environmentally harmful.  July 28, 2019.

ROCKEFELLER DATA INITIATIVE AIMS TO TRANSFORM ELECTRICITY SYSTEMS June 18, 2019

ROCKEFELLER DATA INITIATIVE AIMS TO TRANSFORM ELECTRICITY SYSTEMS

$3.8 Million Grant from The Rockefeller Foundation Will Enable Top Researchers at Four Leading Universities – including Colorado School of Mines – to Use Enhanced Data Modeling to Transform Electricity Systems in Emerging Economies. June 18, 2019.

OIL’S POWER PLAYERS June 5, 2019

OIL’S POWER PLAYERS

Payne Institute initiative on the Future of Oil and Gas partnered with Natural Resource Governance Institute on an essay on the role of National Oil Companies in the energy transition in Foreign Policy. The United States may be a growing force in energy markets, but national oil companies still reign supreme. June 5, 2019.

FOUR META-CHALLENGES TO POWER SECTOR REFORM IN SUB-SAHARAN MARKETS May 17, 2019

FOUR META-CHALLENGES TO POWER SECTOR REFORM IN SUB-SAHARAN MARKETS

Sub-Saharan African countries urgently need more electricity services to foster economic growth and job creation. While plugging the energy gap is not sufficient to address all the region’s economic woes, it is a fundamental building block to the wider aspirations of these societies. Still, reforming power sector regulations and governance across the region continues to be fraught with problems. May 17, 2019.

NIGHT LIGHT VESSEL DETECTION FROM THE EARTH OBSERVATION GROUP AT THE PAYNE INSTITUTE May 11, 2019

NIGHT LIGHT VESSEL DETECTION FROM THE EARTH OBSERVATION GROUP AT THE PAYNE INSTITUTE

Global Fishing Watch’s new night light vessel detection layer uses satellite imagery from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to reveal the location and activity of brightly lit vessels operating at night. Because the vessels are detected solely based on light emission, we can detect individual vessels and even entire fishing fleets that are not broadcasting AIS and so are not represented in the AIS-based fishing activity layer. May 11, 2019.

THESE ARE THE 4 MOST LIKELY SCENARIOS FOR THE FUTURE OF ENERGY May 9, 2019

THESE ARE THE 4 MOST LIKELY SCENARIOS FOR THE FUTURE OF ENERGY

The pressures on the global energy system are unprecedented. Demand is being fuelled by a growing population and economic growth, but powering the world still depends on fossil fuels, and creates two-thirds of global emissions. Emissions resulting from human activity will need to be at net zero by 2050 to limit global warming, according to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. But last year, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose to the highest level ever. Added to this is a shifting geopolitical landscape, which has seen the transition to an inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure energy system slow down. May 9, 2019.

INTERNET OF THINGS: ENERGY BOON OR BANE? April 29, 2019

INTERNET OF THINGS: ENERGY BOON OR BANE?

Since the dawn of the internet, a digital revolution has transformed life for millions of people. Digital files have replaced paper, email has replaced letters, and cell phones provide access to many services that facilitate daily life. This digital revolution is not over, and there is now a growing deployment of technologies grouped under the term “Internet of Things” (IoT)—a worldwide network of interconnected objects that are uniquely addressable via standard communication protocols. April 29, 2019.

THE MISSING INTERNATIONAL PIECE OF THE GREEN NEW DEAL April 29, 2019

THE MISSING INTERNATIONAL PIECE OF THE GREEN NEW DEAL

When U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released the text of the Green New Deal in February 2019, they were paying homage to the policies that lifted the United States out of the Great Depression. The resolution tied action on climate change to a wider set of social objectives, including creating jobs in renewables and other clean technologies, targeting the country’s vast need for improved infrastructure, and addressing issues as varied as sources of income and health care inequality. This essay focuses on what is missing—an international dimension. April 29, 2019.

PAYNE INSTITUTE, KAPSARC HOST ROUNDTABLE ON ENERGY MARKETS April 16, 2019

PAYNE INSTITUTE, KAPSARC HOST ROUNDTABLE ON ENERGY MARKETS

The Payne Institute for Public Policy at Colorado School of Mines in collaboration with the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) recently brought together global experts to discuss analytical approaches to blending political science with the study of energy markets. April 16, 2019.

SENSITIVE INTERVENTION POINTS IN THE POST-CARBON TRANSITION April 12, 2019

SENSITIVE INTERVENTION POINTS IN THE POST-CARBON TRANSITION

We propose to examine how to exploit similar sensitive intervention points (SIPs) and amplification mechanisms in socioeconomic, technological, and political systems to advance climate change mitigation. We focus on research and policies in which an intervention kicks or shifts the system so that the initial change is amplified by feedback effects that deliver outsized impact. April 12, 2019.

GRAD STUDENT CONTRIBUTES TO WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM INDEX April 3, 2019

GRAD STUDENT CONTRIBUTES TO WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM INDEX

A Colorado School of Mines graduate student got an unique inside look at the World Economic Forum as a member of the team that produced the global organization’s 2019 report on the energy transition. Steve Dahlke, a PhD candidate in the Mineral and Energy Economics program and a Payne Institute Research Fellow, was among the core team that produced “Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2019,” which summarizes insights from WEF’s annual Energy Transition Index. April 3, 2019.

 

The Payne Institute experts are regional, national, and international leaders in applied research in natural resources, energy, and the environment. Our team is involved in a wide variety of research projects in these fields, and are committed to sharing these results with academic and professional audiences.

 

DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints, or official policies of the Payne Institute or Colorado School of Mines.