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Predicting the Future of The Oil and Gas Industry

Predicting the Future of The Oil and Gas Industry _ Blake Zimmerman

As oil prices have begun to recover from the 2014 oil price crash, the future of the oil and gas industry has been a hotly debated topic in American media. On one hand, renewable energy and green energy continue to gain a foothold in the collective consciousness of Americans. On the other hand, oil and gas continue to be the cheapest, most efficient fuel available to mankind. Based on the contrast between the rise of green energy and the the cheap availability of crude oil in the United States, here are our predictions for the future of the oil and gas industry.

Experts Predict a Thriving Oil and Gas Industry in America

According to oil and gas experts, the oil and gas market is not as affected by the pricing volatility that affects so many other American industries. One reason for this is that there seems to be a growing demand for gas and oil on a worldwide basis.

Although green energy is being pushed in places like Europe, Canada, and the United States, there are so many places in the developing world that still have an absolutely rabid demand for oil.

For example, in India, there are currently only 4 cars per 100 people. As India’s economy continues to stabilize and grow, more people will purchase automobiles, which will increase the country’s need for gasoline.

There are many countries like India around the world, countries where individuals are starting to mobilize and want things like homes, cars, and electronics. American oil companies will undoubtedly export oil to countries like India in the coming years, which will allow the country’s oil industry to remain strong.

Untapped Oil Reserves Still Exist in America

According to CNN, the United States now has more untapped oil than any other country in the world. This might come as a surprise to some readers, who think of the Middle East as the hub of the global oil and gas industry. But America’s reliance on importing oil from other nations like Saudi Arabia has allowed the country’s oil reserves to build up over the past few decades.

But as of 2016, an independent energy firm predicted that America has a store of 264 billion barrels of oil—approximately half of this oil exists as shale oil. So, with that said, the future of gas and oil is full of possibilities. As the world continue to expand, a need for oil and gas will increase accordingly. Finding untapped or undiscovered stores of oil and gas will be key as we progress into the next decade.

Originally posted on BlakeZimmermanHouston.com.

Developing Commercial Solar Farms: The Process and How to Make Them Profitable

Developing Commercial Solar Farms_ The Process and How to Make Them Profitable _ Blake Zimmerman Houston

In 2018, 1.6% of the total electricity generated in the U.S. was powered by solar energy. Now, that number may seem small, but considering how often and how much energy we use on a daily basis it is actually quite substantial. What’s more, solar power is only increasing in popularity—and not just among those looking to make greener choices, but with savvy and innovative real estate developers.

Solar power has consistently “ranked either first or second in capacity added to the U.S. electric total every year since 2013.” As such, many states are beginning to see the advantage of solar farms, specifically their low costs and low cost distribution-level interconnections. With the right piece of land, landowners and developers can take advantage of solar power’s growing popularity.

Developing a commercial solar farm is similar to many development projects in that your plans must abide by local zoning laws, covenants, or restrictions.

A Solar Energy Primer

A basic understanding of solar energy is absolutely vital to ensuring a reasonably sized project, as well as a realistic goal for yourself. Here are some basic numbers and terms that can help you better understand solar power and how it’s measured:

  • The sun continuously emits approximately 173,000 terawatts of energy, which is a more than adequate amount to cover the world’s average use of 15 terawatts a year. Though there is a bounty of energy waiting, it is difficult to collect.
  • There are two methods of collecting solar energy, photovoltaic solar cells and solar thermal, and they both require vast amounts of sunlight with little to no interference.
  • Energy output is often measured in gigawatts per hour (GWh) or in megawatts. 1 gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts.
  • According to The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a farm using photovoltaic cells would need at least 2.8 acres of land to produce 1 GWh per year. Therefore, a farm would need to cover approximately 32 acres to produce enough electricity for 1,000 homes.

Picking the Land and Land Rights

On average, one megawatt of solar energy can power about 200 homes, so most experts recommend using 6-8 acres of land per megawatt. Acquiring the solar panels to produce a megawatt will total around $3 million dollars. In general, for development costs to balance out, your farm should produce at least one megawatt, if not more. If you’d like your farm to have the capability to cover more homes, you’ll need many, many acres of land to develop.

Landowners will often lease out their property for the development of wind and solar farms in order to generate a profit out of unused land. Whereas wind farms allow extra space for the landowner to use, solar farms take up much more ground space, and therefore may result in a landowner charging more for your use of their land. If leasing land, experts recommend you choose sites that are low in agricultural or mineral value, as they will often cost significantly less and allow for a larger return.

Some of the best advice about developing solar farms comes from attorneys who specialize in the matter. They argue that “in order to maintain the deductibility of land cost for federal income tax purposes, it has usually, historically been best that the project entity not acquire fee title to the land.” However, larger projects may be interested in buying the fee title, as it might have advantages when it comes to economic and water rights.

Permits

To develop and run a commercial solar farm, an energy facility permit must be filed and approved. In most cases, developers can file through their state or local jurisdiction, but if the property sits on federal land a permit must be submitted to the federal government.

Permits and application processes vary from state to state. Some states in the U.S. have councils who directly oversee and approve where energy facilities can be built. Midwestern states often have their public utilities commission oversee the application process for energy facilities. In some places, state approval is enough to begin development. In others, both state and local permits must be filed and approved separately.

In addition to the permit process, the federal government, as well as each state and local government, may apply environmental and land use rules to your project.

The federal government will work to ensure the project isn’t encroaching on Army Corps permits or endangered species by requiring the completion of an environmental review. They will analyze how the development will impact the built and natural elements around the site, such as wildlife, water, and roads/traffic patterns. State and local governments will conduct their own environmental review and analysis of the project.

Interconnecting

The whole purpose of developing a commercial solar farm is to give people the ability to use your product to power their home. In order for that to happen, solar farm developers and owners must work with local utility companies to connect your project to the utility grid.

Though it is illegal for them to deny you the right to connect, they may warn against it. In many areas of the United States the cost of interconnection is sky high. Knowing the fees associated with interconnection can help you gain a better idea of the viability of your project.

The best way to identify the potential cost of interconnectivity is to examine the utility service’s online interconnection maps, if they have them. You’ll need to locate wires on your property and identify which voltage they are from on the map. From there you can decipher how much interconnectivity will cost.

Solar power is only increasing in popularity—the uses and possibility for greatness keep increasing as well. In order to collect enough solar energy to make a real impact, more and more solar farms need to be built. Real estate developers have a great opportunity to make a real difference, as well as jump on a growing trend, by getting into the solar power arena.

Originally published on BlakeZimmermanHouston.net.

How Technology is Changing the Natural Gas and Oil Industry

As technology continues to advance and develop, industries are learning to adapt and prosper. The oil and gas industry has used technology to change business and operations. As new devices and innovations continue to develop, the industry becomes more efficient and productive. Check out the latest tech trends in the oil and gas industry:

Intelligent Hydrate Platform

One product shaping the industry is a device that manages gas hydrates with real-time intelligence. The device can enable the digital transformation of the oilfield. Because gas hydrates are so imperative to the safety and environment of hydrocarbons in deep and cold offshore locations, it’s important to have such a device to manage it efficiently and effectively. This device is also very cost-effective.

Lift-Scan

It’s important on any oil and gas site to have productive on and offloading. A gaming-changing device set to revolutionize the industry is the lift-scan. The lift-scan is a crane with a crane block camera with the ability to perform deck scanning for more efficient loading. The product will also allow for hands-free communication for the first time and real-time visibility of the operator. Productivity will increase through the use of this device and offer better safety features for offshore sectors.

Polyurethane Foam Flex (PUFF)

When disaster strikes on gas and oil rigs, it can be deadly serious for workers and the environment. If there were to be an oil spill of any kind, PUFF is the most practical, quick, and effective method for adsorbing hydrocarbons. It has the ability to absorb up to about 30 times its weight different kinds of hydrocarbons, such as 10w40 oil, light, and heavy fuel oils. In about two minutes, the material saturates, can be wrung out, and recovers pure hydrocarbons without water. PUFF can also be reused over 100 times, allowing the recovery of about three tonnes of oils. Best of all, it is not harmful to marine or human health.

Humans and Machines

As technology continues to advance in the oil and gas industry, devices and humans are becoming co-workers. Technology isn’t being developed to replace workers, but instead, help to enhance their abilities to perform. In a more digital workplace, oil and gas companies are transforming into greater productive and fast-moving organizations. Technology will improve and revolutionize the industry.

How to Prepare for a Power Grid Failure

Every day, people use electricity without a second thought. From switching on the lights to charging devices, electricity is used to sustain the way of life. Although it is used every day, not many people understand the power it takes or where it all comes from. All of America’s electricity comes from an electric grid that is run from asset owners, manufacturers, service providers, and government officials.

As the electronic infrastructure begins to age, the Office of Electricity (OE) is looking for new ways to transform, improve the ways of electricity, and prepare for a possible power grid failure.

Demand for Modernizing Electricity

For generations, electricity has been conducted one way. The ways of old electricity must come to an end and make way for new innovative technology. There is a higher demand for more efficient and reliable electricity. This way there will be far fewer power outages and other technical difficulties. Time and time again, storms cut out power and leave the public in darkness for sometimes days. By modernizing electricity, this will be a thing of the past. Not only will service be restored faster, but consumers will also be able to manage their usage and costs of electricity with a more modern approach.

Introducing ‘Smart Grid’

In an effort to modernize the power grid, the ‘smart grid’ is now being developed. The smart grid concept uses two-way communication technologies, control systems, and computer processing with sensors known as Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs) that alert operators of grid stability. It also gives consumers the ability to gain information on outages, recovers from outages more quickly through its sensors, has automated feeder switches that reroute power around problems, as well as batteries to keep excess energy to have readily available later in order to meet customer demand.

Benefits of a Modern Power Grid

Over the years, OE has put a considerable amount of investment and research into modernizing technology. Because of their efforts, the public could see a shift in the ways of the power grid. As they create innovative technologies and techniques for more reliable energy, there could be a safer and cheaper way of providing consumers energy. By having a system to analyze and optimize information to properly manage energy, less money will be put in fixing power outages and less electricity will be used irresponsibly.

What Exactly Are Microgrids?

A microgrid is an energy module within a larger power source and can be disconnected from the main grid as needed. Microgrids are being used in various settings to create redundancy, to expand services in underserved locations and to model potential hazards of planned operations.

Key Features of Microgrids

Microgrids share a number characteristics, regardless of their exact configuration.

Energy Storage

Microgrids are hardware independent and their exact configuration can vary based on factors such as location and available resources. The most common type of energy stored is electricity but microgrids can be used to store thermal or mechanical energy if needed.

Electronic Configuration

Microgrids frequently feature assets like solar power or microturbines. The use of variable power sources requires interfaces that can harness and convert energy types.

Most distributed energy sources lose power when they are converted to another type of energy. Microgrids are configured with interfaces that minimize power loss, thus helping to conserve energy and to minimize the cost of providing electricity.

Efficiency Requirements

To achieve maximum efficiency, a microgrid must meet the following functional specifications.

  • Each microgrid must be able to function as a unified entity to properly interface with the main power grid.
  • Each grid must remain within its own power requirements and cannot borrow power from the main grid or from adjoining microgrids.
  • The microgrid must be able to regulate its own voltage and frequency internally.
  • Each unit must be able to deploy resources as needed to maintain energy output requirements.
  • A microgrid must be able to safely connect and reconnect with the main power grid during synchronization operations.

Implementation of Microgrids

Microgrids are often used in water treatment plants, transportation units and health care facilities. Their ability to create redundancy and failover make microgrids an indispensable part of technologies that are employed in mission-critical and time-sensitive operations.

Microgrids provide fault tolerance, bring energy to diverse geographic locations and offer a means to create alternative power sources. These features make microgrids an important solution that offers an opportunity to underserved locations and that promises to promote sustainability for our planet.

The Use of Oil in Big Industry

Crude oil use by the U.S. industrial manufacturers has been consistent since the economic crisis of 2008; though, the usage level is wholly lower than before the economic crisis. In place of crude oil, natural gas increasingly constitutes a greater proportion of total fuel consumption by the U.S. Industrial sector, specifically manufacturing. While natural gas constitutes an increasing proportion of total fuel consumption, crude oil (HGL) represents the largest share of energy sources used as components of manufacturing at almost 50%. Crude oil in particular is commonly used to make plastics and other chemicals. Petroleum products (counted as “other”) account for a third of energy source use as manufacturing components — raw materials in a manufacturing process. Total crude oil and related products constitute a large majority of the quarter of total energy sources first used as a manufacturing component. Regardless of use as manufacturing components or as energy, the largest consumer of energy sources are the chemical, refining, and mining industries. These three industries account for more than half of the total energy consumption by industrial manufacturers. This means there is some competition between using energy sources for energy or for manufacturing processes.

Energy consumption in the manufacturing industry was estimated in 2016 to be about 75% by the USEIA. Natural gas has markedly seen increasing use. Consumption has steadily increased from 2010 to 2014. This reveals increases in natural gas usage as potentially negatively affecting crude oil usage growth trends over the same time period.

Energy generation on-site is a common practice by manufacturers as an alternative to purchasing energy. One prominent method of producing energy on-site is combined heat and power loops. Natural gas and coal constitute a substantial portion of on-site consumed energy at 96%, and renewables constitute 1%. Crude oil does not constitute substantial use for on-site energy generation by manufacturers. This means that crude oil is used for energy production off-site, and energy produced from the crude oil is then distributed to manufacturers in the industrial sector.

Overall, crude oil use by the U.S. Industrial sector has remained steady in the last few decades besides significant decreases in consumption during the 2008 economic crisis. The potential growth of crude oil appears to be stunted by the increasing use of natural gas.

Blackouts and Power Grids

Blackouts and Power Grids _ Blake Zimmerman Houston

Our lives on this planet today greatly rely on electricity. Electric power is a basic necessity for both home living and work environment. The millions of us cannot afford to live without this great resource. Unfortunately, our smooth lives get inconvenienced and interrupted by numerous blackouts on our power grids. Whereas such blackouts are greatly inevitable, it is our responsibility to implement other channels of research and development to come up with amicable solutions that can help boost the efficiency of our grid system.

Power blackouts are commonly associated with certain major inconsistencies and inconveniences in the power generation and transmission process. Stabilizing the generation and utilization of power is the main goal of most power generating and regulating companies. The solutions developed so far focus on 3 main areas, including monitoring, anticipating, and isolation of power problems.

Monitoring of Electric Power

Monitoring of electric power starts from the moment power is generated in the various channels of electric power generation we have today. Real-time monitoring is done using an array of sensors which monitor various electrical parameters, including the current produced and the voltage generated. Research and development has led to the deployment of automatic monitoring systems capable of interfacing correctly with human interventions where the need arises.

The Anticipation of Electric Problems

The power monitoring arrays work hand-in-hand with other computer software capable of analyzing fluctuations in various electric power parameters. If the threshold of such fluctuations hit a certain level, then the entire system notifies operators for a human intervention to be coordinated. Some of the crucial parameters used to anticipate electric problems include a potential overheating of utility systems such as transformers. The goal of anticipating a problem is that corrective action can be initiated right before the entire system overloads and quits.

Isolation of a Certain Grid

In cases where inevitable power outages do occur as a result of a failure, operators and stakeholders in the electric power generation and transmission process have come up with an objective of isolating an entire area affected by the problem. This has led to the creation of power islands, each capable of working in isolation without necessarily affecting the entire grid.

Research and development is highly necessary when helping ensure the autonomous functioning of the entire grid system. If such a breakthrough is arrived at, we will be able to have a self-healing smart grid system.

This article was originally posted on BlakeZimmermanHouston.net on June 12, 2019.