Greening Of Electrical And Transport Sectors – What The Numbers Mean For The Future Of Oil And Gas.

A woman with a face mask is seen in a vehicle at a gas station in Plano, Texas,

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The snowball has begun to roll, and renewable energies like wind and solar are increasing rapidly. It’s hard not to notice if you are challenged to pass one of those giant wind turbine blades being trucked along the highway.

In President Biden’s proposed budget, just out, he has inserted a big chunk of money aimed at arresting climate change and including spurs for renewable energy. For example, the Energy Department would increase by about 10% overall, but with $8 billion (an increase of 27%) directed at a new generation of electric vehicles, nuclear reactors, and other alternatives to burning fossil fuels.  

The cost of solar and wind generators has come down a lot in the past decade, and the price of batteries for storing electricity has been halved in the past couple of years.

The case for renewables to replace fossil energies to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere has received a lot of attention, with a goal to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

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Japan Will Release Radioactive Fukushima Water Into The Ocean, And Why That’s O.K.

Tanks of water at Fukushima that have been scrubbed of all radioactive materials except mildly ... [+] radioactive tritium, and which can be slowly released to the ocean with no environmental harm.

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Japan will soon begin releasing 250 million gallons of Fukushima nuclear plant water into the Pacific Ocean. And that’s exactly what they should do.

The Japanese government has decided to release treated radioactive water that has been accumulating at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. This despite opposition from fishermen and consumers in neighboring countries such as China and South Korea.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is expected to start discharging the mildly-radioactive water in 2023, a major development following over seven years of discussions on how to discharge the water used to cool down melted fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said his government made the final decision after meeting with Hiroshi Kishi, head of the national federation of fisheries cooperatives, who continues his organization's unwavering opposition to the plan.

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Russia Is Trying To Restore a Giant Nuclear Battlecruiser—It’s Not Working Out

'Pyotr Velikiy' in 1997.

Russian navy

The Russian navy for nearly a decade has been trying to double, from one to two, its active fleet of huge, nuclear-powered battlecruisers.

It’s not going well. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which starved Russian shipyards of funding and forced the navy to lay up three of its four Kirov-class battlecruisers, still is wreaking havoc on fleet planning.

Since at least 2013, the Russian navy has been trying to refurbish and upgrade Admiral Nakhimov, the third-in-class of the 827-foot Kirovs. If and when Admiral Nakhimov is ready, she’ll join her younger sister Pyotr Velikiy in service with the Northern Fleet.

Two older Kirovs, laid up for decades, could head for the breakers this year.

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Topsy-Turvey Trade World Strikes Again: New Top 2021 Export? Natural Gas

A Cheniere Energy liquefaction facility on Corpus Christi Bay in Texas. Natural gas for the ... [+] first-time ever is the United States' top-ranked export by value.

© 2021 Bloomberg Finance LP

The United States has a new most-valuable export: Natural gas.

For most of the time I have been writing about U.S. export-import trade, there was only one No. 1, aircraft. Boeing BA basically has dominated U.S. exports for years and years, its only competitor globally the European consortium Airbus.

There was a brief interlude, from 2011-2013, when gasoline and similar petroleum products surpassed the aircraft category, but it was short-lived.

The bigger picture, the story from 30,000 feet, is that there has been enormous turbulence in U.S. trade over the last two years.

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Houston, We Have A Problem. Oil Reserves Have Fallen Below 10 Years

Big oil has a big problem. It’s running out of oil.

Years of under-investment in exploration and a decline in project development has blown a hole in the reserves of the major international oil companies (IOCs), a group that includes ExxonMobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell.

The sun is setting on big oil as reserves continue to deline. Photo Saul Loeb AFP via Getty Images.

AFP via Getty Images

Since 2015 the average reserves of the oil majors has fallen by 25% to now stand at less than 10 years of annual production.

Reserves in the ground is a critical measure of an oil company with a decline seen as a negative by investors.

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The Pandemic Isn’t Over, But Its Emissions Reduction Is

The windmill enjoyed an advantage over the coal plant in 2020, but coal is staging a comeback. ... [+] (Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Carbon emissions in the first two months of 2021 were higher than in the first two pandemic-free months of 2020, according to a developer of a timely new emissions tracker.

“I can tell you that, nationwide, emissions are 3 percent higher already in the first two months of 2021 than they were in the first two—which were unaffected by the pandemic—of 2020,” said Steven J. Davis, an earth system scientist with the University of California Irvine. “We’re bouncing back.”

The world had always relied on annual emissions calculations—often arriving several months after the end of each year—until Davis and two colleagues—Zhu Liu from Tsinghua University in China and Philippe Ciais from the Laboratory for Sciences of Climate and Environment in Paris—spent their lockdowns developing a way to gather emissions data more quickly.

“The idea here was to move away from these annual energy statistics toward something that could give us a clearer picture about how energy use was changing in what we would call near real time, so maybe within a week or two of the actual emissions,” Davis said last week in a webinar hosted by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

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Why Gas Prices Rise Nearly Every Spring

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 01: Prices of gasoline per gallon are displayed at a gas station ... [+] on October 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Although it wasn’t strongly emphasized in the recent discussions on the rise in gasoline prices, those prices to rise nearly every spring. But why does it happen?

There is no question that it does happen. If you check the history of gasoline prices at the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) website you can see that gasoline prices almost always rise between January and May. In fact, this happens about 90% of the time.

Last year was an exception because of the plunge in energy demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but prior to 2020 gasoline prices had risen in the first five months of the year for more than 20 years in a row.

Many factors influence gasoline prices, but there are specific reasons behind the seasonal changes.

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Murban Oil Futures Post Daily Trading Record Of 14.5M Barrels Following Launch

Oil terminal at Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Trading in Murban oil futures – the world's first futures contract predicated on the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's (ADNOC's) flagship onshore crude – has gotten off to a flying start, according to data released by the Intercontinental Exchange.

In a statement, the market infrastructure provider said that a record 14,419 Murban crude oil futures contracts traded on ICE Futures Abu Dhabi (IFAD) on Wednesday (April 7), marking its highest daily volume since the contracts launched on March 29. That's equivalent to over 14.4 million barrels of Murban crude oil.

Overall, a total of 38,712 contracts have traded on IFAD in the week to Thursday (April 8). The figure includes 34,202 ICE Murban crude oil futures contracts, and 4,510 Murban-related cash settled derivatives.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Securities became the latest to join the ranks of IFAD’s 26 exchange members and 19 Clearing Members, with 38 firms having traded on IFAD since the launch.

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ERCOT Emergency Warning Shocks Texans On Mild April Day

UNITED STATES - APRIL 10: Power lines stretch along along a highway near Alpine, Texas on Saturday, ... [+] April 10, 2021. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

It is not the kind of notification Texans expect to receive on a mild April day. Late Tuesday afternoon, officials at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sent out a tweet containing the following message:

To be clear, that “stalled cold front” dropped the high temperature up in Amarillo all the way down to [checks Weather.com to be sure] 62 degrees. Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, way down at the southern tip of Texas, the temperature in Brownsville at the time ERCOT sent out its emergency message was 83 degrees, a pretty average temperature for that area at this time of year.

Ok, but what about storms that “stalled cold front” might have created? Again, according to the weather services and radar, the front only created some mild storms across a limited swath of northwestern Texas. No hail, no tornados, not much lightning. None of the severe conditions one might expect to cause issues on the Texas electricity grid. In fact, Tuesday appears to have been one of the very rare April days when, in all the vastness of Texas, not one square inch of land experienced severe weather of any kind.

Yet, ERCOT felt the need to send out a notice of potential emergency conditions, citing a “stalled cold front” as the partial reason. That really doesn’t seem to hold much water. Or, as former Texas Governor Ann Richards might say, ‘that cat don’t flush.’

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Nuclear Sub Club: Do Rising Powers Like India Really Need Nuclear Attack Submarines?

Indian Navy personnel stand on an Indian Navy submarine during the International Fleet Review in ... [+] Visakhapatnam on February 6, 2016. India kicked off a major display of maritime might, with ships from 50 navies converging on the country's east coast, as New Delhi seeks to boost its leadership in the region. Ninety ships including from the US, French, British and Chinese navies are taking part in the international fleet review in the Bay of Bengal -- a ceremonial inspection and parade of boats and crews. AFP PHOTO / AFP / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

India’s plan to build nuclear-powered attack submarines could be bad news for China. A fleet of  nuclear attack subs – among the most lethal weapons on Earth – prowling the Indian Ocean could  threaten Beijing’s growing naval presence in the region.

Or, a fleet of nuclear subs could be a boondoggle that drains India’s limited military resources. Even some Indian experts believe the Indian Navy would be better off buying cheaper diesel-electric subs more suitable for missions such as coastal defense.

All of which raises a question for emerging powers such as India, which has the seventh-largest economy on the planet. Are the prestige and capabilities of nuclear subs worth the cost?

For now, the nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi favors the nuclear option. Within the next two months, the government is likely to approve a plan to build three nuclear-powered attack subs, followed by another three later on, according to the Times of India.

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Don’t Count On EVs To Solve Climate Change

HEFEI, CHINA - APRIL 07: The Nio's 100,000th production vehicle ES8 rolls off the assembly line at ... [+] the JAC-NIO production base on April 7, 2021 in Hefei, Anhui Province of China. (Photo by Zhang Dagang/VCG via Getty Images)

VCG via Getty Images

Cognitive dissonance, the ability to believe contradictory things simultaneously, is getting a real work out amongst energy transition analysts and advocates, as on the one hand they are told “Electric Cars Closing in on Gas Guzzlers as Battery Costs Plunge” (Bloomberg 12/16/20) while also hearing “Tesla TSLA Raises Prices—Again” (autoweek.com, 4/12/21). It sounds like the debate between those who say the environment is terrible and those who say it’s improving: both can be true while appearing contradictory.

Because the point is that car prices and costs are not always identical when talking about electric vehicles. For one thing, manufacturers like Tesla receive significant income from selling pollution credits; Tesla made $1.4 billion in 2020, roughly twice its annual profits. The admittedly simplistic implication is that the company is not covering its costs from selling cars and needs higher prices to do so, even as battery costs are coming down.

Which is interesting because the above-mentioned Bloomberg story reported, “But researchers say that price premium will disappear once battery packs reach $100 per kilowatt-hour — a tipping point BNEF expects to occur in 2023, according to its 2020 Battery Price Survey.” If battery prices are so close to making EVs competitive on cost with ICE vehicles, then EV prices should be going down, not up.

The concept of a ‘tipping point’ where consumers will become indifferent to the choice between propulsion types is also misleading: as prices come down, the car will become more competitive, but not suddenly competitive. Consumer preference is not a step function but a curve and a curve that will be empirically visible only as prices evolve. The idea of competitiveness at $100 kwh is a guesstimate, and probably a bad one, as I discussed in an earlier column. Enthusiasm For Electric Vehicles Still Appears Excessive (forbes.com)

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European Wind Powers Up To €43 Billion In 2020 On Growing Decarbonization Focus

Off-shore wind park of windmills generating green renewable electric energy 20 kilometers away from ... [+] the Dutch coast between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom during dusk sunset time, with clouds and ships over the horizon of the sea. The wind turbine generators create sustainable green energy from the wind power, jet stream of air in the atmosphere, the park installed in the North Sea as seen from Oosterschelde in Zeeland in the Netherlands on April 10, 2021 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

On the back of corporate demand and increased non-recourse bank financing, the European wind sector saw investment in 20GW of new capacity, 13GW in the EU itself with the remainder in geographical Europe. This broke down into 13GW of onshore and 7GW off, and showing a 70 per cent increase in investment.

The news came in the latest report from WindEurope, Financing and investment trends 2020. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, this was the second highest amount invested in the wind sector to date. And given that the year of highest investment was 2016, where developers rushed through to take advantage of the last of the available feed-in tariffs, this is a huge step for the sector.

Capacity gap

There is still a significant capacity gap, with the European wind industry needing to add 27GW to achieve European Commission goals of 55% renewable energy by 2030. WindEurope chief executive said that the sector expects to be able to roll-out capacity growth of 15GW over the next few year, leaving a gap of around 12GW of capacity.

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Will Nuclear Energy’s No-Carbon Quality Outweigh The Fukushima Accident?

The cooling towers of Exelon Corporation's Limerick Generating Station nuclear power plant are seen ... [+] in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, November 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The global community has witnessed Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima — nuclear accidents that have left many skeptical. But energy experts and climate hawks say those events are rare, noting that hundreds of reactors have been operating for decades without incident.

Safety is always the paramount concern. Now, though, the focus is shifting to low-carbon investments. And the Biden Administration reasons that advanced nuclear energy plants have added safety features and increased efficiencies. Greater investment and favorable policies are thus worthwhile. That is especially true if demand rises because the transportation sector and the home heating industry use more electricity instead of oil and natural gas. As such, President Biden has his eye on enacting policies to ensure that most electricity is produced using sustainable and low-carbon sources, referred to as the Clean Energy Standard.

“The no-carbon future we need is seen as being powered by renewables,” says Mike Shatzkin, co-founder of ClimateChangeResources.org at an event Friday on the future of nuclear energy sponsored by Our Energy Policy. “Nuclear energy, carbon capture, and batteries must have massive breakthroughs. But only nuclear can significantly complement renewables. Battery storage is measured in hours and carbon capture is nowhere near large-scale implementation. We need to be working on all three. Time is too tight. The consequences too dire.” 

The symposium zeroed-in on safety. But it also delved into the nuclear waste dilemma, next-generation nuclear technologies that also include smaller reactors, and being able to deliver nuclear power plants on time and on budget. 

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How Oxy’s New Carbon Venture Could Become A True Game-Changer

Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum photographed in May 2017 for Forbes.

Tim Pannell/The Forbes Collection

For decades, the oil and gas industry has engaged in the use of carbon dioxide as a tool for the stimulation of oil production from depleting conventional reservoirs. The process has involved the injection of large volumes of CO2 into these discrete reservoirs to raise formation pressure and force more oil to the surface.

As the climate science community has increasingly focused on CO2 as a greenhouse gas and oil companies have come under mounting pressure from ESG-focused investors to make a difference in the climate change realm, companies have begun to realize that if the exit avenues can be properly sealed off, these formations are capable of storing trillions of gallons of CO2 into perpetuity. The beauty part is that such reservoirs exist today all over the country, and are most bountiful in Texas, along its Gulf Coast and across the vast Permian Basin.

As I noted in February, integrated companies like ExxonMobil and Oxy have been big players in this carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) game for many years now, with Exxon able to accurately state it has been responsible already for capturing 40% of all the CO2 that has ever been captured on earth. Exxon is so excited about the potential for the future that it has established an entire new business unit dedicated to devising and mounting profitable CCUS ventures in the years to come.

Obviously, the potential for taking CO2 out of the atmosphere expands dramatically if mankind can find scalable ways to reuse it in other ways. To achieve this objective, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures formed a partnership with Cemvita Factory, a Houston-based company that has developed a photosynthesis-based process that enables it to take CO2 from any source and convert it into a wide array of products.

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Let’s Mess With Texas’ Power Market—And Make It Stronger

Bill Magness, President and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), right at ... [+] table, testifies as the Committees on State Affairs and Energy Resources hold a joint public hearing to consider the factors that led to statewide electrical blackouts, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The hearings were the first in Texas since a blackout that was one of the worst in U.S. history, leaving more than 4 million customers without power and heat in subfreezing temperatures. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Peter Hartley, Jim Krane, Michael Maher, and Ken Medlock

The mysterious causes behind February’s disastrous power failures are finally becoming clear, but important questions remain. 

Grid operator ERCOT’s April 6 preliminary report pins much of the blame on sheer unpreparedness of the state’s energy and power generation infrastructure, mostly for cold weather.

But the report also contains revelations that should give Texas legislators reason to pause their proposed remedies until the full causes of the crisis are understood.

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Shale Should Withstand Private Equity Pullback

Pump jacks operate at dusk near Loco Hills on April 23, 2020 in Eddy County, New Mexico. (Photo by ... [+] Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

The demand for shale producers to become self-sufficient with less reliance on outside capital is intensifying. 

The withdrawal of private equity, long a crucial investor in the shale sector, will take a significant toll on many shale companies, particularly smaller producers that lack strong balance sheets.

Private money is behind as many as 500 oil and gas companies in the United States. These investors have little appetite for new outlays in the sector, and many are looking for ways to profitably exit the sector, perhaps for good. 

The increase in the price West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to $60 a barrel has helped the sector, improving cash flow and reopening debt markets for many companies. And while it has boosted share prices – energy is the top-performing sector in the S&P 500 so far this year – equity markets remain selective, and the path to going public remains challenged

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Another April Day, Another ERCOT Warning About Inadequate Supply

High-capacity power lines in Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

With roughly 25% of the Texas power grid’s generating units offline for maintenance, grid managers at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) once again expressed concerns about tight electricity supply on Wednesday. But ERCOT officials stopped short of issuing another emergency warning and asking Texans to conserve power as they did on Tuesday, an act that shocked electricity users who are not used to seeing such warnings on mild spring days in April.

"We may see tight grid conditions due to the large number of generators out of service for planned and forced maintenance combined with low wind and solar output forecasted for today," said ERCOT Vice President of Grid Planning and Operations Woody Rickerson in a release. "Additionally, we’re seeing some risk in the Rio Grande Valley due to the forced outage of a generating unit in the area."

An email from Rob Allerman, Senior Director Power Analytics at Enverus, provided more details into what was taking place: “Enverus is seeing another day (similar to yesterday) in Texas where the risk for blackouts are possible due to power supply issues. This is being caused by a weather pattern that is unseasonably warm in south Texas resulting in strong load, on-peak wind generation that is 6.5 GW when average April wind generation is 11 GW, solar generation that is only 38% during peak load today but the average is 72%. However, what is also driving this shortage is the amount of units that are off-line due to units winterizing. The reported telemetered outages today is 21.1 GW where normally we would be measuring around 14.5 GW of outages in ERCOT for April.”

Put simply, here’s what we had:

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Can Robots Transform Offshore Energy? Standardization, Regulations And Workforce Are The Keys

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Chief Energy Officer and Emily Pickrell, UH Energy Scholar

Oil and gas Jackup drilling rig at sunset in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo by: Education ... [+] Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and caught fire on the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 workers, it vividly illustrated the dangers of offshore work.

Since that time, breakthroughs in sensor technologies, data analytics and computer processing capabilities have ushered in a new era for robotics in car manufacturing, aviation and other sectors.

A similar adoption of robotics and automation in the energy sector is compelling to make energy infrastructure—including offshore energy — safer. As our colleague Aaron Becker, an expert in robotics, noted at a recent UH Energy symposium, if robots had been deployed on the BP Deepwater Horizon platform instead of humans, 11 lives would have been saved.

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Growing EV Adoption: The Solution Already On The Road

Close up of a charging electric car.

getty

Despite realizing widespread awareness in a short period of time, electric vehicles (EVs) haven’t yet achieved mainstream adoption at scale. We have, however, seen the makings of a strong foundation. In the last year, California and Massachusetts committed to phasing out the sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, President Biden pledged to convert the entire federal government fleet to EVs, and key players built more reliable charging infrastructure across the country. Even with this progress, an important question remains: how do we get more consumers on board? 

Early adopters have responded well to the many benefits of EVs, including lifetime cost savings, superior performance, and a smaller carbon footprint. And with nearly every major automaker announcing their commitment to vehicle electrification, there’s no shortage of new EV options on the market. Yet in order to move beyond early adopters, we need to appeal to a wider range of consumers. Enter: the used EV market. 

Attracting more customers with used EVs

One of the biggest challenges to widespread EV adoption is cost. According to CarGurus 2019 Electric Vehicles Survey Findings, 67 percent of consumers cite purchase cost as their top concern about EVs. And these concerns aren’t unwarranted – an EV can cost anywhere from 10 to over 40 percent more than a similar gasoline-only model. 

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Nikola Forms Hydrogen Pipeline Alliance In Europe To Fuel Clean Trucks

Nikola Tre trucks, developed with IVECO, will offer range of up to 500 miles per hydrogen fueling.

Nikola

Electric semi-truck developer Nikola Corp. has formed a partnership with commercial vehicle maker IVECO and natural gas distributor OGE to set up a hydrogen pipeline and fuel station system in Europe that’s needed to power fuel cell big rigs. 

The companies said the goal of their collaboration is to improve hydrogen availability and hold down the cost of distributing and storing the carbon-free fuel. Nikola will install fueling stations for customers that are tied into the distribution network. The companies didn’t provide a timeline for their infrastructure plans or financial details.

Thomas Hüwener, OGE’s chief technical officer, said the company is “committed to establishing a pipeline infrastructure to transport hydrogen from production sources to critical exit points of distribution.” 

The European development comes as Nikola prepares to create a U.S. fueling infrastructure for electric semis that will be powered by both batteries and hydrogen, and emit no tailpipe pollution. The Phoenix-based company has an agreement to buy cheap surplus solar power in Arizona that it will use to make hydrogen from water, though hasn’t yet announced the locations of its first fuel stations. Meanwhile, Germany and other EU countries are moving aggressively to increase use of hydrogen for heavy-duty vehicles as part of a strategy to curb carbon emissions. 

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