The Forecast: US shale oil and gas production will continue to lead the petroleum industry, but engineers and investors will closely watch delivery rates and decline curves. Elsewhere, new processes will add value to coal, but won’t solve its essential problem: It’s inherently dirty. The nuclear-power industry will reintroduce itself across the world through safer, cleaner fuels and reactors. And the emerging hydrogen economy will debut through conventional-vehicle manufacturers and the unveiling of at least one breakthrough technology.
Note: Various hydrogen-storage venues are being tested for a range of uses. In Italy’s INGRID project, an industrial consortium is using magnesium hydrides to store hydrogen to balance grid loads and store production from renewable-energy installations.
On the island of Corsica, the MYRTE project is testing the practicality of using sun-generated energy to break water into hydrogen and oxygen and collect both in compression tanks. The European Union is bankrolling the Don Quichote project with €2.86 million to test the design of a system that uses renewable power to make hydrogen and store it for use as a vehicle fuel; companies from six nations, led by Canada’s Hydrogenics, are involved.
Meanwhile, commercial ventures such as Hydrexia Ltd. in Australia, ReliOn in Spokane, Washington, and the global corporation Sigma-Aldrich are developing metal hydrides for a range of markets, from industrial users to fuel-cell vehicle owners.
Finding the way to store energy for a particular application is like finding the right battery for your watch: You might have to search for it, but there are plenty of knowledgeable people to help you look.
Update: US shale oil and gas are becoming part of the world’s baseload fuel supply, nudging aside small- and high-cost producers in other countries. Liquefied-natural-gas exports will play an increasingly large role in the global fuel supply and in US production. Coal will fight for market share and gradually will be marginalized. It will look to developing regions of the world with more coal than capital to invest in new energy to make gains.
A new generation of smaller, cleaner, safer nuclear reactors will inch toward commercialization over the next 10 years while renewable energy rapidly asserts itself in the energy and economic mainstream. The complexities of capturing hydrogen as the ultimate fuel are slowly but steadily being unraveled in labs and venturing into the consumer market in early product versions.