Mantra’s Promise of Innovation

by Debra Fiakas CFA How often do we see the crowd rooting for the underdog?  You could hear the cheers for Mantra Energy (MVTG:  OTC) last week at the Marcum Microcap Conference in New York City.  Mantra is a developmental stage company pursuing technologies to harness carbon dioxide for energy.  Of course, the company has no revenue and therefore no earnings.  Indeed, its technologies are so unique and as yet at such an early stage some might find them almost fanciful.   Yet for some investors, a fanciful underdog is even better than another.   Mantra sees itself...

Chinese and EU Clash Over Airline Emissions

Doug Young China’s increasingly contentious trade relations with Europe suffered another setback late last week, when the EU threatened to fine Chinese airlines that were refusing to comply with a new controversial program to reduce greenhouse gases. China responded with its own threat by saying it won’t accept the EU’s planned carbon tax, raising the prospect of a dangerous new trade war. This latest in a recent series of trade conflicts between China and both Europe and the US is developing into a troublesome pattern that could spin out of control, endangering the nascent global economic...

Plastics from Carbon Dioxide

by Debra Fiakas CFA In the last post, I promised to close out this series on carbon dioxide capture with a note on a third example of Department of Energy funding for innovations in turning carbon dioxide (CO2) into a valuable raw material.  Besides changing the chemistry of inorganic compounds and feedstock for biofuel production, CO2 has some potential for plastics.  In 2010, the DOE placed a bet of $18.4 million on Novomer, Inc., which is a self-described sustainable chemicals developer.   The bet appears to be paying off as Novomer and its partners go into production...

Phycal Captures CO2 Funding for Biofuel

by Debra Fiakas CFA As part of its program to promote beneficial reuse of carbon dioxide, the Department of Energy awarded a total of $27.2 million ($3.0 million in the first phase and $24.2 million in a second phase) to a consortium led by alternative energy developer Phycal, Inc. (private).  According to the DOE website, Phycal is to develop an integrated system to produce biofuel from microalgae cultivated with captured carbon dioxide (CO2).  The biofuel is to be blended with other fuels for power generation or as drop-in diesel or jet fuel. It is a bit of...

Capturing CO2 for Environmental Remediation

by Debra Fiakas CFA In 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $17.4 million in funding to a gaggle of companies pursuing practical uses for carbon dioxide.  The recipients were asked to kick in a total of $7.7 million.  A year later in 2010, the DOE picked six projects to a second round of support totaling $82.6 million. Industrial giant Alcoa, Inc. (AA:  NYSE) leads one of the winning groups, including partners U.S. Nels, CO2 Solutions (CST:  V or COSLF:  OTC/BB) and Strategic Solutions.  The DOE gave the Alcoa team $13.5 million to complete a pilot...

While Others Seek to Inject CO2, Airgas Sells It

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Just one of the many suppliers of industrial and commercial carbon dioxide, Airgas, Inc. (ARG:  NYSE) recently announced plans to build a new carbon dioxide plant in Houston.  The press release hit news wires right along with announcements of carbon capture projects and other investments to reduce greenhouse effect from too much CO2 in the atmosphere. In one those strange twists that makes our world so interesting and vexing at the same time, is the fact that we use carbon dioxide all the while we invest wildly to reduce CO2...

Air Products Goes Operational with Carbon Capture

by Debra Fiakas CFA   In October 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy selected a dozen projects aimed at bringing relief to a planet suffocating in a cloud of toxic carbon dioxide emissions. The DOE called the program it’s Large-Scale Industrial Carbon Capture Storage Projects and wrote checks for $575 million out of American Recovery and Reconstruction (ARRA) funds.  A little more than a year later the DOE weeded out all but three projects for the second phase of the program.  Besides Leucadia Energy (subsidiary of Leucadia National, LUK:  NYSE) and Archer Daniels Midland...

Praxair’s Long Road to Capturing Carbon

by Debra Fiakas CFA   In 2007, industrial gas supplier Praxair (PX:  NYSE) teamed up with power plant equipment dealer Foster Wheeler (FSLT:  Nadaq) to work on demonstration projects for cleaning up coal-fired electric generating plants.  At first the duo planned to pursue clean coal technologies and oxygenated coal combustion systems.  The joint press release at the time indicated Praxair’s “oxy-coal’ technology would be applied to Foster Wheeler’s ‘circulating fluidized-bed steam generators.’  The oxycombustion process is one of several proposed methods to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. In a retrofit situation, pure oxygen would replace air...

Southern Company’s Carbon Capture Testing

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Coal emissions photo via BigStock An electric utility of Southern Company’s size  -  $38.3 billion in market capitalization  -  is not among the typical company covered in the Small Cap Strategist weblog.  Southern (SO:  NYSE) owns and operates six dozen power plants in the southeastern U.S., generating 12,222 megawatts of power from a mix of fossil fuel, hydroelectric, nuclear and solar plant assets.  The company earned $2.68 in earnings per share on $16.5 billion in total electric power sales.  Sales dipped in 2012...

Axion Power is Poised to Dominate Energy Storage for Stop-start Idle Elimination

John Petersen After eight years of rarely speaking above a whisper, Axion Power International (AXPW.OB) has found its voice, taken the scientific wraps off its PbC® battery technology and shown potential customers, competitors and investors that it's carrying a big stick and is poised to dominate energy storage for stop-start idle elimination – a cheap and sensible fuel efficiency and emissions reduction technology that's expected to grow at spectacular rates for the rest of the decade as shown in the following forecast of battery demand in vehicles equipped with stop-start systems. In a new white...

What Shouldn’t Be in a Green Energy Portfolio

The London Accord took a look at what portfolio theory would suggest as the most effective ways to address Climate Change.  Knowing which technologies don't make the cut is at least as useful as knowing which technologies do. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I recently looked at a paper from the London Accord which used portfolio theory to recommend the best mixes of technologies to deliver different levels of carbon abatement.  The most useful technologies to achieve the needed levels of carbon abatement were Forestry, Hydropower, Biofuels, Wind, Efficiency, and Geothermal. I suggested stocks that investors might consider to invest in...

A Concrete Proposal

The Economist recently had a story on how the cement industry is beginning to confront the fact that the industry produces 5% of the world's emissions of greenhouse gasses.  Carbon dioxide is emitted not only by the fossil fuels used to create the heat used in the creation of cement, and by the chemical reaction in that process. Unfortunately for us, cement is a remarkably useful building material, not least as a structural material which can also serve as thermal mass in passive solar buildings.   All the large cement firms: Lafarge, Holcim, and Cemex (NYSE:CX) have joined a voluntary...

Ten Insights into Carbon Policy and Its Implications

On November 27, I attended the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Fifth Energy Analysis Forum, hosted by NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis & Applications Center.  The forum focused on carbon policy design, the implications for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.  As a stock analyst focused on that sector, I am extremely lucky to have NREL as a local resource: the quality and the level of the experts at NREL and the ones they bring in is probably not matched anywhere in the country, and conferences like these provide priceless insights into what these Energy Analysts are thinking.   Why should investors...

A Coal Stock…Almost

This morning, I read an article in this week's Economist that summarized well what I've been hearing over the past few weeks: coal is back in fashion with power utilities. As pointed out in the article, on a BTU basis, coal remains the cheapest fuel for thermal generation, an the prospect of high carbon prices is not deterring even European power generators from investing in coal-fired assets. A few months ago, Tom discussed his peak coal portfolio. The long-term perspective is of course critical to keep in mind, and that piece helps putting recent news around...

Carbon Capture and Storage: By the Numbers

"We have over 200 years of coal reserves, and we have to/will use them." I have heard some variation of this line far too many times, and I have little patience for it.  Here's why: We don't have over 200 years of reserves.  The real number for economically accessible coal is less than half that. A square, 100 miles on a side in the Southwestern deserts of the US could meet the electricity needs of the entire nation, if solar energy were converted to electricity at 10% efficiency.  There's a lot of desert in the Southwest, and we're...

Greenhouse Gas Management Stocks: Key To A Real Climate Change Portfolio?

There has been a lot written lately about how to turn climate change into an investment opportunity, including on this site. Not all of it is, however, especially useful or relevant. In the worst cases, commentators have ascribed the 'climate change investment opportunity' label to just about any industry out there, indiscriminate of whether or not there really is a strong and direct connection. If you are seriously interested in playing the climate story, you should stay focused on near and medium term opportunities with real and tangible links to what is currently going on with the climate...