David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Musings from the Oil Patch April 3rd 2019

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section on coal to gas power plant conversions:

    With an investment of roughly 50% of the value of an operating coalfired power plant, the benefits of converting to natural gas for fuel can make economic sense, based on our estimates.  However, as every technical article we read discussing fuel conversions pointed out, each project is different and requires an extensive analysis before reaching a conclusion.  We will not bore you with the extended lists of issues to be considered.  Natural gas makes for a cleaner environment and operating facility, and also requires less ongoing maintenance.  Gas plants are also less labor intensive, which may become a greater consideration in the future with a tighter labor market and an aging labor force.  

    Given the amount of natural gas resources in the world, it would be nice to say that this conversion option is a panacea for the expensive decarbonization efforts currently being proposed.  A global coal-to-gas conversion effort is not likely, even though we suspect many more switches could (may) be justified.  As the economics of the Joliet conversion highlights, the plant moved from a baseload to peaking status, which could be justified by current energy economics.  We doubt all regions have similar economics that facilitate such a move.  The world will continue to remain dependent on an “all of the above” energy slate for ensuring everyone has access to cost-effective electricity.  

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    Production of battery grade cobalt blows up First Cobalt's stock

    This article from Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “Producing a battery grade cobalt sulfate is one of our most significant accomplishments as the majority of refined cobalt for the electric vehicle market is produced in Asia. With no cobalt sulfate production in North America today, First Cobalt stands to become the first such producer for the American electric vehicle market," Trent Mell, President & CEO said in the press release.

    “Electric vehicle demand in North America will keep growing," Henrik Fisker, First Cobalt director and CEO of electric vehicle manufacturer Fisker Inc., said. "Companies such as Fisker continue to introduce new, affordable EV models to the market. Automakers and battery manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure any materials we use in our batteries are sourced in an ethical way.  The restart of the First Cobalt Refinery is an important step towards producing battery materials in America with a clean record from mine to machine.”

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    Fastest Electric Car Chargers Waiting for Batteries to Catch Up

    This article by David Stringer for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “The charging capacities of electric vehicles have doubled in the space of a few years,’’ Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen said in an email. “We expect that fast-charging in public spaces will become the norm.’’

    Tesla, which has more than 12,000 chargers globally, is boosting the speed of its own refueling units to cut time at the pump by as much as half. The upgrade promises to add as much as 75 miles of charge in five minutes -- still lagging the ultra-fast models.

    The speed at which current EVs can recharge is limited by such factors as the size of their battery, the voltage the pack can accept and the charger’s current.

    While it may be years before battery packs able to handle the power surge from ultra-fast chargers go mainstream, some new EVs -- including Hyundai Motor Co.’s Kona Electric and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc’s I-Pace -- already can recharge faster than previous generations.

    Volkswagen’s Porsche brand will introduce its electric Taycan sports car later this year. It’s the first vehicle capable of taking full advantage of the fastest chargers, with a larger battery and the ability to operate at a higher voltage.

    “The cars are coming,” said Marty Andrews, CEO of Chargefox Pty, which installed ABB’s fastest units at some Australia charging stations. “The carmakers want ultra-rapid chargers because they want this to be future-proof. This is not a six-month plan, it’s a 10-year plan.”

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    A Belief in Meritocracy Is Not Only False: It's Bad for You

    This article by Clifton Mark for medium.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Perhaps more disturbing, simply holding meritocracy as a value seems to promote discriminatory behavior. The management scholar Emilio Castilla at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the sociologist Stephen Benard at Indiana University studied attempts to implement meritocratic practices, such as performance-based compensation in private companies. They foundthat, in companies that explicitly held meritocracy as a core value, managers assigned greater rewards to male employees over female employees with identical performance evaluations. This preference disappeared where meritocracy was not explicitly adopted as a value.

    This is surprising because impartiality is the core of meritocracy’s moral appeal. The ‘even playing field’ is intended to avoid unfair inequalities based on gender, race and the like. Yet Castilla and Benard found that, ironically, attempts to implement meritocracy leads to just the kinds of inequalities that it aims to eliminate. They suggest that this ‘paradox of meritocracy’ occurs because explicitly adopting meritocracy as a value convinces subjects of their own moral bona fides. Satisfied that they are just, they become less inclined to examine their own behavior for signs of prejudice.

    Meritocracy is a false and not very salutary belief. As with any ideology, part of its draw is that it justifies the status quo, explaining why people belong where they happen to be in the social order. It is a well-established psychological principle that people prefer to believe that the world is just.

    However, in addition to legitimation, meritocracy also offers flattery. Where success is determined by merit, each win can be viewed as a reflection of one’s own virtue and worth. Meritocracy is the most self-congratulatory of distribution principles. Its ideological alchemy transmutes property into praise, material inequality into personal superiority. It licenses the rich and powerful to view themselves as productive geniuses. While this effect is most spectacular among the elite, nearly any accomplishment can be viewed through meritocratic eyes. Graduating from high school, artistic success or simply having money can all be seen as evidence of talent and effort. By the same token, worldly failures become signs of personal defects, providing a reason why those at the bottom of the social hierarchy deserve to remain there.

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    It Takes Just 3 Stickers to Make a Tesla Drive Into Oncoming Traffic

    This article by Ryan Whitwam for ExtremeTech may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Tesla’s Autopilot is a level two system that’s leaning into level three, but it might not have the necessary hardware to make it work. These vehicles use cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors to detect lanes and nearby vehicles. The Keen Security researchers reverse-engineered the software Tesla uses to see how easy it would be to fool those sensors. They didn’t need to make any changes to the car’s software — this is not a hack. They simply used three small reflective stickers on the roadway to trick Autopilot into thinking the lane had merged when it hadn’t.

    According to the report, Tesla uses a feature called “detect_and_track” to identify lane markers. It uses several factors to avoid incorrect decisions like road shoulder location, lane history, and the distance to various objects. However, the reflective stickers appear to the car like lane markers, directing it to merge. These stickers are almost invisible to drivers, and it would be trivially easy to place them on roadways.

    Tesla’s Autopilot system does include emergency braking. So, it’s possible the car could stop itself in the event it swerved into oncoming traffic. However, there’s no guarantee the other cars would stop. Tesla says it is evaluating the report but notes that drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel while Autopilot is engaged.

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    CBOE Trashing Bitcoin Futures Signals Crypto Market Bottom

    This article from ccn.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Speaking on the “Fast Money” panel, Kelly explained that a unique mixture of factors including shifting fundamentals make it likely that bitcoin is poised to break out of its prolonged bear phase which has lasted more than a year now.

    In his words: “I think we could look back on this and say that was the bottom…There’s a couple of things that have gone on since the low in December. We’ve seen the underlying fundamentals improve…I think retail is exhausted. You’re starting to see sellers being exhausted and institutions come in. Fidelity is a catalyst coming up in Q2. I think with all those things combined, we might look back and say ‘You know what, in the $3000’s is a great place to buy bitcoin.’”

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    Palladium Sags as Prices Gyrate on Auto Demand Concern

    This article by Justina Vasquez for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Palladium headed for the first decline in four sessions as U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the border with Mexico added to concerns over the outlook for the auto industry, the biggest consumer of the metal.

    Analysts said a border closing would rapidly ripple through a U.S. economy in which supply chains are closely integrated with Mexico, especially hitting the carmakers. Volatility in palladium, used in auto catalysts to curb pollution, has surged in the past week as investors assess slowing vehicle sales against the outlook for supply shortfalls that drove prices to record highs last month.

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