One source for this post is Forbes Magazine article, ” U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil Hits 30-Year Low”, by Mr. Mike Patton.  Other sources were obviously used.

The United States is at this point in time “energy independent”—for the most part.   Do you remember the ‘70s and how, at times, it was extremely difficult to buy gasoline?  If you were driving during the 1970s, you certainly must remember waiting in line for an hour or more just to put gas in the ol’ car? Thanks to the OPEC oil embargo, petroleum was in short supply. At that time, America’s need for crude oil was soaring while U.S. production was falling. As a result, the U.S. was becoming increasingly dependent on foreign suppliers. Things have changed a great deal since then. Beginning in the mid-2000s, America’s dependence on foreign oil began to decline.  One of the reasons for this decline is the abundance of natural gas or methane existent in the US.

“At the rate of U.S. dry natural gas consumption in 2015 of about 27.3 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) per year, the United States has enough natural gas to last about 86 years. The actual number of years will depend on the amount of natural gas consumed each year, natural gas imports and exports, and additions to natural gas reserves. Jul 25, 2017”

For most of the one hundred and fifty (150) years of U.S. oil and gas production, natural gas has played second fiddle to oil. That appeared to change in the mid-2000s, when natural gas became the star of the shale revolution, and eight of every 10 rigs were chasing gas targets.

But natural gas turned out to be a shooting star. Thanks to the industry’s incredible success in leveraging game-changing technology to commercialize ultralow-permeability reservoirs, the market was looking at a supply glut by 2010, with prices below producer break-even values in many dry gas shale plays.

Everyone knows what happened next. The shale revolution quickly transitioned to crude oil production, and eight of every ten (10) rigs suddenly were drilling liquids. What many in the industry did not realize initially, however, is that tight oil and natural gas liquids plays would yield substantial associated gas volumes. With ongoing, dramatic per-well productivity increases in shale plays, and associated dry gas flowing from liquids resource plays, the beat just keeps going with respect to growth in oil, NGL and natural gas supplies in the United States.

Today’s market conditions certainly are not what had once been envisioned for clean, affordable and reliable natural gas. But producers can rest assured that vision of a vibrant, growing and stable market will become a reality; it just will take more time to materialize. There is no doubt that significant demand growth is coming, driven by increased consumption in industrial plants and natural gas-fired power generation, as well as exports, including growing pipeline exports to Mexico and overseas shipments of liquefied natural gas.

Just over the horizon, the natural gas star is poised to again shine brightly. But in the interim, what happens to the supply/demand equation? This is a critically important question for natural gas producers, midstream companies and end-users alike.

Natural gas production in the lower-48 states has increased from less than fifty (50) billion cubic feet a day (Bcf/d) in 2005 to about 70 Bcf/d today. This is an increase of forty (40%) percent over nine years, or a compound annual growth rate of about four (4%) percent. There is no indication that this rate of increase is slowing. In fact, with continuing improvements in drilling efficiency and effectiveness, natural gas production is forecast to reach almost ninety (90) Bcf/d by 2020, representing another twenty-nine (29%) percent increase over 2014 output.

Most of this production growth is concentrated in a few extremely prolific producing regions. Four of these are in a fairway that runs from the Texas Gulf Coast to North Dakota through the middle section of the country, and encompasses the Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin, the Granite Wash, the SouthCentral Oklahoma Oil Play and other basins in Oklahoma, and the Williston Basin. The other major producing region is the Marcellus and Utica shales in the Northeast. Almost all the natural gas supply growth is coming from these regions.

We are at the point where this abundance can allow US companies to export LNG or liquified natural gas.   To move this cleaner-burning fuel across oceans, natural gas must be converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG), a process called liquefaction. LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to –260° F (–162° C), changing it from a gas into a liquid that is 1/600th of its original volume.  This would be the same requirement for Dayton.  The methane gas captured would need to be liquified and stored.  This is accomplished by transporting in a vessel similar to the one shown below:

As you might expect, a vessel such as this requires very specific designs relative to the containment area.  A cut-a-way is given below to indicate just how exacting that design must be to accomplish, without mishap, the transportation of LNG to other areas of the world.

Loading LNG from storage to the vessel is no easy manner either and requires another significant expenditure of capital.

For this reason, LNG facilities over the world are somewhat limited in number.  The map below will indicate their location.

A typical LNG station, both process and loading may be seen below.  This one is in Darwin.

CONCLUSIONS:

With natural gas being in great supply, there will follow increasing demand over the world for this precious commodity.  We already see automobiles using LNG instead of gasoline as primary fuel.  Also, the cost of LNG is significantly less than gasoline even with average prices over the US being around $2.00 +++ dollars per gallon.  According to AAA, the national average for regular, unleaded gasoline has fallen for thirty-five (35) out of thirty-six (36) days to $2.21 per gallon and sits at the lowest mark for this time of year since 2004. Gas prices continue to drop in most parts of the country due to abundant fuel supplies and declining crude oil costs. Average prices are about fifty-five (55) cents less than a year ago, which is motivating millions of Americans to take advantage of cheap gas by taking long road trips this summer.

I think the bottom line is: natural gas is here to stay.

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GOTTA GET IT OFF

January 6, 2018


OKAY, how many of you have said already this year?  “MAN, I have to lose some weight.”  I have a dear friend who put on a little weight over a couple of years and he commented: “Twenty or twenty-five pounds every year and pretty soon it adds up.”  It does add up.  Let’s look at several numbers from the CDC and other sources.

  • The CDC organization estimates that three-quarters (3/4of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. The latest figures, as of 2014, show that more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults age twenty (20) and older and seventeen percent (17%) of children and adolescents aged two through nineteen (2–19) years were obese.
  • American ObesityRates are on the Rise, Gallup Poll Finds. Americans have become even fatter than before, with nearly twenty-eight (28%) percent saying they are clinically obese, a new survey finds. … At 180 pounds this person has a BMI of thirty (30) and is considered obese.

Now, you might say—we are in good company:  According to the World Health Organization, the following countries have the highest rates of obesity.

  • Republic of Nauru. Formerly known as Pleasant Island, this tiny island country in the South Pacific only has a population of 9,300. …
  • American Samoa. …
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • French Polynesia. …
  • Republic of Kiribati. …
  • Saudi Arabia. …
  • Panama.

There is absolutely no doubt that more and more Americans are over weight even surpassing the magic BMI number of 30.  We all know what reduction in weight can do for us on an individual basis, but have you ever considered what reduction in weight can do for “other items”—namely hardware?

  • Using light-weight components, (composite materials) and high-efficiency engines enabled by advanced materials for internal-combustion engines in one-quarter of U.S. fleet trucks and automobiles could possibly save more than five (5) billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030. This is according to the US Energy Department Vehicle Technologies Office.
  • This is possible because, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The Department of Energy’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility has a capacity to produce up to twenty-five (25) tons of carbon fiber per year.
  • Replacing heavy steel with high-strength steel, aluminum, or glass fiber-reinforced polymer composites can decrease component weight by ten to sixty percent (10-60 %). Longer term, materials such as magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced composites could reduce the weight of some components by fifty to seventy-five percent (50-75%).
  • It costs $10,000 per pound to put one pound of payload into Earth orbit. NASA’s goal is to reduce the cost of getting to space down to hundreds of dollars per pound within twenty-five (25) years and tens of dollars per pound within forty (40) years.
  • Space-X Falcon Heavy rocket will be the first ever rocket to break the $1,000 per pound per orbit barrier—less than a tenth as much as the Shuttle. ( SpaceX press release, July 13, 2017.)
  • The Solar Impulse 2 flew 40,000 Km without fuel. The 3,257-pound solar plane used sandwiched carbon fiber and honey-combed alveolate foam for the fuselage, cockpit and wing spars.

So you see, reduction in weight can have lasting affects for just about every person and some pieces of hardware.   Let’s you and I get it off.

TRUCKING

September 19, 2017


I have several clients I try to keep happy each week.  One is in Cleveland, Tennessee. That’s about a forty-five (45) minute drive for me, one way, so I get to see a great deal of Interstate traffic.  This is my thirteenth year with this company as a client so I have made that trip multiple times.  There is NO time of the day that I do not see an armada of fifty-three (53) foot rigs hauling their load from point “A” to point “B”.  The numbers are quite frankly staggering.  According to the American Trucking Association (ATA) for the year 2016:

  • The big rigs moved 10.42 billion tons of freight or seventy percent (70%) of all domestic freight tonnage.
  • The nation’s commercial trucks paid $41.3 billion in state and federal highway user fees and taxes. The average five-axel-trailer pays more than $5,600.00 in taxes annually.
  • There were 33.8 million trucks registered for business purposes, including 3.68 million Class 8 trucks. (NOTE: The Class 8 truck gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is a vehicle with a GVWR exceeding 33000 pounds (14969 kg). These include tractor trailer tractors as well as single-unit dump trucks of a GVWR over 33,000 pounds; such trucks typically have 3 or more axles.)
  • The 33.8 million trucks mentioned above burned 38.8 billion gallons of diesel fuel and 15.5 billion gallons of gasoline. Today’s average price per gallon for diesel is $2.71.
  • They traveled 450.4 billion miles.
  • Approximately 7.4 million Americans are employed in trucking-related jobs, including 3.5 million as truck drivers.
  • Trucking is an industry made up of small businesses; 91% of motor carriers operate six or fewer trucks and 97.3% operate less than 20.
  • Annual revenues for 2016 totaled $676.2 billion.
  • Freight volumes are projected to grow 2.8% in 2017 with an annual growth rate of 3.4% through 2023.
  • Truckload volumes are expected to grow 2.7% per year from 2017 to 2023.
  • Short haul or LTL shipments, will increase 3.3% per year from 2017 to 2023.

Companies, small and large, are making concerted efforts to lessen costs for diesel fuel and obtain greater efficencies thereby reducing overall total costs of operation.  This is a nationwide exercise all movers long-haul and short-haul are participating in.  We are already seeing FedEx, UPS, the Federal Post Office, DHL, police departments, taxi cab companies and others convert from diesel to propane or natural gas as the fuel of choice.  This not only reduces operating expense but reduces carbon emissions.   We also see companies who design and build engines for these big rigs, working hard to improve mileage and engine efficencies.  Progress is being made on a yearly basis.  So, the next time you pass an LTL or STL hauler, think about the industry and the efforts they are in the process of adopting to improve their company.

RETURN OF X-PLANES

April 22, 2017


In the April 2017 issue of “Machine Design” a fascinating article entitled “NASA’S Green Thumb for Green Aviation” was presented. This article was written by Carlos M. Gonzales and encouraged me to explore, at least through NASA’s web site, the status of their “X-Plane” program.  Aviation is definitely a growth industry. Millions upon millions of individuals travel each year for business, recreation, and tourism.  There is no doubt that aviation is the “Greyhound Bus” for the twenty-first century.

The aviation system is the high-speed transportation backbone of the United States and global economies. Global aviation is forecast to grow from today’s three point five (3.5) billion passenger trips per year to seven (7) billion passenger trips by the mid- 2030s, and to eleven (11) billion passenger trips by mid-century. Such growth brings with it the direct economic potential of trillions of dollars in the fields of manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and the high-quality jobs they support.

At the same time, international competition for leadership of this critical industry is growing, as more nations invest in developing their own aviation technology and industrial capabilities. Such massive growth also creates substantial operational and environmental challenges. For example, by mid-century the aviation industry will need to build and fly enough new aircraft to accommodate more than three times as many passenger trips while at the same time reducing total emissions by half from that new hardware. Moreover, large reductions in emissions and aircraft noise levels will be needed, if not mandated. To meet those demands, revolutionary levels of aircraft performance improvements – well beyond today’s technology – must be achieved. In terms of air traffic control and the National Airspace System, maintaining safe and efficient operations is a continuing and growing challenge as the system expands, and especially as new business and operational models – such as unmanned aerial systems – are introduced. Enabling aircraft (with pilots aboard or not) to fly optimized trajectories through high density airspace with real-time, systemwide safety assurance are among the most critical operational improvements that must be achieved.

In looking at global growth, we see the following:

These numbers would be very frightening without the aviation industry deciding to be pro-active relative to the sheer numbers of passenger miles anticipated over the next two decades.  That’s where NASA comes in.

NEW AVIATION HORIZONS:

In FY 2017, NASA plans to begin a major ten-year research effort to accelerate aviation energy efficiency, transform propulsion systems, and enable major improvements in air traffic mobility. The centerpiece of NASA’s ten-year acceleration for advanced technologies testing is called New Aviation Horizons, or NAH. It is an ambitious plan to build a series of five mostly large-scale experimental aircraft – X-planes – that will flight test new technologies, systems and novel aircraft and engine configurations. X-planes are a key piece of the “three-legged stool” that characterizes aviation research.

  • One leg represents computational capabilities – the high-speed super computers that can model the physics of air flowing over an object – be it a wing, a rudder or a full airplane.
  • A second leg represents experimental methods. This is where scientists put what is most often a scale model of an object or part of an object – be it a wing, a rudder or an airplane – in a wind tunnel to take measurements of air flowing over the object. These measurements help improve the computer model, and the computer model helps inform improvements to the airplane design, which can then be tested again in the wind tunnel.
  • The third leg of the stool is to actually fly the design. Whether it’s flying an X-plane or a full-scale prototype of a new aircraft, the data recorded in actual flight can be used to validate and improve the computational and experimental methods used to develop the design in the first place. This third leg makes it possible to lower the risk enough to completely trust what the numbers are saying.

With NAH, NASA will:

  • Demonstrate revolutionary advancements in aircraft and engine configurations that break the mold of traditional tube and wing designs.
  • Support accelerated delivery to the U.S. aviation community of advanced verified design and analysis tools that support new flight-validated concepts, systems and technologies.
  • Provide to appropriate organizations and agencies research results that inform their work to update domestic and international aviation standards and regulations.
  • Enable U.S. industry to put into service flight-proven transformative technology that will solve tomorrow’s global aviation challenges.
  • Inspire a new generation of aeronautical innovators and equip them to engineer future aviation systems. Of the five X-planes, NASA has determined that three subsonic aircraft will be enough to span the range of possible configurations necessary to demonstrate in flight the major enabling fuel, emissions and noise reducing technologies.

The graphic below indicates possible designs for aircraft of the future.  All of these craft are now on the drawing board with computational prototyping underway.

INDUSTRY:

U.S. industry plays an integral role in the NAH initiative, leading the design, development and building of all X-planes under contract to NASA. Industry will be a research partner in the ground test and analysis, as well as the flight tests of the X-planes. Industry also partners in the advancement of the physics-based design and analysis capabilities. Through the lead and partnering roles, U.S. industry will be fully capable of confidently taking the next steps in commercializing the transformational configurations and technologies. The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has already been awarded a preliminary design contract for the Quiet Supersonic Technology demonstrator. As indicated in a white paper published by the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The U.S. government must support robust, long-term Federal civil aeronautics research and technology initiatives funded at a level that will ensure U.S. leadership in aeronautics. Congress should support NASA’s ten-year Strategic Implementation Plan at least at the levels recommended in the fiscal year 2017 NASA Budget request to sustain a strong economy, maintain a skilled workforce, support national security, and drive a world-class educational system.”

UNIVERSITIES:

NASA has already launched the University Leadership Initiative, which provides U.S.-based universities the opportunity to take full independent leadership in defining and solving key technical challenges aligned with the NASA Aeronautics strategy. Solicitations and proposals are managed through the NASA Research Announcement process; the first round of awards will be made in Fall 2016. These awards could lead to new experiments that would fly onboard one or more X-planes. In addition, NASA is formulating new mechanisms for direct university and student participation in the X-plane design, development and flight test process. The objective is to ensure U.S. universities remain the leading global institutions for aviation research and education, and to ensure the next generation workforce has the vision and skills needed to lead aviation system transformation.

POSSIBLE CONFIGURATIONS:

As mentioned above, NASA, industry and universities have already begun looking at possible configurations.  The most promising on-going programs are given below.

As you can see, the designs are absolutely striking and “doable” relative to existing technology.  The key goals are to:

  • Produce environmentally sound or “GREEN” designs lessening air pollution.
  • Create better fuel usage and conservation.
  • Extend flight range
  • Structure designs so minimal airport alternations will be necessary
  • Improve passenger experience

Tall orders but keep in mind NASA got us to the moon and back.  Why do we feel they will not be able to meet the goals indicated?  As always, I welcome your comments.

ORDORIFOUS REALITY

January 14, 2017


My company is working on a project involved with capturing methane from the decomposition of organic material in landfill sites.  Research preparatory to accepting the job reviled very interesting facts.  Let’s take a look.

NUMBERS:

The U.S. has 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, in the “good old days,” every town (and many businesses and factories) had its own dump.  This is somewhat disturbing since these landfills were unregulated.  Upregulation without standards can create situations where effluent can creep into groundwater possibly polluting wells and other sources of potable water.  That has now changed for the better.  The two digital maps below will indicate location and concentration of approved landfill sites.  You certainly can notice the greatest concentration is from the Mississippi River east where population densities are greatest.  This is certainly to be expected.

landfill-map2

landfill-map

Municipal solid waste (MSW) – more commonly known as trash or garbage – consists of everyday items people use and then throw away, such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps and papers. In 2010, individuals in the United States generated about 250 million short tons (230 Mt) of trash.   In the United Stateslandfills are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states’ environmental agencies. Municipal solid waste landfills (MSWLF) are required to be designed to protect the environment from contaminants that may be present in the solid waste stream

Some materials may be banned from disposal in municipal solid waste landfills including common household items such as paints, cleaners/chemicalsmotor oilbatteriespesticides, and electronics. These products, if mishandled, can be dangerous to health and the environment.  Safe management of solid waste through guidance, technical assistance, regulations, permitting, environmental monitoring, compliance evaluation and enforcement is the goal of the EPA and state environmental agencies.

A typical landfill site looks pretty much as follows:

landfill-storage

You are correct—a big, very big mess.

CODES AND REGULATIONS:

Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 258 addresses seven major aspects of MSWLFs, which include the following:

  • Location restrictions—ensure that landfills are built in suitable geological areas away from faults, wetlands, flood plains or other restricted areas.
  • Composite liners requirements—include a flexible membrane (i.e., geo-membrane) overlaying two feet of compacted clay soil lining the bottom and sides of the landfill. They are used to protect groundwater and the underlying soil from leachate releases.
  • Leachate collection and removal systems—sit on top of the composite liner and removes leachate from the landfill for treatment and disposal.
  • Operating practices—include compacting and covering waste frequently with several inches of soil. These practices help reduce odor, control litter, insects, and rodent, and protect public health.
  • Groundwater monitoring requirements—requires testing groundwater wells to determine whether waste materials have escaped from the landfill.
  • Closure and post-closure care requirements—include covering landfills and providing long-term care of closed landfills.
  • Corrective action provisions—control and clean up landfill releases and achieves groundwater protection standards.
  • Financial assurance—provides funding for environmental protection during and after landfill closure (i.e., closure and post-closure care).

TIME LINE FOR METHANE PRODUCTION FROM LANDFILL:

Collection of methane does not occur the first day garbage is dumped into a landfill.  The chart below will indicate the constituents and a typical timeline for production CH (4).

time-line

We are after the methane so as you can see, after two years, approximately, we have roughly twenty percent (20%) of the effluent available for reclama.

Typical characteristics and quantities from decomposition of an established landfill are as follows:

typical-characteristics-and-quantities

HOW WE DO IT:

The JPEG below will indicate a very rough schematic of a landfill site with wells “sunk” to receive mechane and basic piping necessary for the accumulation of mechane.  Well systems consist of a series of vertical LFG extraction wells (perforated or slotted collection pipes) that penetrate to near the bottom of the refuse or to near the depth of saturated waste. Well systems are often recommended for landfills or portions of landfills that exceed 12 m (40 ft.) in depth. The design of a well-system requires an estimate of the rate of LFG production and the radius of influence of the wells. A well- system, either active or passive, is useful for layered landfills where vertical LFG migration is impeded. Because of the variability of landfill refuse, design procedures are difficult to apply to LFG collection systems. Vertical LFG collection wells are typically installed once filling operations have been completed, and are commonly spaced at a frequency of one per acre and are constructed using an auger type drill rig. As a general rule, where LFG collection efficiency is important, it is generally advisable to develop a tighter grid of extraction points with smaller spacings operated at a lower vacuum. It has been found that a vacuum of 10 to 25 inches of water column (in wc) represents a reasonable balance between maximizing zones of influence and minimizing air intrusion into the site. Operating at higher vacuum levels tends to extend the zone of capture beyond the limits of the waste burial and increase the potential for atmospheric air intrusion that could create a landfill fire/explosion hazard. The radius of the capture zone for a vertical extraction well may range from around 50 feet to 200 feet and is strongly dependent on localized landfill conditions. LFG recovery rates from an individual extraction well may range from approximately 10 to 50 cubic feet per minute (cfm).

A depiction of a typical well is shown as follows:

well

Each well must meet EPA standards and have the ability to capture all affluent so contamination of ground water does not occur.  Well extraction piping and well placement patterns may look as follows:

well-extraction-piping

A cross-section of a typical site indicates multiple wells with the landfill area.  The digital below will give you some idea as to schematic piping and flow.

methane-collection

As you can see, after accumulation, the affluent must be cleaned to remove methane.  Constituents possible within the “mix” are as follows:

organic-contaminants

Some of these contaminants are cancer-causing so they must be dealt with prior to collection.

You will notice in our example above; the collected and scrubbed methane is used to fire generators used to produce electricity.  This electricity may be sold back to the grid or used for industry and/or homes.

Examples of LFG Energy Projects:

Projects can vary significantly depending on the size of the landfill, the energy end-user, and other factors. Currently operational projects include:

  • Apex (50 million tons of waste) Las Vegas, NV – CC Landfill Energy LLC is building a plant that will produce 11 megawatts (MW) of electricity for NV Energy, a utility that serves approximately 2.4 million customers.
  • Puente Hills (123 M tons) Whittier, CA – The largest LFG-to-electricity program currently in production, Puente Hills produces 50 megawatts, enough to power roughly 50,000 homes. Additionally, some of Puente Hills’ gas is used to fuel garbage trucks.
  • Rumpke Sanitary (36 M tons) Colerain Township, OH – This landfill site hosts the largest landfill-to-gas facility in the world, recovering approximately 15 million standard cubic feet of LFG per day, which is then distributed by Duke Energy Corporation.
  • Newton County Landfill Partnership (19 M tons) Brook, IN – More than 1.1 million standard cubic feet of gas is captured from Newton County Landfill per day. The energy is used by a nearby factory to make egg cartons.
  • Atlantic Waste (15 M tons) Waverly, VA – This site has in place a 20-mile pipeline to Honeywell’s Hopewell plant. The landfill provides 20 percent of the energy used at the plant.

CONCLUSIONS:

Methane extraction is not only possible but is being accomplished across the United States.  The very short list above indicates those states and cities in which technology is being applied to provide usable energy from old-fashioned garbage.


I want us to consider a “what-if” scenario.  You are thirty-two years old, out of school, and have finally landed a job you really enjoy AND you are actually making money at that job. You have your expenses covered with “traveling money” left over for a little fun.  You recently discovered the possibility that Social Security (SS), when you are ready to retire, will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. You MUST start saving for retirement and consider SS to be the icing on the cake if available at all.  QUESTION: Where do you start?  As you investigate the stock markets you find stocks seem to be the best possibility for future income.  Stocks, bonds, “T” bills, etc. all are possibilities but stocks are at the top of the list.

People pay plenty of money for consulting giants to help them figure out which technology trends are fads and which will stick. You could go that route, or get the same thing from the McKinsey Global Institute’s in-house think-tank for the cost of a new book. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, was written by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, and offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. If you chose stocks, you definitely want to look at technology sectors AND consider companies contributing products to those sectors.  The following list from that book may help.  Let’s take a look.

Below, we’re recapping their list of the “Disruptive Dozen”—the technologies the group believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.

Batteries

energy-storage

The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient.  Battery technology will remain with us and will contribute to ever-increasing product offerings as time goes by.  Companies supplying this market sector will only increase in importance.

Genomics

genomics

As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops.  This is a rapidly growing field and one that has and will save lives.

Material Science

advanced-materials

The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.

Self-Driving or Autonomous Automobiles

self-driving-vehicles

Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves. You will not catch me in a self-driving automobile unless the FED and the auto maker can assure me they are safe.  Continuous effort is being expended to do just that.  These driverless automobiles are coming and we all may just as well get used to it.

Alternate Energy Solutions

reneuable-energy

Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.  I might include with wind and solar, methane recovery from landfills, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and other environmentally friendly alternatives.

Robotic Systems

advanced-robotics

The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.

3-D Printing

3-d-printing

Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”

Mobile Devices

mobile-internet

The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.

Artificial Intelligence

automation-of-knowledge

It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.

 

The Internet of Things (IoT)

iot

Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.

Cloud Technology

cloud-technology

The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”

Oil Production

advanced-oil-technology

The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets.  This was a real surprise to me but our country has abundant oil supplies and we are already fairly self-sufficient.

Big Data

big-data

There is an ever-increasing accumulation of data from all sources.  At no time in our global history has there been a greater thirst for information.  We count and measure everything now days with the recent election being one example of that very fact.  Those who can control and manage big data are definitely ahead of the game.

CONCLUSION:  It’s a brave new world and a world that accommodates educated individuals.  STAY IN SCHOOL.  Get ready for what’s coming.  The world as we know it will continue to change with greater opportunities as time advances.  Be there.  Also, I would recommend investing in those technology sectors that feed the changes.  I personally don’t think a young investor will go wrong.

BMW I NEXT

November 3, 2016


I think we are all aware that automotive trends point towards autonomous vehicles; i.e. “self-driving” cars.  Personally, I’m not too thrilled about the prospects and feel the reality of one in my driveway is down the road, if ever.   With that being the case, BMW, INTEL, and Mobileye have teamed up to bring autonomous vehicles to the BMW product line.  I must admit, this appears to be one “mean ride”.  Let’s take a very quick at the styling to date.

i-next

i-next2

As you can see, the styling is truly beautiful. Each company represents leadership in automotive technology, computer vision, and machine learning and share the opinion that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier.  No doubt, easier is a given but I have yet to be convinced safer is right around the corner.  There are significant challenges to overcome before road-worthy vehicles such as the i NEXT receives certification and goes into production for the buying public.

The goal of collaborative effort is to develop future-proofed solutions that will enable drivers to reach the so called “eyes-off”, or level 3, and ultimately the “mind-off” or level 4 by 2021. This would transform “getting there” to leisure and/or work time. BMW said the new i NEXT model will be the basis for future fleets of fully autonomous vehicles that will drive on both highways and in urban environments, which are far more challenging. A BMW spokesman said it expects a steering wheel and pedals to remain in the fully self-driving vehicle, in case the driver wants to be in control. I personally feel even these will be removed if the concept proves itself with greatly improved safety. By doing so, cost savings may be accomplished and reduction in system complexity.

While BMW lends its automotive expertise to the collaboration, INTEL is providing computing power ranging from its INTEL Atom to INTEL Xenon processors, which deliver up to one hundred (100) teraflops of power-efficient performance without having to rewrite code. Mobileye is developing software algorithms, system-on-chips, and customer applications based upon processing visual information for driver assistance systems.

BMW is actively revamping company concepts to assure direct competition with the likes of new OEM Tesla, along with the usual suspects, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In March, the company showed its future ideas regarding vehicle autonomy via its Vision Next 100 concept cars. This was likely an overly obvious foreshadowing of the iNext platform.

Harald Krueger, BMW CEO told annual shareholders in Munich that the upcoming vehicle with “cutting-edge” electric drive-train and all new interior will be able to drive itself. The new release, along with BMW’s current “i” line are all efforts to compete in the luxury car electric vehicle market. This will be an addition to the line which already includes the i8 PHEV and the i3 BEV/REx. Krueger said:

i Next is set to be “our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”

In addition to this, as companies are realizing that car ownership is continually diminishing in “big city” environments, BMW has announced its jump onto the bandwagon of car-sharing and ride-sharing ventures. Its first delve into the scene is a car-sharing situation in Seattle, with the possibility of more such services to come.

The numbers are showing that Tesla is dominating the European market and lighting a fire under established automakers. Mercedes has been luckier than BMW with being ahead of the game, launching new product lineups and a multiplex of new models. BMW’s sales in the first quarter of 2016 only gained marginal success compared to that of Mercedes.

In an attempt to try to regain momentum and push ahead, BMW has cut prices by approximately six percent (5.9%) across the board. This is partly since the company’s available models are all “older” models, in direct comparison to the competitors. Nevertheless, BMW is reportedly still on par with 2016 projections.

Krueger, in his stockholder’s address, assured that for the seventh consecutive year, his company is on target. While, unfortunately, above target needs to be the goal when factoring in the accelerated growth of the dominant competition.

Krueger concluded:

“After our first quarter, we are on track for the full year. We have always stressed that our centenary is a springboard to the future.”

CONCLUSION:   I marvel at the technology.  There is absolutely no way any company or companies could have developed a vehicle such as this as far back as five (5) years ago.  The technology was just not there.  Hopefully, BMW is successful, but as I mentioned earlier, there are tremendous hurdles and challenges before the rubber hits the road.  I certainly wish them success.

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