Friday, September 28, 2007

MIT Energy Conference announces "Content Kick-off Event" and open call for panel ideas...

This week, the directors of the MIT Energy Conference 2008 opened the doors for the broader MIT community to participate in content formulation for this year's conference.

Those with ideas for panel topics and speakers should do the following;

1.) Next Mon, Oct 1 attend the first MIT Energy Conference organizer event, the "MIT Energy Conference Content Kick-Off Event" at 6:30PM in 322-155.

2.) Submit your one page panel idea abstract to content co-director Daniel Enderton (MIT PhD Student, Climate Physics) - and Andy Peterson (MIT PhD Student, Chemical Engineering) - by Fri Oct 19.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BP supports MIT Energy in a big way....

MIT announced today that BP has become the inaugural "Founding Member" of the MIT Energy Initiative, funding the Initiative to the tune of $5M per year for 5 years.
(As noted below, BP has been and continues to be a huge supporter of the MIT Energy Club and Conference as well).

The MITEI/BP collaboration includes support of MITEI itself as well as the establishment of a new MIT research program entitled the "BP-MIT Advanced Conversion Research Project". This program will focus on the conversion of low-value feedstock such as petcoke and coal to high-value products such as electric power, liquids fuels, and chemicals, while minimizing carbon dioxide emissions.

The core research thrusts of the Project are:
  • Simulation of feedstock conversion/decarbonisation processes
  • Multiscale simulation of gasification
  • Syngas cleanup and upgrade
  • Gasification technology development
  • New processes for converting syngas to liquid fuels
  • Process integration and design for operability
  • Fuels market/policy analysis

As a Founding Member of MITEI, BP will also:

1.) Financially support MITEI's Energy Research Seed Fund program, which will provide funding for novel MIT energy research, and;

2.) Fund 10 "BP-MIT Energy Fellows" each year of its 5-year commitment. For reference, a typical graduate student tuition and stipend cost is ~$50,000/year.

BP has also been an invaluable supporter of the MIT student energy community: BP was an MIT Energy Club sponsor last year and continues as a sponsor this year, and is a "Title Sponsor" (highest level of support) of the MIT Energy Conference this year as well.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Melanie Kenderdine Lecture: US Strategic Petroleum Reserve

On the evening of Tuesday, September 11, the Energy Club hosted a lecture by Melanie Kenderdine on the topic of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The lecture took a broad view of US petroleum security, but drew on a series of anecdotes from Ms. Kenderdine's years inside the DOE during the Clinton administration.

Interesting take-aways:

- The US Strategic Petroleum reserve has a capacity upwards of 700 million barrels -- for reference, that's enough petroleum to feed the world's entire demand for a little less than 10 days, or to supplant US petroleum imports for about 2 months. However, the rate at which petroleum can be pulled out of the SPR is just upwards of 4 million barrels per day. Legislation is in the works to expand SPR capacity to 1 billion barrels.

- The crude oil stored in the SPR can be tapped for a number of reasons -- to compensate for small supply disruptions (as "loans" to oil and petrochemical companies, with additional oil paid back as interest), for test sales (5 million barrels or fewer), and larger drawdowns (which can occur only with presidential authorization). Because of the requirement for executive authorization of large drawdowns, the SPR has become a strong political lever (particularly in the past decade). Apparently, there is a tendency in Washington to disregard DOE recommendations about SPR drawdowns until they become politically expedient.

- At one point during the Winter 2000 heating oil shortage, heating oil supplies had dropped as low as seven days' worth of heating oil. With a delay of 10 days in perceptible market responses, the US was at a very real risk of running out of heating oil. The only factor that prevented a heating oil runout was that the weather warmed up. Since then, the US has more fully developed a dedicated system of heating oil storage for the Northeast (the predominant region for heating oil use).

Also, see more info on the SPR from the DOE's official site.

Lecture slides will be posted soon!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

MIT Energy Conference 2008 dates set for April 11-12, 2008 at the Kendall Marriott

Over the summer, the MIT Energy Conference 2008 directors were huddled away at MIT's Muddy Charles Pub laying the foundation for this year's conference.

(MIT World just put up Jeff Immelt's keynote address from last conference here.)

The conference date has been set for April 11-12, 2008 at the MIT/Kendall Marriott Hotel. An open-to-the-public New England Energy Showcase event will be held the evening of Friday,, April 11, while the conference itself will be all day Sat, April 12.

This year's directors are:

  • James Schwartz (Managing Director): James is the current co-president of the MIT Energy Club and was a conference director last year. He is a 2nd year Sloan MBA student student with a background in wind power and a strong interest in energy project development and entrepreneurship.
  • Daniel Enderton (Content Co-Director): Daniel is currently the co-president of the MIT Energy Club and was a content co-director last year as well. Daniel is a PhD Climate Physics student and has a strong interest in a career in the utility sector working to decarbonize the grid.
  • Andy Peterson (Content Co-Director): Andy is a content co-director of this year's conference. Andy is a PhD student in Chemical Engineering working on biofuels conversion methods. He is the co-founder of C3 Biofuels, a renewable biomass-to-propane conversion company.
  • Jason Roeder (Marketing Director): Jason Roeder is the marketing director for this year's conference. Jason is currently the MIT Energy Club Treasurer and is a 2nd year Sloan MBA student. Jason has a deep policy background, having previously worked on energy/environmental policy in Mitt Romney's MA gubernatorial administration.
  • Justin Ashton (Logistics Director): Justin will be ably filling the shoes of former rockstar logistics director Alissa Jones, who has moved onto greener pastures at McKinsey. Justin is a 2nd year sloan student and also serves as the MIT Energy Club's Industry Relations Chair.
  • Steve Carpenter (Showcase Director): Steve will be heading up the organization of the Friday night "MIT-New England Energy Showcase" for the 2nd time this year. Steve is a 2nd year Sloan MBA student.

The content directors will have an open call for panel ideas and conference organizers in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled here for announcements!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The MacKenzie Delta Lecture

Brendan Bell, who is the Northwest Territories Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, is touring the US with the aim of drumming up support for a 16 billion dollar pipeline project from the Mackenzie Delta (on the shore of the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories, Canada) to the Alberta extra-capacity lines and thus to Southern markets (the good ole' USA). His opening lecture focussed on the Energy and Environmental Analysis Inc. (EEA) Gas Market Models which attempted to quantify the costs for US consumers of not going ahead with the project. The number they came up with was $340 billion from the period 2014-2025.

After the lecture, Daniel Enderton prodded the speaker to discuss in more depth the political dynamic involved given the seemingly competing Alaskan pipeline project. From this point, the Minister started to discuss very interesting matters from the politics of protectionism, the issues which are presently most important for the project (financial commitments from the IOCs, in particular Exxon) and why the project is so important for the Northwest Territories (high unemployment, little development, etc). The minister also emphasized how infrastructure (or lack of it) can swell the costs very significantly for such projects.

How Energy Clubbers spent their energy summer....

A number of MIT Energy Club members spent their summers doing interesting work in the energy industry. Since the poor PhD students continued to work in the lab all summer, most of the interesting stories come from the Sloan side! :)



Scott Roberts
, 2nd year MBA student and active Club member, worked this summer at Burlington, MA-based international independent power provider Intergen, a company with 9 power plants and over 5GW of power plant equity. Scott worked in their corporate finance group on quantifying the financial impact of several macro risks on their power plant portfolio. He helped design and build a risk analysis tool using power plant financial models and Monte Carlo simulation..... Justin Ashton, Energy Club Industry Relations Chair, and Matt Albrecht, Energy Club EnergyNight Co-Chair (both 2nd year Sloan MBA students) took Boston's Citizens Energy by storm this summer, working alongside everyone's favorite MIT Energy alum and Citizens' Director of Alternative Energy, Tod Hynes...... James Schwartz, MIT Energy Club Co-President and Managing Director of this year's MIT Energy Conference, spent the summer in CT working at GE Energy Financial Services on energy project development alongside prominent MIT TPP alum Steve Taub.... Jason Roeder, 2nd year MBA student, MIT Energy Club Treasurer, and MIT Energy Conference Co-Director this year, spent the summer at recently public Boston-based EnerNOC (joining fellow alumni MIT energy club members Tom Atkinson and Shaheer Hussam). Jason was definitely impressed by his experience at EnerNOC.

From Jason's mouth:
"The demand response product that EnerNOC has pioneered is quite nuanced in its relation to electricity economics, regulatory regimes, and broader energy efficiency and smart grid applications. I was very impressed with the number of moving pieces in the organization - software engineering, field operations, network operations, power market analytics, sales force, etc. Based on my summer experience, it seems likely that demand response will have a permanent place in the utility/power market design quiver. The relatively small (~5%) reductions in demand that DR provides over the last ~1% of the load duration curve (87 out of 8760 hrs/yr) leads to big $$$ benefits for the market as a whole."


David Levy, 2nd year Sloan MBA student, spent the summer cutting his solar business teeth at thin film solar startup HelioVolt based in Texas..... Jacob Levy, a Sloan MBA student as well as David's twin brother (not really), spent the summer working at Evergreen Solar in Marlboro, MA, reporting to MIT energy alum (Sloan '76) Mark Farber, VP of Marketing & Business Development. Jacob also played a key role along with MIT Energy Conference co-founder and Evergreen employee Nol Browne this summer in bringing together various New England solar stakeholders (gov't, university, investment, etc) to work to expand solar activity in the region..... Viara Nedeva, 2nd Year MBA student, also had a solar summer, but on the other side of the world from David and Jacob, at BP Solar in Sydney, Australia. (Note: I am jealous of her, but not of David and Jacob) There she developed financial models to evaluate the economic feasibility of potential solar energy projects in East Asia.


Matt Zedler, recent Mech Eng BS alum and former Energy Club Tours Chair, diverted from his science and technology background this summer to work on policy with the majority side of the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Washington, DC.

From Matt's mouth:
"During a three-month fellowship, I had the chance to see the legislative process up close and personal, as well as the opportunity to meet several prominent energy advisors and policy makers. The first week of the summer placement coincided with the bringing of the Energy Savings Act of 2007 to the Senate floor. The rest of the summer involved conferences between the House and Senate on the America COMPETES bill, focused on revitalizing America's science and engineering education given the "threat" of other nations' successes. Right before the August recess, President Bush signed the bill into law, causing a celebration among the committee staff. I also spent a large part of the summer researching models for funding large-scale energy research, writing a white paper comparing several different models. The experience was both rewarding and frustrating as much of the staff's time is spent putting out short-term fires and running from one briefing or hearing to another. Working on policy showed me how the legislative process requires inputs from people with technical background, and it also proved how slow the progress of legislation can be. While I will not be returning the Hill anytime soon, the experience was a valuable and instructive one for me."


James Schwartz, Daniel Enderton, Andy Peterson, Justin Ashton , Jason Roeder, and Steve Peterson (the Co-Directors of the 2008 MIT Energy Conference) spent the whole summer scheming about the conference at the Muddy Charles Pub.....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

MIT Energy Club Kick-Off Draws 80!

Last Wednesday, the MIT Energy Club kicked off its Fall events season with a bang, hosting 80+ MIT energy folks ready and rearing to dive into energy. I've been around the MIT Energy scene for going on 5 years now and I saw a lot of fresh faces, which is great for MIT energy!

The event was a joint Discussion and Kick-Off Social at the R&D Pub in the Stata Center. The large number of attendees clearly indicated the continuing rise in interest in energy amongst students and faculty at MIT, considering that the same event last year drew only 40!

The Discussion was entitled "Energy 101: Energy Overview" and laid the foundation for the rest of the Club's more focused discussions, lectures, and other events. The discussion had a tripartite focus: Economics, Environment, and Security. It was emphasized that when thinking about energy, we need to think about outcomes along these three axes, as opposed to being wed to any particular technology/policy/deployment approach.
(References found here)
(Overview slides found here)

Club Co-President, MIT Climate Physics PhD student Daniel Enderton kicked off the discussion with an overview of some basic quantities that everyone in energy needs to know: total annual global primary energy usage (~400 Quads or EJ - quads and EJ are nearly equivalent), the U.S. energy rule (divide global by about 4, ~100 Quads), and the 85% rule - about 85% of global primary energy comes from fossil fuels. Daniel also discussed the recent rapid growth rates in renewables in recent years (20-40% depending on which) in biofuels, PV, and wind. Enderton laid out an Energy Club truism: since fossil is the dominant energy source and will be for the foreseeable future, if you care about energy outcomes you better understand and care about fossil fuels. However, the large growth rates in renewable energy make it a great place to focus one's efforts as well. You need to understand both to win the energy game!

His fellow Club Co-President, James Schwartz followed on by discussing energy costs, particularly in the electic power sector. This sparked some heated discussion on the true costs of wind power, with new Club member Mike Hogan and LFEE researcher Steve Connors hammering it out over the true added cost that should be assigned to wind power due to its intermittancy, hopefully a point to be discussed later this semester in a Wind Power discussion. The options available for grid scale storage were discussed in this context as well, including compressed air energy storage, pumped hydro, and large flow batteries (all hopefully topics worthy of discussion this year). By the way, Richard Lester and John Deutch's "Applications of Technology in Energy and Environment" MIT course is a great place to go to learn how to calculate energy costs.

Club Vice President Kristian Bodek headed up the piece on environment, with a focus on key criteria pollutants. Kristian pointed out that specific pollutants should be understood to be linked to specific negative environmental outcomes and specific energy sectors. For example, SOx = acid rain = utility sector (particularly coal) and NOx = smog = auto sector (esp personal transport). Kristian then identified the key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions globally: interestingly, the power, transport, and industrial sectors contribute about 50% of total emissions, with the rest rounded out by forest burning, ag byproducts, and fossil fuel recovery and processing mainly. He also pointed out that along with CO2 (72% of effective emissions), CH4 (18%) and nitrous oxide (9%) are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions - both dominated by agricultural byproducts.

Club Discussion Chair Justin Anderson closed the discussion with a brief overview of energy security. In the U.S. and many other regions, energy insecurity = oil import dependence. However, it was pointed out that natural gas is becoming a key energy insecurity issue, esp in the Russia-Europe strategic energy relationship, with a politically re-emerging Russia having shut off supply occasionally in recent years. Justin pointed out that the U.S. uses 19.2 million barrels of oil/day, 64% of which is imported. Interestingly, 10.3% of U.S. oil comes from Canada, the largest coming from any single country (Saudia Arabia is only at ~8%). The real concern was mentioned that reserves are concentrated in the Middle East in regions not particularly friendly to the U.S. and that the % of total reserves in this region will likely only grow as reserves are consumed elsewhere. Justin brought up one possible optimistic scenario that could get around this: if technological developments allowed North America to economically take advantage of its massive tar sands/oil shale reserves. After all, as Justin pointed out, reserves are a function of cost of extraction/processing to make crude.

The event concluded with a social hour at the MIT R&D Pub where 80+ members of the MIT energy community mingled and sparked new ideas. I overheard conversations about which MIT advisors to work for in batteries, I saw a new energy startup form, I overheard students getting advice for how to transition from a Physics PhD to a position in the energy industry.... Just the kind of stuff you hear at the MIT Energy Club's great events. :)

Looking forward to seeing everyone at upcoming Energy Club events!