David Lawrence, a Yale-educated PhD geologist, held executive roles at energy giant Shell for many years. Following his tenure at Shell, David Lawrence founded Lawrence Energy Group, an energy consulting firm that rigorously evaluates the energy transition and analyses carbon reduction trends and strategies.
Between 2005 and 2017, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from energy consumption in the US declined by 758 million metric tons, a reduction of about 14 percent. In 2016, US carbon emissions were the lowest in 24 years. This decrease is attributed in large part to the shift of generating electricity with fuels derived from natural gas that are less carbon-intensive alternatives to petroleum and coal.
This trend may plateau in the next several years. US carbon emissions are projected to rise by just under 2 percent in 2018 and to remain steady for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the level of emissions estimated for 2019 will be 13 percent lower than those recorded in 2005. Notably, carbon emissions in the US continued to decline even during periods of slight economic growth over this period, in large part because of the increased role of natural gas as well as the significant rise of wind energy and solar in the electricity sector.
Danish Wind Power
The CEO of the energy advisory firm Lawrence Energy Group is also the firm’s founder, David Lawrence, a former energy executive of the Royal Dutch Shell Corporation. In his role as executive vice president of the exploration and commercial division, David Lawrence directed and managed Shell’s wind energy business.
The Scandinavian nation of Denmark is on track to meet its goal of generating 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources. In 2016, almost 44 percent of electricity consumed in the northern European nation came from wind power, setting a world record. In recent years, Denmark’s government has invested heavily in wind energy, spending over $30 million on test turbines alone in 2018.
Denmark’s focus on wind energy is not directly related to today’s concerns regarding nonrenewable energy sources. The world’s largest producer of wind turbines is a 110-year-old Danish manufacturer, and wind energy production has been subsidized by the Danish government since the early 1970’s.
As demand for renewable energy increases worldwide, the wind turbine market is projected to be an $80 billion industry by 2019. Based on this trend, Danish energy officials expect the wind industry to be self-sustaining in the near future.
A former executive with Royal Dutch Shell and Shell Upstream Americas, with responsibilities including Exploration, New Business Development, Gas Monetization and Shell Wind Energy, David Lawrence formed Lawrence Energy Group, an energy investment and consulting company. As CEO and chairman of the firm, David Lawrence focuses on addressing increasing energy needs while mitigating the impact of climate change.
One technology-driven approach to curbing climate change involves carbon capture and the concept of the “smokeless stack.” A recent Quartz article drew attention to the success of a bipartisan group of senators in securing a 45Q tax credit extension designated for companies investing in carbon capture technology. The technology, which involves scrubbing devices installed at chemical industries and power plants, removes the carbon dioxide from plant emissions, allowing the gas to be compressed and safely sequestered underground.
Approved within a larger spending bill that ensured continued funding by the US government, the tax credits act the same way in which wind and solar power credits have for decades: by incentivizing the use of carbon capture technologies. The plants that put the captured C02 to use in applications such as pushing out oil within depleted fields receive a $30 per metric ton credit; alternately, burying the CO2 in storage underground generates a $50 credit.
With the investment generated by 45Q as an impetus, the same bipartisan group has now introduced the USE IT (Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technology) Act. The bill seeks to fund research into carbon capture, storage, and use, as well as a private sector competition for developing innovative solutions.
Carbon Capture and Storage
The founder and chairman of Lawrence Energy Group LLC, David Lawrence spent the majority of his career as an executive with Shell Upstream Americas in Houston and Royal Dutch/Shell in London and The Hague. He retired from Shell in 2013. Starting his career at the United States Geological Survey and in Shell’s Bellaire Research Center, David Lawrence is a longtime advocate of energy research and development, particularly in areas such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
CCS refers to the process of capturing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion before it is released into the atmosphere. Once the carbon dioxide is captured, it must be stored in such a way that it does not leak into the surrounding environment and cause damage.
Carbon capture typically involves separating carbon dioxide from the other gases produced in industrial applications and electricity generation. Pre-combustion capture involves converting fuel into a mixture of gases before ever burning it for energy. In post-combustion capture, engineers extract carbon dioxide from combustion exhaust using membrane filtration, adsorption, or cryogenic separation.
After capturing carbon dioxide, engineers typically store the gas in geological rock formations several miles below the surface of the earth. Ideal candidates for carbon storage areas include some select former gas and oil fields, which have already been assessed thoroughly in geological and hydrodynamic terms.