Commentary, 7/8 2008

Published Aug 18, 2008
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7/8 2008

Energy for All

The theme for this year’s ONS – Energy for One World – really brings home the energy challenges facing the entire globe. Not only does the oil and gas industry have a daunting job ahead in the coming years and decades, but all industries tasked with supplying energy to a world with ever-growing energy needs will feel the pinch.

As the standard of living for more and more of the world’s population increases, so to does the demand for energy. A primary challenge for us all is how the energy mix will look and evolve over the near and long term. What ever the mix, oil and gas will continue to be a primary energy source.

Not only is finding and developing new resources a test of our ability to innovate, we have an additional mission to see that as the less developed parts of the world move forward, they too will have access to the energy they need to succeed. Sustainability has become a commonly heard term when discussing the issue of bringing energy to developing societies, and the oil and gas industry needs to play its part.

High oil prices have influenced greatly how the industry is doing business at present. Increased activity has led to an increase in contracts for the supply industry. And the influx of capital has led to an increase in acquisitions. The industry has entered an evolutionary phase – one in which we easily see innovation being rewarded.

Another aspect of the evolution is the blurring of lines between the traditional oil and gas companies and energy companies. This trend has been noted for some time, but this has evolved into a significant consideration of alternative sources of energy. Yes, the oil and gas industry has been involved in research into alternative energy sources, but now we are seeing more action in the field. In the North Sea, for example, offshore wind-generated is close to becoming a reality.

It’s really not that surprising. Sources that once were considered on the fringe have now matured, such as wind and solar power. Innovation continues with these two endless energy supplies, and the challenge now is to increase their use to the point where they become a significant part of the global energy mix. Nearly every developed country has acknowledged their importance and pledged support in making his happen. So now we must ensure that it comes to pass.

Other sources, such as energy from ocean waves and geothermal are bound to a specific place, yet they too can become important energy sources. Hydroelectric power generation – also bound to a specific location – has been a blessing for those who have the resources. Who can say what other sustainable energy sources will be feasible in the future?

Consider osmotic energy – the energy generated by the mixing of saltwater with freshwater as a river empties into the sea. It may sound like science fiction, but this may just become an important sustainable source of energy for a host of costal cities.

And then there are the sources that are not so far from where we are now, such as hydrogen and biofuels. Biodiesel and ethanol are already in wide-spread use, and finding additional sources and improving yields are almost a daily occurrence. Hybrid vehicles – sporting both petrol and electric motors – are already among us, yet is won’t be too long before petrol-hydrogen hybrids are the norm.

In the end, all this progress and innovation faces possibly the greatest challenge of all – making sure that sustainable energy is available to the entire world.

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