Decarbonizing Anthropogenic Activity: The Oil and Gas Industry is a Major Component of the Solution

Hastings, Astley (University of Aberdeen) | Smith, Pete (University of Aberdeen)

OnePetro 

The major challenge facing society in the 21st century is to improve the quality of life for all citizens in an egalitarian way, by providing sufficient food, shelter, energy and other resources for a healthy meaningful life, whilst at the same time decarbonizing anthropogenic activity to provide a safe global climate. This means limiting the temperature rise to below 2 C. Currently, spreading wealth and health across the globe is dependent on growing the GDP of all countries. This is driven by the use of energy, which until recently has mostly derived from fossil fuel, though a number of countries have shown a decoupling of GDP growth and greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector through rapid increases in low carbon energy generation. Nevertheless, as low carbon energy technologies are implemented over the coming decades, fossil fuels will continue to have a vital role in providing energy to drive the global economy. Considering the current level of energy consumption and projected implementation rates of low carbon energy production, a considerable quantity of fossil fuels will still be used, and to avoid emissions of GHG, carbon capture and storage (CCS) on an industrial scale will be required. In addition, the IPCC estimate that large scale GHG removal from the atmosphere is required using technologies such as Bioenergy CCS to achieve climate safety. In this paper we estimate the amount of carbon dioxide that will have to be captured and stored, the storage volume and infrastructure required if we are to achieve both the energy consumption and GHG emission goals. By reference to the UK we conclude that the oil and gas production industry alone has the geological and engineering expertise and global reach to find the geological storage structures and build the facilities, pipelines and wells required. Here we consider why and how oil and gas companies will need to morph into hydrocarbon production and carbon dioxide storage enterprises, and thus be economically sustainable businesses in the long term, by diversifying in and developing this new industry.

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