What's Ahead

Energy Companies and Climate Change

Anthony Onukwu, Editor-in-Chief, The Way Ahead

Burning more than one quarter of the current economic reserves of oil, coal, and gas will release sufficient greenhouse gases to create a serious risk of catastrophic climate change. At the present rate of fossil fuel use, we will consume this amount in 40 years or less.

Welcome to the second issue of TWA for 2011 and my last as editor-in-chief. In this issue we are looking ahead as always, focusing on the exciting theme of: Energy Companies and Climate Change.

Our industry earns its livelihood from oil, natural gas, and coal—the main sources of emissions of greenhouse gases—and will be severely affected by regulatory measures to curb these emissions. With companies linked in worldwide operations, we should be concerned about the issue of climate change since we are responsible for more than 70% of the global energy source (hydrocarbons) that is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. The question is, as an industry, are we concerned about climate change? In this issue we aim to provide an insight into what the industry is doing to address the problem and the challenges ahead.

First, I would like to highlight some of the ways the industry has shown interest in this global issue.

American Petroleum Institute members have established their own industry and individual company goals on climate change and are now meeting them through more aggressive action to reduce global warming emissions. The goals range from encouraging every company to develop a greenhouse gas emissions management plan to setting numerical targets for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions. Some oil companies have responded to this by partnering with major universities and research institutions in multimillion-dollar climate change research, both to improve understanding of the global warming problem and to advance technologies to combat it.

ExxonMobil is contributing more than USD 1 million and technical guidance in a project sponsored by the European Commission Directorate General for Research & Innovation that will evaluate a range of technologies to monitor the injection and storage of carbon dioxide from gas streams at the Sleipner and Snohvit fields in the Norwegian North Sea, at In Salah in the Saharan desert in Algeria, and in the German locality of Ketzin. ExxonMobil shares ownership of the Sleipner gas field, where more than 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide have been sequestered each year since 1998.

In renewable energy, Chevron has installed production capacity of 1,152 MW, primarily geothermal, making it the largest renewable energy producer of any global oil and gas company and the largest producer of geothermal energy. Chevron is involved in four major geothermal energy projects that produce clean electricity for Indonesia and the Philippines. Compared with a typical power grid (coal, oil, gas, etc), this level of renewable energy production represents avoided greenhouse gas emissions of more than 6 million tonnes annually.

 “We have much more to do on climate change. The public

image of our position on this is still not great and there is

much room for improvement.”

Shell is the world’s biggest blender of transport biofuels, with a stake in Iogen Energy that is testing new technology to make bioethanol cheaper using waste wood and straw, with carbon emissions 90% lower than for conventional fuels. Anadarko Petroleum sequesters millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere. Enhanced oil recovery projects in Wyoming use COto stimulate oil production. Anadarko expects to sequester more than 30 million tons of CO2 over the lifetime of the Salt Creek and Monell projects alone.

These are a few examples of major contributions from the industry to address this important global issue. However, we have much more to do on climate change. The public image of our position on this is still not great and there is much room for improvement.

As young professionals in the energy industry, we have a greater role to play because we are the industry’s future. The main challenges for us are: What do we know about climate change? How do we as an industry continue—or even take a lead role—in mitigating the effect of climate change? As usual, TWA has it covered, with a range of articles addressing these questions and outlining the challenges ahead.  I am sure this will encourage you to start thinking about what our possible contribution could be.

As I mentioned, this is my last issue as editor-in-chief. Max Medina of Statoil Canada and Todd B. Willis of Chevron in  Kuwait are the TWA leaders in their new capacities as incoming editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief. They have an unparalleled commitment to TWA and the excellent support of our team of more than 30 dedicated volunteers on the TWA Editorial board. So we have a great team in place!

I thank you, the readers, my friends on the current and previous TWA boards, all TWA pioneers, and my colleagues at SPE for your support throughout the years. Special thanks to John Donnelly, JPT editor, and the staff involved in TWA’s publication process—your unwavering dedication is gratefully acknowledged. We should not forget how remarkable TWA is: a successful magazine, now in its seventh year, dedicated to SPE’s young members, and managed and designed by them. Our strong TWA legacy positions us well to achieve even greater success and I am proud to be part of this collective journey.

For the final time, I will leave you with an inspirational thought:

“Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats. We may not agree on
the extent, but we certainly can’t afford the risk of inaction.”

                                   —Rupert Murdoch