Young Professionals PerSPEctives
The Forum questions were answered by three selected young professionals of different nationalities, companies, years of experience, and primary work locations: Alessandro Tiani, Yekemi Bolare Otaru, and Alexis Garcia Torres.
Production Optimization System Team Leader
Yekemi Bolare Otaru
Alexis Garcia Torres
District Technical Engineer,
Will oil and gas remain the major energy source for the 21st century?
Historically, the substitution of energy sources has always been a lengthy process, involving deep changes in the whole industrial, economic, and civil systems globally.
In my opinion, oil and gas will dominate as primary energy sources for the next century. Among these two, gas will soon overtake oil as the primary energy source globally,
Oil and gas are stable and technologically advanced sources of energy. We know how to find them and produce them economically. However, as the 21st century comes to a close, I see more investment into research for renewables and technological advancement into economic, sustainable production of energy from other sources (i.e., renewables).
As time passes and natural resources are consumed at a faster pace than their renovation occurs, it becomes imperative to find alternative sources of energy to maintain the sustainable development of economies and preserve the planet. Alternative-energy sources can evolve to a degree that local environmental risks and tradeoffs can be effectively considered and choices made to minimize environmental impact and protect our planet, while addressing the primary energy needs of the population.
What effect will new technology and renewable-energy development have on the peak-oil timing?
AT: New technology will delay the peak for another 50 to 100 years.
YO: With the development of new technology in renewable energy, peak-oil timing may be moved back say 20 to 40 years!
AGT: New technology will delay the peak for another 10 to 50 years.
Which group will lead the way in alternative-energy technology development?
AT: New companies yet to be formed.
YO: It depends on how proactive the existing oil companies are. If they are interested and invest in technology for alternative energy or look for ways to apply what technology there is in the alternative-energy sector, they will still lead the way—simply due to their expertise and domain knowledge. However, if they are more reactive than proactive, who knows who the giants of the alternative-energy world will be? It could be companies that do not yet exist!
AGT: The integrated oil and gas companies.
What energy source do you see primarily powering cars by each of the following dates?
- After 2100
AT: 2017—oil , 2030—oil, 2070—gas, after 2100—hydrogen
I think that oil products, currently leading with no clear second alternative, will be in first place for at least the next 25 years.
In a broader perspective, the spread of an alternative car fuel will be based on three key factors:
- Resource availability: amount of resource and facility of transportation/storage
- Energy intensity: comparable energy output per unit mass
- Reduced emissions
On the basis of these factors, I see the highest potential in natural-gas products and hydrogen in the medium-to-long term.
YO: 2017—oil, 2030—gas, 2070—biofuels, 2100—biofuels
Gas will possibly be used more widely, as its combustion leaves fewer harmful components and thereby reduces emissions. Technology to sustain this source of energy would require 2 to 3 decades. After 2050, I see biofuels as the primary source.
AGT: 2017—hydrogen, 2030—hydrogen, 2070—hydrogen, after 2100—hydrogen
It is important to comprehend that biofuels and electricity, perhaps, will not achieve the engine performance that most frequent drivers are used to. But as a tradeoff, by using these types of fuels we can expect to reduce the CO2 emissions. Let us hope that hybrid cars become massively accepted and affordable. We are expecting the release of the hydrogen-fuel-cell car by 2010.
In which alternative-energy source would you invest today?
Biofuels are quite compatible with present automotive technology and less polluting than conventional fuels. They could be a good investment opportunity in the next few years, especially if supported by some governmental incentives.
Definitely, biofuels because they show the most feasibility for development in the next few decades. With the right incentive for government bodies and the influence of Kyoto, research into optimal methods of production of biofuels will lead the way. To start with, however, biofuels may indeed be more expensive to produce—due to lack of mature technology. This is where the petroleum and chemical industries can intervene, applying tried and tested technology.
Hydrogen will play an important role in developing sustainable transportation in the world, because in the future it may be produced in virtually unlimited quantities using renewable resources. Hydrogen has been used effectively in a number of internal-combustion-engine vehicles as pure hydrogen mixed with natural gas.
Will nuclear energy experience a renaissance and move into a rapid-growth phase globally?
This possibility makes sense in the medium-to-long term. The chance to have clean, safe, and cheap nuclear technology (currently unavailable) would solve emission problems definitively.
It would solve emission problems definitively.
Sooner or later the world will go for nuclear energy in a big way. If this is to be done in a technologically and economically optimal way, the changes will begin soon.
Why has renewable energy been slow to develop?
AT: Low energy prices and the capital costs to develop infrastructure for new fuels.
YO: Mostly due to lack of governmental incentives and high costs of development.
AGT: Energy conservation is not yet a global priority.
Do you think that many of today’s major oil companies are investing in renewable energy primarily to generate positive press and manage public perception?
Renewable-energy investments provide oil companies with positive (and almost immediate) public perception. This is of course an important driver for this kind of investment, probably even bigger than the profitability of the project itself.
I believe many oil companies are genuinely interested in life after oil, which is a reality. It all comes down to being proactive and the ability of the company to see past the next decade. Their survival is also in question. Smart companies do and should invest in renewable energy. That said, there will always be those who want good press and publicity. Whatever the motivation, investment in renewables is beginning to be made. I’ll take that, thanks.
In effect, new energy sources can replace oil and gas. Therefore the U.S. Senate has introduced legislation to create a “Strategic Energy Fund” to help pay for the clean-energy transition. It would also raise money for research, development, and deployment of energy technologies that will reduce America’s oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions. Here is where the major oil companies come into play. They need to invest in alternative sources to stay in business; it won’t be a business dependent solely on gas and oil, but on other energy sources. Benefits will begin with tax credits and evolve into business growth for these companies.
Is your company addressing the problem of climate change?
AT: Yes, it is actively addressing the problem.
YO: Yes. This is addressed through employee awareness and education, among other things.
AGT: No, but there are plans to address the problem.
Would you consider changing your career to specialize in renewable energy?
AT: No, not interested at this time.
YO: Yes, I really don’t mind as long as it involves technology. Always exciting!
AGT: No, not interested at this time.
How do you judge the training you have already received in alternative energy?
YO: Not very much yet. But I have only been in the company for less than a year.
AGT: Have not received any such training.
Should SPE incorporate “renewables” into their technical disciplines?