The Linchpin of the Energy Transition

Successfully navigating to a net-zero carbon economy demands innovations in policy, as well as recognition that these policies have to integrate across industry sectors and national borders. It demands answers to the questions of how much it will cost and how to pay for it, and who carries the burden for doing so.

Last month the world’s political and industrial leaders gathered in Egypt for COP27, the Climate Change Conference held in the city of Sharm El-Sheik. This annual event convened by the United Nations is an opportunity to engage in dialogue on the topic of climate change and to discuss a coordinated global response.

If you’ve been paying attention for any length of time, you know that the topic of climate change and meetings like COP divide AAPG members. Some feel we shouldn’t even be talking about this, because they view it as antithetical to our industry and profession. Mere mention of COP in this column will likely generate a fair number of negative comments and emails in my inbox.

An individual member may or may not agree with the proposed policies or the concerns expressed at COP. But for many of our members worldwide, the topic of climate change and its impact on our industry and profession is existential – it has or will directly impact their careers and ability to practice their profession.

That is why we must discuss this topic and serve our members as they navigate a changing energy landscape. And the numbers in that group are likely to grow over time, not decrease.

Lessons from the ETF Summary Report

The impact has been acute in Europe, and our London office has worked with leaders in the Region to talk about the evolution of our energy systems in response to policies being implemented to address climate change with a special emphasis on the impact on geoscientists.

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Successfully navigating to a net-zero carbon economy demands innovations in policy, as well as recognition that these policies have to integrate across industry sectors and national borders. It demands answers to the questions of how much it will cost and how to pay for it, and who carries the burden for doing so.

Last month the world’s political and industrial leaders gathered in Egypt for COP27, the Climate Change Conference held in the city of Sharm El-Sheik. This annual event convened by the United Nations is an opportunity to engage in dialogue on the topic of climate change and to discuss a coordinated global response.

If you’ve been paying attention for any length of time, you know that the topic of climate change and meetings like COP divide AAPG members. Some feel we shouldn’t even be talking about this, because they view it as antithetical to our industry and profession. Mere mention of COP in this column will likely generate a fair number of negative comments and emails in my inbox.

An individual member may or may not agree with the proposed policies or the concerns expressed at COP. But for many of our members worldwide, the topic of climate change and its impact on our industry and profession is existential – it has or will directly impact their careers and ability to practice their profession.

That is why we must discuss this topic and serve our members as they navigate a changing energy landscape. And the numbers in that group are likely to grow over time, not decrease.

Lessons from the ETF Summary Report

The impact has been acute in Europe, and our London office has worked with leaders in the Region to talk about the evolution of our energy systems in response to policies being implemented to address climate change with a special emphasis on the impact on geoscientists.

Now in its fourth year, the Energy Transition Forum was held May 19-20, 2022 in London and conducted in cooperation with our affiliated society, the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain, and a summary report from the event is now available for download at www.searchanddiscovery.com.

Reflecting on the views of more than 1,000 professionals who responded to a questionnaire distributed ahead of ETF 2022, the event chair Max Brouwers of Getech observed that, notwithstanding the negative views society holds of petroleum geoscientists, their education has equipped and prepared them to play key roles in the energy transition and to address the global challenges this presents.

The challenge as described at ETF is the energy trilemma – a topic we’ve covered repeatedly in EXPLORER: Energy needs to be sustainable, affordable and securely available.

Meetings such as COP have been focused on emissions – enhancing the sustainability of the energy sources, but that must be balanced against the growing need for energy to lift societies up the economic ladder, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put a spotlight on global energy security.

Solving for all three variables is a challenge, and “most people do not realize how difficult and disruptive the energy transition will be,” according to the report based on the discussions at ETF 2022.

Successfully navigating to a net-zero carbon economy demands innovations in policy, as well as recognition that these policies have to integrate across industry sectors and national borders. It demands answers to the questions of how much it will cost and how to pay for it, and who carries the burden for doing so.

These are not small sums. According to the report, “Bloomberg estimates the world spent about $755 billion on low carbon investment last year, well up on 2020, but McKinsey say it will take $9 trillion annually to close to net zero by 2050.”

As the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen famously put it, in reference to government spending, “a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

One of the areas where those funds need to be deployed is R&D, because science and technology are the keys to meeting the fundamental goals of the energy transition. According to the report, more than 80 percent of the technologies needed already exist. But many of them work only on the benchtop in the lab. It will require additional investment to get them to industrial scale so they can be economically deployed.

It’s also true that some of them will fail to scale. Others may be bridge technologies to yet other new approaches and technologies. It will all cost significant sums of money, and the report points out new business models and entrepreneurial vision.

One of the key technologies emphasized at ETF 2022 is digitalization. We know that data is a valuable asset and our industry has spent significant capital acquiring it. But collection isn’t the main challenge; it is the extraction of value from this collected data, using it to make smarter, better business decisions.

As organizing committee member Arno Van Den Haak of AWS observed, “It’s not about the technology – that’s there already. It’s how you use the technology that matters.”

Which brings us to people – it’s people who will use science and technology to manage the energy transition.

The Role of Geoscientists

“The skill and capabilities landscape is changing and the geoscience expertise needed for the energy transition will be both deep and broad” is a key takeaway from the forum. “Geoscientists are ideally placed to lead the energy transition; they have a creative and hypothesizing approach to challenges and are both good at and accustomed to technological innovation and collaborative working.”

Ours is an integrative science. That is a feature and benefit. And our industry – the oil and gas industry – “gives people a huge range of practical skills that are equally applicable in energy transition businesses.”

Or as Chairman Brouwers put it, “geoscientists are the linchpin of the energy transition.”

Comments (2)

Geoscientists are the Linchpin of Energy, but the energy reality is changing and so must AAPG
I sometimes tire of the constant drone of climate change we see in the news, some is founded in reality, and is some total hokum. Whether we think CO2 is the core of Climategeddon or just benign plant food, the simple fact is that the world now believes that every wildfire, drought, or winter storm is driven by anthropogenic climate change. This perception IS the globally perceived "reality" whether we agree or not. Accordingly, AAPG has two fairly simple choices... 1) Keep the tent closed and focus solely on Oil & Gas and be marginalized, or 2) Open the tent to all energy professionals while still acknowledging that responsibly produced O&G will fuel the world for a long time to come as the energy scene evolves across a spectrum of technological applications. Geoscience is indeed the Linchpin of Energy and of the energy evolution. AAPG has the choice to be static or to change and broaden our focus to the energy spectrum... geoscience dovetails into the energy evolution at almost every level for materials, and subsurface knowledge. Or, AAPG can opt not to change. It is worth noting that biologists tell us that when an organism ceases to change it is dead.
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12/15/2022 10:22:26 PM
Net-zero carbon economy based on the Big Lies about CO2
From CO2COALITION.ORG website: Fact #1. 140-million-year trend of dangerously decreasing CO2. For the last 140 million years, CO2 levels fell precipitously & steadily to within about 30 ppm of the 150 ppm “line of death” below which plants can’t survive. Both the relatively short-term data from ice cores and much longer-term data going back 140 million years (Berner 2001) show an alarming downward trend toward CO2 starvation. The release of carbon dioxide by the use of fossil fuels has allowed humanity to increase concentrations of this beneficial molecule, and perhaps avert an actual CO2-related climate apocalypse. Fact #2. The warming effect of each molecule of CO2 declines as its concentration increases. Climate scientists have determined, and both sides agree, that the warming effect of each molecule of CO2 decreases significantly (logarithmically) as its concentration increases. This is one reason why there was no runaway greenhouse warming when the concentration of CO2 was approaching 20 times that of today. This inconvenient fact, important though it is, is kept very well hidden and is rarely mentioned, for it undermines the theory of future catastrophic climate change. Fact #3. Food Security CO2. First and foremost, CO2 is plant food. Today’s low CO2 concentration is starving trees and plants of the food they need to achieve their full growth potential via photosynthesis. Additional benefits of increased CO2: • Increased photosynthesis (“CO2 fertilization”). • Plants grow faster, and with less stress and less water. • Forests are growing faster. • Stimulates growth of beneficial bacteria in both soil and water. • More plant growth means less erosion of topsoil. • Bigger crop yields, and more and bigger flowers. • Fosters glomalin, a beneficial protein created by root fungi. • Less water loss, less irrigation, and more soil moisture. • Increase in natural repellents to fight insect predators. CO2 is the Gas of Life on Earth! End the lies about CO2!
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12/2/2022 5:06:58 PM

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