SPE Online Education
Challenges for Net Zero and Energy Transitions
Recorded On: 08/07/2023
The path to net zero represents a complete de-carbonization of energy from the way we use it today. Ultimately we may also need to consider net-negative emissions, such as Direct Air Capture, to avoid the worst predictions for future climate. To reach either goal it is necessary to pass through the goals established by the Paris Accord, a 60% reduction by 2050. World-wide the world emits about 33 gigatonnes of CO2 per year, and by 2050 that number needs to be reduced to 13 gigatonnes. The decline in emissions needs to be steeper than the growth in emissions over the preceding 30 years, and this presents a major technical challenge. As the world continues to develop, more energy is used every year. In fact, by 2050 the world is projected to be using about 30-40% more energy than it does today. Renewable energy is expected to be about 35% of the world total use in 2050, and the use of coal, oil, and natural gas will be effectively unchanged. With current use of hydrocarbons unchanged, carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS, aka EOR) become important for achieving national goals.
Countries are changing their emissions; The USA (13.4% of world emissions), the EU (7.6%) are both projected to drop emissions by ~35% by 2050, however, China (26.1%) will continue to grow emissions until about 2030 and then decline to 2020 levels by 2050, India will continue to grow its emissions at the same rate through 2050, and some countries like the Russian Federation (5.6%) and Japan (2.6%) are expected to stay at 2020 levels through 2050. Without drastic changes the world stands little chance to meet even the Paris accord goals in the 27 years that remain to avert a predicted 1.5o C change in average world temperature. If the EU and the US achieve net zero in that time, world-wide emissions will have dropped by about 30%, or half the Paris Accord world-wide goal. This is a significant challenge, much of the world can’t or won’t spend the money necessary to make significant reductions.
This problem requires an engineering approach, focusing on solutions that we can work today, using understood and readily available technologies. Time is too short to wait for science solutions such as fusion and grid-scale batteries which are needed to allow full utilization of renewables, though those may well become engineering solutions in the future. Critical things to understand are the roles of strategic minerals, the needed growth in mining industries to enable technologies of today, and the very significant infrastructure challenges to completely change energy as humanity continues to develop. Geopolitics also can play a very significant role in all related issues. It is not possible to pick a single solution which will address CO2, in the 27 years we have to do it in. Rather a mix of solutions that include carbon capture and storage, increases in efficiency, continued growth in renewables, switching of liquid fuels to biofuels and hydrogen generated from methane, an increased adoption of nuclear power, and ultimately some adaptation to climate changes.
This webinar is categorized under the Reservoir technical discipline.
All content contained within this webinar is copyrighted by Robert Balch and its use and/or reproduction outside the portal requires express permission from Robert Balch.
Dr. Robert Balch is the Director of the Petroleum Recovery Research Center located on the campus of New Mexico Tech. During his 26 years at the PRRC he has been principal Investigator on a range of enhanced oil recovery, intelligent systems, and environmental projects, with a focus on developing and applying solutions to problems at many scales using geological, geophysical, and engineering data. Dr. Balch is the Principal Investigator of the Southwest Partnership on Carbon Sequestration, which is currently completing a DOE funded demonstration project where 1,000,000 metric tonnes of anthropogenic CO2 has been injected for combined storage and enhanced oil recovery into a mature waterflood in North Texas. He is also the Principal Investigator for the Carbon Utilization and Storage Partnership, another US DOE initiative, which is actively working with companies to commercialize CO2 Storage projects in the Western US. The CUSP has 29 commercialization projects underway including identifying CO2 storage for a coal to hydrogen power plant conversion, permitting carbon storage for a mid-stream producer in the Permian basin, an iron smelter in Utah, and carbon storage hubs throughout the western USA. In addition, he is project manager for a DOE CarbonSafe 3 project which is identifying 7 million tonnes per year of storage for a coal plants converting to Hydrogen with carbon capture in New Mexico.
During the course of his work, he has published more than 50 papers, is a frequent invited speaker, and has presented his research at more than 110 meetings or events. In 2017 he was selected as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Society of Petroleum Engineers on the topic of CO2 storage during enhanced oil recovery. Dr. Balch has served for 6 years on the ISO TC265 world standard for geologic storage of carbon oxides, as a representative for ANSI. Dr. Balch held an appointment as an Oil Conservation Commissioner for the State of New Mexico between June of 2011 and December of 2018.
Jennifer Raney (Moderator)
Jennifer Raney has over a decade of experience in managing large-scale energy research projects at the Kansas Geological Survey. Throughout her career, she has successfully contributed to key areas of Department of Energy funded CCUS research, including directing the Kansas CCUS Task Force, leading project management one of the nation's earliest successful U.S. EPA Class VI permit applications, GIS mapping in statewide oil and gas databases, and leading statewide legislative and public outreach activities for regional carbon management initiatives.
Currently, Jennifer leads the outreach working group for the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Partnership (CUSP) while actively contributing her skills to numerous DOE-funded projects on CCUS commercialization, energy storage, and sustainable critical minerals exploration. She is focused on applying her skills toward environmental justice, workforce development, DEIB, and community engagement in the field of energy research and carbon management.
She holds a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from Tulane University and a Master's degree in Environmental Science and Engineering from the University of Kansas.
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