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Energy transition

1 September 2022

Oil and gas will be an important part of the energy mix as we move through the energy transition

Dear Editors,
I recently attended the Society’s Energy Transition Discussion Meeting. There was much to enjoy, but there was also something I found disturbing. There was almost no representation in the speakers/panellists of scientists from the oil-and-gas industry, and a lack of discussion of the role hydrocarbons will play in the energy transition. It seemed that – to use a modern phrase – the industry was “non-platformed” by the Society, perhaps seen as the unfortunate relative that no one talks about at family gatherings. Given that a significant number of Fellows are petroleum/energy geoscientists, this seems regrettable.

Whilst I appreciate that many Fellows will wish that it were not so, oil and gas will remain a significant part of the energy mix for several decades to come. An analysis of an ensemble of reputable rapid energy transition scenarios (not ‘business as usual’ scenarios) shows that oil demand will still be c. 50 million barrels per day in 2050 (half of today’s demand), whilst gas will be around current levels (c. 4,000 billion cubic metres per year). 

It therefore would seem sensible to have an open discussion around how oil and gas can be part of the transition (e.g. low-carbon intensity portfolios linked to carbon storage), whilst supporting emerging low-carbon energy sources. The energy transition is just that, a transition, and will require talented geoscientists to ensure it occurs as smoothly and rapidly as possible. But that does not mean that we should abandon discussion of the role the current primary source of global energy plays in the transition, not least reducing and mitigating its impacts through thoughtful geoscience.

Mike Simmons
Halliburton Technology Fellow for Geosciences & Energy Transition

Dr Nick Gardiner, Energy Transition Theme Lead, Prof Rob Knipe, Convenor, & Dr Alicia Newton, Director of Science and Communications write in response:

Oil and gas will continue to be an important part of the energy mix. This was explored in a number of presentations during the discussion meeting, not least the keynote by Dr Myles Allen on achieving “geological net zero”. However, with the brief of exploring new challenges, it is perhaps unsurprising that speakers, including those from the oil industry, chose to focus on emerging technologies, most of which lack the established research ecosystem, and financial and regulatory frameworks found in the oil-and-gas sector.

The efficient use, recovery and decarbonisation of hydrocarbons will continue to be a subject of the Society’s scientific programme. For example, a two-day technical meeting on carbon capture and storage followed the discussion meeting last April and abstracts are being solicited for the Energy Geoscience Conference in Aberdeen 16–18 May 2023; this meeting is the first of a new conference series, and is organised in conjunction with PESGB. For more details, please see www.energygeoscienceconf.org.

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