As oil prices begin to rise and exploration of the North Sea yields promising results, investment is returning to the area, in particular, with two large projects from energy big hitters BP and Centrica. These firms are injecting new life into this area by drilling new wells in mature fields and exploring new fields. Although there are environmental concerns about greatly increasing production from this area, this increased investment is predicted to be just the start in a return to interest in the North Sea.
Aviation produces 2% of the world’s human-induced carbon dioxide emissions and the demand for air travel is predicted to double over the next 20 years. As such, the industry is desperately looking for new ways to reduce their emissions, along with the energy generating industry itself, and this has spurred an interest in biomass-derived jet fuels. Although many different plant materials can be used to produce this fuel, researchers at the University of Illinois are working on engineering sugarcane to make it a high yielding, resilient crop ideal for producing far more energy than it takes to make.
Natural gas usage around the world is still on the rise for a number of reasons but a main one being it is better for the environment than other fossil fuels. Countries such as China are increasingly using it to power long distance trucking and countries like Ireland are considering using it to improve their energy security. However, as the main component of natural gas is methane, a major greenhouse gas, the accidental but inevitable emissions of this gas during the production, processing and distribution of natural gas constitute a significant threat to the environment. That is why energy companies BP, Eni, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, Statoil, Total and Wintershall are committing to reducing emission in every part of their operations.
The biggest liquid natural gas (LNG) transporting, storage and regasification vessel ever is due to begin operation in November from its location in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Turkey. As long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, this ship can hold 263,000 cubic meters of LNG and was recently named the MOL FSRU Challenger in a ceremony in South Korea. It was built by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd as the first floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) the company has independently built, owned and operated. It is designed to increase Turkey’s regasification capacity to improve their energy security following the installation of their first FSRU called Neptune.
China is notorious around the world for its coal consumption and frighteningly high carbon emissions. However, changes in regulation to dramatically cut these emissions and tackle the serious air quality problems has led to a huge increase in the number of LNG powered vehicles being sold particularly in the heavy truck market. Sales of LNG powered heavy trucks was up 540% in the first seven months of this year and imports of LNG are up 45% so far this year. Other projects to bring down emissions include piping gas to around 1.4million homes in the north of the country as an alternative to coal for heating. Although international pressure and trends have played a role in this switch, there are other factors involved.
With such ambitious carbon reduction targets, the UK is coming under increasing pressure to find new and innovative ways to decarbonise the way we generate heat, store energy and transport people and goods. To this end, Newcastle University, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and Northern Powergrid have launched InTEGReL – Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory – to bring together the best minds to work collaboratively to develop new energy generating technology and create new types of batteries, find better ways to use hydrogen and widen the use of CNG (compressed natural gas) in transport.
Recent breakthroughs in the world of biofuel could negate many of the drawbacks of using it. As a far more sustainable and environmentally friendly fuel, it seems strange that biofuel is not more popular but the way biofuels are currently produced makes them a less viable option. Despite this, companies including aviation companies are looking into ways to use biofuels to make their operations more environmentally friendly. This comes amid forecasts by the International Energy Agency that the supply of fossil fuels may struggle to meet demand in coming years. Fortunately, scientists from Queen’s University in Belfast and ExxonMobil may have found solutions to the current problems.
Despite recent increases in investment and the very gradual return of optimism in the industry, oil and gas prices continue to remain low and, thus, companies are still feeling the pinch. Gone are the days when an oil company could increase their profits by simply producing more oil. Now the focus must be on slicker and more efficient operations to drive down costs and new technology is playing a vital role in achieving this. Companies are offering innovative technological solutions in automation, exploration to discover new fields like the ones recently found off the coast of Scotland, and collecting and processing data.
Across Europe Liquefied natural gas (LNG) plays a huge role in energy security as the number of terminals across the continent increases. Importing LNG from all around the world lessens a country’s dependence on one or a few other countries for their gas supply. Ireland is a country heavily dependent on another country for its gas supply but the recent production of gas from the Corrib field, just off its coast, and the proposed Shannon LNG terminal would significantly diversify its gas suppliers and create greater energy security. This follows on from a number of other countries doing the same thing.
Signs suggest that the oil and gas industry in the UK is starting to show signs of optimism after two years of gloom. There was certainly a high demand for fuel over the winter and new exploration licences and significant oil field discoveries hint at the possibility of better times ahead, so much so that the Scottish Energy Minister believes the industry needs to be “future proofed” to ensure the success of this expansion.