For many years the discussion on climate change has been on the table. It is obvious that the earth’s climate is changing. The real question is, is it a natural behavior of our solar system or is it triggered by humans and the industry?
Physics tells us that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed into various forms, such as heat (e.g. steam or hot water), electrical energy, gases (various hydrocarbons in gas or liquid forms). We see this clearly in the operation of nuclear power plants where the heat generated in the nuclear reactor is transformed into electrical energy.
Almost every transformation of energy will have undesired by-products or lost unusable energy forms. The challenge now is to reduce, or avoid, undesired by-products and energy forms. Politics urge the industry to reduce their emissions, particularly CO2 (Carbon-Dioxide, which should force the “Global-Warming”), and many other emissions (like SO2 (Sulphur-Oxide) and NOx (Nitrogen-Oxides) which also have an impact on our climate. The major complication is that these emissions don’t stop on national borders, they move across them, dependent on the weather system which exists at the time. A small difference is between local micro climate, which might be influenced locally only, by small emissions, and the larger influence of large emissions, which may have a regional or a global influence.
This means, in order to archive any success in protecting the earth’s climate, which is changing due to forced industrial emissions and the wasteful use of energy in homes or buildings, we need everybody to participate. This might be difficult to achieve right away, but to start with those which are already known as the biggest waste and emission producers could help significantly. Having a 70% to 30% rule or an 80% to 20% rule is better than a 100% rule with no result at all. Bringing ~7 billons humans under one umbrella is nearly impossible, not to mention the different industries at the same time. This needs to happen gradually over a longer period of time; political rules and economics have to meet in an acceptable way.
As we all know, the primary energy form is oil or coal, but more and more electrical energy is coming from wind driven generators and solar panels.
To produce the equipment that is needed to transform wind or solar energy to electrical energy, will also use energy to be made and will produce unwanted waste. But the real questions are:
- How long can these equipment’s be economically used?
- What kind of waste will be produced after decommissioning?
Some other energy forms are also under development like “Hydrogen” (to produce hydrogen, is also energy intensive; you need electrical energy or a lot of heat, to transform other energy forms to hydrogen). It is clear, using “Hydrogen” as clean fuel, has a positive effect on the micro climate where it is used, but not on a larger scale, because of the amount of energy which has to be used to come to the energy form of “Hydrogen”.
The question here is:
- Can “Hydrogen” be produced with low emissions that are less than the amount of emissions hydrogen creates when it is burned? It will produce nearly 100% water.
There is a large amount of research necessary to find technologies that make other energy forms usable without having a lot of undesired effects and wastes.
A good and feasible alternative could be the use of natural gas (Methane), which is available in many regions across the globe. But of course, there is also a lot of energy needed to get the natural gas out of the ground.
You have to drill and you may need compressors to operate to get the gas out of the grounds. And be sure the natural gas has some other gases, which are coming out of the ground with it (like H2S (Hydrogen-Sulfide), which needs to be removed and safely destroyed. In addition, to store natural gas under atmospheric conditions is not easy. There mainly two possibilities, (1) in a high compressed version and (2) in a liquefied version.
Using the high compressed version (several hundred bars) is used to supply cars, but the amount of gas which can be stored is still limited and it doesn’t matter if it is in the automobile or in the industrial environment. The distribution of high compressed gas is done by special trucks which can transport this form of gas and deliver it to the end user distribution terminals (some gas stations are already selling natural gas). The challenge for producers is to build more stations which sell natural gas. In the end, we need a dense network to make natural available to end users. The other challenge is for car makers since the distance you can drive with one load of compressed gas is not long enough for most users. For drivers in cities, it is already quite convenient with today’s cars. But driving long distances may still take a long time in regards to developments for both car makers and gas distributers.
One option is using natural gas to make electrical energy with gas turbines and attached generators, then using the waste heat for district heating. These combinations currently have an efficiency factor of ~61.7% and soon above ~62%. Gas turbines are very efficient to make electricity, but the current economic situation show that other primary energy forms are cheaper, so the option does not foster political desire.
Another option is using liquefied natural gas which is already utilized in the Oil & Gas industry, because it is the only form where natural gas can be stored and transported in large quantities. The disadvantage lies in the fact that natural gas needs to be cooled down to -162 °C to store it in a liquid form. Not to mention the cooling process also requires a certain amount of energy with another small amount of energy required to keep it cool.
In addition, to get the liquid natural gas back into a form of gas that can be used by end users it needs to be evaporated again. Again, this process will need some energy to make the natural gas available for commercial or industrial use.
But overall, “Natural Gas,” is the cleanest burning hydrocarbon gas of all, as it burns to water a lower amount of CO2. Natural gas can be produced, stored and transported in large quantities which is economically feasible. This should be the favored form for Oil & Gas companies.
Another possibility is the distribution and use of refinery produced gases like “Propane” and “Butane”. These kinds of gases have been used for decades now, but the widespread use has not really been seen. There is also LPG (Liquefied Petrol Gas) which is offered at gas stations in many different countries and is used in vessels for cooking and many other applications.
LPG for cars is becoming more and more popular, due to the fact that it is much cheaper than gasoline or diesel. Due to the fact that is liquid under the conditions it is stored and sold, cars need to be modified to use it for the engine. Engines can burn only gasified products otherwise they wouldn’t work.
With the all these options, it is clear that “Natural Gas” seems to be the future for Oil & Gas companies, as it has a positive impact on climate change and yet, is still economically feasible.
In conclusion, the “Full Energy Balance” for all kinds of energy forms and transformations needs to be achieved by oil and gas producers. This includes the investigation of all forms of losses and wastes or by-products, as well as a declaration to make the best and most economical form of energy, always in conjunction with the protection of our climate and, in general, our world.