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The Race to Energy Transition: Three ways we clean up the air now with natural gas and new technologies

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While it is devastating to see raging wildfires, strong hurricanes, and other changing weather patterns, it is equally devastating to see human suffering due to energy insecurity.  We are on the verge of destroying the fragile path of those who are already struggling to climb out of poverty to a more sustainable livelihood. These are the same people who have also been beat up emotionally and economically by the ongoing pandemic. Over 200 people died in February from what the media says was a “climate change” induced cold wave in Texas, but I am here to tell you as a Texan that we saw similar cold waves in 1983 and 1990 that brought colder temperatures for much longer without the causalities. What was the difference between then and now?  We had sufficient and reliable energy infrastructure that provided uninterrupted power to keep people from freezing and prevent massive damage to houses, and commercial and industrial infrastructure.

I say all this because we are in the early innings of a human catastrophe. The Texas freeze, Britain’s lack of wind, and the already high costs of natural gas and oil are early indicators of something more troubling ahead.  While cleaner air makes a whole lot of sense, our current fragmented 1st world versus 2nd world versus 3rd world approach is almost comical. We have one planet, not multiple.   By not allowing sustainable development of oil and gas in the USA and Canada just pushes more Russian, China, and Middle East development, and who amongst us is willing to bet that they do it better than the Canadian and American oil and gas industry?  

The truth is, we will still rely heavily on natural gas to fuel our world for many years to come; every forecast that is out there agree on this notion. Wind and solar are aspirational but are currently only viable on a small scale.  It is not currently possible for the entire world to run on these technologies alone, and we also don’t know the long-term effects wind and solar farms will have on the environment.

There is a growing realization that oil and natural gas will be needed for some time, and this is particularly true of natural gas.   In fact, there are three ways we can clean up the air with maximum impact right now:

  1. Make North American natural gas the cleanest produced, processed, and transported gas on the planet for the world to use.
  2. Get rid of coal fired plants globally.   Period and full stop.
  3. Lower Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas because Russia produces gas with dubious responsibility, and Putin uses it as a powerful weapon to stranglehold Europeans in times of shortages.

A growing cohort of natural gas producers in North America is taking action by actually measuring emissions across their systems and embarking on programs to reduce emissions significantly. Though these efforts frameworks are significantly voluntary today, they are gaining a lot of traction. Additionally, utility companies are getting on board, prioritizing responsibly sourced and domestically produced gas. It’s clear that the U.S. is making meaningful strides in the right direction. However, we need to extend these practices to the global marketplace, which means producing gas and oil ethically and at scale.  If we fail to invest in developing the groundbreaking technologies needed to accomplish this goal, many countries could revert to coal which would stall or reverse progress towards our global climate change goals.

We don’t have to pull out any complicated, politically charged analysis to calculate the impact of natural gas on the environment. If produced responsibility, the industry can economically produce gas with very little fugitive emissions. Technologies such as new controllers and advanced non-leak valves and advanced sealing technologies can be phased in to help reduce emissions.   There are detection technologies on the ground that allow 24/7 monitoring of major facilities that can be combined with advanced aerial and satellite technologies to provide a total picture of methane leaks so operators can develop a plan and tackle the leaks quickly and efficiently.  There are advances on drones and in-pipe sensors that can help detect leaks on offshore platforms. Finally, with improved communication networks, edge computing, and easier ways to push data to the cloud for further analysis, a complete and accurate picture of leaks can be analyzed and stamped out completely.  And with digital and AI tools, an operator can conduct root cause analysis on why leaks occur in the first place so they can mitigate issues right at the source.  

It’s time we embrace a clear energy transition plan that includes responsibly sourced natural gas. We do not have the space, capacity, technology readiness, or economics to flip the switch haphazardly to renewables as much as we all want to, but we can maximize the removal of the nasties from the air now for the entire planet, so every human being has access to basic energy needs.

The Evolve Collective and the Evolve Village

We help companies in the Energy Industry accelerate growth and sales, integrate technologies, and connect those technologies directly with customers via our global network of over 100 Energy Industry leaders and experts. We believe in energy sustainability and that start-ups in the Energy Industry will be an integral part of the energy transition. We work with some of the best and the brightest entrepreneurs and companies who are paving the way for us to produce oil and gas efficiently and responsibly, as well as develop new sources of sustainable energy.

Want more information?  You can contact me at sanjay@evolve-village.com

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