Should SPE Be Part of the Conference of the Parties (COP)28?
SPE’s professional membership has an important role to play in mitigating climate change concerns and in developing new low- or no-carbon sources of energy. We offer a forum for presenting and disseminating scientifically vetted technical information about what can be and is being done by our members.
As most of our members know, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convenes annually at a meeting called Conference of the Parties (COP) in various host countries, usually in November or December. COP is the main decision-making body of the UNFCCC. It includes representatives from all the countries that are signatories (or Parties) to the UNFCCC. COPs are where Parties (governments) assess global efforts to advance the key Paris Agreement aim of limiting global warming to as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This year COP28 will be in Dubai.
Although these meetings are focused on mitigating climate change concerns, there is usually considerable time spent on current and future sources of energy. It is noteworthy that our industry, the main provider of energy to the world right now and, as many members of SPE know, for the foreseeable future, is usually not represented in these conferences. This started to change last year in Sharm El Sheikh, and we will probably see more involvement in Dubai.
I think SPE, as the largest professional society for the production of the dominant energy source, needs to be part of the discussion. Related to my 2023 theme, Petroleum ++, we have an important role to play in mitigating climate change concerns (the first +) and in developing new low- or no-carbon sources of energy (the second +).
We are a technical society that does not lobby or advocate. We offer a forum for presenting and disseminating scientifically vetted technical information about what can be and is being done by our members in the expanded space of our work in the areas of climate change and new energy. We also need to emphasize the fact that we are citizens of this planet, and we care about its future for us and the next generations.
I would like to share the points I am making with the organizers of COP28 about our efforts for two reasons. First, to share with our members the efforts being made in this regard and second, for our members to use this information in further developments in their work and discussions with others about the role of petroleum engineering in the expanded energy landscape.
The SPE Methane Emissions Management Technical Section (MEMTS) was formed in June 2022 to provide a platform for learning and collaboration for SPE members working or interested in the topic. The purpose of MEMTS is to further the objectives of SPE in open discussion of methane emissions management, to generate awareness on industry best practices, and to promote those practices widely. MEMTS is intended to accelerate the translation of technologies and ways of working across upstream, midstream, and downstream to reduce the risk and costs of methane emissions management projects, including:
- Planning, measuring, monitoring, recording, analysis, and reporting emissions.
- Addressing key abatement activities: fugitive emissions, venting emissions, flaring, methane capture, and use.
- Promoting best practices and standardization.
- Sharing digitalization best practices.
- Supporting related R&D activities.
- Addressing the regulatory landscape for emissions.
- Optimizing costs and resources.
- Addressing corporate risk, governance, and monetization (carbon credits, stock value).
MEMTS will do this by
- Collecting, disseminating, and exchanging technical knowledge concerning methane emissions management and demonstrating its proximity to more traditional oil and gas disciplines.
- Introducing opportunities to grow careers and businesses by knowledge and skills transfer.
- Identifying major issues and technology areas to focus on cooperation and discussions.
- Establishing collaboration across both methane emissions management and petroleum industries and promoting best practices.
- Providing a forum for members with a common interest in methane emissions management and to ensure that methane emissions management is appropriately represented in the Society’s activities.
- Maintain and promote industry awareness of methane emissions management-related issues and technologies.
The current MEMTS leadership is diverse to represent different sectors of industry, academia, regulatory bodies, and regions. This diversity is important to understand the challenges, impediments to adoption of methane reduction/elimination technologies, and other issues faced by each sector/group.
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage
SPE formed the Carbon Dioxide Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) Technical Section in 2014 to ensure that CCUS is adequately covered in SPE programs and to provide engineering expertise to the development of technologies, standards, and regulations.
CCUS is a method to reduce anthropogenic carbon emissions by capturing CO2 from industrial sources, such as power plants, and safely storing it in geologic formations so that it does not enter the atmosphere. It is recognized as a necessary and relatively low-risk piece of the decarbonization puzzle and the most viable technology to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs are promising CO2 storage targets for CCUS, along with other porous and permeable sedimentary rocks. However, relative to the petroleum industry, CCUS is still in the early stages of development and efforts are currently underway to address technical issues, economic challenges, and regulatory uncertainty associated with the technology.
The petroleum industry is now playing a significant role in the advancement of CCUS by providing guidance and expertise in key areas related to the evaluation, selection, and management of CO2 storage resources associated with CCUS projects. Synergy between CCUS and oil and gas activities could provide technical and economic benefits to reduce the overall environmental impact of the energy sector..
The SPE Geothermal Technical Section (GTS) was created to support energy transition through the transfer of knowledge, skills, and technology between the oil and gas and geothermal industries. Geothermal energy is the only “green” energy source that has the potential to provide grid baseload power at scale. It is in many ways, the closest energy source in terms of required skills to the upstream oil and gas industry. The geothermal and oil and gas industries have been learning from each other for decades and are currently well-placed to transfer technology and practices that can accelerate the drilling and completion of geothermal wells, reduce costs, and revolutionize reservoir monitoring practices.
GTS identified the top five challenges to the development of geothermal energy: geothermal investment (high risk and high capital cost), engineering cost (high technology cost), technology evolution (emerging innovation), resources quantification standardization (global understanding of long-term financial performance), and policy making (enabling policies for geothermal development). The current efforts and strategy from the GTS are aligned to support the projections for exponential geothermal power generation up to 857 TWh by 2050 and IRENA’s Transforming Energy Scenario for electrification and decarbonization for achieving a competitive low cost within the renewable energy spectrum by 2050.
It is noteworthy that the US Department of Energy recently awarded SPE and Consortium partners (Geothermal Rising and Project Inner Space) a USD 165 million grant to advance geothermal and leverage 100+ years of oil and gas industry experience and engineering technology developments.
SPE formed the Hydrogen Technical Section (H2TS) in November 2022 in recognition of the role hydrogen will play in meeting sustainable energy needs in the future. The section brings together technical professionals and academia who are active, or have a deep interest, in the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. The section aims to share knowledge, experiences and leading practices, promote industry awareness, and enhance technical competencies.
The drive behind the creation of this section is to highlight the skills transferability of petroleum engineers who represent a well proven intellectual resource to meet a new set of challenges in continuing to supply the energy needs of the world. The use of hydrogen as an energy carrier has significant challenges, but these are certainly no greater than those petroleum engineers have overcome in the past.
The technical section deliverables include
- Engagement of young professionals seeking to make a career contribution to the development of a sustainable energy future.
- Capability development through webinars, PetroWiki, symposia, workshops, forums, and conferences.
- Transfer of knowledge and best practices through meetings, events, communications, articles in SPE publications, technical papers and presentations, and SPE Connect.
- Close ties with other SPE sections and regions that complement and enhance current energy transition initiatives within our industry.
- Forging closer links between the energy industry and academia.
- Promotion of professionalism, certification, and Distinguished Lecturer programming, and the application and nomination of worthy candidates for SPE Awards in the domain.
- Collaborations with other professional organizations working on hydrogen R&D, commercialization, transportation, and delivery to the end users.
H2TS has established a strong membership of more than 1,000 SPE professionals in the brief time it has existed and is currently building global networks covering Eastern, Western, and Southern Hemispheres.
The SPE Gaia Sustainability Program aims to enable all individuals in the oil and gas industry to act in the service of sustainable socio-economic development through their professional societies—empowering those at all levels within organizations to create actions to address the planet’s sustainability challenges.
The program’s focus audience is individuals who produce oil and gas every day to meet the world’s energy needs. Four technical themes and two enabling behaviors make up the core of the program—they are the areas where we all have the most to learn and which are the most challenging to execute and manifest. The technical themes are: transform the energy system–people and technology; measure what matters for action and impact; regenerate natural capital; and enable people-centered transition. The two enabling behaviors are: Engage, listen, and collaborate to innovate.
Around the World
I had the pleasure of attending a successful 2023 SPE Western Regional Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. The return of this meeting to one of our most productive areas was encouraging. I was specifically impressed by the quality and diversity of the work presented during the Student Paper Contest. A keynote luncheon address by Dr. Scott Tinker was informative and well attended.
I also attended the 2023 SPE Latin America and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference (LACPEC) in Port Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The Honorable Stuart Young, minister of Energy and Energy Industries, opened the conference with a talk about the future of energy and the role of SPE in supporting young professionals to the attending students. He also served as a panelist in a diversity and inclusion discussion and visited with several industry leaders in the country.
Until next month!