The transition towards a zero carbon footprint energy system will greatly impact the energy mix we will use. Globally, a significant increase is expected in the contribution of electrical power (supplied by renewable sources such as solar and wind), bioenergy, nuclear energy and other sources such as hydro power and geothermal energy. However it is expected that the energy mix still contains a significant component of fossil fuels to enable processes for which the use of renewable energies is not yet technically or economically viable. In order to achieve the desired net zero emission balance, the emissions associate with these fossil fuels and part of the bioenergy will need to be offset by CO2 Capture and Storage.
How will this change in the energy mix impact the role and prospects for geoscientists and petroleum engineers?
The work of petroleum geoscientists and engineers in the energy industry today can be split in three key areas: producing energy (eg oil and gas), storing and buffering of energy to guarantee security of supply (eg underground gas storages) and storing of by-products (eg produced water).
Going forward it is expected that those key focus areas will remain. The nature and portfolio of applications that require our subsurface capabilities and expertise however will likely be expanded.
On the production side we expect a much stronger focus on finding and developing hydrocarbons that are competitive in terms of economics as well as CO2 intensity (incl CO2 assisted EOR) and the addition of other energy production activities such as geothermal energy.
In order to maintain security of supply, (seasonal) energy buffering and storage will likely remain essential. The underground gas storages may be augmented with or replaced by for instance Compressed Air Storage (Salt Caverns), Hydrogen Storage (Salt Caverns, depleted gas fields) or Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage.
On the storage of by-products side, we expect Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to become a key activity.
All of the above developments will continue to require our subsurface skills and capabilities: to identify and characterise suitable subsurface reservoirs and resources, make and realise development plans, operate safely and optimise through well, reservoir and field management. This will be illustrated using examples form the Dutch Upstream energy landscape.