Groups of scientists are working on alternative energy sources to oil and gas. But, we have enough fossil fuel resources for the next 50 years and more to fuel the world. There will be research successes in improved green technology that move us toward other sources, like nuclear energy did a couple of decades ago.
As we need more energy to meet growing demand around the world, we will have to improve our technology to recover more of it. It’s important to understand that quality of life improves as energy consumption increases. As areas like China, India and developing countries continue to grow, we are going to need all energy sources to meet their demand for energy. We have seen growth in non-fossil fuel energy sources and more is projected. Although the share of non-fossil fuels is growing, fossil fuels will continue to play a significant role through 2030. Fossil fuels are indispensable to satisfy demand as global prosperity and incomes increase.
Although oil and gas will probably constitute a large portion of the global energy picture in the next 30 years, any solution must also include alternative energy technologies. .
Research at companies, universities and national laboratories are pioneering this field with the hope of creating technologies that are both sustainable and economically competitive with today’s fossil fuels. While wind, solar and biofuels appear to be among the most promising, significant breakthroughs are still required to make them viable sources of future energy supply. The wind has its own mind – it blows where and when it wants. Similarly, the sun only shines during the day and is most intense in sparsely populated areas. How do effectively we transport this energy from such remote areas to big cities? How can we efficiently store energy generated during the day for use in homes at night? The challenge for pioneers in alternative energies will be to bridge these supply limitations with a 24-hour demand for electricity throughout the world. This means making our electricity grid more efficient and streamlined while developing storage systems to allow wind and solar energy to be saved for times of peak use. Another source of alternative energy in the future may come from the world’s vast reserves of clean natural gas. Currently, much of our electricity comes from burning coal in power plants, releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide and other gases. Despite advancements in “clean coal” technology, which generates cleaner and more efficient electricity, alternatives to coal will surely be part of tomorrow’s solution. New technologies are beginning to unlock vast reservoirs of natural gas in the United States and Canada, making it both a cheap and clean alternative to coal. Natural gas has many benefits compared to coal - it is generally cleaner and safer to produce, it is more easily transportable over long distances, and it releases less carbon dioxide and other pollutants for the same amount of energy produced. It is likely that meeting tomorrows energy needs will require not just one, but all of these alternatives working alongside traditional fossil fuels. Over the next 30 years, oil and gas companies will play an important role in the development of alternative energy sources, supplying both the investment money and expertise needed in everything from engineering research to project management
Meeting energy demand over the next century will require not just producing more, but also using what we do produce much more efficiently. How can we use less energy to power everything from our computers to cars? How can we produce more with less? How do we supply consumers with affordable energy to allow them to maintain a comfortable standard of living? The answer will require both new technologies and new cultural habits. Electricity generated on the wind-swept prairies of Texas and sun-laden deserts of Arizona must be carried efficiently to houses and businesses in New York and Chicago. Doing so remains difficult, since a large portion of useable electricity is lost to heat as it travels long distances through wires and cables. Tiny electrons lose some of their energy just trying to move forward against the wire’s resistance. The red-hot wires you see heating your toast in the morning have been designed specifically to use the resistive heat generated by the movement of electrons. But, if the objective is to move electricity over large distances efficiently, this loss of energy is undesirable. By improving the efficiency of this process, less total energy will be needed to power everything we use. Accordingly, scientists and engineers are working to streamline the electricity grid, modernizing transmission cables with new materials that allow electrons to move more easily, producing less waste. Another energy-saving efficiency can be found in hybrid cars. These cars capture a portion of the energy traditionally wasted as heat from friction between the tires and brakes. When you rub your hands together really fast, the heat you feel is created by friction. This same effect occurs when the brakes on your car slow the rotating wheels – the energy used to move the wheel is converted into heat. In hybrid cars, this contact recycles some of that wasted energy into electricity that can then offset some of the gasoline used in the car’s engine. C hallenges remain with other transportation energy sources – pipelines, service stations, and vehicles must all be adapted to accommodate the fuel. Becoming more energy efficient will also require us to change how our buildings are made, how we heat our homes, and how we light our classrooms. For example, when coal is burned in a power plant, the energy released is used to superheat water, just as you would boil a pot of water on your stove. The process creates very hot and high pressure steam that then pushes a propeller. The spinning motion of this propeller turns a large magnet that generates an electrical current that is then transmitted to your home. But that steam at the power plant is still very hot after it has been used to create electricity. Rather than letting this heat escape as wasted energy, it is possible to send the steam out to homes and buildings to provide warmth on cold winter days. This process, called “combined heat and power”, will require us to rethink the ways in which we live and work, making our cities and buildings more connected. Energy efficiency is also being explored in other areas as well. If you have ever been in a car on a sunny day without the air-conditioning on, you know it can become very hot and uncomfortable. By redesigning our homes and buildings, this energy from the sun could be captured to heat rooms or the water we use in our showers and kitchens. We can use less energy by making even the simplest things more efficient – from our light bulbs to our cars, from our home air conditioners to our computers. Engineers will continue to be on the forefront of such innovation, helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and impact on the environment.
Computers have become a very important part of engineers’ ability to design many things, including platforms and pipelines in the oil industry as well as airplanes, manufacturing plants, and pretty much everything we do in our world. When we are building things, we are able to divide the design into finite elements so we can more accurately assess the stresses and even the flow characteristics of oil and gas through uneven reservoirs. 1 in 3 wells successful now 1 in 10 in 1980
NOTE: Oil is primarily a transportation fuel Natural gas is a generating fuel for electricity, and also is used for heating homes. It also can be a transportation fuel. Shale gas is a huge new resource of natural gas in US.
In just one 24-hour period, the oil and natural gas industry delivers: Enough energy to heat 80 million homes 382 million gallons of gasoline to service stations , enabling 200 million drivers to get to work, take their kids to school, and take vacations-- traveling 7.5 billion road miles every day 67 million gallons to airport terminals, enabling 30,000 flights to travel around the world
We have four main areas of our business: In exploration, we figure out if there is any oil and gas there or not. In appraisal, we try to find out if there is enough oil and gas there to be worth investing the company’s money. In production, we drill enough wells to recover the oil and gas and put the equipment in place to separate the oil from gas from water and get the oil and gas to the markets, such as refineries. Engineers monitor the wells’ production and pressures to make sure they are well maintained and as efficient as possible in bringing the oil and gas to people like us, who need the energy. After crude oil is removed from the ground, it is sent to a refinery by pipeline, ship, or barge. At a refinery, different parts of the crude oil are separated into useable petroleum products.
Oil and gas accumulate in the pore spaces between the grains of rock, either sand grains (quartz) or carbonates (limestone). When the tiny animals died millions of years ago, they began to decompose. They (and we) are made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. That is why we call oil and gas hydrocarbons. The percent of space that is not occupied by solid rock grains is called porosity. You can measure this in the classroom or laboratory by taking a simple measuring cup full of dry sand and adding water until the level is up to the top of the sand. Then, take the ratio; how much water can fit between the sand grains? After the sand grains are coated with water, in an oil reservoir, the oil, lighter than water, filters up through the rock and displaces the water except for some that keeps coating the rock grains. As petroleum engineers, porosity is a very important measure. It tells us how much space there is to be occupied by oil or gas. The bigger the grains of sand, the more pore space is generally there. The porosity in oil and gas reservoirs varies from 6% to as much as 33%. We also measure the permeability of the rock using laboratory equipment. Where the measure of porosity tells us how much oil or gas the rock can contain, the permeability tells us how fast the oil and gas can flow through the rock.
A fault is a break in the layers of rock. A fault trap occurs when the formations on either side of the fault move. The formations then come to rest in such a way that, when petroleum migrates into one of the formations, it becomes trapped there. Often, an impermeable formation on one side of the fault moves opposite a porous and permeable formation on the other side. The petroleum migrates into the porous and permeable formation. Once there, it cannot get out because the impervious layer at the fault line traps it. Anticlinal Traps An anticline is an upward fold in the layers of rock, much like a domed arch in a building. The oil and gas migrate into the folded porous and permeable layer and rise to the top. They cannot escape because of an overlying bed of impermeable rock. Discuss shale
This picture changed in a big way, with the advent of stimulated horizontal wells. While conventional oil and gas wells are typically vertical, contacting only a limited amount of the target reservoir rock, horizontal wells look like a large “L”. The long horizontal wellbore, sometimes greater than 4,000 ft long, contacts a large portion of the productive reservoir. Massive trucks pump thousands of gallons of fluid into the rock at very high pressures in order to force the rock to crack. This is called hydraulic fracturing. These cracks are then propped open with sand to allow a highly conductive passage through which the oil or gas can flow. In shale fields, as many as 15 major fractures are placed along the horizontal wellbore, serving to connect all those small two-lane roads to wide boulevards and even larger, faster highways. Currently, the limits of this technology are being pushed back every day. Tomorrow, this technology will have to go even farther to allow more fractures and longer horizontal wells. Advances in this area will undoubtedly transform our energy landscape.
As large oil and gas fields become increasingly difficult to find, geologists, geophysicists and engineers employ new technologies to uncover resources that just 10 years ago were unimaginable.
Seismic is a technology that bounces sound waves off rock formations deep below the surface of the earth to provide explorers with a picture of the subsurface, often revealing locations where oil and gas may be trapped. When you shout in a long hallway or a large room, the echo you hear is the sound of your voice bouncing off the walls back to your ears. The larger the room or the longer the hallway, the more time it will take for you to hear the echo. Seismic relies on a very similar process, where sound generated at the surface travels into the earth, hits a rock formation, and then bounces back to devices that record the echo. The time it takes the sound to bounce back to the receiver is related to the depth of that rock formation. When thousands of these echoes are recorded over time, they create a picture of the rocks beneath our feet. This technology has been used for decades in the industry, but is constantly changing and adapting to new challenges. Today, novel changes in the technology allow seismic to image deep rock formations that were previously invisible, shrouded by huge salt flows rising up from thousands of feet below the surface like big balloons. This method assisted the recent discovery of huge oil fields in the ultra-deepwater offshore Brazil. In order to process the massive amounts of information collected from seismic surveys, mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists are constantly developing new computer algorithms to find complex patterns that enhance our understanding of the world beneath us. If we are to continue finding new fields hidden deep inside the earth, breakthroughs in computer processing power and data management are necessary.
Another major obstacle to producing tomorrow’s energy are the challenges of operating in ultra-deepwater. The frontier of oil exploration continues to be offshore, more than 10,000 ft below sea level. Operating in this environment requires billions of dollars and boundless technical expertise. Safely and economically bringing oil to the surface requires experts in everything from underwater vehicles that install subsea equipment to structural engineers that make sure the huge floating platforms can withstand large waves. Operators must be able to hit a seemingly tiny target that they cannot see over 30,000 ft under the surface – all while floating on waves. To put this in perspective, it is bit like a quarterback trying to throw a football to his wide-receiver over 100 football fields away. Innovation will continue to drive this frontier into new territory.
Annual U.S. Offshore Oil Platform Spillage 1969-2007 This graph of oil spillage from offshore oil platforms shows spillage in both state and OCS waters. Since 1971 spillage from platforms has been very low.
Recruiting the next generation of engineers and scientists to replace a more mature workforce. Over the next 10 years, a large portion of the energy industry is set to retire. But their retirement will not lessen the growing demand for affordable, reliable and clean energy. Accordingly, new engineers and scientists will be needed in every discipline. This new wave of young minds will have to take on larger roles and bigger projects earlier in their careers than their predecessors, making the transfer of knowledge and ideas from one generation to the next a top priority in the coming years. Do your students have the traits of a good engineer? We don’t mean just being good at math and science. Many of the best engineers are great communicators who also think creatively. Is your student: a creative, independent thinker a team player a problem solver curious and persistent passionate about making a difference in the world eager to make a positive effect on everyday life … you may be looking at a future engineer!
Energy’s Grand Challenges Why there isn’t an easy solution