Fossil fuel sector efficiency
Question What are some ways to create step-change improvements in the GHG emissions associated with the production of fossil fuels?
Contest main page Submit proposals at https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/17
Deadline June 15, 2013, at 11:59 Eastern Standard Time
Rules All entrants must agree to the 2012-13 contest rules.
Prizes The contest winners will be invited to present their work at the Crowds and Climate Conference at MIT November 6-7, 2013, and at the event, a $10,000 Grand Prize will be awarded to one of the contest winners
Related contestsHydraulic fracturing
Guidelines from the contest Advisor(s) and Fellow(s) #
The scope of potential improvements within the fossil fuel sector is broad. Fossil fuel supply chains occur over vast geographic areas. It is not uncommon to extract natural gas or oil in one country, ship the raw resource to a second country for processing and then ship the final product to a third country where it is further processed or consumed. The following are a few key areas where GHG emissions may arise along the supply chain:
- Fossil Fuel Extraction
The first source of potential GHG emissions is at the point of extraction of the fossil fuel. This can occur from the release of GHG like Methane and CO2 that are already in the reservoir, the combustion of fossil fuels necessary to extract the fossil fuel (i.e. for drilling and preliminary processing equipment) or the combustion of unwanted natural gases (i.e. flaring). The relative impact of these different sources of GHG will depend on the particular field and resource.
- Fossil Fuel Transportation
The second major source of GHG emissions arises from the transportation of the fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are transported in a large variety of ways including transcontinental natural gas pipelines, coal trains and oil carriers. Each of these various forms of transportation results in the emissions of different kinds of GHG. This occurs both because of leaks as well as due to the need to combust energy to transport the fuel.
- Fossil Fuel Processing
The third source of GHG gases along the fossil fuel supply chain is that which arises in fossil fuel processing plants. Fossil fuels can be processed at various stages in the supply chain. Natural gas, for example, may require preliminary processing for purification (NGL plants). It may also require additional processing so that it can be transported (LNG or GTL plants). Once it reaches its final destination it may need some additional processing before it can be used (re-gasification). Oil similarly is refined into a variety of products including transportation fuels and lubricants. These processing plants can generate a large amount of GHG both from leaks within the system as well as because of the energy required to drive the various processes.
Key issues #
In each of the three areas mentioned above, engineers are working to make incremental improvements in the GHG emissions of their various processes. These are driven both by changing regulatory requirements as well as by increasing awareness of potential opportunities for cost savings by reducing leaks and inefficiencies. These changes, however, are happening slowly. The challenge ahead is to think of proposals that will allow step-changes in reducing the emissions from the production of fossil fuels. The following are some example areas that might be fruitful for consideration. Contestants should not feel constrained to the areas mentioned following list and can consider areas beyond:
- System-wide efficiencies
Given the broad scope of fossil fuel supply chains and the way in which they require the integration of many different systems, there may be opportunities for redesign at the systemic level to improve the efficiency of the entire system.
- The development of tools to help in GHG management
Given the wide scope of the operations of individual firms in the fossil fuel industry, the ability to monitor the GHG emissions that arise across the various facilities and transportation infrastructure and to evaluate the opportunities for their reductions is important. There may be opportunities to develop tools to help firms accomplish this goal.
- Monetizing CO2
Processing facilities and reservoirs may be able to produce high quality sources of CO2. Opportunities to monetize this stream of CO2 by providing alternative uses for it (besides venting to atmosphere) are critical.
- Monetizing Stranded and Fugitive Methane
Methane has high transportation costs and it is often not economical to capture methane from remote locations or where it is in small quantities. This is especially of concern in developing regions where the transport infrastructure can be lacking and where there may be opportunities for productive use of the methane.
- Policy Interventions
An important part of improving the GHG footprint of fossil fuels is in providing the incentives and/or regulatory pressures for the fossil fuel industry to do so. This is a critical area where there may be opportunities to help bring about real change.
Judges and contest-specific prizes #
- Mr Bernie Bulkin, former Chief Scientist of BP
- Mr John Leggate, CBE, FREng
- Mr Tony Meggs, Executive Vice President, Talisman Energy
- Ms Joan Macnaughton, President, The Energy Institute
- Reference is currently on Building efficiency page at https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/resources/-/wiki/Main/Building+Efficiency
- http://www.ipieca.org Go to their library and check the climate change filter for some industry reports on the GHG issues facing the oil and gas industry.
- Lawrence Livermore Labs, World Energy Flow, 2007 Shows the role of fossil fuels, and other energy sources, in the world energy mix.