OTC: Fossil fuels, technology key to future energy supply

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, May 4 -- Technology development is crucial to enabling the oil and gas industry to meet future world energy demand, speakers said during a May 3 panel discussion at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. They also agreed that fossil fuels will remain vital to the global energy supply mix for decades.

“Looking for any alternative is the right thing to do, but looking at it to replace hydrocarbons is impractical,” said Ali Moshiri, president of Chevron Africa & Latin America Exploration & Production Co. He predicted hydrocarbon-based energy will account for half of world supply in 50 years.

Zuhair Al-Hussain, Saudi Aramco vice-president of drilling and workovers, also emphasized the role hydrocarbons will play in the future total energy supply mix. He welcomed low-carbon energy sources, saying they need to be developed in “a manner that is rational and sustainable.”

Al-Hussain said, “It is my wish that policymakers acknowledge the dominant role of fossil fuels for coming decades.”

Chevron estimates at least 55 million b/d of additional oil capacity will be needed by 2030 to offset decline and fulfill minimum projected demand growth, Moshiri said.

Stephen Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Co., said technology under development will continue to add new resources. Even with anticipated gains in energy efficiency, Exxon projects global energy demand will be 35% higher in 2030 compared with 2005 world energy demand.

Out of the total global oil reserves accessible for private sector investment, Canada’s oil sands are expected to play a big role for future energy supply.

Greenlee believes ExxonMobil’s research into an emerging technology called nonaqueous extraction (NAE) potentially could lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce water use during oil sands mining operations. NAE could create dry tailings and eliminate the need for wet tailings ponds.

ExxonMobil also is working on carbon capture technology and on advancing seismic surveys using full wavefield inversion, Greenlee said. ExxonMobil scientists invented and patented the Controlled Freeze Zone technology, a process that more efficiently removes impurities from natural gas.

The CFZ technology, which continues being developed, removes carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from gas in a specially-designed section of a distillation tower, where CO2 is allowed to freeze in a controlled manner. Next, CO2 is remelted and further distilled to recover valuable methane. The CO2 then can be injected for sequestering or used in enhanced oil recovery.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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