29 Aug 2019

Meeting World Demand While Polluting Less

Petrochemical refinery lit up at night

The rise in the standard of living has resulted in higher energy consumption around the world. Just think for a moment about the amount of energy you use every day - this is far greater than the amount our ancestors used. 

But, after we’ve been told for years that the supply of oil and gas is finite, how will we continue to maintain high levels of living whilst adhering to increasing environmental demands? Will we have to shake things up entirely? Or is there another way to do things?

In actual fact, the aggressive efforts to source more energy in recent years has meant that we’ve found fuel faster than we’ve consumed it. So, firstly, we’re unlikely to run out of oil and gas in the immediate future. However, we are now faced with another problem: meeting the world demand for energy while keeping pollution levels at an all-time low.

If that sounds impossible, you’re not alone.

With efforts to shift things in the right direction, it is doable though. Take the petroleum industry in the US, which is meeting the highest world demand ever while still managing to lower the amount of carbon emissions - not an easy feat for the country that emits the highest CO2 rates in the world. 

But, in order to maintain this balance, there are some challenges that need to be overcome, including infrastructure woes and possible new government regulations. 

The Mission to Pollute Less

Oil and gas companies are being slapped with more and more restrictions, which means there are a slew of innovative practices emerging that help reduce emissions. 

Studies of algae and other natural materials are some of the frontrunners in the arena. Scientists are adding them to diesel to make it a cleaner-burning fuel for an ever-expanding number of trucks. There are also opportunities opening up in regards to “flaring”, whereby natural gas is burnt under controlled conditions as a byproduct of oil. At the moment, flaring is not as useful as it could be, as the gas used in the flaring process can’t be captured, but there are tracks being made to change this too.  

Cleaner Oil and Gas

Despite being the biggest producer of CO2 emissions in the world, the US has actually managed to drastically reduce its footprint since 2005. In fact, US CO2 emissions are now at the lowest they have been in 25 years thanks to the increasing use of cleaner, more natural gases, and today’s SUVs and pickups which are 99% cleaner compared to their 70s counterparts. On the flip side, the rest of the world has increased its emissions by 50%, a byproduct of the improving standard of living. 

As we move towards a progressively more energy-efficient future, we can expect to see more innovative practices emerging to keep oil and gas cleaner than ever while still creating enough fuel to satisfy the increasing global demand. 

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