Transition That's For Purpose
Transition is a word on many lips. Energy transition, certainly, but also of the alliances and relationships which keep the world secure, solvent and conflict-free. Can NATO be updated and expanded? Will China take a more active stance against military aggression? Can Europe wean itself off Russian gas? All this comes against a backdrop of war and a 10-year-plus high in the oil price, plus a new determination that fossil – albeit cleaner fossil – should stay part of the energy mix.
Russian gas you could say has become the heroin habit Europe is trying to kick. “Russia’s use of natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon shows Europe needs to act quickly …” notes Fatih Birol in a recent IEA paper on the energy mix. Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, introduces a 10-point plan for reducing Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil and fossil fuels generally. More renewables, of course, but also a series of practical measures which seek to promote non-Russian gas supplies and non-fossil energy use in equal measure.
The plan, says Birol, “provides practical steps to cut Europe’s reliance on Russian gas imports by over a third within a year, while supporting the shift to clean energy in a secure and affordable way.” What’s not said – regardless of what happens in Ukraine in the short term – is that this will only work with strong government action and incentives, not to mention some degree of financial pain for the consumer.
Transition was again a key focus at this year’s International Energy Week which took place virtually and in London at the end of February. “What can we do now and how can we speed it up?” asked Dr Lene Hviid, Global Key Accounts Manager for metals at Shell. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), blue hydrogen and less energy-intense production were all on the agenda. “There is no one size fits all solution here,” Dr Hviid reminded her audience. “It’s a question of how we can build milestones to see we’re on the right path.”
That path, she added, includes cutting carbon emissions from processes like steel production, which on average has dropped from two and a half to two tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of steel produced over the last 10 years. It also means investing in CCUS and in hydrogen on the road to net zero. Oil companies are currently well placed to step up. Transition, we must accept in today’s uncertain times, comes in all shapes and sizes.