Energy – transitioning to a sustainable planet

The foundation of our modern society is built upon the energy industry, which delivers a diverse range of hydrocarbon products and byproducts. However, this sector is currently undergoing a transformation to include a wider range of alternative energy sources.

As a result, the energy sector will continue to hold a significant position in the energy mix for the foreseeable future, remaining indispensable to many critical industrial processes, potentially for an indefinite period. With its strategic role, the oil and gas industry is positioned to lead the global transition towards clean energy by leveraging multiple technological innovations, despite the uncertainties arising from geopolitical and macroeconomic developments.

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Top Priorities

Recognizing the practical reality, a completely carbon-free global infrastructure will not materialize until the mid-century. In the interim, natural gas, as a cleaner and more efficient fossil fuel, can serve as a valuable bridge fuel, especially when combined with advanced carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) techniques. Unlike other hydrocarbons, the demand and production of liquid natural gas (LNG) are projected to increase as we work towards achieving a truly net-zero carbon future. 

To responsibly use natural gas within energy portfolios, several diverse initiatives are crucial:

  1. Develop blended fuel sources that combine natural gas with hydrogen, catering to a wide range of industrial and residential applications, ranging from heat pumps to steel forges.
  2. Retrofit existing power generation, transportation, and heating systems that currently rely on coal, oil, or gasoline to use natural gas or LNG.
  3. Maintain carbon capture rates of 90% or higher to ensure carbon-neutral natural gas production.
  4. Stabilize natural gas supplies against potential disruptions by improving supply chain flexibility and providing physical security at generation, distillation, and distribution facilities, as well as LNG pipelines.

Due to its quick refueling times and extended range capabilities, hydrogen gas is particularly well-suited for powering transportation infrastructure such as planes, trains, tractor-trailers, and other heavy-duty transport vehicles. Since hydrogen combustion produces only water as a waste product, it is an almost ideal green fuel. However, the current methods of hydrogen gas generation that are the most accessible and cost-effective also come with a significant carbon footprint.

To maximize the effective use of hydrogen in energy production and consumption, the following areas require improvement:

  1. Transition gray hydrogen plants, which release carbon dioxide as a byproduct, into blue hydrogen facilities that capture and sequester excess carbon dioxide.
  2. Develop and improve hydrogen transportation and distribution networks, including specialized pipelines designed for hydrogen gas and cryogenic containers for liquid hydrogen.
  3. Create more efficient green hydrogen plants that produce no carbon dioxide waste and biological hydrogen facilities that use microbes to convert biomass or wastewater into hydrogen gas.
  4. Secure energy production capacity by physically protecting hydrogen generation plants, pipelines, and distribution infrastructure.

Responsible use of hydrocarbon fuels requires carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) techniques. Even in a scenario where all energy production transitions to green alternatives, CCUS technology would remain vital for removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. Although the field of CCUS is experiencing significant growth, its success still relies on substantial government investments, infrastructure enhancements, and ongoing research efforts.

To advance the effectiveness of CCUS, the following aspects should be addressed: 

  1. Develop CCUS technologies with higher efficiencies and lower operational costs including exploring innovative techniques that can safely and efficiently sequester CO2 gas.
  2. Explore creative approaches for reusing captured carbon by incorporating it into durable goods through materials like carbon fiber or carbon nanotubes.
  3. Promote the widespread adoption of CCUS technologies within heavy industries like steel, chemical, and cement production.
  4. Ensure CCUS resiliency by securing sites such as underground reservoirs, storage facilities, and processing plants from potential threats.

As we work towards developing a robust infrastructure for alternative energy production, we must use our existing resources wisely. While the deployment of energy alternatives is underway, efforts should be made to reduce our overall energy consumption by improving the efficiency of engines, devices, and buildings. Efficiency is particularly crucial since petrochemicals are feedstock materials for a huge array of products, including plastics, chemicals, fertilizers, medicines, clothing, and even solar panels. While there are green alternatives for transportation, home heating, or electricity generation, it may take several decades before acceptable replacements can be developed for many other uses of hydrocarbons.

The following avenues offer opportunities for achieving efficiency as well as increasing worker safety:

  1. Improve the efficiency of upstream operations such as enhanced oil recovery to increase the amount of oil extracted and extend the lifespan of current reserves while minimizing environmental impact.
  2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in technology that can quickly detect, prevent, and/or seal leaks in midstream and downstream infrastructure and equipment such as refineries and pipelines.
  3. Use renewable energy sources to power extraction technology, such as employing solar ovens for creating injectable steam or using wind turbines for operating surfactant pumps. 
  4. Ensure energy production capacity does not suffer downtime, economic losses, or environmental pollution from vandalism, activism, and theft.

Key Forces of Change

Energy Consumption

In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, there is a growing focus on investing in renewables, and pursuing energy sources with a net-zero or even negative carbon impact. However, the surging demand for energy necessitates bridging the gap between our green aspirations and the current realities of green infrastructure. Factors such as population growth, improved global living standards, and expanding electrification are expected to triple the world’s power consumption by 2050. As our dependence on energy deepens, ensuring a secure energy supply becomes paramount. Balancing the pursuit of green-future goals with the need for a consistent energy supply presents a significant challenge.

Environmental, Social, and Governance Factors

Companies with significant and measurable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors can have a profound impact on employees, public perception, and the environment. ESG factors are important for shareholders as well, since carbon-advantaged technologies continue to overshadow disadvantaged technologies in investment portfolios. Despite its historical legacy, the energy sector is well positioned to lead in ESG practices and dispel negative perceptions. Leveraging the sector’s expertise, many green innovations can be advanced, including the development of robust CCUS technology, large-scale biodiesel operations, offshore wind farms, and geothermal drilling. 

Geopolitical Situations

Unforeseen events such as international conflicts or terrorism activity can significantly disrupt the energy market. While the energy industry is well acquainted with managing such risks, the increasing volatility and number of potential disruptive forces have made risk management more complex than ever. Factors like international cyberwarfare targeting infrastructure, trade disputes, and environmental activism all contribute to the uniquely challenging geopolitical landscape that energy companies face. Preparing to counter these forces requires an organization that is highly agile and proactive in protecting its critical infrastructure and assets that are prime targets, such as pipelines, storage facilities, refineries, and shipping terminals.

The Future

No one can truly predict what the future holds. That’s why organizations need to focus on developing frameworks and infrastructure that empower them to make decisions and implement policies that can rapidly and meaningfully adapt to changing requirements.

Batteries

The world’s pursuit to electrify more devices requires significant advancements in battery technology. This presents an opportunity for the energy industry to use its expertise to drive the development and manufacturing of cutting-edge batteries. An example where current energy expertise is sorely needed is the enhancement of transport and management systems for lithium brines, essential for building lithium-ion batteries.

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Energy companies, through investments, acquisitions, and independent research, will play a pivotal role in the future of battery development and production. Leveraging technologies such as nanotechnology enhancements and solid-state materials, the energy sector can increase power storage and consumption, helping us reach a clean-energy society. 

Renewable Energy

Energy companies will increase their investments in net-zero energy technologies, including wind turbines and solar farms. This diversification of energy production will not only insulate energy companies from the volatility of hydrocarbon markets and geopolitical instability but also aid in meeting regulatory commitments and corporate ESG goals. The design and deployment of these new facilities will make it easier to secure society’s power demands as will stringent measures to protect and safeguard these crucial assets.

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However, energy companies will not rest on their accomplishments. By applying advanced engineering designs, materials, and techniques to wind turbines, solar panels, and tidal power generators, they will assume a lead role in clean energy generation. Furthermore, they will proactively invest in robust security infrastructure, employ cutting-edge monitoring systems, and implement strict protocols to safeguard their facilities from potential physical and cyber threats, ensuring uninterrupted and secure clean energy production for a sustainable future.

 

AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be essential in the transition to clean energy by improving operational efficiency, providing more accurate supply/demand forecasts and assisting in the decentralization of energy generation and distribution. The adoption of a decentralized model will require increased computerized automation at the network’s edges, effectively establishing an Internet of Energy (IoE).

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While the digitalization of the energy sector and an increased reliance on AI offer many benefits, they come with inherent risks. As a critical infrastructure component with many distributed compute nodes, the energy sector will become an attractive target for cyberthreats. Deploying and maintaining highly cybersecure technology across all components of the new energy grid and securing the physical infrastructure that powers those AI compute nodes will become imperative. 

Solutions

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Advanced Warning of Pipeline Threats

Senstar’s FiberPatrol FP1150 buried sensor is designed specifically to detect, locate and classify activities that threaten your pipeline: machine or manual digging, heavy machinery operating in the nearby vicinity - even people walking within the protected area. By knowing the exact location (zone, cable distance or GPS coordinates), operators can initiate an immediate response. If the sensor cable is cut, not only is the location known, but the sensor retains its sensing abilities right up to the point of the cut (in redundant configurations, complete cut-immunity is supported).

Early Detection at the Perimeter

Most fences can be bypassed in seconds. By the time intruders are detected by your facility’s security system or personnel, it’s often too late. Camera surveillance systems can assist in early detection, but only if they know where to look. Detection at the perimeter, be it from fence-mounted sensors or advanced outdoor video analytics, can provide the extra time required to engage deterrence devices or dispatch response forces.

Intrinsically Safe Sensors

The FiberPatrol FP1150 and FP400 intrusion detection sensors are fiber optic, making them intrincially safe for classified or explosive atmospheres.

Multi-Layered Protection

Senstar products are designed to work together to provide comprehensive, multi-layered protection. For example, Senstar video analytics can identify authorized maintenance vehicles and temporarily mask gate alarms while outdoor analytics can direct PTZ cameras to record high-definition video of potential intruders before they trigger a fence sensor. In addition to new security capabilities, all events can be managed from single software interface that improves response times and reduces training requirements.

Protecting Remote or Unmanned Sites

Senstar sensors and video management software can not only help to deter intruders in the first place but can improve situational awareness for remote monitoring personnel:

  • Automatically engage deterrence devices like security lights, intercoms, or sirens
  • Direct PTZ cameras to the intrusion location and auto-track intruders within the facility
  • Provide local security forces with still images or live video via email, SMS, or mobile apps
  • Avoid nuisance alarms by rejecting distributed events generated by environmental conditions
  • Avoid unnecessary maintenance visits with hardware redundancy and comprehensive remote management software

Security System Integration

Senstar sensors can work with virtually all security systems. Software integrations are available for industry standard video and security management systems, while built-in I/O capabilities ensure that sensors can report zone, supervision, and equipment status events to on-site intrusion panels or alarm systems.

Common Operating Platform

Senstar Symphony Commin Operating platform for video, security and information management is ideal for organizations that manage high numbers of cameras, including those with geographically distributed sites. Senstar Symphony also supports edge-based video storage, ensuring critical video is not lost in case of a communications failure.

Resources

Oil and Gas Industry:
A Research Guide.
Library of Congress.

VISIT WEBSITE

Fuels and Technologies:
Oil Sector and Market Page.
International Energy Agency

VISIT WEBSITE

Office of Fossil Energy
and Carbon Management,
US Department of Energy

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