emissions and wind turbine

Facing net zero emissions head on

Helen Riordan

Helen Riordan | Vice President – Upstream, Midstream Consulting, Perth | 20 September 2020

Decarbonization is no longer an option. It's imperative in the fight against climate change, which has rapidly become the challenge of our lifetime. Helen Riordan discusses developing strategies, frameworks, and roadmaps to cut carbon emissions for a more sustainable energy future.

The energy industry is facing the most profound challenge in its history: climate change. It’s complex, fast, and could be catastrophic. To prevent it, we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions. But how can we do this when it’s in direct conflict with the exponential growth in energy demand?

There are many unknowns. But the one thing we know for sure, is that we have to change… now.

What we know about greenhouse gas emissions and the role of natural gas

Over two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions originate from direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a result of transportation, power generation and industrial sources.

Natural gas will play an increasingly pivotal role in the energy transition. Around the world, it will continue to be used as a replacement for coal-fired power generation, and will be a transition fuel for the next few decades as renewable infrastructure is established.

However, there will be increasing pressure to decarbonize its production and use. Greenhouse gas emissions are generated through the production and liquefaction of natural gas as well as through the ultimate combustion for either power generation or heat. As the global community works toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050, its decarbonization will be required.

In the end, decarbonization of all sectors must be achieved. Complicated, yes. Impossible, no.

Cutting through the decarbonization complexity

Decarbonization cannot succeed without three vital actions. 

One: Aligning strategies and frameworks with tangible and measurable outcomes

The decarbonization strategy must be applied and measured from concept development and engineering design, through to procurement, construction, and eventual operation. No phase can be excluded. 

Two: Taking full advantage of the knowledge within industrial sectors

Strategies will vary and be developed on a case-by-case basis for different asset types and ages.

Three: Staying abreast of current and new technologies that support objectives

Technology readiness is paramount. Mature technologies will be integrated now. But we’ll need to proactively prime assets for the adoption of new technologies as they become available.

Creating a roadmap for the decarbonization journey

Decarbonization technology road maps need to be developed for natural gas production and liquefaction assets, along with power generation assets. These roadmaps provide options for various emission sources over time, based on the technology’s readiness.

Based on the technology readiness levels developed by NASA, there are three phases for this:

  1. The technology is being developed in an experimental or laboratory environment
  2. The technology is being developed as a whole system prototype and is operating in the relevant environment
  3. The technology is at full scale and operating in its final operating environment

Just as you’d find in any journey, the map you choose is determined by your start and end points. So undoubtedly, decarbonization technology roadmaps need to be tailored to specific assets, depending on what stage it’s in. 

For older assets nearing the end of life, the focus should be on the low hanging fruit – energy efficiency and heat integration. At the other end of the spectrum, assets in the design phase must incorporate existing decarbonization technologies. Also, plot space and tie-ins should be considered for the later addition of emerging technologies.

Staying pragmatic and systematic

This is the approach to developing effective decarbonization strategies, frameworks, and roadmaps. We must make full use of all the tools in our toolbox so  we can create a timely suite of solutions across a diverse range of assets across multiple sectors.  

Decarbonization is the challenge of our lifetime. It’s here. It’s now. And we’re ready. 

For more information, contact Helen Riordan.

Where do carbon emissions come from and what are we prepared to do about it?

In the production and liquefaction processes, CO2 emissions originate from four main sources:

  1. Direct CO2 emission of the CO2 occurring naturally with the natural gas in the reservoir
  2. Electrical power generation to drive processing operations
  3. Gas turbines to drive compression for transportation
  4. Steam and heat generation to drive gas conditioning operations

In the power and heat generation processes, where the natural gas product is finally used, CO2 is emitted as a combustion product. There are also some direct methane (CH4) emissions, also known as fugitive emissions, which result from gas leakages through pipe flanges and instrumentation.

Emissions power stations

Worley is committed to achieving net zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.