Our energy future is complicated (and exciting!) - Enverus EVOLVE
I want to share some takeaways from the recent two-day Enverus EVOLVE digital conference.
The EVOLVE conference isn’t an oil and gas conference. It’s a true energy conference–That was obvious this year, as there was as much talk about renewable and nuclear energy as there was oil and gas.
Our energy needs are complicated, and so will be our energy future. But, as some conference speakers pointed out, challenges bring opportunity. And so, our energy future is also exciting.
Necessity is the mother of invention. History has shown that people as a whole get awfully innovative when they have no other choice. And we may have reached that point due to dwindling oil supply, pressure from investors and stakeholders, and government regulations, among other factors.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen major players in the oil and gas industry moving away from petroleum and instead leaning into energy, as evidenced by some notable name changes:
- Statoil changed its name to Equinor.
- British Petroleum changed its name to BP.
- Laredo Petroleum changed its name to Vital Energy.
- And let’s not forget about Enverus, formerly known as DrillingInfo.
The message is clear: Oil and gas no longer exists on its own island, in its own vacuum. It’s simply a part of the whole.
With that said, let’s take a high-level view of what’s likely ahead for the future of energy.
Oil and gas
- Production is expected to peak by 2030.
- We are entering the twilight of the Permian Basin, as well degradation is increasing and initial production rates are decreasing. The play’s top-tier acreage will soon be drilled up.
- Fossil fuels are expected to become a smaller part of our energy portfolio.
Oil and gas isn’t going away. But its market share will most likely fall.
Even if we could replace immediate energy needs with wind and solar, we would still need oil and gas for at least a couple reasons:
- We haven’t yet figured out how to store wind and solar efficiently at scale, so we’ll still need oil and gas in reserve (unless we replace oil and gas with nuclear energy).
- We rely on oil and gas for so many byproducts, including plastics and fertilizer. We may be able to rely on nuclear energy instead, but until we’ve built the infrastructure to do it at scale, we’ll likely still need oil and gas.
Something to keep in mind: Past reports of oil’s death were greatly exaggerated. When we acknowledge that necessity is the mother of innovation, we have to accept that we may see innovation in oil and gas. Could something as revolutionary as fracking be waiting around the corner? Who knows. But desperation was the leading motivator in the discovery of fracking. So it’s always possible.
- We should expect a bigger push into renewables, as they are getting cheaper and more efficient.
- Renewable energy is expected to become a bigger part of our energy portfolio.
- Renewables cannot be our primary energy source so long as storage is an issue.
- Increasing renewable energy will require significant increase in the mining of precious metals, many of which will come from governments with questionable practices.
A lot of money and effort will be spent to make renewable energy work. The support is there. But what about the business case?
Renewable energy isn’t as capable as some would like it to be. Storing renewable energy at scale is a challenge. And renewable energy requires a lot of space–It’s not energy dense, compared to oil and gas and nuclear energy.
While these limitations are true today, that doesn’t mean they’ll be true tomorrow. And as we progress in these areas, maybe renewable energy will become an even better option.
- Significant growth is not expected.
- But the tide may be changing, as more people are warming up to the idea of nuclear energy.
We are doing a great disservice by neglecting nuclear energy.
Nuclear is clean, efficient, and far safer than the public gives credit.
No energy option is perfect. We must be honest and pragmatic about the costs of the energy we use.
“There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.” But nuclear’s tradeoffs are, like the death of oil, greatly exaggerated.
If we’re serious about reducing carbon emissions without damning the world to low energy usage, nuclear must be part of the conversation.
But most speakers were looking through the lens of 2030, when oil production is expected to peak. Even if we started moving today, nuclear won’t be ready to make much of a difference by the end of this decade.
I appreciated the opportunity to get insight into where the energy industry is headed as I’m leaning back into my oil and gas experience.
Going forward, I expect the landscape to be less oil and gas vs. renewables and nuclear, and more oil and gas plus renewables and nuclear. If we really believe that our energy and climate challenges are so important, then we owe it to the world to use all the tools and solutions at our disposal.
Energy affects every part of our lives. So let’s get it right.
Thank you to Enverus for putting on the EVOLVE conference.