If an oil and gas person talks about their sustainability to an arch-environmentalist, the accusation of greenwash can come back immediately. Oil and gas can never be sustainable, they would say.
But we live in a world which is dependent on oil and gas, where supply and demand of energy are finely balanced, and so we can only withdraw one energy supply as fast as we can develop another one. Assuming energy consumption stays the same, which we know is growing 1-2% per year globally.
Sustainability of the whole world requires that people still get the energy they need, while not damaging the environment in doing it.
Oil and gas currently has a place in that future, and plenty of sensible people project that will continue for decades, if only because moving to renewable energy sources takes a long time and requires storage of some form in order to manage the intermittent nature of most renewables. In that definition oil and gas is 'sustainable' irrespective of the environment or what anybody might want. But there are plenty of ways we can reduce our environmental damage as we go along.
So this is where we begin when trying to define, or model, sustainability in the oil and gas sector. While we're not trying to compete with renewables on the sustainability stakes, we're here, and we're trying to make less impact.
Where are the biggest places we damage? Emissions, of course, and also the possibilty of other pollution and environmental damage; also damage from how we handled decommissioning. Emissions from use of our products, our own operations, and the goods and services we buy are all to be considered.
We can mitigate emissions, such as by projects to sequester CO2, or using renewable power to power our operations. These all cost money. But we need a plan forthis. And we know that meanwhile the costs of emitting greenhouse gases are likely to go up.
Meanwhile we can make sure any projects we make take into account decommissioning and cause low impact on the environment. It will likely be better to use infrastructure which already exists.
This is where we begin with our quest to model sustainability in the oil and gas industry in a really holistic "big picture" basis. If you are interested in the subject and ideas about how to approach it, sign up for our newsletter - and also if you may be interested in our consulting services, click here.
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