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New research from a study conducted by The University of Edinburgh claims that the UK gas and oil industry is entering into its last decade of production. Having assessed the output from the offshore fields, researchers claim that there is only 11% of oil and 9% of gas currently available for recovery after significant depletion of resources. In addition to this, the researchers have also claimed that fracking is not a viable solution in the long-term for the UK due to an absence of suitable locations and geological features.

As is to be expected, the oil and gas industry has disputed the claims. With Oil & Gas UK, a representative body of the UK offshore oil & gas industry, claiming that there are up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas resources still to be recovered on the UK continental shelf. Deirdre Michie, Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK claims that most fields will still be producing in 2030 and some notably large developments will still be producing towards 2050. Despite the confident defence of the industry from its representative body, there are still some pertinent questions that arise from the response. Arguably, the most important being that whilst admittedly a better outlook than The University of Edinburgh’s study claims, 2050 should still be seen as the short-term, as the UK requires a fully clean and renewable alternative as quickly as possible.

Government initiatives such as the aim to ban sales of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of a clean air strategy show how imperative it is that the UK moves towards alternative energy. The response of carmakers to those proposals has been to immediately commit to stop producing new models solely powered by internal combustion engines as early as 2019 or 2020, in the cases of Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover respectively.

A similar short-term and hands-on approach is necessary to transition smoothly to alternative energy. The UK needs to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels regardless of whether the UK’s continental shelf has enough resources to supply into the second half of the century or not, a lack of action now would only serve to make the eventual switch much more elongated, complicated and painful than necessary.

This train of thought is supported by The University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences Professor Roy Thompson who states “We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems. There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.” Along with the harmful consequences to the environment that a delayed transition to renewable energy is likely to create, there could also be geopolitical consequences if the UK is seen to be ‘not living up to’ the obligations agreed to in the Paris climate change agreement. Such obligations include a review of each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years, any reluctance to invest heavily in alternative energy and the surrounding infrastructure could reflect poorly on the UK in the international political arena.

Transitioning to an energy network as defined by Mr Thompson offers a sustainable, low carbon economy, which could ultimately lead to flexible generation which would not only overcome resource issues, but would increase the security of the supply. The foundations of such change must be put in place before fossil fuels run out if the nation is to be unaffected by the continually increasing scarcity of oil & gas and increasing supply issues experienced as a side effect of an ageing energy infrastructure. There are multiple ways of achieving the transition into the required sustainable, low carbon economy, one such solution is through the adoption of advancing technology and innovations within the industry, such as energy storage.

Innovations such as the integrated Powerstar VIRTUE. A battery-based energy storage solution that utilises electricity from both renewable and non-renewable sources to provide a service that can maximise on renewable energy and secure the supply through full UPS capabilities in the case of power loss. Above and beyond its classic energy storage abilities, VIRTUE can assist in the development of microgrids and a decentralised network.

An energy network formed of these components relies on energy that is generated off the main grid in a location closer to where the energy will be utilised. This local generation also lowers carbon emissions, reduces transmission losses, and increases the security of the supply as end users would not have to share a supply or rely on a relatively small amount of remote power stations. Technologies such as VIRTUE will drive the UK’s transition away from the traditional model of energy and the use of fossil fuels towards a more flexible, reliable and green energy network.

It is clear that, even if the research doesn’t accurately reflect the remaining lifespan of oil and gas, fossil fuels will not last forever and preparation should begin immediately in order to ensure a smooth transition. It is in the interest of companies and consumers alike to develop a cleaner system that has a greater emphasis on renewables and energy storage, and that concepts such as decentralised energy are going to be pivotal in achieving this aim.

Powerstar is hosting a free seminar at its head office in Sheffield on the 5th December 2017 on the concept of a decentralised energy network, please register here if you would like to learn more.


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