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The Future's Bright for Oil & Gas and Renewables

October 26, 2017

By Jill Engel-Cox, CEMAC Director

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With the shale gas revolution and the dramatic price declines in wind turbines and solar panels, these two rising energy sources are looking bright. But, can the oil and gas industry work with renewable energy industry to bring about a clean energy future? That question was the basis for the recent workshop on the Nexus of Oil & Gas and Renewables in the Energy Future held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and sponsored by the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s Gas and Oil Technologies Collaboration Program (GOTCP). The two days were packed with presentations and tours, and there was time for lively discussion—and maybe a bit of debate—about what's needed for the two "sides" to work more closely together. One thing's for sure: what used to be an "us vs. them" mentality must now shift to an "us is them" mindset.

IEA GOTCP Chairman Jostein Dahl Karlsen kicked off the workshop talking about how oil and gas and renewable energy, hand-in-hand, are the most reasonable way forward to a sustainable future.

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Keynote speaker John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado, encouraged us to focus on how to create cleaner energy at lower cost and least environmental impact. He believes there will be a slow transition away from hydrocarbons, and clean tech is one of the fastest growing sectors in Colorado.


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Bobi Garrett, NREL's Chief Operating Officer, highlighted that we are in the midst of an energy transition, with natural gas providing 35% and renewables 15% of the electricity in the U.S. with many countries leading the way toward clean energy. NREL's recent Annual Technology Baseline has shown the life cycle cost of electricity from both onshore wind and gas powered combined cycle plants are comparable at less than 5 cents/kWh and utility scale solar and geothermal electricity life cycle costs are well under 10 cents/kWh.

Our final keynote, Christophe McGlade from the IEA, also noted that a major energy transition is underway. Natural gas will remain an important fuel as it helps integrate variable renewables, but methane emissions from natural gas cannot be ignored. The oil and gas industry may take up renewables in their operations and as an investment, especially in technologies with important synergies such as offshore oil/gas and offshore wind power.

Inspired by these opening talks, the participants delved into four timely, challenging topics discussed during the two-day workshop:

  • Incorporating Renewable Energy Technologies into Oil and Gas Operations
  • Recovering and Using Process Heat and Water in Oil and Gas Operations
  • Optimized Delivery of Gas and Renewable Electricity and Heat for Utilities
  • Petroleum Industry Investment in the Business of Renewable Energy

The workshop built off a series of reports and insights developed by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis on natural gas and renewable energies:

You can view the presentations and photos from this exciting workshop. We look forward to working together with colleagues from both these energy sectors to create a clean energy revolution.  As our closing speaker encouraged us, electrons are as important as elections, and it's time to move from words to watts!