Embracing the Low-Carbon Economy of Sustainable Energy Development
- Zhou Jiping (CNPC and PetroChina Company)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 20
- 2010. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Sustainable development of the economy, using energy while protecting the environment, has become an important global issue. A consensus already has been established regarding the development of a low-carbon economy.
Our industrial civilization, based on fossil fuels, consumes substantial energy resources while producing abundant materials to benefit mankind. However, it also has had a negative impact on the natural environment, and this negative impact is intensifying. The balance between the requirement for low-cost energy, and the need to protect the environment, is the greatest challenge facing mankind today.
Sustainable development of energy calls for a low-carbon approach. Currently, the world is at a critical stage in the industrialization of developing countries. During the past two centuries, industrialization, based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, has modernized a population of 1.2 billion in advanced, developed countries. And developing, emerging countries with a population approaching 3 billion will likely follow the tide of industrialization over the next 30 to 40 years.
As this development takes place, it is essential to choose a low-carbon development based on efficient energy consumption, with low pollution and emissions. Low-carbon development should not be simply interpreted as the development of low-carbon energy; it is rather the sustainable utilization of low-carbon energy. The process of energy evolution from high carbon to low carbon will be a prolonged one, and during this transition period fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in ensuring the sustainable development of the global economy.
During this transition, to further the goal of low-carbon development, our energy industry bears the responsibility to assist in adjusting the energy mix, accelerating natural-gas development, and increasing the proportion of clean energy to gradually replace fossil fuels.
Low-carbon development brings important opportunities especially to the natural-gas industry. As the most environment-friendly fossil fuel, natural-gas plays a unique role in the transition of the energy mix from high to low carbon, and therefore carries tremendous potential for development. Not only will natural-gas development increase the proportion of clean energy in fossil fuels, but it can also compensate for some of the disadvantages of renewable energy, for example, the difficulties of storing power in batteries, and the unstable supply of wind and solar energy. In this respect, by providing stable backup energy supplies, the gas industry will also help to accelerate the development of renewable energy.
In the coming 20 years, the global demand for natural gas will continue to grow at an average annual rate of 1.8%, and gas will overtake oil as the world’s largest energy source sometime in the first half of this century.
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