Professor of Petroleum Engineering, Babs Oyeneyin from Robert Gordon University has stated that North Sea Oil could have a long bright future. Not if we want to protect the planet it won't.
According to Herald Scotland this week, Professor of Petroleum Engineering, Babs Oyeneyin from Robert Gordon University has stated that North Sea Oil could have a long bright future, while also expressing support for fracking in the meantime. Professor Oyeneyin is due to give a lecture in Aberdeen this week on the subject and commented that while clean energy is a welcome addition to the global energy mix, the oil and gas supply should be maintained in order to resolve the energy gap.
"We have explored less than 20 per cent of the world's hydrocarbon deposits, and the recovery factor is only 40 per cent" said Oyeneyin, clearly supportive of attempts to exploit as many of the world's remaining oil reserves as possible. "There is still around 60 per cent left just in and around the oil and gas fields that we have to exploit, never mind elsewhere."
However, there are a few major problems with this analysis, although you can hardly expect a petroleum engineering expert to say anything else.
For a start, North Sea Oil is in terminal decline. As Euan Mearns pointed out in 2013, UK oil production peaked in 1999 and has since declined at an annual rate of between 5 and 10 percent, accelerating to 17.9 percent in 2011. This rate of decline has continued to grow unabated, despite record high investment. Capital expenditure on new field developments and old field refurbishments grew from £2.5 million in 2008 to a projected £14 billion in 2013. Purely then, in terms of finding new reliable sources of oil, the North Sea is a dead duck, or will become so before much longer.
By far the greater problem though is climate change, which is on the point of becoming an unprecedented climate catastrophe, if not already so. 2016 has, predictably, been the warmest year on record, and we should really start to worry about this.
What we should NOT do is carrying on exploiting new sources of fossil fuels as if everything was normal, because it isn't.
But the oil industry clearly, and unsurprisingly, is not listening to this message and is carrying on trying to exploit and refurbish existing and ageing oil fields, and searching for new ones, as if there was no climate emergency at all. This is explained quite clearly by Naomi Klein in her book This Changes Everything, in which she points out that oil companies have to keep on extracting in order to recoup their initial investments. Bill McKibben is even more explicit: We have to keep 80 percent of the fossil fuels we know about, underground. If those resources are burned, we will overwhelm the planet's physical systems. It's that simple.
Except that it's not, because the oil industry just isn't listening.
"Using the industry’s own figures, it shows that burning the oil, gas and coal in the fields and mines that are already either in production or being developed is likely to take the global temperature rise beyond 2°" said British author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot recently. "And even if all coal mining were to be shut down today, the oil and gas lined up so far would take it past 1.5°. The notion that we can open any new reserves, whether by fracking for gas, drilling for oil or digging for coal, without scuppering the Paris commitments is simply untenable."
So, Professor Babs Oyeneyin from Robert Gordon University, you're wrong. We shouldn't give North Sea Oil any future at all, or shale gas either for that matter. We should shut it all down as soon as possible, and redirect and retrain those employed in the fossil fuel industry to build a 100 percent global renewable energy system instead.
Of course, you're free to say what you want, but the fact is that if we want a habitable planet for future generations, then people have to start resisting and confronting your dangerous nonsense.
Before it's too late.