Eurogif: Europe's future energy needs driven by R&D and technology innovation

European Oil & Gas Innovation Forum (Eurogif), is a European alliance of trade associations and major contractors in the engineering, supply, and service sector of the upstream oil and gas industry.

Dai Somerville-Jones
President Eurogif

European Oil & Gas Innovation Forum (Eurogif), is a European alliance of trade associations and major contractors in the engineering, supply, and service sector of the upstream oil and gas industry. The trade associations in the alliance support 2,650 European companies.

The alliance was formed three years ago with the aim of representing the membership in the equipment and services industry for energy to the European Union (EU) and to national governments to increase competitiveness and high technology solutions. The goals set by the member- ship from Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, and the UK are being met through research, development, and demonstration projects funded by the companies and organizations involved in conjunction with support through the EU Framework Programs and other European funding mechanisms. The focus is on the involvement of the small and medium enterprise companies community to ensure the future of sustain- able development in the sector.

In its short existence, Eurogif has brought together 157 companies and organizations from 16 nations in a matrix of eight Thematic Networks, details of which follow in this supplement. These networks have set the structure of technology vision, R&D action priorities to contribute to competitiveness in the marketplace, and compliance with the socio-economic challenges facing global needs. They have established the industry R&D state of the art and priorities, identified and instigated the relevant technology/ processes transfer from other industries, promoted and developed project clustering, and defined and communicated new R&D priorities. Quite a start for a new association.

But why the need, why the effort, why the determination in a sector beset with a poor press and a poor public perception of the effect of hydrocarbon usage to the future of the planet?

It is essential to press ahead with the development of all known and possible energy sources in a bid to explore, improve, and harness their potential in a way that takes care of the environment.

It is worth remembering that technological development and its related research is carried out largely by industry, mostly using its own resources. Whatever the long-term outcome of the Johannesburg summit, a global partnership for sustainable development is going to be required. In Eurogif, we believe this involves a duty to bring European expertise and technology to bear to help resolve global problems.

Future options

None of the potential future energy supply options and technologies is perfect, and none is sufficient to cover all needs. At present, there is no known, single, secure, long-term, environmentally sound, and economically viable energy supply – either in Europe or at a global level. With no single solution to the energy problem on the horizon, the issue can only be tackled by continuing to develop and explore all kinds of promising energy sources, technologies, and options. It is vital both to continue developing well-known and proven techniques and concepts consistently and inventively, and also to give new ideas and innovations a chance.

Put in its simplest form, the answers lie in the Rio Summit of 10 years ago, the Johannesburg Summit in 2002, and in addition, the European Community Council summits in Lisbon, Gothen-burg, and Barcelona over the past two years.

All these "summit" meetings identify the need for secure, low-priced, environmentally sound, and sustainable supplies of usable energy throughout the world. All declare the real need to protect the planet we live on, the effects of global warming, and the discharge of noxious substances into the atmosphere.

The European Community (EC) is not alone in its belief that there is an energy problem that has to be tackled without delay and that the key to potential solutions may lie above all in intensive research and development. Indeed, the US is set to spend in excess of $5 billion on energy research in the next few years. At the Barcelona European Council, the EC agreed that "overall spending on R&D and innovation in the union should be increased with the aim of approaching 3% of GDP by 2010." Today, however, the community spends less than one-thousandth of its primary-energy expenditure on research within the EU.

Usable energy is the mainstay of our contemporary industrial society. Its ready availability was the prerequisite for our present-day standard of living. Without energy, there is no prosperity.

Supplying and using energy puts a strain on the environment. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that, in the longer term, demand for usable energy is set to rise dramatically given the twofold if not threefold rise in world energy consumption expected by 2060 as a result of population growth and the anticipated demand from developing countries.

Fossil fuels, i.e., coal, natural gas and oil, make up by far the largest share of the world's primary energy consumption. Their combustion produces emissions (in particular, carbon dioxide) that impact on the climate and the environment.

While nuclear fission makes up some 15% of primary energy consumption in Europe alone, its use is controversial because of concerns about radioactive contamination.

Renewables in Europe account for some 6%, of which hydropower enjoys the largest share. Today the main problems with other renewables are:

  • Their availability is naturally variable
  • They are not storable (with the exception of biomass and waste)
  • Their primary energy density is low, which in turn means that costs are still very high.

Eurogif cannot solve the global problem. However, Eurogif is bringing together an enormous amount of international skill and entrepreneurial effort into finding ways to extract and process hydrocarbons in a cleaner, more sustainable, cost-effective way.

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