A use of nuclear fission combined with the extraction of crude oil from sources such as heavy oil and tar sands will be required to meet the growing world energy needs, according to the keynote speaker at the NAPE exposition held in Houston last week.
The world's present energy use of 12.5 terawatts (tw) will have to expand to over 60 tw to meet the demand of 6.3 billion people worldwide who currently do not enjoy the same level of energy availability as the 1.1 billion of the world's population in developed nations, said Gavin Longmuir, consulting petroleum engineer. Meeting that demand will require innovative ways of finding and recovering energy sources, he said.
The problem with alternative energy sources is the relative paucity of energy amplification that they bring when compared to oil. For every unit of energy invested in extraction, oil provides 15 units of energy output. Wind power can only provide a three-fold amplification of the energy inputs used to build wind turbines and get them placed. Other renewable energy processes are even less effective.
Longmuir says the solution is to pair nuclear fission with extraction of crude from plentiful oil and tar sands. This combination approach is necessary because of the decline of existing fields and the limited number of giant oil fields being discovered to replace depleting reserves, he said.
His solution requires an exercise of political will that may be lacking in the developed world, he said. However, the developing world, especially China and India, will have no qualms about using nuclear power to drive their economies, Longmuir said.
It is time for the developed world to consider using our existing energy sources in new ways to meet the growing demand and bridge the future to new energy sources, he said.