The oil and gas industry off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador faces major challenges because of the drop in oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. Exploration wells have been delayed and several Major projects have been suspended.
Albert Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, there is a great opportunity.” With extensive resources, infrastructure, highly skilled individuals and offshore industry expertise, Canada has a unique opportunity to become a global leader in the transition to new and alternative offshore energy technologies.
As the dean faculty of engineering and applied science at Memorial University, I see the brilliant potential of new graduates and talented young thinkers. They have the ability and desire to create innovative solutions to world energy challenges.
To realize this vision in times of crisis in the offshore industry, Canada needs to step in by offering its support, such as through Atlantic Investment Tax Credit or other similar programs, to make the offshore project move again. Canada also needs to speed up approval of new projects.
Smart young minds solve energy challenges
The offshore oil and gas industry has made a significant contribution to Memorial University; professors and their research programs; students through scholarships and scholarships; and more broadly, the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador with employment opportunities, among others.
Cooperative Education has enabled our students to gain valuable industry experience before graduating. Usually at least one-third of technical co-op placements have been linked to the oil and gas sector, or more than 400 working conditions each year.
In recent years, the proportion has reached almost half of all cooperative work requirements. The peak has occurred during the period of major local construction projects in the industry, such as White roses, Hebron and the newer West White Rose expansion project.
For four years in a row, Newfoundland and Labrador have it the highest percentage is female undergraduate engineering students in Canada (27 percent). The experience of quality co-op work terms in the oil and gas industry has become an important factor in attracting and retaining women in engineering.
These opportunities include a variety of valuable learning experiences. Students have worked in many fields such as with operators, service providers for operations, construction, exploration, certification, regulation, research and development, and local startup companies connected with the offshore industry.
Besides energy, petrochemicals also have broader interests in society and applications such as polymers in personal protective equipment (PPE) for the current battle against COVID-19.
Leadership in alternative energy technologies
Climate change is one of the biggest and most difficult problems in the world. I believe that a large university like Memorial solves the world’s biggest problem. Also the oil and gas industry has an important role because it creates highly skilled jobs and sophisticated energy technology needed to solve big challenges.
More research and development involving postgraduate students will be very important. Offshore industry support for these programs and students have contributed to the development of more responsible offshore oil resources.
Environmentally conscious projects have been made possible through the support of the oil and gas industry. This includes, but is not limited to, projects that are developing new technology for carbon capture, wind energy thermal storage and alternative fuels such as hydrogen, among others.
Researchers have been able to utilize this support for additional funding through other federal donor agencies to expand research and development of sustainable energy solutions.
Previously in my career, I was a person Chair of Canadian Research in Advanced Energy Systems. Oil industry support in the past helped me get funding to develop new processes for clean hydrogen production (solar photo-electrochemistry and thermochemical copper-chlorine cycle) in collaboration with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory (formerly Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.) on Chalk River, Ont.
These processes can enable electricity generation in the future to produce electricity and hydrogen as clean energy carriers. Hydrogen is potentially the main solution for climate change.
A latest report by an industry coalition including Chevron and Shell shows that hydrogen energy has the potential to produce 700,000 jobs and revenues of US $ 140 billion per year in the United States in 2030 and up to 3.4 million new jobs and US $ 750 billion per year in 2050 .
During difficulties lies opportunity
The oil and gas sector has changed Newfoundland and Labrador and its standard of living positively over the past few decades. This has enabled the province to provide better quality education, health care and employment, among many others.
Supporting the Canadian offshore industry will result in a lower overall carbon footprint than importing foreign oil to meet domestic demand due to our higher environmental standards and policies than put a price on pollution.
Newfoundland and the Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (NOIA) support Canada’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. As reported by NOIACanada’s offshore industry produced only 0.23 percent of the country’s upstream carbon emissions in 2017.
Equinor (formerly Statoil) is active in exploration and development off the coast of Newfoundland. As an energy company, it developed into renewable energy and began operating in the largest floating wind farm in the world in 2017, off the coast of Scotland. Equinor’s previous experience with offshore oil reservoirs is important to be able to open deep water areas for power development.
The offshore sector of Newfoundland and Labrador and the spinoff from industry are very important for the economy. Canada needs to support this industry during its greatest time of need. We can then look back years from now to see how opportunities for new energy innovation were taken from the depths of the global crisis.
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