In an economy that’s increasingly driven by green initiatives, global warming and fuel efficiency are top-of-mind topics for professionals in the oil & gas industry and the general public.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) presents a potential solution for companies and policymakers alike, but a bevy of cost and technological considerations stand in the way of mainstream adoption.
Therefore, before CCS can truly make an impact on the market – and in turn the environment – the industry must overcome the efficiency hurdles that have slowed its adoption to date.
A few great examples of CCS stand out so far. StatoilHydro employs CCS in the Sleipner West field in the North Sea. It captures about one million tons of CO2 from natural gas per year and stores it in a saline aquifer. Both operationally and environmentally, Statoil’s CCS case study has been a tremendous success.
Its costs, however, are offset by avoiding Norway’s tax on CO2 emissions. Not all CCS projects can benefit from this type of environmental legislation, making it necessary for companies to look to internal efficiencies to account for lofty project costs.
In addition to innovation, project monitoring and future viability must also be addressed, and private investors and governments are clamoring for answers to these questions before allocating more money for CCS development efforts and regulatory changes.
To confront these research and analytical challenges, companies generally turn to free search tools as a first step, then take hybrid approaches that blend pre-existing internal corporate information and similar industry processes. This approach to testing a new method or speculating on the viability of a technology involves a significant amount of trial and error, from the research process itself through the technological implementation.
In short: free search engines and products make it tough to see the landscape of progress and information, and on a more basic level, squander researchers' time and companies' resources searching for information rather than analysing and applying it.
It is clear that CCS researchers, engineers and their support teams benefit from tools that take a focused, yet multifaceted, lens to this emerging space - yet free search doesn't deliver this pinpoint accuracy.
While it is very attractive in one aspect – price – companies looking into the benefits and downfalls of free search should consider the amount of sifting and organising employees must do just to maintain topic relevancy, to find easily accessible and free content sources, and to ensure author and information credibility.
For example, a Google search for ‘Carbon Capture and Storage’ yields more than 1.25 million results! Considering that most searchers give up after scanning the first 5-10 pages of results, there's likely to be a lot of relevant material lost in the long tail of results that free search is not designed to highlight.
Moreover, free search returns results span across industries and audiences. Press releases, scientific articles and encyclopedia-type entries are all grouped together with no thought to categorisation, in a never-ending list of results that are based on keyword and popularity – not relevancy.
Thankfully, the field of targeted, subscription-based search products is continuously evolving to help streamline research for those in the oil and gas industry. Emerging targeted search products aim to organise information in a more intuitive way than their free counterparts and, when put into action, help to push projects through technological and organisational barriers in days and weeks rather than being dragged out over a series of months.
Equally important, is the fact that these new search products draw from validated, peer-reviewed sources and scientific journals, rather than unchecked Internet sources.
In practice, targeted search tools offer enhanced content through specific indexing and workflow integration across and within organisations. Researchers can go beyond free search’s one-dimensional research capabilities by turning to targeted tools, which are better suited for oil and gas professionals because these tools organise and enable content discovery in a manner that is directly relevant to their workflows.
In addition, the obvious benefit of these tools is time savings, an increase in the amount of data discovered, and the ability to directly integrate content into workflows, which all leads to more efficient and accurate decision making processes.
Fundamentally, a targeted search identifies technical context and pulls out associations that can be critical for the decision-making that affects ROI and the bottom line.
Targeted search and CCS applications
For a new researcher coming to CCS, the sheer quantity of hits and irrelevant results from a typical free search tool makes the information gathering process a tedious, time-intensive, and therefore overwhelming process.
Specialised search products provide the end-user with a targeted search tool, providing easily accessible reservoirs of spot-on information. This allows researchers to quickly uncover relevant resources, then easily apply them to the topic at hand to create a comprehensive project landscape.
Examples would include:
•Experts – Howard Herzog, David Keith, and Edward Rubin are leaders in the CCS field, and can easily be identified through targeted search tools. This information could be used to solicit advice, form partnerships, or read deeper into each person’s relevant research. While experts pop up in one-off articles and in mentions through items found in free search, they do not lay out background, specialties and experience in a way that can help companies find relevant wells of research or partner up for specific goals
•Organisations – Targeted search identifies the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The European Commission as related organisations and innovators. Researchers could then use this knowledge to start more focused searches within each organisation, because they have already determined some of the key organisational players in the field. Free search, on the other hand, does not provide insight into who's doing what in the field. Instead, researchers must piece together the actions of their competitors before they even fully understand who they are. In many ways, targeted search's combination of efficiency and depth is a straight shot to some of researchers' most important competitive landscaping needs
•Products and approaches – Hydrogen, gasification and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle are all named as products/approaches for CCS. Depending on the project requirements, targeted search allows researchers to quickly see the benefits and downfalls of each method. When looking through free search for the same results, many marketing materials and consumer-facing articles appear. While researchers can see the types of approaches out there, they lack the context and cost-benefit analysis that can be found through peer-reviewed articles in targeted search results
•Patents – Half of that battle in developing new technologies is figuring out if an idea has already been tried – and thrown out. Targeted search tools specific to patent research can help researchers weed through the maze of patent information available from around the world. When working to prove that something doesn’t exist, sorting exclusively through oil and gas information – and more specifically, CCS-specific literature – is the key to navigating the end-to-end intellectual property process
Targeted search and trend identification
As an emerging technology, information about popular approaches and locational trends is especially helpful when considering new technologies and markets. Free search tools don’t have the ability to find the CCS approaches currently gaining momentum, and they’re unable to track the places where CCS implementation is on the upswing.
Targeted search, on the other hand, can provide insight into year-over-year publication trends on CCS. The months and years when the most information has been published about CCS can be identified, along with technology trends and adoption. This way, it is easy to identify the rise and fall of different approaches, helping researchers to get a sense of what is on the horizon for CCS and which technologies survived past the initial ‘buzz’ period.
For instance, when countries of publication are tracked, researchers gain insight into which markets are truly receptive to CCS and which areas might be far from adoption. At the same time, engineers can optimise processes to fit with local conditions and requirements and thus, increase their chances for long-term success.
Geographic information also gives a sense of where private and governmental market conditions might be most favourable for CCS expansion.
Information gleaned from targeted search could lead to potential collaboration efforts and partner possibilities targeted by location and organisation. As an example, researchers could discover that the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (C02CRC) recently received £10m in funding from the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre to continue research until 2015, and that Shell UK and National Grid are joining ScottishPower’s CCS consortium, which is endeavoring to produce the first commercial size CCS system operating from a coal-fired power station by 2014.
Targeted search and the future of CCS
CCS is poised to have a substantial impact on the oil & gas industry and global warming issues, yet the rise and sustainability of this practice will largely be determined by the way existing information is accessed and knit together into new, more viable solutions.
The industry is working to understand which leaders will emerge, and which technologies will best serve local markets. Open-ended questions like scale and funding remain, but solutions are on the horizon.
With more sophisticated and focused tools, researchers can push carbon capture technologies into the mainstream, and in doing so, help to tip the emissions scale to a more green side of the spectrum.
About the author
Phoebe McMellon is a Product Manager with Elsevier, a leading science, technology, and medical publisher. With 10+ years experience as a geologist, she develops products focused on improving workflows for oil and gas industry professionals.
McMellon is a driving force behind Geofacets, a new web-based geographic search and discovery tool that can be integrated into the exploration geologist’s workflow, allowing the geologist to spend more time on analysis and interpretation, less time on searching, which will enable the geologist to make more informed decisions about potential exploration areas and existing exploration fields.