Energy sources are vital to sustain and grow the world economy. As of today, the world mainly relies on fossil fuel as the source of energy for transportation, power generation, chemicals manufacturing, and other industrial applications. The conventional sources of hydrocarbon are steadily declining; however, the oil and gas industry has been successful in finding unconventional hydrocarbons, such as heavy oil and shale gas. Reducing the footprint during the production of oil, refined products, and gas will benefit the industry by reducing the overall cost and improving the health, safety, and environmental impact.
Another source of energy is renewable sources, such as sun, wind, geothermal, biomass, plant seeds, and algae. Producing usable energy from these sources and making it available to the end user pose unique challenges and opportunities. Research in the area of understanding the molecular building blocks of organisms living in diverse sources could help the industry optimize the production of usable energy from both fossil and renewable sources. The search for microorganisms should include diverse sources ranging from hydrocarbon reservoir to the guts of insects such as termites.
A game-changing technology that could benefit the industry is the in-situ molecular manipulation of the contents of the challenging reservoirs. The approach is to modify the contents of the reservoir at its source so that their harsh effects are reduced or eliminated and the reservoir can be produced efficiently. The CO2 may be manipulated to make it helpful in the reservoir or at least make it less harmful.
Biodegradable materials could be a significant source of energy in the coming years. Game-changing technologies that produce (1) higher-oil-yielding biodegradable materials and (2) microorganisms that efficiently convert biodegradable materials to biofuel could greatly benefit the industry. Improving the drought tolerance of an energy crop, such as the Jatropha plant, could make it attractive to cultivate because it does not compete with food crops for water and land.
The challenges before us to meet the energy demand in a safe, clean, and cost-effective manner are real. It is possible to meet these challenges and deliver safe and clean energy in a cost-effective manner by working across different disciplines of engineering, science, and business.
Dr. Kris Ravi is Chief Technical Professional in the cementing product service line of completions and production division of Halliburton in Houston, TX. He has an MBA and PhD in chemical engineering. Kris has been with Halliburton for about 20 years, starting at the Duncan Technology Center in Duncan, Oklahoma. He worked at the European Center for three years and leveraged the resources in the continent to find solutions to the oilfield challenges.
Kris has worked across multiple disciplines such as drilling fluids, cementing and well completions. Kris has authored more than 75 papers and holds more than 40 patents in the area of fluid-fluid displacement, fluid rheology, cement sheath mechanical properties, and real-time hole cleaning. Kris served as SPE Distinguished Lecturer in 2005-2006 and now serves as a member of SPE R&D Committee.
Dr. Vikram Rao is Executive Director, Research Triangle Energy Consortium, a non-profit in energy founded by Duke University, North Carolina State University, RTI International and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He recently retired as Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Halliburton Company where he was responsible for the Companyís technology effort, as well as the setup and management of the intellectual asset management function.
Previously Dr. Rao also held executive management positions in Research and Development, Product Launch, Reservoir Studies, and Sales and Marketing. He joined the Company in 1974 as a Senior Research Engineer.
Dr. Rao serves in technical and business advisory capacities to energy companies, technology companies, NGOís and universities, in the US and elsewhere. He has served on the Boards of numerous start ups. Dr. Rao holds a bachelorís degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, along with a masterís degree and a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University. He is the author of more than 40 publications and has been awarded 26 patents