Wait… we need oil and gas for renewable energy?
With the rising demand for renewable energy, many are turning to solar power to meet their energy needs. However, most people are unaware that solar power requires help from chemicals made with fossil fuels. PETROchemicals are derived from oil and gas.
Solar panels are made by converting photons from the sun into energy. Solar also relies heavily on petrochemicals. All solar panels are all made the same way – the photovoltaics which turn sunlight into energy are sandwiched between layers of ethylene vinyl acetate, which are all made from petrochemicals.
Solar energy is not alone, wind energy relies on petrochemicals as well. The blades for a wind turbine can be more than 250 feet long, and are usually made from epoxy resins or materials derived from ethylene. The massive blades require 900 pounds of adhesives to keep them bonded together. Along with the production of the components for the wind turbines, they also require lubricants to move. All of these parts and functionality require petrochemicals.
Fossil fuels, and their derived petrochemicals are at the core, and enable many renewable technologies according to International Energy Agency(IEA) director Dr. Fatih Birol. “As demand for their solar and wind power grows, so will the demand for petrochemicals, we cannot have one without the other.”
Understanding why the energy transition is so complicated
Currently the globe gets 80% of our energy from hydrocarbons, yet, in less than 30 years we are supposed to be a net-carbon-free energy system. In Daniel Yergin’s Atlantic article “Why the Energy Transition Will Be So Complicated” , he explains it’s a very tall order to have that expectation.
The degree to which the world depends on oil and gas is often not understood.
As a society, we are simply not aware of the ways in which we use plastics and other oil and gas derivatives. It’s not as simple as shifting from gasoline-powered cars to electric ones.
Petrochemicals are in every product we use and consume in our daily lives. From the casing of our cellphone, to the frames of our glasses, to the tools used in a hospital operating room. On a bigger scale, the air frames of the Boeing 787, Airbus A350, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet are all made out of high-strength, petroleum-derived carbon fibre. We seem to dismiss or avoid thinking about all the petrochemicals required to get planes in the air so we can go on our destination vacations or business trips. Interestingly, as we work to reduce our carbon emission on the ground, the number of passenger planes is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Moving forward, rather than believe we will live in a world that does not require oil and gas, society must recognize that fossil fuels and petrochemicals are deeply embedded throughout modern life, even as we work towards global carbon neutrality.
To read more in this interesting article: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/11/energy-shock-transition/620813/
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Renewables & Surface Team Lead