The UK has made great strides in being at the forefront of the push towards sustainable and renewable energy in Europe, as well as the phase-out of the oil and gas industry in the twenty-first century. While this is unquestionably a commendable endeavour, it has left many in the oil and gas business in the United Kingdom wondering what the future will hold for them. Will they even be able to find work in the upcoming years? What happens to aspiring gas engineers who want to pursue a career in this field? There are many unsolved questions weighing on the minds of individuals working in the oil and gas business, but let us take a look at a few of the more pressing ones right now.
The Climate Change Act 2008 has received a great deal of attention recently, with ministers reaffirming the government’s commitment to prohibiting the installation of new gas heating systems in new construction. The goal of this act is to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The goal of lowering it by 24% by 2030 will be a step in the right direction.
The Committee on Climate Change has issued proposals to phase out natural gas supplies to all new homes built in the United Kingdom by 2025 and to totally phase out natural gas supplies by 2050.
Taking these facts into consideration, it would appear that pursuing a career in this field at a time when such drastic changes are on the horizon would be a bad idea, but this is not totally correct. When the complete scenario is taken into consideration, it is perfectly worthwhile to pursue a career in the gas business, particularly in the coming years. There are numerous changes that will necessitate the involvement of engineers and subject matter experts in the industry.
Infrastructure Already in Place
The transition to renewable energy sources will not take place suddenly. Currently, approximately 85 percent of households in the United Kingdom are connected to the existing power infrastructure, which is powered by oil and natural gas. More than 25 million properties today rely on the existing infrastructure of the electricity grid, not to mention the upkeep of the old system, as the industry gradually transitions to renewable energy. Given the state of present technology, this is unlikely to occur during our lifetime. Because it took several decades to put in place, the old infrastructure is still responsible for meeting the vast bulk of the country’s electricity needs.
A gradual transition to renewable energy will most likely take place, with emerging technologies allowing new systems to be brought online as they become available, while the present infrastructure will continue to be maintained. According to current estimates, the transition from the existing grid to a renewable one will take anywhere from 60 to 85 years, depending on technological advancements that occur in the future and the cost of such a project at the time of the estimate. In the meantime, there will be a great demand for specialist professionals in oil and gas engineering to ensure that the current grid can continue to operate.
Green Technologies vs Conventional Technologies
The current state of green energy technologies, such as wind turbines and solar power, allows for some utilities to be powered entirely by these renewable sources of energy. It is possible to power utilities that do not require vast amounts of continuous electricity, such as some pumping systems, minor electrical apparatus in a home, and cooking appliances, with renewable energy sources. The current state of renewable technology, however, is unable to keep up with the need for heating and cooling, as well as other operations that necessitate vast amounts of activity on a daily basis in many homes in the United Kingdom.
At the most, these technologies serve to augment existing technologies, all of which require regular maintenance and upkeep in order to continue to operate effectively and efficiently. It is estimated that over half of the homes currently in use in the United Kingdom were built with gas-generated energy in mind and are not optimized for the use of green technologies in the manner that earth berm houses or new sustainable constructions are, as they are specifically designed to make use of green technologies while minimizing the need for existing heating and cooling systems. Achieving a sustainable energy transition will only be possible when the majority of homes in the United Kingdom have been optimized to efficiently employ green technologies to meet their energy requirements. This will take place many years in the future.
Current vs New Technologies
The average homeowner does not often consider the electricity that he or she consumes in their home, let alone the process by which it is generated. Most people will tout the importance of electricity in things like vehicles in order to reduce carbon emissions, but if you understand that electricity is often produced by methods that are considered polluting, such as the burning of coal or oil to produce electricity, you will realize that any positive environmental impact that electric cars may have will be outweighed by any negative environmental impact that electricity production needed to run them will have.
Despite the fact that it is critical to minimize car emissions, the technology itself is not fully green or sustainable if it relies on power generated by natural gas. Furthermore, electricity itself is not always the most efficient or optimal method of generating and distributing energy. Although it may seem contradictory to those of us who rely on electricity on a daily basis, most energy experts would agree that natural gas and hydrogen gas, among other types of gas, are the most efficient sources of energy power.
Due to the presence of carcinogenic by-products in natural gas, its classification as a pollutant is justified, despite the fact that it is cleaner than other kinds of petroleum energy. Hydrogen gas, which produces just water as a by-product, offers a ray of hope for the future of energy in the United Kingdom. However, as previously said, the infrastructure for delivering this type of energy, as well as the technologies that will be required to utilize it, will not be ready for several years. Once again, it will be decades before hydrogen gas can be used safely in homes and vehicles in the future, and until then, the existing infrastructure will need to be maintained while the transition takes place.
The Coming Future
The transition from electricity to natural gas in the 1960s and early 1970s necessitated the replacement of appliances and the improvement of the infrastructure for delivering natural gas into households at the time. This, in and of itself, required the involvement of engineers and field experts. Those who were involved in the procedure recall that it was expensive, time-consuming, and extensive. We may expect this initiative to be yet another expensive and time-consuming endeavour as we work toward the objective of converting to hydrogen gas as a fuel. Engineers who are skilled in the delivery of such technologies will, however, be in high demand when that day arrives.
At the moment, approximately half of the gas engineers in the United Kingdom are over the age of 55 and looking to retire, indicating that there will be a shortage of skilled engineers in the near future. This creates an equitable opportunity for young engineers who are interested in entering the sector. When you combine this with the current developments in energy-efficient boilers and smart upgrades to heating systems, all of which must be installed by qualified engineers, as well as the potential future switch from natural gas to hydrogen, the future of those seeking a long-term career in the UK gas industry looks very promising.
It is clear to see that there are opportunities for engineers in the gas business in the United Kingdom when all of this is taken into consideration. With the different changes to sustainable energy on the horizon, you will also need to be proficient in both the old and new ways to help facilitate this process. Because of the impending shortage of professionals in the United Kingdom, as well as the retirement of many current engineers, there will be many open roles for a new generation of specialists as the country transitions into its new era of sustainable energy production and consumption.
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