The greatest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century is the transition to a climate-neutral energy future. If limiting future global warming requires holding atmospheric CO2 concentrations below a target value, this inexorably leads to the conclusion that most of the world’s fossil fuels would have to remain underground. This is a challenge both for energy security and also for the economic security of countries that depend largely on fossil fuel production for their revenue. Many countries are currently implementing policy to reduce fossil fuel consumption. At the same time, technological progress is facilitating accelerated adoption of electrical vehicles and other more carbon neutral technologies. These developments will ultimately result in a reduced demand for oil and gas and the timescale for this reduction in demand is shortening.
Funded by CFREF (https://ucalgary.ca/energy/cfref), we had a team of around eight people currently looking at the options for direct power production from oil and gas fields, leaving carbon dioxide in the reservoir. We examined three routes, one an electron shuttle based system, the second an in reservoir, emplaceable electrode system, and we looked at conversion style processes linked to surface fuel cells.
At the University of Calgary, we have been developing approaches for the recovery of the energy in petroleum via microbial routes to produce energy vectors such as hydrogen, leaving carbon dioxide in the reservoir. This has resulted in several major scientific discoveries and spin out company’s, but the route has major technical obstacles to large-scale practicality. The general approaches are summarized in the review publications listed below (Head et al., 2014; Novotnik et al., 2020).