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Cleaner Energy Initiative of the Year, 2015: GE Oil & Gas

This award recognises an organisation which has devised, developed and implemented an initiative to reduce its ecological footprint.

Judges considered the policies implemented and action taken and the results of these actions. The particularly sought evidence of active promotion of cleaner energy, to employees, stakeholders and the wider public; and provisions for the reduction of pollution across operations.

The pressure is on energy firms to reduce their environmental footprint, as climate change regulations become tougher. So the launch by GE Oil & Gas and its partner Statoil of an R&D initiative to develop ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuel industry, while keeping costs down, is nothing if not timely.

This initiative, launched in January 2015, is aimed at producing an industrial response to some of the principal challenges facing global energy production, including flaring and carbon dioxide and methane emissions, as well as water usage, while also optimizing business operations.

One area of particular focus for the partnership is gas flaring, which is becoming a major challenge, as the number of oil wells with associated natural gas grows in regions where the development of pipeline or processing infrastructure is often lagging behind. It is easy to see why this is an area of concern, given the roughly 140 billion m3 of associated natural gas flared every year globally results in more than 300mn tons of CO₂ being emitted into the atmosphere – equivalent to emissions from around 77mn cars.

GE has helped identify solutions to use gas that would otherwise be flared, reducing costs and emissions. In one project, GE technology is being used by Statoil to capture associated gas in the Bakken shale play of North Dakota – its rigs now use captured gas instead of diesel for up to 50% of their fuel. GE is in discussions with other energy companies working in the Bakken to carry out similar changes.

Increased use of compressed natural gas (CNG) for transport is one of the other avenues on the initiative’s radar. Using CNG can reduce carbon emissions by a quarter per vehicle and fuel costs by as much as 40%, compared with gasoline. Locally-sourced CNG can also be used for power rigs and related equipment.

Widening out the collaboration, GE and Statoil have also launched a global Open Innovation Challenge, with cash prizes, designed to encourage the industry to pursue solutions that address the sustainability of energy production from both a business operations and community-focused perspective.

At a time when the oil and gas industry is under pressure to improve its environmental record, this initiative is a welcome effort to show that energy firms have plenty to offer in the fight against global warming.


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