When you read this, do you stop to think about where the energy to power your screen is coming from? Is it from fossil fuels in China? Or a biomass plant in Scotland? Or perhaps the solar panels on your neighbours' roof?
I would say the majority of us don't give this much thought. We flick a switch and expect, demand the lights to instantly shine. We don't think about the huge number of people working 24/7 to find sources of energy, working out how to convert these raw materials into usable products like electricity, and maintaining the complex distribution systems. According to the 2012 ‘Powering the UK’ Ernst & Young report, the industry directly and indirectly employs over 600,000 people!
This brings me to my job. I work in oil and gas exploration and production. I am part of the development team working out how to get the gas trapped in a reservoir in the North Sea to a gas processing plant onshore, where it joins the national gas grid. To give you a rough idea of the challenges we face, to access the reservoir I would have to get to the East coast of England, take a boat 5000m into the middle of the sea then travel vertically down through 54m of seawater. Once I reach the bottom of the sea, I would have to go another 3000m below the seabed through a variety of layers of rock. Can we use existing infrastructure in the area? Do we need to build a pipeline? How long will the gas be produced for? Does this fit with the UK's energy needs? How do we do all this safely, for our employees as well as the environment and future generations?
As you can see, there are lots of questions to be answered. This project will take a few years to plan and implement and will involve high financial investment and input from hundreds of people from different disciplines and with specialised skills.
Right now I am gathering lessons recorded from previous projects we have completed and figuring out how to effectively communicate these to the team as I'm determined to make sure we learn from our mistakes and we are ready for any problems that arise.
That was a (very) brief insight into my world. I hope it makes you think more about your energy use, and the men and women working hard to make sure your supply of it runs smoothly.