Climate change: tackling the here and now

By John Pearson | April 25, 2016

We’ve been talking about this for as long as I can remember. Climate change is not some future possibility that we need to plan for. It’s here, now. The threat—to us and life as we know it—is one we’ve created ourselves. Our environment has become a major challenge.

We know what to do. We need to slow the rate of change. We need to reduce the amount of carbon we produce, especially what we send into the atmosphere. To do it, we’ll need to work together.

Engineers need to step up. We need to get serious about perfecting and implementing the clean-energy technologies we’ve been tinkering with for the past 50 years. We need to drive optimism, to be fearless about ideas and things that are new.

The world won’t be abandoning oil and gas anytime soon. We have too much invested in the carbon economy, too much depending on it. Not just fuel, but plastics, clothing, lubricants, electronics…. The list is endless.

My company, Hatch, will continue to be in the oil and gas business. But we want to help solve the problem, not contribute to it. The key is to improve the production of oil and gas to be more environmentally friendly, to reduce the carbon footprint. There are some obvious places to start.

Let’s get aggressive about new technologies. Sasol in South Africa is a world leader in coal-to-liquid technology. It operates the world’s only commercial-scale synthetic plant, producing 150,000 barrels of liquid fuel from coal per day. In the UK, efforts are ramping up to convert more commercial and household waste to fuel. Everywhere, enhanced recovery methods are enabling us to pump oil out of the ground by flooding it with CO2 – sequestering carbon so it can’t end up in the atmosphere, and extracting oil at the same time.

Let’s maximize the green technologies we already have. We need to pursue hydro power – macro, micro and everything in between. In Manitoba and Ontario, the river systems that run north in sparsely populated areas are promising. Brazil and Africa have huge hydroelectric potential, too. We need to tap that now and work the numbers around solar, wind and hybrid power sources. We need to pursue every option but understand that businesses like ours, and the technologies themselves, need to make money if they are going to be viable.

Let’s dial down the negative rhetoric on nuclear. Nuclear energy has had a bad rap. A few – and yes, somewhat serious – accidents have given this green technology a lot of negative press. Small modular reactors can be efficient and cost-effective, and being “nuclear”, they don’t emit carbon. We should be developing them; lots of them. We need to build intellectual property around them, too, and start driving intel up the food chain. In Ontario, upgrades and refurbishments to big nuclear at Bruce Power and OPG are the order of the day, and my firm will most certainly be part of that.

At Hatch, we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done: bring sound engineering principles to these technologies – the new ones and those that have been around for a while. We know the green-technology area, and we’ll be making concerted efforts to show our clients how they’ll make more money by hiring us to help them with it.

We’re still the go-to guys – the ones to turn to with the big, tough problems. Climate change is the biggest, the toughest. At Hatch, we’re working on it.