Ten years ago the energy industry was focused on ‘peak oil’, while the shale gas revolution in the US had yet to start. As 2017 begins, what are the mega-trends that will shape the upcoming decades? Here, BP’s head of long-term planning, Dominic Emery, identifies what lies ahead, from the rapid growth in renewables to changing demographics.
Taps and toilets have the ability to change lives in the developing world. As an engineer, I have spent the majority of my career to date working in countries across Africa and Asia developing sustainable solutions to one of the world’s biggest crises. One in three people lack access to a toilet, while a tenth of the world has no access to safe water. Together, this leads to the deaths of around 900 under-fives every day.
There is no such thing as a ‘sustainable’ technology in engineering. Instead, the sustainability or appropriateness of technology depends on its fitness for purpose in a local context, as well a suitable introduction process.
On the 12 January 2010, a catastrophic earthquake struck the Caribbean island of Hispaniola; its epicentre just 16 miles outside Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Over the following week, more than 52 aftershocks rumbled across the country, laying waste to more than a quarter of a million homes and taking the lives of an estimated 160,000 people.
In a bid to add their expertise to the effort, a pair of design graduates from Chicago set about creating a product to assist the post-disaster relief operations. With the primary survival needs of food, water and shelter already in hand, their thoughts turned to the night-time dangers that haunted the cities of emergency tents. With this came their solution; LuminAID.
When it comes to building, an awful lot of material goes to waste, both at the birth and death of a project. In fact, the construction industry sends millions of tonnes of waste to landfill every year, at a huge cost to itself.
In addition to this, new laws mean that by 2020 70% of all construction and demolition waste in UK must be recycled, while none will be allowed to go to landfill. This, coupled with the cost of waste disposal, has set the construction industry on the hunt for materials that are both good for the environment and good for their bottom lines.
Dr Sam Chapman and his spin-out KENOTEQ think they have the solution to just such a problem.
When it comes to generating electricity, things have pretty much stayed the same way since the 19th century. Sure, we now have coal, gas and even nuclear powered electricity generators, not to mention a wealth of renewable energy sources, but the principles have remained the same for centuries.
Almost all of our electrical power is produced by turbines, which in turn drive a generator. The turbines themselves can be powered by any number of sources, such as wind, water, steam, or burning gas. Most of our electricity is delivered by ‘heat engines’, which convert thermal energy into mechanical energy. For example, in most major power plants, coal (or other fossil fuels) are burned to boil water. This then produces steam which powers the turbines and drives the generator, giving us electricity.
SafetyNet Technologies’ primary goal is to design and build devices that increase the selectivity of commercial fishing practices. By being more selective with the fish caught, the industry becomes more sustainable. Light, which has been of interest to the fishing gear technology community since the 1970s, can be used as a tool to achieve this.
SafetyNet Technologies builds sophisticated LED systems that enables experimentation into how light can segregate between ages and species of fish. We then apply this knowledge to create simple sets of lights that help commercial crews catch the right fish.
Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. Breathing in the toxic fumes emitted by vehicles, industries, and burning fossil fuels can cause long-lasting illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and asthma.
In London alone, air pollution breached annual legal limits within the first five days of 2017. At a global scale, it is estimated that around 92% of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality exceeds WHO limits, resulting in more than 3 million deaths every year.
Underwater autonomous vehicles, or drones, have been in operation – and in the public eye – for decades. One of the earliest and most well-known remotely operated, deep-sea vehicles is Argo. Towed along the sea-bed and bristling with cameras, Argo was responsible for revealing the first glimpses of RMS Titanic in 1985, 73 years after her fateful maiden voyage.
More recently, submersible drones have been employed for other such expeditions; the hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines ‘MH370’ is noted as the largest and most expensive underwater search effort in history. Undertaking ‘deadly, dangerous and dull’ tasks across the oceans, drones help reduce the risk to human lives and extend research capabilities beneath the waves. Unfortunately, however, this much technology doesn’t come cheap.