Crystal ball

Overheard: Experts weigh in on what the energy industry will look like in 2050 at Houston summit

From fossil fuels to clean and sustainable energy, here's what experts postulate the industry will look like in 2050. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

There are a lot of things up in the air within the energy industry when you look at the next 40 years — clean energy, regulation regarding fossil fuels, carbon footprint, and so much more.

At the Society of Petroleum Engineers' inaugural SPE Dot Energy Leadership Summit, the big question was what does 2050 look like for the industry. Tasked with the discussion were three energy leaders — Deanna Zhang, energy tech investment banking associate at TudorPickering Holt & Co., Lees Rodionov, vice president of Global Stewardship at Schlumberger, and David R. Hall, managing director of Hall Labs — on a panel moderated by Gabriella Rowe, CEO of Station Houston.

The panel, which took place on August 15 at MATCH, discussed all the variables and what their potential theories are for how time will change oil and gas. Of course, no one knows for sure. If they did, they wouldn't be sharing it, would they?

"It's very hard I think to capture all the things that will play out by 2050, and honestly, if I knew with any amount of certainty what would happen, I wouldn't be talking about it in public," Zhang says. "I'd be in a basement somewhere, making a company that would make a trillion dollars."

Fair enough. Here are some other overheard quotes from the discussion in case you missed it.

“I think we’ll face the fact that we’ve got to be totally clean and solve the emissions problem and do a complete full cycle. It’ll mean lots of innovation, but I certainly see the capability to get it done.”

David R. Hall, managing director of Hall Labs.

“When it comes to bridging the efficiency debate and the green and clean debate, that will be something that by 2050 we will have bridged.”

— Deanna Zhang, energy tech investment banking associate at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. Currently, she says the industry is split. "Right now we are trying to optimize for two objectives. The industry is divided."

“I think that one of the challenges actually is that it’s an idea of ‘us and them,’ and energy is a ‘we.’ Everyone has a role to play.”

Lees Rodionov, vice president of Global Stewardship at Schlumberger. She emphasized that it's the energy industry — oil and gas is just one part, and it's where there's a lot of money. O&G does have opportunities for carbon neutral development.

“The opportunity for the oil and gas industry is to recognize the problems and then announce solutions itself. If the industry doesn’t, regulators will."

— Hall says on moving the industry toward a cleaner, greener future.

“In 50 years, we’ll find a way to survive, but it won’t be the same quality of life.”

— Zhang, when asked about the worst case scenario if the industry doesn't make big changes. She cites urbanization and a greater wealth gap as some things to expect.

"Stop saying 'oil and gas.' It's 'energy.'"

— Rodionov, when asked about bridging the gap between renewables and fossil fuels.

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Building Houston

 
 

Houston innovators podcast episode 140

What Houston can expect from its rising innovation district

Sam Dike of Rice Management Company joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the past, present, and future of Houston's rising Ion Innovation District. Photo via rice.edu

Last month, the Ion Houston welcomed in the greater Houston community to showcase the programs and companies operating within the Ion Innovation District — and the week-long Ion Activation Festival spotlighted just the beginning.

The rising district — anchored by the Ion — is a 16-acre project in Midtown Houston owned and operated by Rice Management Company, an organization focused on managing Rice University's $8.1 billion endowment.

"We're chiefly responsible for stewarding the university's endowment and generating returns to support the academic mission of the university," says Samuel Dike, manager of strategic initiatives at RMC, on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Part of those returns go to support student scholarships and student success — as well as many of the other academic programs."

"The university sees a dual purpose behind the investing," Dike continues, in addition to focusing on generating returns, RMC's mission is "also to be a valuable partner in Houston's ecosystem and pushing Houston as a global 21st century city."

RMC saw an opportunity a few years back to make an investment in Houston's nascent innovation and tech ecosystem, and announced the plans for the Ion, a 266,000-square-foot innovation hub in an renovated and rehabilitated Sears.

"In some ways innovation is not necessarily about creating something completely new — it's oftentimes building upon something that exists and making it better," Dike says. "I think that's what we've done with the building itself.

"We took something that had really strong bones and a strong identity here in Houston," he continues, "and we did something that's often atypical in Houston and preserved and repurposed it — not an easy logistical or financial decision to make, but we believed it was the best for Houston and for the project."

Now, the Ion District includes the Ion as the anchor, as well as Greentown Houston, which moved into a 40,000-square-foot space in the former Fiesta Mart building, just down the street. While RMC has announced a few other initiatives, the next construction project to be delivered is a 1,500-space parking garage that will serve the district.

"It is not your typical parking garage," Dike says. "The garage will feature a vegetated facade with ground-floor retail and gallery space, as well as EV charging spaces and spaces to feature display spaces for future tech. It's going to be a nice addition to the district."

The new garage will free up surface parking lots that then will be freed up for future construction projects, Dike explains.

He shares more about the past, present, and future of the Ion and the district as a whole on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.



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