Welcome from Prof John Underhill, Director of the Centre for Energy Transition

The distressing scenes from Ukraine remind us how much can change in our lives in the blink of an eye and bring the debate over Europe and the UK's long-term energy security into sharp focus.

The crisis forces us to face up to harsh reality as a country that, like the rest of Europe, has long taken its energy security for granted.

Take gas. Events have shown us that we are too dependent on imported gas, be that from Russia or elsewhere. With gas-prone basins around our shores, a strong case emerges to explore, develop and store gas locally – providing a cheap, reliable and convenient source during the energy transition, which significantly, also has a lower carbon footprint than imports.

Despite the need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, the reality is that we can’t switch immediately, as this would lead to fuel poverty and unprecedented challenges to our way of life. Instead, it cannot be a cliff edge, but must be a transition, the pace of which needs to accelerate yet be carefully managed to avoid fuel poverty.

There has been a move to diversify our energy needs with an increasing role for renewables. However, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So, how should we tackle intermittency?

If not oil, gas and coal, the most reliable alternative option is that nuclear provides the baseload, something the French energy mix has long been underpinned by.

Geothermal heat is another possibility, and old coal mines provide an opportunity since their flooding means they are characterised by warm waters that could be used for district heating schemes, alleviating fuel poverty in former mining communities.

Hydrogen has received a lot of attention recently, with the eventual hope to use electrolysers to convert the electricity from wind farms to produce green hydrogen. But we’re not there yet and for now there are proposals to obtain hydrogen through steam reformation of methane, which also leads to a carbon dioxide by-product (blue hydrogen) meaning a continued role for indigenous gas.

As blue hydrogen production requires a gas field, a safe carbon store, and a hydrogen export route or storage site, all within proximity to each other, there’s a complex interdependency that needs a variety of expertise – along with the right circumstances – to make it work.

In summary, the energy transition is a hugely complex challenge and delivering it requires an interdisciplinary approach to address, critically evaluate options and seek the right solutions that guarantee energy supply yet allow us to decarbonise.

At the University of Aberdeen we are acutely aware of the challenges and tensions associated with energy. Through our Centre for Energy Transition we draw upon expertise across academic disciplines, as well as strong industry partnerships, to understand, characterise, critically evaluate and identify sustainable solutions.

The Centre uses a data-led, evidence-based approach to highlight and tackle the key issues to help deliver a just, fair and affordable transition, in which oil and gas technologies will continue to play a valuable part.

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