Jan van der Eijk on technology, CO2, and Earth’s changing climate

Dr. van der Eijk, Chief Technology Officer for Shell, said, “The Earth is warming up. Scientists are telling us that. Scientists also tell us that it is very likely related to the increase in CO2 levels that are caused by the use of fossil energy.”

Jan van der Eijk: It’s time now to act and find ways to provide the world with energy while mitigating the negative consequences of CO2 on the temperature of the planet.

Jan van der Eijk is Chief Technology Officer for Shell. Dr. Van der Eijk told EarthSky that science is becoming clearer about the signs – as well as the causes – of global warming.

Jan van der Eijk: The Earth is warming up. Scientists are telling us that. Scientists also tell us that it is very likely related to the increase in CO2 levels that are caused by the use of fossil energy.

Dr. van der Eijk spoke of an independent report from 2007 indicating that existing and emerging technologies could – by the year 2030 – reduce global atmospheric CO2 by 25 percent of today’s levels.

Jan van der Eijk: We are having a whole spectrum of projects. Our biggest in-house effort, so to say, is to make sure that we ourselves produce as low an amount of CO2 as possible.

In other words, making oil refineries more energy efficient, said van der Eijk. He also spoke of carbon capture and storage, where CO2 emissions are gathered at the surface and permanently stored underground. Advances from testing the storage of CO2 underground might apply beyond just to oil refineries, but also to coal-burning power plants.

Jan van der Eijk: In general, we feel that we would like these projects to move forward more aggressively than they are doing today, and it very much has to do with the need to build up frameworks, legal frameworks, but also societal acceptance of the testing.

Dr. van der Eijk said that the increased use of energy is related to world population growth, and to better living conditions for billions of people. As a result, he said, energy use patterns – and technologies to mitigate CO2 emissions – both have to change.

Jan van der Eijk: And we clearly are committed to help the people to improve these living conditions. Now, it’s clear that if we would meet all these needs in the way that we did in the past, we will get to a very significant increase in fossil energy use, and with that, also an increase in CO2 levels. But, today, there are already many technologies available that will help us to have less CO2 emissions than we would have if we were to just do it the way that we did it in the past.

Van der Eijk said that mitigating the problem of CO2 emissions will require different strategies in the short to medium to long term.

Jan van der Eijk: I think in the shorter term, by far the biggest impact we all can make – as companies but also as individual consumers – is to push energy efficiency. Use less energy to make products, make information available for customers to use the products more wisely. Avoid activities that are wasteful in this area. So that’s the very short-term.

The mid-term does involve technologies now being tested, explored, and used in some places.

Jan van der Eijk: The mid-term, I think, is carbon capture and storage. That is the removal of CO2 that we produce and storing it in the subsurface. It will make a big contribution, as will aggressive roll out of wind energy, for instance, where the technology is available, as it is for carbon capture and storage.

Our thanks today to Shell, encouraging dialogue on the energy challenge.

Jorge Salazar