In a video interview at Industrial Info's studio in Sugar Land, Texas, Richard Finlayson, Industrial Info's Johannesburg-based senior international editor, said that the concerns and priorities of South Africa's national power utility Eskom were mirrored by power companies worldwide. Some of these concerns were project investment capital, power shortages and the need for the addition of base-load power using cleaner coal-fired power technologies. These concerns ran parallel with nuclear power developments and the priorities of the environment and sustainability of resources.
About three years ago when there was heightened concern about oil resources peaking, Industrial Info questioned whether the developers of a massive wave of new petrochemical projects knew something that we did not about the future availability of oil feed resources. Then came the windfall income for oil-producing regions accompanied by equipment and skills bottlenecks as the oil price soared and project costs went up, Finlayson said. After the crunch we now see inflation dropping, projects and jobs cut and capital sitting tight as oil runs at $50 per barrel. Things can change fast.
In the current tough times, project plans are being trimmed and phased options have replaced big-bang designs. Companies are shaking themselves down to core values and planning with a close market focus. They are seeking out the best information sources and identifying key people to hire and position for the market fight-back. Deals are being closed on forward supplies at crunch sale rates and it is now a time for anticipation and innovation for globalized sectors working in a new business and capital model. This includes focusing on innovative individuals already existing in the organisation who were overborne by the big boom boys.
There are opportunities in mid and downstream installations in various sectors in 2009. In power there is an increasing focus on transmission and distribution. In all regions the expansion and rehabilitation of transmission lines is big business, paralleling oil and gas pipelines. The latest generation of high-tech packages systems control, measurement and regulation applications are extremely cost effective. Lack of maintenance and control has been a downer in developing regions, from trucks to power stations. Capital and opportunities have been wasted. Great soil, good crops, but no road or rail to get those crops to market. The potential left rotting in the field is similar to the deficit for economies with rundown or nonexistent power transmission and distribution. Systems are now available that have the potential to customize and control power supplies to industry and households.
Looking into the future of new energy solutions and clean energy coupled with the relentless increase in demand for power, Finlayson said there had to a combination of current approaches aided by the occasional quantum leap of good science, exploited with high intensity capital applied to development. Renewable technologies, efficient and affordable power storage and the recycling of industrial heat and power resources were needed on the road forward. But, he said, an additional problem is that people find it hard to admit that, with massive additions of power generation in the pipeline, however "clean" the applied technologies are, the aggregate of emissions is going to remain on an upward curve for the foreseeable future.
He said that personally he found the whole topic of environmental issues easier to tackle if you say, "I'd like my kids and all kids to grow up with clean air, clean ground water and good secure space in which to exercise and roam. If the public and industry motivate solutions to the problems starting on a human level then in the space of a lifetime we have a chance of creating clean energy and a secure and renewing environment."
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