Covid-19 was, without doubt, the major talking point of 2020 and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of our lives and had a major impact on future government policy.
One thing that everyone has become accustomed to throughout the pandemic, whether consciously or not, is data and the use of location to make sense of said data. Whether checking a website to see infection rates in your area or modelling the global pandemic through analytics dashboards, the power of combining data with location has brought into focus the ability for vast quantities of data to be consumed in a usable format.
Figure 1 - John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre Dashboard (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html)
Another major outcome of the pandemic has been the acceleration in the energy transition with nations across the world seizing the opportunity to advance their green programs. In 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass into law its target of reaching Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Then, at the end of 2020, The Prime Minister announced a new ambitious target to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This announcement came alongside a 10 point plan, setting out how these targets would be achieved through a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. In Europe, the European Climate Law has been provisionally approved. This sees EU institutions agreeing to legislate the EU target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The law also includes the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. In the US the Biden-Harris administration has set a target of a 50-52% reduction in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Pollution from 2005 levels by 2030 and in order to help achieve this, will aim to develop 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030.
With the UK set to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021, we are going to look at how geospatial data will be at the forefront in supporting the energy transition. Whether undertaking large scale assessments into the energy potential of an area, decarbonising existing industries such as oil and gas or extracting hidden value from non-geospatial datasets.
Energy System Mapping
One of the key challenges for countries looking to achieve their Net Zero ambitions will be in the ability to overcome the current disparate energy systems that are in place and convert these into a wholly integrated and connected ‘smart’ network. This connected network must be achieved in both a physical as well as digital form with an obvious requirement to build a detailed system for mapping sources of energy production, transportation, storage and consumption across a range of scales.
If we take a simplified look at a ‘traditional’, fossil fuel dominated energy network, fossil fuels are extracted, often vast distances from the end consumer. They are transported to central processing facilities and converted to power. This power is then distributed to the grid through a series of cables and delivered to the end consumer. The system is stable and energy production, supply and storage can be altered on a national to local scale with limited disruption.
However, in order to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and achieve Net Zero, this system must be disrupted and emissions must be significantly reduced at every stage. Change must occur across the whole energy lifecycle from the way in which our power is generated and transported to the way it is stored and consumed. Geospatial data will be at the forefront of this effort as tje power of location data helps is understand everything from optimal sites for wind farm installations to energy consumption in urban areas.
The UK, following a review by the Energy Data Taskforce, has launched its own taskforce to tackle the problem in which the Energy Networks Association alongside the Ordnance Survey and 1Spatial will build an in-depth digital system map of the UK’s energy system.
The ultimate goal should be in building a digital twin of our energy system, underpinned by vast volumes of geospatial data.
Figure 2 - Integrated Energy Datasets within MapStand HUB Environment
Alongside the development of renewable energy sources, the ability to decarbonise existing industry is going to be vital in achieving Net-Zero. Here is where the UK's well-established oil and gas industry, combined with its ever-growing renewable capabilities, can combine to establish the UK as a world leader.
The UK government, in its North Sea Transition Deal, has set the oil and gas industry targets to reduce emissions by 10% by 2025, 25% by 2027 and 50% by 2030. It will be helped by joint government and private investment of up to £16bn by 2030.
Firstly, many operators are already taking steps to reduce emissions related to oil and gas production. M&A activity in the North Sea is no longer purely focussed on production volumes and remaining reserves. Can low carbon production be achieved through platform electrification? Can depleted fields be utilised for CCS? Can existing platforms and pipelines be repurposed for CCS or the production and transportation of green/blue hydrogen? Is there potential for oil and gas wells to be converted to geothermal?
The questions are extensive and the answers to many of these questions will require the years of geospatial data and expertise established within the oil and gas industry to be integrated alongside the ever-growing renewables datasets to extract new value.
Oil and gas companies can gain value even from basic spatial data to understand the location of wind farms in relation to their operations when considering electrification or undertake more complex strategic analysis on linking onshore CO2 clusters with offshore aquifers for CCUS such as the projects being undertaken through Zero Carbon Humber and Net Zero Teeside.
There is also much that oil and gas data can offer to the renewable sector, basic data analysis can help wind farm operators understand oil and gas licence operators and other stakeholders in their area, guide on which platforms could be used to mount wind monitoring equipment or which platforms have a helipad and accommodation for turbine construction and maintenance crew to be based.
Whatever the application, it is clear that there is a requirement for geospatial data across the industries to be accessible in a single common platform.
Developing new technologies
It is not only from current geospatial data that benefits can be found. As we have seen with Covid-19, the application of location to vast quantities of numeric data that would otherwise have been analysed in a spreadsheet can lead to hidden value to be extracted.
At MapStand, we have a daily geotagged newsfeed which spatially enables news items and bringing the story to life, putting information in context with surrounding data and adding an additional level of insight into each story. We have also recently collaborated with Elsevier, bringing our geospatial news and data into the Geofacets platform. This partnership gives Geofacets users the ability to use location as a search criteria, not only for geospatial data but for publications and the information within them, this expedites the search for relevant information, reducing man hours and ensuring key data is not missed. By finding a survey in your area has already been undertaken previously can deliver huge cost savings to a project.
With advances in machine learning techniques, the ability to assign location information to a range of new data types including static images, tables and text has the potential to take the power of geospatial even further. Any developments that allow data to be utilised down the value chain or consumed in a user friendly way such as graphics or dashboard will ultimately lead to hidden insights being revealed.
These are just some of the areas in which geospatial data can support the energy transition and here at MapStand we have a focus on the large scale applications in oil and gas, energy transition and renewables. But one of the great things with geospatial is its application across every sector and at every scale, we could look at its application in Supporting EV charging, Net Zero surface transport or Net Zero Carbon Cities the possibilities are endless.
Figure 3 - Integration of MapStand data into PowerBI to perform analysis on the UKs Offshore Wind Capacity