Tom Kirkman

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Why We Can’t Quit Oil – Tom Kirkman

Are fossil fuels here to stay?

Tom Kirkman is a top expert when it comes to oil and gas. As an accomplished project manager and PMO consultant, he has worked with oil companies in over 30 countries throughout his career. His extensive engineering portfolio includes projects across offshore oil platforms, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and more. 

In this episode, Tom explains why quitting fossil fuels is perhaps not such a good idea:

  • According to Tom, the laws of physics do not support an energy transition. He explains that it is physically impossible to build enough solar and wind to replace all hydrocarbons plus nuclear as a reliable energy source. Intermittency will be a huge issue if we rapidly switch to these alternatives. 
  • Tom argues that the problem with electricity generated from wind or solar is that it’s fleeting. It needs to be stored. Today’s energy storage options, like batteries, are not advanced enough to take on the job of replacing hydrocarbons. As Tom states, oil and gas are dense, transportable energy storage mediums with which batteries cannot yet compete. 
  • While Tom remains convinced that fossil fuel production will need to increase (not decrease!) in the coming decades, he and our host Peter Perri had a healthy discussion on how hydrogen might facilitate an energy transition. If technical hurdles related to hydrogen are addressed, Tom admits that it could provide a viable path forward. Hydrogen offers an energy storage solution that doesn’t require huge upgrades to the power grid and provides an alternative to batteries. For example, a wind farm could store excess energy as liquified hydrogen, as opposed to dumping it onto the grid.
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