Tiffany Wong is an associate engineer from Canada. She is concerned with an unsustainable development path, but encouraged by society’s ability to collaborate and innovate.
“I am fascinated by the leaps and bounds we’ve made as a society when it comes to the topic of energy. We’ve gone from using fire for warmth and cooking to much more sophisticated forms of energy in the span of a few centuries. Along the way, we’ve been relentless on innovating and making improvements – hydraulic fracturing to increase production, horizontal drilling to access new resources, and CO2 injection to enhance oil recovery to name a few. We’ve become more and more efficient, but the big question is: “Are we doing this sustainably?”. The short answer is no,” she says.
“The good news is that the energy transition is already happening. As a society, we are becoming more mindful of our activities and environmental impact on the world. I have high hopes for the future because around the world, we are already seeing an increase in renewables making up our electricity grid. In Canada where I live, renewable energy sources currently provide 17% of Canada’s total primary energy supply. Although the energy transition will look drastically different between various parts of the world depending on their regional resources and assets, my hope stems from the suite of solutions that already exist today and our society’s ability to continually innovate. While there is no silver bullet for this energy challenge, it is promising to know that the topic of sustainable energy is top of mind for our scientists, engineers, academics, and entrepreneurs who are developing new technologies and solutions such as carbon capture and energy storage.”
Tiffany points to the need for collaboration:
“We’re lucky to be living in a time where collaboration has never been easier. The energy transition for North America will look very different from the energy transition for Europe; and while we may not have all the solutions today, we do have the ability to learn and mutually support each other around the world. Renewable energy producers can share best practices on optimization to improve efficiency and storage. Technology providers can design modular units to manage customizations in capacity and deploy to many parts of the world. Heavy emitters can work alongside carbon capture technology providers to realize colocation benefits. Consumers can deselect vehicles that run on fossil fuels to drive demand for greener vehicles. In a time where we are so globally connected, we need to be sharing our know-how and tap into our networks to drive change. I am confident we have all the tools, knowledge, and capabilities amongst ourselves to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future,” she says.
“As an engineer, I can actively contribute to conversations as an informed participant and bring a sense of today’s landscape as we collaborate with energy producers, technology providers, governments, and consumers to design a sustainable future. I can provide insights stemming from the math, science, and economics to guide decision making. Change does not happen in a vacuum because one person or one organization decides to step up, we need everyone to be part of the energy transition network so we can all work together to create irreversible momentum towards a sustainable future.”
The Canadian engineer is also concerned with plastic waste.
“We should be proud that we are developing solutions to minimize impact of our existing fossil fuels production, transitioning to renewables, and tackling the carbon emissions we create … but energy isn’t the only global challenge we face today. We also have a global challenge on single use plastics and recycling. On the surface, these sectors don’t seem to intersect; but when you boil it down to the basics, both sectors are fundamentally hydrogens and carbons.
Through my work in the circular economy, I have come across chemical recycling technologies that are able to treat waste plastics as raw materials to generate value for new products. In an ideal closed loop economy, these new products are petrochemicals, monomers, or polymers that may be used as raw materials to manufacture new plastics. However; there is another group of chemical recycling technology that are producing fuels from waste plastics and are starting to become commercialized. The question I am curious to explore is: “how can we integrate these supply chains with our existing energy infrastructure?”. My hypothesis is that companies like Equinor with a global presence have the potential to leverage their widespread infrastructure and extensive supply chains to tackle both the energy and plastics waste challenge simultaneously,” says Tiffany Wong.