RES and controlled thermonuclear fusion may become the basis of the global energy balance by the end of the 21st century
Even at the end of the 21st century, such thermal energy sources as oil, gas and coal will account for 5-10% of the world energy balance. The share of renewable energy sources (RES) will be 85-90%, but only if mankind is able to master the controlled thermonuclear fusion technology, according to the opinion of Valery Bessel, Professor of Gubkin Oil and Gas University, expressed during the round table arranged by the Global Energy Association and the Energy Policy Journal.

At the beginning of the 21st century dominance belongs to thermal energy (oil, gas and coal) accounting for 88% of the energy balance, while the RES accounts for only 11% now. In the middle of the 21st century, hybrid technologies will prevail due to a gradual decrease of natural resources. At the end of the 21st century, dominance will belong to RES, with its share of 85-90% in case we solve the problem of the controlled thermonuclear fusion. Thermal energy will account for 10-15% and be mainly used for provision of coal chemistry and raw materials for such engines that are simply unable to use electricity,” he said.

According to a Global Energy expert, hydrogen will be unable to become the world’s main energy source. “No one is interested in hydrogen energy as a separate power industry, in general, because we always spend more energy to get hydrogen than we get when burning it. It’s just the physics of the process. We all say that hydrogen has the highest specific combustion temperature, but our fuel tanks are measured in litres, not kilograms, i.e., first of all, the volume is important. Meanwhile, hydrogen calorific value is 1.1 times lower than the one of methane, 2.5 times lower than of liquid methane and 4-4.4 times lower than of liquid hydrocarbon fuel,” V. Bessel noted.

He stressed that despite excitement around the new energy transition, all changes in the power industry will be rather slow. “The pace of energy changes is extremely low because the power industry is a huge locomotive, it is a very inertial process. The reason is that as for the power industry, we need not only to find a new energy source, but also to rebuild the entire power industry infrastructure created for years for this or that type of energy,” V. Bessel said.

“Have a look, energy transition to renewable energy has not happened yet, even transition to natural gas has not occurred because gas still occupies only the third position in the energy mix, behind oil and coal,” he explained.

The global energy consumption growth will push the world’s search for new, more efficient energy sources. “Over the past 40 years, energy consumption, as a whole, grew by 2.5% every year and will be 2.8% per year in 2020. This is a huge increase in energy consumption, we can’t avoid it and have to live with it. Per capita energy consumption is rising primarily, which is associated with the will for energy comfort and change of technological modes (it gives 0.5% growth). It is expected that by 2100, if the rate of growth does not change, each of us will consume already 2.5 tons of oil equivalent on average. Now, general energy consumption is 13.8 billion tons of oil equivalent, and it will be, at least, 26 billion tons of oil equivalent by 2100. If the Earth’s population reaches 14 billion people by 2100, energy consumption may be 35 billion tonnes of oil equivalent,” the expert said.

As a result, we cannot exclude that in the future, humanity will have to start looking for fundamentally new energy sources and work on the controlled thermonuclear fusion. “In the future, we will complete work on thermonuclear fusion, and be able to find a new global energy source, but, of course, it’ll take time,” V. Bessel said.


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June 2022