Tools Needed for Sustainable Petroleum Operations

Sustainability can be assessed only if technology emulates nature. In nature, all functions or techniques are inherently sustainable, efficient, and functional for an unlimited time period. In other words, as far as natural processes are concerned, "time tends to infinity." This can be expressed as t or, for that matter, At —> <».

By following the same path as the functions inherent in nature, an inherently sustainable technology can be developed (Khan and Islam 2005b). The "time criterion" is a defining factor in the sustainability and virtually infinite durability of natural functions. Figure 4.11 shows the direction of nature-based, inherently sustainable technology contrasted with an unsustainable technology. The path of sustainable technology is its long-term durability and environmentally wholesome impact, while unsustainable technology is marked by At approaching 0. Presently, the most commonly used theme in technology development is to select technologies that are good for t = "right now," or At = 0. In reality, such models are devoid of any real basis (termed "aphenomenal" by Khan et al. 2005) and should not be applied in technology development if we seek sustainability for economic, social, and environmental purposes.

In terms of sustainable technology development, considering pure time (or time tending to infinity) raises thorny ethical questions. This "time tested" technology will be good for nature and good for human beings. The main principle of this technology will be to work towards, rather than against, natural processes. It would not work against nature or ecological functions. All natural ecological functions are truly sustainable in this long-term sense. We can take a simple example of an ecosystem technology (natural ecological function) to understand how it is time-tested (Figure 4.15).

In nature, all plants produce glucose (organic energy) through utilizing sunlight, C02, and soil nutrients. This organic energy is then transferred to the next higher level of organisms which are small animals (zooplankton). The next higher (tropical) level organism (high predators) utilizes that energy. After the death of all organisms, their body masses decompose into soil nutrients, which again take plants to keep the organic energy looping (Figure 4.15). This natural production process never malfunctions and remains constant for an infinite time. It can be defined as a time-tested technique.

Sunlight

Decomposer

Decomposer

Primary Producer

Sunlight

Inherently Sustainable

Food Production

Consumer en

Primary Producer

Inherently Sustainable

Food Production

Secondary producer

Figure 4.15 Inherently sustainable natural food production cycle.

Secondary producer

Figure 4.15 Inherently sustainable natural food production cycle.

This time-tested concept can equally apply to technology development. New technology should be functional for an infinite time. This is the only way it can achieve true sustainability (Figure 4.16). This idea forms the new assessment framework that is developed and shown in Figure 4.16 and 4.17. The triangular sign of sustainability in Figure 4.16 is considered the most stable sign. This triangle is formed by different criteria that represent a stable sustainability in technology development. Any new technology could be evaluated and assessed by using this model. There are two selection levels - the primary level and the secondary level. A technology must fulfill the primary selection criterion, "time," before being taken to the secondary level of selection.

For a simulation test, we imagine that a new technology is developed to produce a product named "Ever-Rigid." This product is non-corrosive, non-destructive, and highly durable. The "Ever-Rigid" technology can be tested using the proposed model to determine whether it is truly sustainable or not. The first step of the model is to find out if the "Ever-Rigid" technology is "time-tested." If the technology is not durable over infinite time, it is rejected as an

Environmental variants

Environmental variants

Economic variants Social variants

Figure 4.16 Pictorial view of the major elements of sustainability in technology development.

Economic variants Social variants

Figure 4.16 Pictorial view of the major elements of sustainability in technology development.

unsustainable technology and would not be considered for further testing. For, according to the model, time is the primary criterion for the selection of any technology.

If the "Ever-Rigid" technology is acceptable with respect to this time criterion, then it may be taken through the next process to be assessed according to a set of secondary criteria. The initial set of secondary criteria analyzes environmental variants. If it passes this stage, it goes to the next step. If the technology is not acceptable in regard to environmental factors, then it might be rejected, or further improvements might be suggested to its design. After environmental evaluation, the next two steps involve technological, economic, and societal variants analyses, each of which follows a pathway similar to that used to assess environmental suitability. Also, at these stages, either improvement on the technology will be required or the technology might be rejected as unsustainable.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment