Student Profile: Q&A with Jemimah (MSc Sustainable Energy Futures)

Jemimah Anil recently graduated from the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures at Imperial College and undertook her project on methane emissions at the Sustainable Gas Institute. We talked to her about the course, her thesis and what she plans to do next.

Why did you choose the MSc Sustainable Energy Futures course?

I have always been interested in renewable energy. I feel they not only contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also work towards improving the economy and energy security of the country. I did a course on renewable energy systems during my Chemical Engineering Degree in Bits Pilani University in Dubai which helped me to decide on a master’s program in the sustainable energy field. I was particularly interested in the MSc Sustainable Energy Futures program at Imperial because it not only covered the technical aspects but also focused on energy economics and policies which I believe are fundamental tools, particularly for energy transition.

What did you enjoy most about the Masters?

The masters provided a mix of knowledge (energy economics, policy, entrepreneurship and renewables). I really enjoyed learning about some of the policies around renewable energy such as the Feed-in-tariffs, contract for difference (CFDs) and creating funding and business proposals. Also, I did not expect the course to be so diverse in terms of peoples’ experience, while some had just graduated, others had worked for many years in the energy industry. This proved to be a huge learning experience for a young graduate like me.

You did your summer project with the Sustainable Gas Institute. Can you tell us a little about the project?

I really wanted to do something in the oil and gas sector, and look at ways at making it more sustainable and reducing the environmental impact. I was brought up in Qatar which is heavily dependent on trading gas. After speaking with Dr Paul Balcombe who heads the Methane Environment Programme at the Sustainable Gas Institute, I realised the significance of methane emissions due to its higher global warming impacts. I also discovered that reducing methane emissions proved to be cost-effective for the US, Mexico and Canadian gas industries through the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) and the ICF reports. So in my project, I wanted to evaluate if there were economic benefits of using methane abatement technologies for Qatargas, a leading LNG exporter.

What were the project’s findings?

The first step was to try and quantify the levels of methane emissions from the gas supply chain in Qatar. My results show that average methane emissions were 1.11% compared to the annual methane produced. Also, the cost-benefit analysis showed that methane abatement is cost effective but it’s dependent on three parameters: gas price, emission rate and the abatement potential of the mitigation measure. Unfortunately, these are all highly fluctuating especially gas prices and due to this variation there is a significant delay in payback period for companies. This is important as companies have a desired payback range of 5 years. For instance, under the current gas price scenario, the payback period of methane abatement technologies could be from 6 months to a maximum of 2 years. However, if there is a worst-case scenario with a decrease in these parameters such as low gas price, it could take longer or even prove to be not profitable at all.  I also performed a Monte Carlo simulation to study the possible range of economic returns and found that they were negatively skewed and widely distributed. This means that there are higher chances of huge reductions in the economic returns from investing. Thus, a strong government intervention and policy support is essential in order to get gas companies to start using methane abatement measures within their operations.

What incentives do you think will be important?

I believe that strict policies such as compulsory greenhouse gas reporting, LDAR (Leak detection and repair) programs and performance standards that puts a limit to the volume of gas that can be emitted, are necessary. Also, gas companies should improve their understanding of methane emission estimates from their supply chain and set up targets such as that set by Shell recently to ensure that their methane emissions do not exceed 0.2% by 2025.

What did you learn from the project?

This project was a great learning experience for me. Since this was a new project, we had to find out what methodology would work best, and if it didn’t work we had to try something new. I learnt a new software called Palisade @RISK which is great for Monte Carlo simulations and risk assessments. Other than analytical skills, my research capability has also improved through extensive literature review. I feel it’s helped me evaluate other peoples’ work and in seeing what their individual thought processes were like.

What are you doing now?

While I have had internships during the summers, I have had no long-term work experience. Now that I’ve finished my masters, I am interested in working in using my skills and expertise in developing sustainable business and energy models in industry. My dream job would be to work in the methane programme at Shell or to look into cost-effective and environmental friendly solutions for a similar organisation.


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