Feature Reports

Energy and Natural Resources

Water and rare metals for energy: image of the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, a substantial lithium reserve.
Energy production requires water and rare metals. The photo shows the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, a substantial lithium reserve.

Energy industries require a wide variety of natural resources, including coal, oil and gas, of course, but also large quantities of water and rare metals.   The amount of water consumed is particularly significant. As well as the role it plays in the hydroelectric sector, water is also used to cool various thermal power plants, help extract oil and gas and produce plant matter for biofuels. This growing consumption is in addition to the water used by the world’s population for their needs and activities, such as drinking and domestic water, water needed for farming, and the water used by all industries and services. Some 10% of water withdrawals are specifically for the energy sector.     In addition, innovative technology in energy systems draws on more than 50 metals. Securing the availability of these metals in the 21stcentury, in a world dominated by the digital revolution and energy transition, is a major challenge for the global economy.       

Eau et énergie

Water is a vital resource for the majority of energy industries, used in electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... generation (to cool down powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... plants), fossil fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... extraction and oil refining, but also for the irrigation of crops grown to produce biofuelA fuel produced from plant or animal matter. There are currently two types of biofuel... . Finding a way to manage this water sustainably is essential at a time when the world’s water resources are already under increasing stress due to population growth and global warmingGlobal warming, also called planetary warming or climate change... .

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Métaux rares

The continued, fast-paced rise in renewable energies and digital technologies since the 1990s has seen number of metals, many of which occur only rarely in nature or are produced in small quantities. Securing the availability of these “rare metals” has become a critical challenge. A shortage could hamper the development of such strategic industries as consumer electronics, telecommunications, electric vehicles, fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... processing and wind turbines.

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An estimate of the risk of shortage facing the industry and possible solutions.

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