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Thursday seminar - The energy-mineral resources nexus in the context of energy transition

Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 11 am in CEMES, coffee served at 10.30 am

by Olivier Vidal

CNRS researcher at the Institut des Sciences de la Terre, Grenoble


The energy-mineral resources nexus in the context of energy transition

The Paris Agreements (COP21) call for achieving global carbon neutrality by 2050. New energy production, storage, transport and use infrastructures will have to be built to replace those currently based on fossil fuels. These new infrastructures consume large quantities of base and rare metals, the availability of which is a real concern.

In addition, the production of raw materials requires large amounts of energy, so issues related to raw materials and energy are inseparable and need to be addressed in a common framework.

The expected shift towards low-carbon energy will take place in a context of growing global demand due to the rapid emergence of developing countries, increasing urbanization and the development of high technologies. The consumption of most metals has doubled since the beginning of the 21st century and if the increase in consumption observed over the last 100 years continues (+3 to 5%/year), more metals will have to be produced by 2050 than since the beginning of humanity.

In this context of anticipated tension, some anticipate shortages resulting from the depletion of natural reserves during the century, while others argue that technological improvements and the exploitation of deeper or offshore resources and recycling will help maintain the increase in production at the level observed over the last century.

We will present and discuss the results of a dynamic model linking the expected demand in metals for different scenarios of GDP, population and energy with the production capacity constrained by geological and technological parameters. The results of modelling provide a better understanding of the coupling between reserves – mineral resources production - cost and price – energy and greenhouse gases emissions. The results are used to define the conditions for a sustainable supply of mineral resources in a changing world.


Olivier Vidal is a CNRS researcher at the Institut des Sciences de la Terre, Grenoble. Geologist by training, his research is now focused on the energy-raw materials nexus in the context of energy transition to a low-carbon society. He has been scientific coordinator of the European network ERA-MIN on the industrial handling of non-energy raw materials (http://www.era-min-eu.org/), and he is involved in several multidisciplinary projects in collaboration with economists.