These were some of the key messages by international gas industry leaders and panelists who participated in the 3rd GECF Annual Workshop on Promotion of Natural Gas Demand held virtually and organized by the GECF (Gas Exporting Countries Forum).
Increased cooperation between producers and buyers, digitalization across the value-chain, investment in infrastructure and research and development in innovative technologies will play a pivotal role in positioning natural gas as a fuel of choice for the 21st-century global economy.
The speakers opined that natural gas is the fuel that can achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the objectives of the Paris Agreement as its credentials far outweigh that of other energy sources such as coal and oil.
Welcoming the audience, GECF Secretary General Yury Sentyurin said: “We recognize the vital role that natural gas has to play in energy transition and sustainable development as we strive for energy security for all nations. Now more than ever, there must be a spirit of collective collaboration amongst industry players in order to sustain existing markets, and more so to create new promising ones.”
“We also recognize the crucial role of digitalization as we strive to reduce cost across the natural gas value chain and enhance the competitiveness of natural gas.”
Sentyurin noted the workshop was instrumental in increasing awareness of natural gas within the framework of global energy security and provided potential strategies to promote natural gas demand, some of which include the crucial role of advocacy for natural gas, government policies that need to encourage natural gas utilization, cooperation amongst market stakeholders, the role of technological disruptions, the importance of robust pricing mechanisms to secure the sustainability of supply, investment in infrastructure in consumer countries, and other actions that will be studied further in the GECF Secretariat for future actions.
The keynote speakers included President of International Gas Union (IGU) Joe Kang, Executive Chairman of African Energy Chamber N J Ayuk, Chairman of Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) Magdy Galal, and Vice-President LNG Marketing and Trading of Petronas Shamsairi Mohd Ibrahim.
Referring to the IGU’s latest report, ‘Gas Technology and Innovation for a Sustainable Future’, Kang spoke about the potential that technology can offer in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy access. He also highlighted the urgency of investment decisions to be made if this potential is to be realized.
Ayuk emphasized the crucial need for the development of the gas industry in Africa through investment in infrastructure and industries.
In his comments, Dr. Galal pointed out the steps taken by the Egyptian government in stemming the decline in consumption in Egypt due to the Covid-19 impact. The country saw a drop in demand by 13 percent between January and May 2020 compared to last year.
He said despite the government has lowered the price of gas in the industrial sector, more incentives were needed to be provided by it, especially in the upstream activity by providing flexible terms in the concession agreements. Over the long-term, he said, serious actions should be considered by the gas industry in terms of adopting new strategies to ensure the sustainability of the business. This might include significant structural and organizational changes.
Speaking on behalf of Petronas, Ibrahim said the rising number of LNG importing countries, from merely 15 in 2005 to 39 countries in 2019, shows that LNG is well-positioned to prosper as the most significant source of energy in the future.
He also highlighted some solutions including LNG bunkering, virtual pipeline system, small-scale break-bulking and vertical integration that will create new and niche markets.
Furthermore, Ibrahim stated that the value of natural gas should be preserved while creating a level-playing field between producers and consumers.
GECF Gas Market Analysis Department Head Mahdjouba Belaifa spoke about the importance of the annual workshop for the industry and the GECF’s role in aligning many voices as one voice.
She explained that in the previous two workshops the key identified areas for natural gas were held with a focus on cost competitiveness, policy advocacy, the importance of long-term oil-indexed contracts for the security of supply, development of infrastructure, and new business models.
She highlighted some of the proposed actions after the workshops such as reinforcement of dialogue, the role of R&D, fair access to technology, engagement of policymakers in advocacy for fair policies towards natural gas, the role of social media to sensitize various segments of the public, as well as digital technologies to improve productivity.
In the first panel discussion, ‘Improving the competitiveness of natural gas through Cost Optimisation and Digitalisation’, the participants discussed a number of themes affecting the global gas and LNG markets. Moderated by Stuart Elliot, Senior Writer of European Gas & LNG at S&P Global Platts, joining this debate were Robbin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy, and Vincent Demoury, General Delegate of International Group of LNG Importers (GIIGNL).
Mills focused his views on the Middle East region, where he mentioned that gas demand growth is expected to shift from power to the industrial sector in the long-term due to increasing renewables deployment and improved efficiency.
As it relates to a gas surplus in the region, this could bring several opportunities, including new lighter industries, intra-regional export projects (gas, LNG, and electricity), enhanced oil recovery, hydrogen production, and expansion of e-vehicles, which will support growth in electricity demand.
Demoury held the view that although LNG has been growing at a healthy pace over the last few years it faces several challenges in a post-COVID-19 world, including economic growth, volatility, affordability, and environmental policies. As such, there is a need that producers, consumers, and policymakers work together to develop methodologies and invest in technology for decarbonizing the gas industry and innovation to improve its competitiveness and sustainability.
The second panel, ‘Adapting to new gas market realities in a post-COVID-19 situation: Low Prices and Weakened Demand’, was moderated by Nikolay Kozhanov, Research Associate Professor at the Gulf Studies Centre at the Qatar University, and featured the presentations of Ayuk, as well as Sergei Komlev, Head of Contract Structuring and Pricing Directorate from Gazprom Export and Mike Fulwood, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
Fulwood maintained that while there are opportunities for growth in gas demand in Sub-Saharan Africa and emerging Asian LNG markets, gas will continue to face competition from coal in Asia. On the other hand, Sergei drew the audience’s attention to spot prices which he believed tended to overreact to even minor market imbalances while in his opinion oil-indexation provided a more stable gas price.
NJ Ayuk reiterated the issue of lack of infrastructure in Africa, in particular, a deficit in regasification facilities. He signaled out the huge potential of gas monetization in Africa, where gas industry development will trigger social and economic growth and create jobs.
Established in 2008 and headquartered in Doha, Qatar, GECF is an international governmental organization of 20 member countries, including Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Angola, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, Peru, and the UAE. Together they control 72 percent of the proven gas reserves, 46 percent of its marketed production, 55 percent of the pipeline, and 61 percent of LNG exports across the globe.
GECF increasingly engages with UN agencies, the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable growth, Asean, EEC, Opec, OAPEC, APPO, IEF, IEA, Irena, Olade, IGU, other peers, and regional entities, as well as maintain strategic multifaceted dialogue amongst natural gas producers and consumers. q