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Defining Moment for the World on Natural Gas: GECF Annual Workshop

The cleanest of all the fossil fuels has entered its most defining moment as the world gets back to the twin ambitions of economic recovery and sustainable progress, the participants of the 4th GECF Annual Workshop on Promotion of Natural Gas Demand heard on Wednesday (29 Sept).

Welcoming the global audience connected virtually, HE Yury Sentyurin, Secretary General of the GECF (Gas Exporting Countries Forum), struck a message of unity in order to cement the role of natural gas in a low-carbon future. “There is no doubt that over the past year, natural gas proved its resilience and flexibility to deal with market fluctuations. However, the future of the industry is being guided by emotions and unfavourable energy policies towards fossil fuels, resulting in a lack of financing and investment across the value chain."

“Amidst these challenges, cooperation and dialogue amongst gas industry players, particularly between producers and consumers, is crucial for promoting natural gas, facilitating investment, reducing costs, and optimising operations across the entire gas value chain,” contended HE Sentyurin.

This message has assumed poignancy given that in 2021 thus far, the gas industry has witnessed significant recovery in spot prices, supported by several factors including an extremely cold winter, a hotter-than-usual summer, and global economic, increasing supply constraints. On Tuesday (28 Sept), natural gas price crossed the $1,000 mark for the first time ever, reaching $1,031 per 1,000 cubic meters for October future at the TTF Hub, once again validating the 18-member Forum’s long-held position on a balanced approach to the energy transition. Furthermore, higher spot prices risk reducing the competitiveness of natural gas against coal and may threaten gas’s market share, particularly in the power sector.

In other remarks, the outlook for natural gas as a fuel of choice for economic resurgence and sustainability targets was highlighted by a distinguished line-up of international gas industry leaders and panellists including HE the Honourable Stuart Young, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries of Trinidad and Tobago, HE Kamal Abbasov, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources of Azerbaijan, HE Joe M. Kang, President of International Gas Union, and Mr NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of African Energy Chamber (AEC).

HE Minister Young said: “We firmly believe that the role of natural gas is a critical one, both for Trinidad and Tobago and the world as a whole, as we aim to ensure that growing energy demands are met in a clean and sustainable manner.”

HE Kang continued saying: “We must demonstrate that natural gas is part of the emissions and climate change solution. Natural gas today, and a portfolio of decarbonised gasses, including hydrogen, tomorrow will be the catalyst for and foundation of a more sustainable energy future. We should therefore not see climate purely as a challenge but as an opportunity – if dirtier fuels become politically or socially too expensive, then gas is primed to become the beneficiary. The climate debate should be seen as a positive driver for natural gas demand.”

The keynote session was followed by three thematic panels, including on young voices, aimed at bringing together high-level experts from various segments of the energy industry. The scene-setting was provided by Eng Mahdjouba Belaifa, Head of Gas Market Analyses Department at the GECF, who elaborated extensively on fresh, actionable and forward-thinking perspectives on a wide variety of natural gas benefits in the energy transition and how it will meet the future energy needs of the planet.

The debates featured top-management of Gazprom Export, the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Equinor, ExxonMobil Qatar, TotalEnergies Qatar, Cheniere Energy, Qamar Energy, and International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL), as well as Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES), Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), and the Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development, who provided their perspectives on the role of natural gas in new and niche sectors and collaborative strategies to reduce carbon and methane emissions.

Taking part in the first panel discussion, ‘Expansion of natural gas demand in niche sectors’, Mr Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy said: “The current high gas and electricity prices in Europe and Asia demonstrate again the importance of assuring reliable gas supplies while decarbonising end-uses. Promoting switching from oil and coal to gas, scaling up carbon capture and storage, and converting gas to hydrogen are key tools in ensuring economic and environmental security,” whilst Ahmed Osman, Regional Business Development Manager Middle East) at Equinor said: “Gas is the transition fuel for the low carbon future.”

In the same panel, Mr Mike Fulwood, Senior Research Fellow, OIES, noted: “If the gas industry is to remain relevant in the energy transition over the next 30 years then there is a need to invest early and heavily in carbon capture and storage.”

Speaking in the second panel, entitled ‘Collaborative strategies to reduce carbon and methane emissions’, Mr Jagir Baxi, Vice President & Ventures Manager for ExxonMobil Qatar, said: “I would like to thank the GECF for the opportunity to join distinguished colleagues across the world representing the senior government leadership, the energy industry, academia, and other important stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the natural gas industry as all parties work together to achieve a lower carbon future and balance important economic and development needs of countries and communities.”

Representing the views of an NOC, Mr Mark Loquan, President of the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited, said: “The climate fight is intensifying, as it should, accelerating the adoption of clean energy technologies across the world. The NGC has prioritised many green agenda projects, to transition the companies into the business of sustainable energy and to support global climate goals,” whilst Mr Howard Bevan, Director of Energy at the Al Attiyah Foundation, urged the participants to “seriously invest in the parts of the energy industry to which it will contribute post 2050."

For the first time in four editions, the event also heard from youngsters as students from Qatar University, Texas A&M University at Qatar, and Hamad Bin Khalifa University made several presentations.

The Annual Workshop on Promotion of Natural Gas Demand is a premier industry event and is designed to empower professionals and observers in the field of gas market to gain a deeper understanding of the market conditions, look at the common challenges, and think collectively on ways to promote natural gas to enhance its prospects as the fuel of choice for sustainable development.

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