By LORETO D. CABAñES
BARCELONA, Spain – In the GasTech 2018 opening ceremony that was formally graced on Monday (September 17) by King Felipe VI, gas industry players and global investors have re-examined and heightened debates as to the pragmatic spot that gas technology holds in the “transformational energy mix” of individual markets and the world.
In the opening discussions revved up by multinational companies (MNCs) and national oil companies (NOCs), industry leaders have put weight on gas investment prospects and project rollouts in key markets, including Asia – and how this could further ramp up development efforts and economic growths in this very strategic and important regional economic bloc.
Citing shifts in the global energy landscape – not just in terms of technology deployment but also the geographical diversification of market focus, Qatar Petroleum President and CEO Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi noted that there are major elements “helping increase demand for LNG, primarily for China and India as well as other Asian countries.”
He added that the diminishing gas production in Europe, will only mean “additional and continued demand for LNG,” and investors like Qatar Petroleum will have to be ready to fill that gap.
In terms of contracting strategies of gas off-takers (buyers), he stressed that it will be a combination of short-term, but “the bulk will be long-term” – and technology choices could be an option for markets or countries, whether to go for floating storage regasification units (FSRUs) or onshore terminals.
In the league of Asian markets searching for LNG investments, the Philippines is in the lineup, tied mainly to forecasts that gas production in the country’s only commercial gas field will be on declining state already in 2022 – and the operator’s contract for the Malampaya field will be expiring in 2024.
Multitude of investors have been looking for opportunities in the Philippine gas sector – and even local players, like First Gen Corporation of the Lopez group, are judiciously positioning for it because of the fleet of gas-fired power plants that would be needing the fuel to sustain their next cycle of long-term operations.
For Netherlands-headquartered multinational Royal Dutch Shell, it highlighted the key role that gas plays in the ‘marriage of technologies” that will support the intermittency of renewable energy (RE) resources like wind and solar – while battery storage has yet to carry through commercial-scale rollout.
Maarten Wetselaar, Shell director for Integrated Gas and New Energies business unit, emphasized that as the energy transition takes hold, gas will still thrive as the energy resource fueling ocean ships, heavy trucks and in powering homes and businesses.
But he noted gas technology will also be imperative in getting it “partnered with wind and solar to provide not only clean energy but also reliable energy for us to use electricity as when we need it and yet still fight global warming.”
Methane emission from gas production operations is another area that has been putting the sector in the spotlight – and this is one determining factor whether or not the energy sector can really keep track with the goals of the Paris agreement on the global climate change agenda.
“It doesn’t really make sense to leak methane during operations, we should really keep it to the pipe and sell it to the customers. But more than economics, there’s a greater reason to that,” Wetselaar said.
He further explained “methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and if there’s too much of it leaked in the atmosphere, then the environmental benefits of natural gas could be questioned by society. So this is not just an important target for Shell, but it is an important issue for the industry and Shell is taking the lead.”
Wetselaar admitted that Shell often gets questioned as to “what it has been doing to combat climate change aside from pushing gas very hard as one of the energy solutions.”
The Shell executive cited their approach is multi-tiered: One is to start it at home, “by making sure that our operations are as energy efficient as much as possible so we produce less carbon for every unit of energy that we produced; and the second thing that is really important is to give our customers options to decarbonize their lifestyles.”
In their “New Energies” suite of solutions, he noted that the company has been offering alternatives to the customers – ranging from “charging solutions; developing biofuel solutions and we’re increasingly using hydrogen.”
He added “we are really stepping into the ‘low-to-no-carbon domain’ to help our customers decarbonize their lives and improve Shell’s contribution to combat climate change and moves toward the Paris target.”
This year’s GasTech event is hosted by a consortium of six Spanish energy firms, namely Repsol, Reganosa, Naturgy, Tecnicas Reunidas, Enagas and Cepsa. Since its founding in 1972, it flourished as the biggest gas industry event for the past 45 years already.
For 2018, it cornered 30,000 international attendees; 14 exhibiting country pavilions; 350 speakers comprising of Energy Ministers, policymakers, and top-level executives; plus over a thousand delegates ranging from chairmen to chief executive officers (CEOs) of multinational energy firms and giant state-run companies to corporate executives and experts.