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Unfortunately, facts rarely matter when it comes to the energy debate

Gordon Ballard, executive director of the IOGP
Gordon Ballard, executive director of the IOGP

The year 2019 once again proved that oil and gas remain indispensable resources to make the world a better place.  They help to improve the lives of billions of people, many of whom would otherwise lack any access to reliable energy.

Therefore, not investing in existing or future oil and gas fields would jeopardise the well-being of a significant proportion of the world’s population.

The need to invest is becoming especially obvious in regions such as Europe and Asia Pacific, which have become increasingly dependent on imported oil and gas. This is caused by diminishing production and/or soaring demand. According to IOGP’s 2019 Global Production Report, Europe has imported three out of four barrels of oil over the past five years.  In contrast, the region was able to meet 42% of its demand twenty years ago.

The picture is even more dramatic in the Asia Pacific region, which is the world’s biggest oil consumer, accounting for 36% of demand.   In the decade ending in 2019, the region’s oil consumption went up 38% and is still growing.  In parallel, production has lagged.

The situation is encapsulated in the Global Production Report, which includes a Production Indicator (PI) for each of seven regions.   The PI indicates the level of a region’s self-sufficiency and export potential.   A PI above 100% demonstrates the ability to export; below 100% shows the need to import.   Asia Pacific’s PI dropped from 38% in 1998 to 21% in 2018 – meaning that the region needs to import four barrels out of five.

Globally, oil demand was 30% higher last year than it was in 2000.  Natural gas demand increased even more dramatically by 60% during the same period. This trend will probably continue, according to two out or three of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) scenarios for the decades ahead.  And even in the third scenario, in which the use of energy actually falls, oil and gas would still meet about 47% of global demand in 2040, the IEA says.

However, unfortunately facts rarely matter when it comes to the energy debate, especially here in Europe.  Ask your neighbours, your family and friends – most of them will tell you that renewables are ready to meet the global energy demand.  That’s wishful thinking. Renewables have undisputable merits and are critical to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.  But they are still far away from matching the reliable share of demand that comes from fossil fuels.

Like it or not:  Oil and gas will continue to play a vital role in the energy matrix in the decades to come.  And it is our responsibility to produce these resources safely and with the lowest carbon footprint possible. This is our top priority.  In fact, our industry has a lot to offer, and we are proud of being an integral part of the solution to the dual challenge of providing more energy with fewer emissions. Our efforts include mitigating emissions from the oil and gas production as well as supporting Carbon Capture, Usage & Storage and other new technologies such as blue hydrogen.

In fact, we are about to launch a 2M€ Hydrogen Study with two Research Institutes. It will showcase the long term role for natural gas in Europe.   With every barrel of oil and every cubic meter of gas produced as well as with our efforts to help mitigating greenhouse gas emissions we are helping to make this world a better and more sustainable place.

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