Gastech conference key takeaways

The Gastech Conference celebrated its 30th anniversary in September in Barcelona, Spain, and the industry was abuzz with excitement. The industry came together for four days to explore the major issues, opportunities and trends in the global gas industry. More than 30,000 attendees and presenters attended the conference including global leaders in gas production and liquefaction, oilfield services, and major gas consumers.

Throughout the conference, the overarching question centred on the role of gas into the future – is gas a transition fuel or a destination fuel? During the conference, industry experts presented on some of the major topics in gas while the exhibition provided a ripe environment to present the latest technologies and connect suppliers and customers from all parts of the world.

We have encapsulated the key takeaways and topics on the minds of the global leaders in gas at Gastech.

Insight #1

Is gas a transition fuel to a renewable energy future or is gas a destination fuel able to energise the world for the foreseeable future?

Right from Day 1, executives representing both international and national oil and gas companies from around the world took a deep dive into addressing this critical and overarching question. Qatar Petroluem CEO Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, gave an impassioned speech highlighting the benefits of gas and describing it a fuel for the future, not merely a transitional fuel. Executives from global gas leaders including Qatar, China, Russia, The Netherlands, USA, Spain and Switzerland explored various aspects of this vital question. While debate covered a variety of topics, the key for the continued success of the gas industry can be distilled into four themes:

  • Continued cost competitiveness driven by technology
  • Delivering environmental improvements vs coal fired power generation by minimising routine flaring and fugitive methane venting
  • Ensuring availability of supply by enabling access to reserves and delivering fuel to customers when needed
  • Maintaining and meeting demand from growing gas consumers such as China and Southeast Asia
Insight #2

Continued cost competitiveness

Facing increasing competition from emerging renewable energy technologies that are benefitting from decreasing cost curves, the gas industry must find a way to remain cost-competitive. The industry’s historic success has centred on developing new technologies to unlock increasingly challenging reserves and driving down production costs. In the exhibition hall, a raft of technology providers were on scene demonstrating the latest in digital, artificial intelligence, 3D and numerous technologies promising to cut costs, while improving performance.

While the industry has already made impressive strides in bringing costs down in a low price environment, parallel and potentially greater cost improvements from competing renewable energy technologies remained a constant topic of discussion throughout the conference. Major benefits of gas, including its ability to provide dispatchable power and high heat content for industrial and other applications were not lost on the audience but the success of renewables has caused the industry to sit up and take notice.

Insight #3

Delivering on Environmental Improvements

The cleaner burning potential of natural gas has the potential to deliver significant benefits compared to coal fired power generation. However, Shell Director for Integrated Gas and New Energies, Martin Wetselaar, highlighted the requirement to ensure the industry reduces or eliminates unintentional fugitive methane venting during hydrocarbon production. With the increased global warming potential of methane compared to carbon dioxide of well over 20x, a fugitive rate of just 3.5% would result in an overall worse environmental outcome than coal fired power generation.

Additionally, the need to reduce or eliminate routine flaring was identified as a key driver to ensuring the industry delivers on its promise of improved environmental performance. The recent tight oil boom in the US has led to significant routine flaring due to lack of pipeline infrastructure to transport the gas, particularly in the Permian Basin and Bakken Shale regions.

Insight #4

Ensuring availability of supply

The need to make gas available when and where it is needed was highlighted throughout the conference. As new customers build out the infrastructure required to import and use LNG, including regasification terminals, pipelines, and power stations, the gas industry has the responsibility to deliver supplies when and where needed. Cheniere Energy’s Senior VP of Supply and Trading, Corey Grindal, stressed his company’s focus on honouring commitments to buyers and putting the utmost importance on delivering fuel on time and where it is needed. Mr. Grindal highlighted his company’s access to reserves, pipeline infrastructure and export terminals as critical success factors to Cheniere’s continued growth.
The current global LNG overcapacity will soon be added to from the ‘first wave’ and potential coming ‘second wave’ of US LNG capacity. The gas industry is positioning itself to ensure supply is not a constrained into the future. The expectation is gas demand will continue to grow, the market will become more liquid, and supply and demand will soon be more balanced, if not tip into an overall tighter position.

Insight #5

Maintaining and meeting demand

While companies work hard to ensure supply is available at a cost competitive price, there was significant focus on the demand side of the equation. The question of demand was challenged through presentations highlighting a struggling gas turbine generator sales market, emerging competition from renewable energy and threats to LNG from domestic production in the fast growing market of China. Political challenges such as discussions around the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the Trump trade war with China resulting in a 10% tariff on US LNG were hard to ignore. The industry recognised these threats and acknowledged the need to ensure future demand by focusing on continued cost reduction, delivery on environmental promises, and highlighting unique selling points for gas such as its dispatchability, ability to deliver high industrial heat and use as a feedstock.

The 30th Gastech conference and exhibition provided a strong platform for collaboration and discussion for an industry experiencing significant growth, as well as new threats from emerging cost-competitive renewables. If the gas industry can deliver on its promises of low cost, low carbon and high accessibility it should have a role to play beyond a short transition fuel.

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