Joe M. Kang
Doha, Qatar – The role of natural gas as an enabler in the energy transition while underpinning economic activity will be an important theme in the international energy discussion in the years ahead, the President of the International Gas Union (IGU), Joe M. Kang, said today.
Speaking at the 50th edition of the GECF Gas Lecture Series, entitled ‘A Clean, Secure, and Affordable Energy Future Requires Electricity, Gas, and Infrastructure’, HE Kang, who holds a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering and who has led the 90-year-old IGU for Korea’s 2018-2021 triennium presidency, argued that only by marshalling a collective effort that the world can guarantee a prosperous and secure future.
“The (climate change) debate in recent years has been intense and loud, but the world has not come far in aligning on an approach that enables us to meet the enormous challenges of decarbonisation, energy access and energy security.
“It will require a clarity of purpose and approach that has been lacking to date, but we have to settle on an approach that delivers clean, secure and affordable energy,” said Kang.
The economic and environmental value of natural gas in a sustainable energy future against the backdrop of a groundswell of anxiety about climate change was also touched upon the GECF Secretary General, Yury Sentyurin.
“Climate action is not a zero-sum game. There isn’t a low-cost alternative yet for heating industrial buildings, producing electricity, cooking meals, riding a motor vehicle, transporting maritime cargo, boarding an airplane. The existing renewable energy sources like wind, sun, and water cannot yet sufficiently replace hydrocarbons.
“On the other hand, natural gas is abundantly available. It can, in theory, complement the rise of fuels such as hydrogen, via blue hydrogen based on Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) technologies,” noted Sentyurin.
According to HE Kang, there is recognition that different nations face different challenges and have different means to achieve a pathway toward UN Sustainable Development Goals and the provisions of the Paris Agreement.
“For billions of people in the developing world – with low CO2 per capita and low access to energy – there is no greater challenge than achieving affordable, secure and clean supply of energy. In richer nations – with high CO2 per capita – resources and infrastructure are in place to accelerate decarbonisation.
“The International Gas Union believes an achievable transition is one that delivers clean, secure and affordable energy, using electrons and natural gas and hydrogen molecules, and the necessary infrastructure to help individual countries meet the UN Sustainable Development and Paris Goals,” explained HE Kang.
The speaker called on all governments to let the energy industry innovators compete to see how best this can be achieved by a variety of means, and in so doing ensure the greatest opportunities for citizens around the world – the opportunities a just energy transition
The gas industry supplies natural gas to energise all six continents, to enable the scale-up of intermittent renewables, and to produce hydrogen. This puts us at the forefront of environmental innovation to reduce emissions.
The growing share of natural gas in energy consumption of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) economies has enabled the phase out of coal and eased reliance on nuclear whilst in non-OECD growing economies natural gas accelerates the switching from biomass and coal to gas.
“While the OECD sharpens focus on how natural gas contributes to the transition, it is the fuel of choice to enable successful transitions in non-OECD growing economies that lead the global recovery,” he said.
The industry veteran of both public and private sectors for over 20 years noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare social inequalities and risks widening divides between OECD and non-OECD regions. In this context, he called for an enhanced producer-consumer dialogue and transparency as the absence of a meaningful collaborative spirit may spawn higher prices in greater market volatility that “benefits no one”.
“Amidst the efforts to overcome COVID-19 impacts, multiple challenges remain in reigniting economic growth, returning livelihoods and job opportunities to families and younger generations, while meeting climate, clean air, and sustainable development goals.”
“Asia, Latin America, and Africa are home to 16 out of the world’s 20 largest mega cities where the health and well-being of billions highlight the region’s growing reliance on clean energy technologies,” he said, whilst adding that in Asia, gas import and electrification requirements will continue to rise as demand shifts from North East Asia to South East Asia where LNG demand is set to quadruple over the longer-term.
Noting that the world was still in the “teeth of the pandemic”, the speaker cautioned that natural gas supply may not recover as fast as demand due to lack of upstream investment. He also warned that the increased level of ambition of producer and consumer governments to accelerate energy sector transitions may create unintended consequences that limit prospects for sustainable growth of natural gas.
“Governments and industry leaders set up the IEF to enhance energy market stability, sustainability, and transparency – and to avoid market volatility that inadequate investment would set off through a new and unwanted cycle of boom-and-bust pricing. We will focus dialogue on both issues in upcoming meetings.”
In his intervention, HE Sentyurin underlined specifically that the two Forums’ “similarities in values, alignment in priorities and goals, as well as proximity in views and assessments of the energy markets narrative and upward trends”.
“Energy producers have been hit by a double crisis as this disruption (brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic) coincided with a number of geo-economic developments, weakened energy demand, and due to weather peaks, low prices, increased oversupply, and new emerging suppliers in the market, which added uncertainty. Nevertheless, the GECF shares a rising consensus, that the mid- and long-term fundamental factors that favour natural gas remain unchanged,” continued the event host.
“As recent events have shown, gas industry is used to face uncertainties and experience major shocks, but manages – time and again – to thrive. I would go so far as to say that it is during challenging periods like currently that gas industry’s ability to respond quickly and efficiently to changing dynamics and market fluctuations becomes even more evident,” asserted Sentyurin.
“Our modelling sends a clear message: it is too early to write off hydrocarbons. They will remain the dominating source in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future,” added the GECF speaker. “Natural gas will be the only hydrocarbon resource to increase its share from 23% today to 28% in 2050 as it is one of the global enablers for reducing emissions quickly, cost-effectively and steadfastly by replacing carbon-intensive fuels as well as backing up intermittent renewables.”
The GECF lectures, and workshops and other public events, feature policymakers and experts who share their knowledge and insights on contemporary issues related to the gas industry and its relationship with geopolitics, economy, and climate change. These activities form part of the GECF’s long-term strategy to promote natural gas as the fuel of choice for sustainable development.