NATURAL GAS NEWS‘ Geopolitical Implications of Global Decarbonization for MENA producing countries by Pier Paolo Raimondi and Simone Tagliapietra, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES) is an expert’s hindsight in the foreseeable future of the region.
Endowed with half of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region represents a cornerstone of the established global energy architecture. As the clean-energy transition gains momentum worldwide, this architecture might shrink—challenging the socio-economic and geopolitical foundations of the region in general, and of its oil and gas-producing countries in particular.
Geopolitical Implications of Global Decarbonization for MENA producing countries
February 21, 2021
This challenge has two dimensions: domestic and international. Domestically, a decline in global oil and gas demand would reduce revenues for producing countries. Considering the profound dependency of these countries on oil and gas rents (the ‘rentier state’ model), this could have serious economic and social consequences. Internationally, the global clean-energy transition might push producers towards a fierce competition for global market share, exacerbating geopolitical risks both regionally and globally.
In 2020, MENA oil and gas producers experienced a situation that some observers have described as a preview of what the future might look like for them beyond 2030, as global decarbonization unfolds. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented crash in global oil demand. At the same time, oil prices collapsed (for the first time in history, the benchmark West Texas Intermediate entered negative territory) due to a lethal combination of falling demand and OPEC+ coordination failure. All this generated a perfect storm for MENA oil- and gas-producing countries, which led to unprecedented macroeconomic imbalances.
The evolution of oil markets, national stability, and prosperity as well as international influence are closely linked in the MENA region, but MENA oil- and gas-producing countries are far from homogenous. Different countries are likely to experience different impacts from the global clean-energy transition, depending on a number of domestic and international factors.
MENA producers are likely to be affected by the differences in the trajectories for oil and gas markets, the speed of the energy transition in different world markets, increased competition between energy producers, and increasing penalties for carbon intensity in production.
While gas is set to play a role in the global energy mix for decades, oil is expected to lose relevance as a result of decarbonization policies and technological developments in electric vehicles. BP’s 2020 Energy Outlook warned about the imminence of peak oil demand. In its business-as-usual scenario, oil demand is set to recover from the pandemic by 2025 but drop slowly thereafter. In its rapid-energy-transition scenario, oil demand drops from around 100 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2019 to 89 mb/d in 2030 and just 47 mb/d in 2050. Such a scenario would represent a challenge for MENA oil producers. By contrast, in the business-as-usual scenario, gas demand is expected to increase from 3.8 trillion cubic meters (tcm) in 2018 to 5 tcm in 2040, underpinned by a massive coal-to-gas switch in Asia and elsewhere. Such a scenario would be beneficial for MENA gas-producing countries such as Qatar and Algeria, which could remain geopolitically relevant by providing an important transition fuel to a decarbonizing world.
In the MENA region, Qatar seems to be the best positioned to preserve its geopolitical role, thanks to its significant liquified natural gas (LNG) capacity and its geographical location between Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, gas-producing countries will not be immune to the challenges posed by decarbonization policies in the long run. Gas demand is especially difficult to predict starting in the second half of the 2030s, as a result of increasing cost competition in power generation from renewables, as well as stricter environmental regulations (e.g. the EU Methane Strategy). It will thus be of paramount importance for MENA gasproducing countries to cut emissions in their gas value chain, in order to preserve their position and geopolitical influence.
The speeds of the energy transition in different world regions will also affect MENA geopolitical shifts. For instance, Europe’s oil and liquids demand is expected to decrease from the current 13.3 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) to 8.6 Mtoe in 2040, according to the International Energy Agency’s stated-policies scenario. By contrast, Asia-Pacific countries’ oil and liquids demand is set to increase from the current 32.5 Mtoe to 37.9 Mtoe in 2040. Thus, MENA producers more exposed to the European market are likely to suffer more—and earlier—from the global decarbonization process than others more exposed to Asian markets. That is, energy demand will increasingly dominate energy geopolitics, especially in an oversupplied energy market.
In such a scenario, export portfolio composition and diversification will determine the evolution of geopolitical influence for MENA oil and gas producers. Exporters that depend heavily on European markets will see their geopolitical position erode and their revenues fall. For example, Algeria, which mostly exports gas via pipeline to Europe, has been an essential element of the European gas supply architecture. Unless it manages to decarbonize its gas exports, this important role will shrink as the European Green Deal is implemented. In 2019, 85 per cent of Algeria’s total gas exports flowed to Europe, 62 per cent via pipeline (mainly to Italy and Spain). By contrast, LNG provides more flexibility to gas exporters, which will enable them to respond effectively to the geographical shifts of the energy demand. Qatar is the world’s top LNG exporter. In 2019, Qatar exported 83 per cent of its total gas exports via LNG. Of this volume, 67 per cent was directed to Asia Pacific countries. Asian markets are expected to drive energy demand growth in general and LNG in particular until 2030. Oil and gas producers will increasingly try to gain market share in such growing energy markets.
While energy demand will be crucial in the future, energy supply issues will not disappear. Competition among producers will persist, and even increase in the foreseeable future. The peak of oil demand will create a harsher world of more intense competition and tighter revenues for MENA oil producers. Regional oil and gas producers are likely to pursue different supply strategies, which will need to deal with the consequence of the global energy transition.
The transition indeed raises an existential dilemma—requiring a choice between maximizing production, which would weaken higher-cost exporters, and coordinating production cuts to increase prices, which could deprive governments of vital revenues. These are not trivial issues, as maximization of production would put into question established assumptions about saving reserves for future production and avoiding stranded assets. An intensification of competition among producers could thus undermine coordinated actions (e.g. OPEC agreements), which are important to oil price stability. This was illustrated by the collapse of OPEC+ talks in March 2020—spurred by disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Russia on the introduction of production quotas, as the two were also competing for market share with US shale oil producers—and the consequent fall in oil prices.
Another example of the growing competition among producers is the growing opposite visions between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia that emerged openly during OPEC talks in late 2020. Although they managed to reach an agreement within OPEC, the UAE’s ambitious plans to increase its oil capacity from about 4 mb/d to 5 mb/d by 2030 puts further pressure on the traditional alignment among Gulf OPEC producers. Moreover, in late 2020 the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company announced a $122 billion investment plan for 2021–2025, suggesting that the UAE had abandoned its more cautious approach to the oil sector. The plan suggested that MENA national oil companies might gain a growing share of world oil and gas production in the future. That is also due to (Western) oil companies’ decisions to cut their capital expenditure and other investments. Such decisions are motivated mostly by low oil prices and their commitment to decarbonization.
In a more competitive world, some MENA producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the economic advantage of vast oil reserves (298 and 97 billion barrels, respectively), the lowest production costs (under $4 per barrel), and the least carbon-intense production. In the next years, due to expected higher carbon prices, carbon intensity will play a key role in determining which oil and gas producers will be able to preserve their geopolitical influence. MENA oil producers with higher production carbon intensity, such as Algeria and Iraq, might thus lag behind.
The global energy transition can also impact MENA oil- and gas-producing countries’ governance, due to their heavy dependence on revenues from these resources. To address this issue, regional oil and gas producers have launched several strategies (referred to as Visions) aimed at economic diversification (e.g. by increasing productivity, strengthening the private sector, and developing non-oil sectors), as well as increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix. These Visions were largely developed as a response to the 2014 oil price drop; COVID-19 and the acceleration of the global energy transition make it necessary to accelerate them. A country’s chances of success at this are likely to be affected by domestic factors including population size, government capacity, and financial ability to implement diversification measures.
Countries with a large, young, and growing population (Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq) will encounter significant obstacles to the transformation of their rentier-state model. By contrast, countries with a smaller population, like the UAE and Qatar (9.7 and 2.8 million inhabitants, respectively) are likely to find it easier to adjust.
The ability to govern and finance major domestic socio-economic transformation will also be crucial. For example, North African countries could exploit their geographical vicinity to Europe and become major clean-electricity suppliers. In this sense, the recent EU Hydrogen Strategy considers imports of 40 GW of green hydrogen from the EU’s eastern and southern neighbours. However, countries like Algeria and Libya are experiencing major social and political instability, which undermines such scenarios and discourages the needed foreign investments. Thus, countries with major governance issues like Algeria, Libya, and Iraq are expected to lag behind on energy and economic diversification. The risk is that these countries will focus political energies on an intensifying fight for a share of the diminishing global oil and gas market, rather than on a strategy to reorient their economy. By contrast, countries with stronger governance are better equipped to transform their economies, bear the negative consequences of the transition in the short term, and navigate the geopolitical evolution.
The availability of large foreign exchange reserves will be crucial for the transformation of MENA producing countries. With such reserves, countries could offset the negative economic effects of lower oil demand and revenues in the short term, while investing in renewable energy projects for the medium and long term. Thus, countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar (with $500, $108 and $38 billion of foreign reserves, respectively) are potentially well equipped to manage the negative effects of lower revenues and foster economic transformation. Additionally, countries with large sovereign wealth funds could use them as an integral part of the diversification effort, for example to finance research and development and renewable-energy projects in MENA countries.
Producers with large foreign exchange reserves, sizable sovereign wealth funds, and small populations to appease are potentially the best placed to navigate the uncharted waters of the global energy transition.
MENA oil and gas producers have also considered developing their high renewable-energy potential, especially solar. This could help them pursue several goals, including economic diversification and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It could also free additional oil and gas volumes, currently used to meet fast-growing domestic energy demand, for sale abroad to produce additional revenue—thus avoiding the negative economic effects of growing energy consumption and positioning themselves as major renewable powers in a low-carbon future.
More recently, MENA oil and gas producers have begun to consider the growing interest in hydrogen as a way to preserve their geopolitical influence and remain pivotal actors in the future energy system. Given the region’s abundant renewable energy and carbon capture and storage potential, MENA countries could be at the forefront in both the green and blue hydrogen markets. In the short and medium term, blue hydrogen could benefit from its cost advantages. In the longer term, the MENA countries could exploit their excellent solar conditions and low-cost renewables in order to produce and export green hydrogen. Three MENA oil producers (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman) have announced major hydrogen plans. For example, in July 2020 an international consortium announced plans for a $5 billion green renewables and hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia, which aims to begin shipping ammonia to global markets by 2025. In September 2020 Saudi Arabia shipped 40 tons of blue ammonia to Japan in a pilot project undertaken by Saudi Aramco and the petrochemical giant Sabic.
The global energy transition will inevitably affect MENA oil- and gas-producing countries, both macroeconomically and geopolitically. However, not all MENA countries will see their geopolitical influence change in the same way. Some countries are better equipped than others to offset the negative effects domestically and internationally. Internationally, MENA oil and gas producers will start to focus more on energy demand differences among world regions. MENA countries with lowest-cost and least-carbon-intensive production are better positioned to preserve their geopolitical influence. Moreover, export portfolio composition and diversification will crucially define whether a country will lead or lag behind in the energy transition. Oil and gas producers are also endowed with an abundant renewable potential, another possible route to future energy leadership.
Nevertheless, competition among producers will remain or even increase, potentially undermining coordinated efforts to stabilize oil prices. Due to the strong link between hydrocarbons and the nature of the state in the MENA region, the domestic sphere will be a key element in the geopolitical shifts. Population size, strong governance, and the financial ability to adapt to change will help some MENA oil and gas producers to preserve their geopolitical role, while managing domestic socio-economic transformation.
Even today and despite all that, oil, coal, and gas provide about a lot of our energy needs but we are gradually aware that:
Using fossil fuels has an enormous toll on humanity and the environment—from air and water pollution to global warming and certainly the COVID-19. That’s not taking the negative impacts of petroleum-based products such as plastics and chemicals.
And all agree that it’s time to move toward a clean energy future. In recent years, the divest movement from fossil fuels has grown to a multi-trillion dollar movement involving more than 350 institutions worldwide. And thanks to stricter policies to address the climate crisis, fossil fuels are gradually becoming yesterday’s energy source. Since 2016, renewable power is slowly replacing fossil fuels usage at all levels.
In the meantime, it looks as if the following is ongoing as per local media.
Around 400 million people could see their livelihoods affected as a result of lower revenues from declining fossil fuel sales
Oil-exporting countries stand to lose nearly $13 trillion in revenue by 2040 as global economies continue to decarbonise their power systems, according to a report by Carbon Tracker.
As countries around the world lower their carbon footprint and energy companies set net-zero emissions targets over the coming decades oil exporting economies will face an existential crisis.
Around 40 oil exporters surveyed by the UK-based think tank will require $9tn to bridge the gap in income shortfalls amid structural changes in energy consumption.
Around 400 million people could see their livelihoods affected as a result of lower revenues from declining fossil fuel sales. The most affected will be oil exporters based in Africa. Nigeria, the continent’s biggest producer, will be the hardest hit as a 70 per cent drop in oil revenues will slash government income by a third. Angola, a southern African country will also stand to lose over 40 per cent of government revenue, endangering the standard of living of nearly 33 million people.
“Government oil revenues will shift dramatically as the market shakes out during the energy transition,” said Andrew Grant, the head of climate, energy and industry and a co-author of the report.
The key to tackling the looming crisis for populations living in oil-exporting nations would be to understand the scale of the challenge.
“Cushioning the landing for hundreds of millions will deliver better outcomes for both climate and human development,” he added.
An orderly drawdown of fossil fuel production would prevent a hard landing for populations living in producer economies, while quick monetisation of resources and oversupply is likely to destroy value for crude, the report said.
Several Middle Eastern exporters such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia have already set in motion efforts to diversify their rentier economies. The UAE derives revenues from tourism and manufacturing and is looking to generate three quarters of its electricity from clean sources by 2050.
Abu Dhabi also has a substantial renewable energy industry, which has recently pivoted towards the production of hydrogen. The country’s leading industrial and financial players, including the national oil company, formed an alliance earlier this year to manufacture hydrogen.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude, is undertaking plans for a multibillion dollar, carbon-neutral city, as it plans to phase out fossil fuels from its utilities and become an exporter for hydrogen.
Mexico, Iran and Russia are vulnerable and could lose up to a fifth of their revenues.
Angola and Azerbaijan could see a hit to 40 per cent of government income from oil. However, Norway and Malaysia, which have diversified economies, are less exposed to energy transition risks and will face losses of up to 5 to 10 per cent of crude income.Published: February 11, 2021 06:34 PM
OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change – On the importance of the order of extraction by Benchekroun, Hassan, Gerard van der Meijden, and Cees Withagen. Published by the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is a long-awaited reflection on what could be the most important topic of the century. The abstract and part of the introduction are republished below, and the whole text could be found in the original referred to document.
We show that OPEC’s market power contributes to climate change by enabling producers of relatively expensive and dirty oil to start producing before OPEC reserves are depleted. We examine the importance of this extraction sequence effect by calibrating and simulating a cartel-fringe model of the global oil market. While welfare net of climate damage under the cartel-fringe equilibrium can be significantly lower than under a first-best outcome, almost the entire welfare loss is due to the sequence effect of OPEC’s market power. In our benchmark calibration, the cost of the sequence effect amounts to 15 trillion US$, which corresponds to 97 percent of the welfare loss. Moreover, we find that an increase in non-OPEC oil reserves decreases global welfare. In a counterfactual world without non-OPEC oil, global welfare would be 13 trillion US$ higher, 10 trillion US$ of which is due to lower climate damages.
What is the impact of imperfect competition in the oil market on climate change? This question is relevant given the sizable carbon footprint of oil and the prominent size of OPEC. Oil is responsible for close to a quarter of anthropogenic carbon emissions (IEA, 2016)1 and, with OPEC producing 40 percent of global oil supply and owning 70 percent of world oil reserves (EIA, 2019b), it is not realistic to assume that OPEC is a price taker in the market of oil.
An old adage says that “the monopolist is the conservationist’s best friend” (e.g., Dasgupta and Heal, 1979, p. 329). Indeed, we know from non-renewable resource economics that market power typically leads to higher initial resource prices and slower resource depletion. However, in the case of oil, the consequences of imperfect competition for the Earth’s climate are more complex because different types of oil reserves with varying carbon contents are exploited. The reason is that imperfect competition does not only affect the speed, but also the order of extraction of different reserves of oil (cf. Benchekroun et al., 2009, 2010, 2019). Conventional OPEC oil is cheaper and its extraction is less carbon intensive than unconventional oil owned by relatively small oil producers (Malins et al., 2014; Fischer and Salant, 2017; OCI, 2019). Technically recoverable reserves and production of unconventional types of oil by non-OPEC countries have grown significantly over the last decade. The supply of oil sands from Canada has more than doubled, and shale oil production in the US has increased more than tenfold since 2007 (CAPP, 2017b; EIA, 2019b). Current recoverable reserves of Canadian oil sands and of US shale oil amount to 165 and 78.2 billion barrels, respectively (CAPP, 2017a; EIA, 2019c). In this paper, we take into account that when OPEC exercises market power it does not only slow down its rate of extraction—which tends to be good for the climate—but it also opens the door for earlier production by the fringe. As a result, OPEC’s relatively cheaper and cleaner oil is extracted later, while the fringe’s costlier and dirtier oil is extracted earlier. This ‘sequence effect’ leads to higher discounted extraction costs and climate damage.
Electrifying has a question: Is the private sector fit tor the energy transition? On October 1, 2020, it is of actuality. The rush towards all renewables although very commendable could nevertheless prove messy. But let us read on :
Following our post on government initiatives of selected countries with regards to renewable energy subsidies, targets and ambitions, we have researched the private sector to obtain a more in-depth look into the big players and their plans for the renewable revolution.
Following media, LinkedIn and press releases of those big fish one might think the move from fossil energy resources to renewable energy will be a walk in the park. But are the measures set, enough to force a clean energy transition and are we on track to complete all the ambitious goals?
Frankly, we have become a bit sceptical during the lockdown when the total amount of energy used has fallen (temporarily, at least) by about 20%, and a mass of posts and articles on all available platforms ringing in the age of renewable energy sources. However, those voices seem to have been silenced recently as the energy hunger is rising again, and renewable energy resources don’t provide enough power to cope with the demand.
A look behind the facades by analyzing the plans and forecast of energy supply enterprises should provide some more detail on how our power will be produced in future.
The table below outlines all the available climate strategies and pledges of the selected corporations by comparing them against the Paris Agreement. The outcome is, frankly, pretty obvious. None of the investigated companies comes anywhere near the 1.5 Celsius target. To reach that target, they should stop new fossil exploration and phase out existing reserves, which clearly isn’t the case.
We have taken BP, which emerges as the best performing company within the selected lot, to analyze its climate strategy.
Scrolling through their homepage offers the impression of a company striving towards net-zero emissions with ambitious climate goals by living up to their new strategy and business model to convert from an oil company to an integrated energy company. However, as of now, most of these measures are time-intensive papers and not reality.
Admittedly, BP is investing vast amounts of capital towards the development of renewable energy assets and has set itself ambitious goals. How come, them, this still isn’t enough?
In our opinion, the answer can also be found on their homepage: ‘Renewables are the fastest-growing energy source, contributing half of the growth in global energy…’ This statement sums up the situation we are in pretty precisely. Renewable energy is not replacing fossil energy but covering about 50% of the rising demand.
Does this mean that if even one of the most ambitious energy companies isn’t able to budget and forecast with targets according to the Paris Agreement, we won’t get rid of dirty fuels in the foreseeable future?
Bernard Looney, CEO of BP, states that: ‘By following this strategy, we expect bp to be a very different energy company by 2030.’
This statement is not satisfying as indeed renewables have proven to be competitive already. What’s more, as an energy company, this form of energy supply is hard to ignore in going forward. On the other hand, it may be a statement not promising too much of a change rather than telling everyone what they want to hear and failing that hussar ride.
Anyway, we acknowledge BP to be an innovator and thought leader among all oil companies and would appreciate the same ambition of their competitors as well.
However, having researched the companies shaping our energy future, we start to think that another massive push is needed towards reaching the Paris Agreement and maximum warming of 1.5 degrees.
The push might come from major renewable energy companies like Siemens, Vestas, GE Energy, NextEra Energy, Inc., Suzlon, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Avangrid Renewables, EDF Energy, NEXT Energy Capital, European Energy, Obton, Orstedt, Luxcara, and Green Investment Group, all leading the way forward.
We would love to see such companies teaming up with oil companies for know-how sharing and collaboration towards a more sustainable future.
To close this blog, we would like to cite another statement of Bernard Looney which is meant to describe BP’s situation but also outlines the global circumstances within these odd times very well:
We are operating in an environment of greater uncertainty than at any time most will recall. But we are in action. Not just to weather the storm. But to emerge transformed and stronger for the opportunities ahead in the energy transition and our net-zero ambition.
Fossil fuel demand to take historic knock amid COVID-19 scars per British Petroleum (BP) by Reuters is yet another confirmation of the on-goig energy world trends.
By Ron Bousso
LONDON, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Fossil fuel consumption is set to shrink for the first time in modern history as climate policies boost renewable energy while the coronavirus epidemic leaves a lasting effect on global energy demand, BP said in a forecast.
BP’s 2020 benchmark Energy Outlook underpins Chief Executive Bernard Looney’s new strategy to “reinvent” the 111-year old oil and gas company by shifting renewables and power.
London-based BP expects global economic activity to only partially recover from the epidemic over the next few years as travel restrictions ease. But some “scarring effects” such as work from home will lead to slower growth in energy consumption.
BP this year extended its outlook into 2050 to align it with the company’s strategy to slash the carbon emissions from its operations to net zero by the middle of the century.
It includes three scenarios that assume different levels of government policies aimed at meeting the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Under its central scenario, BP forecasts COVID-19 will knock around 3 million barrels per day (bpd) off by 2025 and 2 million bpd by 2050.
In its two aggressive scenarios, COVID-19 accelerates the slow down in oil consumption, leading to it peaking last year. In the third scenario, oil demand peaks at around 2030.
In the longer term, demand for coal, oil and natural gas is set to slow dramatically.
While the share of fuels has shrunk in the past as a percentage of the total energy pie, their consumption has never contracted in absolute terms, BP chief economist Spencer Dale told reporters.
“(The energy transition) would be an unprecedented event,” Dale said. “Never in modern history has the demand for any traded fuel declined in absolute terms.”
At the same time, “the share of renewable energy grows more quickly than any fuel ever seen in history.”
Under BP’s central Rapid scenario, non-fossil fuels account for the majority of global energy sources from the early 2040s onward, with the share of hydrocarbons falling by more than half over the next 30 years.
Even with energy demand set to expand on the back of growing population and emerging economies, the sources of energy will shift dramatically to renewable sources such as wind and solar, Dale said.
The share of fossil fuels is set to decline from 85% of total primary energy demand in 2018 to between 20% and 65% by 2050 in the three scenarios.
At the same time, the share of renewables is set to grow from 5% in 2018 to up to 60% by 2050.
In its forecast, BP said the growth in global economic activity slows “considerably” over the next 30 years from its past 20-year average, due in part to lasting effects of the epidemic as well as the worsening impact of climate change on economic activity, particularly in Africa and Latin America.
BP starts on Monday a three-day investor event where it will detail its energy transition strategy.
(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by David Evans and Jason Neely)
Oil demand may have peaked last year – BP
Renewable energy set to soar to up to 60% of primary energy
BP’s 2020 Energy Outlook underpins CEO transition strategy
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