Energy Security And Sustainability A Global Juggling Act

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Energy companies across the globe are being challenged to juggle energy security and sustainability as they diversify into newer lower carbon sources, senior executives said Tuesday.

However, in the energy trilemma of sustainability, affordability and accessibility (security) the energy policy hierarchy will vary by region, Adif Zulkifli, EVP and CEO-Upstream for PETRONAS, said in a panel on energy security at the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary.

“The more developed country, you could afford a bit more on sustainability, and then you could put a bit more security but the less developed … affordability will always come first,” he said.

He noted that when LNG prices spiked following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, other countries also were affected. Europeans could afford the higher prices but he pointed to Pakistan as an example of a country that had to revert to coal, a cheaper alternative. “That completely regressed the entire energy transition,” said Zulkifli.

PETRONAS, though, continues to invest in all forms of energy, whether traditional energy sources, or new clean energy sources, he said. “And it's highly important. The more choices we have, the more stable the supplies of energy.”

In Canada and Alberta, while the oilsands ensures security of supply, the challenge is the need to drive down emissions in response to concerns about climate change, said Alex Pourbaix, executive chair of Cenovus Energy Inc. The company, he said, is focusing on technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration that in the short term will enable it to accelerate the decarbonization of its oil and gas production.

Pourbaix said he personally believes small modular reactors (SMRs) are another future option as they not only could provide emissions free, reliable power but also provide the heat needed to mobilize the oil. “If we can solve the issues around permitting and societal acceptance, I think that that's an incredible opportunity.

In Europe, while the focus had been on efficiency with linear supply chains, with the energy crisis, there was a demand for redundancy as customers didn’t know what was going to happen, said Jorge Lanza, CEO of Exolum, which operates the largest pipeline and storage network in Europe. His company has spent the last couple of years building new interconnections and once again moving products by ship.

In the longer run, it’s working on developing infrastructure for the new energy sectors such as biofuels, ammonia, and hydrogen. “We need to keep investing in the in the old in making it more reliable, as well as we start diversifying, and building the infrastructures of the future,” said Lanza.

Hungary’s FGSZ natural gas pipeline company has built six interconnectors for neighbouring countries from its own resources in response to customer concerns about energy security, said CEO Szabolcs Ferencz. The company also has built a huge gas storage project, financed by all the non-household consumers, to provide gas security.

“However, there is still a lot of need to invest in traditional gas infrastructure and traditional gas businesses to make sure that energy security is there for central eastern European countries before getting over for renewable and more sustainable investments,” he said.

There also will be a need to build on the existing infrastructure and that will require bankable projects with 20-30 year prospects, said Ferencz. “And in order to have 20-30 year prospects, we should stop this talk of how to turn away completely from fossil fuels because then no project is bankable,” he warned.

As the world has grappled with how to supply secure energy to meet the world's needs, divergent views have arisen, said John Whelan, SVP, conventional and heavy oil for Exxon Mobil Corporation.

“Some is more of a view of a sole focus on energy transition, and potentially, without understanding the full consequences on energy security, affordability and reliability of energy to meet the world's needs,” he said. “I think the conversation we want to have is a balanced conversation around that. I think the reality is, you have got to look at both of them together, energy security and energy transition.”

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