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What a time 2020 and the first half of 2021 has been for all of us. The coronavirus pandemic forced countries to impose unprecedented level of restrictions on the background of the global economy issues accumulated over the past 20 years. These include debt, unemployment, widening social inequality and several others. While many of these challenges existed before COVID-19, the pandemic further complicated the road to empower humanity through energy, in light of the UN Sustainable Development Goal #7 of “Affordable and Clean Energy for All."

As a forum of 18 member nations across four continents, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) is familiar with the challenges these conditions have inflicted on communities, especially in the context of its fight against energy poverty. In Africa, for example, a continent that enjoys special focus at the GECF, there are 789 million people that do not have access to clean cooking fuel and more than 535 million have no access to electrification. These facts require urgent attention of the world on humanizing energy.  

This point was echoed recently by GECF’s Gas Lecture Series guest speaker, HE Angela Wilkinson, secretary general and CEO of the World Energy Council, who noted in her powerful comments that energy transition will need renewables and traditional energy sources to be "friends."

Specifically, the experienced energy executive said, “There is an increasing proliferation of roadmaps, full of promises about accelerating technology and tipping points and yet empty of details on people, uses and behaviors. The COVID-19 crisis reminds us that the future of energy is a much bigger story than technology. The gaps between energy 'haves' and 'have nots' have grown wider in this crisis, and this pattern is evident in all regions and countries.”

5th GECF Summit 2019
The 5th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the GECF Member Countries took place in November 2019. (Source: GECF)

Practically speaking, fossil fuels are still necessary, and the relevant rising demand speaks for this. According to the latest available figures from GECF's GECF Global Gas Outlook 2050 publication, fossil fuels are projected to remain dominant, accounting for 71% in 2050 while natural gas will become the leading source of energy in the world’s primary energy mix, growing from 23% today to 28%.

The global energy transition is no doubt underway. GECF's member countries, many of which continued to fulfill their contractual obligations even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, are at the forefront of this change. At the moment, GECF members are reorienting their business to hasten this transition.

GECF’s member state, Norway, recently opened new areas for oil exploration, and state-run firm Equinor made a new offshore oil discovery. At the same time, Norway is intensifying its efforts to increase the size of its renewables. Russian Rosneft’s new US$90 billion Vostok Oil project is expected to yield 100 MMtons/year of oil by 2030. One of the major advantages of this project is that fossil fuel is unusually low in sulphur content, meaning that the project’s carbon footprint could be as much as 75 lower than other comparable projects.

In addition, Trinidad and Tobago is working to become one of the leaders in hydrogen production. Qatar, the world’s largest LNG exporter, joined the Net-Zero Producers Forum when it was announced by President Joe Biden. Suffice to say that a green future can indeed be realized based on green barrels and, more importantly, natural gas is the most suited to be a net-positive on the road to net zero.

This is something that is often overlooked: technology is and can make fossil fuels greener. For example, the existing gas infrastructure in combination with renewable-based hydrogen, and, in a transitional period, natural gas combined with carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies for producing blue hydrogen, could play a key role in hydrogen incremental production and distribution by 2050.

The recently established GECF Gas Research Institute in Algeria is dedicated to discovering technology and innovation to make natural gas more efficient. 

One can see that GECF fully embraces the idea of energy transition. Its latest forecasts show that natural gas, together with renewables, will make up 60% of the world’s electricity supply by 2050. 

GECF believes in accepting change and change that is meaningful and beneficial to the most number of people on this planet. Without a fair energy transition, the world risks leaving many communities behind and that is unacceptable.