The COVID-19 outbreak has not dampened the worldwide push for greener energy, despite some predictions to the contrary. Consumer demand, government action and other market forces continue to shift the energy industry away from fossil fuels toward renewable and decarbonized alternatives.
Never has the opportunity been greater for oil and gas companies to take on a larger role to lead our society in this transition. According to a survey by KPMG and Eversheds Sutherland, 93% of oil and gas respondents said that decarbonization is a key to succeeding in a net-zero global economy. At the same time, 97% agree that their ability to manage climate-related risk is important for keeping their jobs over the next five years.
Investors are also stressing the importance of decarbonization. In the current environment, diversification into activities that enhance ESG ratings and perceived market value are being embraced by investors.
KPMG has identified five areas where oil and gas companies can lead in green innovation. We strongly believe that the oil and gas industry has natural advantages that can help companies to take a leading role.
Renewables: solar- and wind based- power generation
According to a recent report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, power generation from renewable energy is expected to bring more generating capacity online than natural gas over the next three years. Barriers to the uptake of renewables are beginning to dissipate, and renewables such as solar and offshore wind are gaining traction. Oil and gas companies and the constellation of companies that support them are keenly aware of how to build and operate complex projects in both onshore and offshore environments while dealing with a variety of conditions and regulatory regimes. Wind energy, for example, provides an excellent opportunity to develop new energy service markets and even activate idled onshore and offshore infrastructures, equipment and personnel.
Hydrogen is an increasingly attractive alternative energy source and the economics are becoming more advantageous. As interest and investment in hydrogen grows, the oil and gas industry can support and even drive development. Oil and gas companies have decades of experience with petrochemicals—many carry the in-house expertise to support the development of hydrogen-related innovations and know-how to build energy production facilities at scale. This practical experience enhances the industry’s credibility with both capital markets and regulators to create an advantageous position against outside competitors.
Additionally, the oil and gas industry can leverage the existing pipeline infrastructure network for transportation that can accelerate the adoption of hydrogen across a wide range of industrial and commercial domains.
Biofuels are economically attractive to produce and are increasingly viewed as an environmentally responsible alternative to traditional fossil fuels by both customers and government agencies. Low-carbon fuel markets are developing rapidly across many geographies where oil and gas companies operate. Unlike established oil and gas companies, some low-carbon fuel producers may not be the most robust or experienced liquid fuel players in the petroleum and petrochemical sector. Oil and gas companies could open or transition existing facilities for low-carbon fuel manufacturing in or adjacent to jurisdictions with applicable markets and potentially operate more efficiently and effectively than these less-experienced producers.
Commercial transportation: first phase of broader transition to electric vehicles (EV)
Beyond renewable energy, transportation represents the most significant opportunity to drive large-scale acceptance of low-carbon energy. In the U.S., the electrification of the trucking industry will have a far greater impact on the oil and gas industry than consumer EV growth. COVID-19 has reshaped consumer buying behavior for the near future, if not forever. Customers who increased their online purchases during shutdowns are likely to continue to do so. This activity will multiply the number of deliveries. Electric commercial trucking is one-way companies can improve efficiencies and meet carbon emissions targets. While the utility industry has made greater inroads in establishing charging stations, oil and gas companies with a downstream footprint to leverage on the highways can consider building charging stations at warehouses and manufacturing facilities.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS)
Removing carbon from industrial sources and the atmosphere is a critical component of the transition to a “net-zero energy system.” The next generation of CCUS has quietly emerged and creates an opportunity for the industry. Oil and gas companies have a great deal of experience developing large, highly complex industrial facilities. These companies would be knowledgeable and experienced partners to large, nontechnical emitters such as airlines and commercial real estate owners looking to build and operate CCUS equipment, including direct air capture solutions.
Next steps for the industry
With the right strategies in place, oil and gas company leaders can capitalize on this unique moment in the industry’s history. The journey starts with the following:
Match opportunities with strengths: Explore various options to lead in green innovation and determine which of the ideas align best with the organization’s assets and experience. For example, many supermajors have the cash reserves and assets to ride out current challenges, as well as the ability to scale electricity and related energy services. At the same time, many mid-tier and smaller companies are nimble enough to readily develop and integrate innovative solutions, carving out niche markets where larger players may be unwilling or unable to compete economically.
Establish financial resilience: Go beyond taking short-term actions, such as restructuring debt and preserving liquidity. Ensure the organization is as efficient as possible, is properly managing financial risk, and has the resources and access to low-cost capital to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Leverage natural advantages: Tap into the vast pool of knowledge, skills, and industry expertise gained over more than 150 years. With a celebrated history of innovation and years investing in and navigating complex physical and geopolitical environments, oil and gas can play a key role in expanding global electricity to approximately 800 million people worldwide, while still meeting net-zero goals.
By embracing emerging opportunities that allow them to meet demands for cleaner electricity and energy solutions from consumers, businesses, and the industrial sector, oil and gas companies can remain competitive and play a leading role in the worldwide energy industry.
This article represents the views of the author(s) only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG LLP.
About the Author:
Angie Gildea is the national sector leader for energy, natural resources and chemicals at KPMG. She has more than 15 years of experience serving global energy companies with a track record of enhancing operational productivity through organizational change, business transformation and solution integration. She focuses on understanding client needs, helping them shape solutions, and bringing expertise to solve critical business issues.
Gildea is highly regarded as one of the company’s leading experts in the upstream sector of the industry, and she currently serves as the account lead with one of the largest global energy companies. She has also served as the talent strategy lead responsible for defining the strategy, hiring, and reskilling of Accenture's North America energy practice. In addition, Angie also served on Accenture’s strategic pursuits team responsible for identifying and structuring complex application outsourcing solutions for oil and gas clients.
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