The 25th World Gas Conference (WGC), the triennial event of the International Gas Union, opened on June 4 for a five-day run in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This marks only the second time the event has been held in Asia and the first time in Southeast Asia. More than 4,000 delegates – a record – from 86 countries are in attendance. The Plenary Hall was overflowing for the opening remarks by the prime minister of Malaysia. The interest in the WGC shows the importance of natural gas globally. The conference was kicked off with the launching of Malaysia’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak. This is probably the first conference where the ceremony was televised at the convention center simultaneously with the control room at the import terminal. The prime minister focused his speech on two basic areas – energy growth and climate change. “In 2010, the global level of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions soared by a massive nine million metric tons. Today, it stands at its highest level ever – higher even than when the Kyoto Protocol was launched. “This is dispiriting news that underscores the shared responsibility we face. But, equally troubling is that global fossil-fuel carbon intensity has begun to fall more slowly. Clearly, then, the status quo puts us on an emissions path that will seriously undermine our ability to combat climate change,” he said. Najib sees natural gas as clean and abundant, and an integral part of the drive towards sustainable development and growth. One suggestion he made was to take a more aggressive effort to substitute natural gas for coal “It has been estimated that 3,000 gigawatts of new power generating capacity will be required over the next 20 years to support the nearly 1-1/2-fold increase in non-OECD electricity demand. On current projections, nearly one-third of this will be coal-fired,” he said. Using natural gas instead of coal would be the most immediate and pragmatic route to mitigating emissions growth. Secondly, the resource and infrastructure development pegged to the power industry’s gas demand would serve as the foundation for growing a downstream gas market, he explained. “I noted the enormous challenges we face in driving sustainable global growth in the face of the mounting stresses and strains we place on our environment today. I believe gas can and must play a more prominent role in fueling sustainable global growth and in driving human progress in the decades to come. I remain confident that it will do so,” Najib said. The challenge of balancing growth with environmental concerns faces the oil and gas industry on a daily basis. How the industry responds to the challenge will have a major impact on the future response to meeting energy demands from consumers. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is tackling the environmental issue from a slightly different perspective. The company was awarded a contract to perform the front-end engineering and design services for the gasification and power island of the Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) project. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, the HECA project is an integrated-gasification, combined-cycle (IGCC) power generation plant with a fertilizer production plant utilizing syngas as feedstock. After all permits are received and all funding is in place the project could be one of the world's first commercial-scale IGCC power plants with 90% or greater carbon-capture and storage capability. The recovered CO2 will be used in fertilizer production and for enhanced oil recovery. Research and development remains the key to meeting the environmental challenges in energy development. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at