Energy transition needs fair and realistic solutions; natural gas is destination fuel, says Qatar’s energy minister

So far, global net-zero ambitions have not been supported with an actual plan beyond setting expectations by a certain date and the world cannot solve its environmental and climate change problem without being realistic about the solution, according to Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, the President and CEO of QatarEnergy.

Al-Kaabi’s remarks were made during an opening panel discussion of the Global Energy Forum, which was held on 14 and 15 January in Abu Dhabi.

The Qatari minister highlighted some of the challenges for stable energy markets and prices, such as geopolitical tensions and turmoil, lack of investments in new energy sources and meeting the financial requirements for investments that will help achieve environmental ambitions.

He also said it is very unfair for some in the West to say African countries should be green and should not invest in oil and gas since it is important for their economies, national growth and prosperity as well as for the oil-based solutions and everyday products they need which renewables cannot produce or manufacture.

Furthermore, the minister stressed that natural gas is not a transition fuel but rather a destination fuel, calling for immediate and effective action against burning coal, which is the most serious pollutant.

“30% of the world’s electricity is generated by burning coal, which is being used at record levels today by the same countries which have called to stop coal burning. Still, we hear the calls demonizing oil and gas but not coal – the biggest polluter on the planet.”

Speaking on the future of oil and gas and the impact of the fluctuating market, Al-Kaabi said: “Prices are a factor of supply and demand. Last year, we have seen spikes in energy prices that began well ahead of the Ukraine crisis. This was clearly due to a lack of supply driven by a lack of investments, which shied away as a result of a bigger push for green that did not have a realistic plan for an effective transition.

“As for 2023, it started with lower prices helped by warmer weather in Europe, but the challenge is when the time comes to replenish their storage capacities. There won’t be any new gas volumes coming into the markets for another 2-4 years, which can be a cause for future volatility.”

He also gave an overview of Qatar’s efforts to help meet global demand saying: “Today, we are producing 77 million tons per annum of LNG to which we will add another 65 million in new gas production projects. Our efforts continue to bring more gas to the market to help humanity with its energy needs especially when we know that there are one billion people who are deprived of the basic electricity we all enjoy today.”

Europe will return to Russian gas

When it comes to the impact of the crisis in Ukraine on the global gas market, Al-Kaabi voiced his opinion that European countries will eventually resume increasing their imports of Russian gas.

Ever since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Russian gas exports decreased, causing the European countries to turn to Qatar and the US to secure their supplies. However, the minister believes that a reversal of this trend is likely to happen.

Minister Al-Kaabi concluded his remarks by urging governments and legislators to promote additional gas investments in order to encourage and promote the development of future supplies.