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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Investors Start To Realize The Energy Transition Will Take Decades

  • Everyone in the oil and gas industry is now talking about decarbonization and net-zero emissions.
  • Energy security and affordability have made their way to the top of the agenda.
  • There is a broader understanding among the public and governments that until a clean energy system is ready, oil and gas will continue to play a prominent role in global energy
Wall St

The issue of how to reconcile the energy transition with energy security is taking center stage at one of the world's biggest annual energy conferences this week. At the CERAWeek in Houston, the top oil and gas executives share the industry's view of the current state of the global energy system—the world needs oil and gas and will need fossil fuels for decades to come.  

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine scared the world into what a lack of oil and gas could bring about to economies and society, it seems that many investors and industry observers have come to acknowledge that the energy transition cannot replace fossil fuels overnight. Oil and gas will be necessary to advance the transition – by helping the manufacturing of wind turbines or solar panels for example, or by generating for major energy companies cash needed for increased investments in low-carbon technologies and solutions.   

"Energy Trilemma"

Unlike a few years ago, everyone in the oil and gas industry is now talking about decarbonization and net-zero emissions. But unlike in 2021, ESG considerations are not top of the agenda—2022, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the price spikes in gasoline and power prices, upended the debate. The energy transition narrative, from the industry's point of view, became part of the 'energy trilemma' as BP's chief executive Bernard Looney has put it—delivering secure and affordable energy when and where it's needed while raising investments in renewables and other low-carbon energy solutions. 

According to analysts, there is a broader understanding among the public and governments that until a clean energy system is ready, oil and gas will continue to play a prominent role in global energy supply and, like it or not, we are stuck with fossil fuels for our current energy needs. Right now, fossil fuels account for just over 80% of global energy supply.  Related: Barclays Slashes Brent Oil Price Forecast To $92

"There's a much broader push for decarbonization globally, and there's also a much broader realization that we are 'stuck' with hydrocarbons until we can achieve that decarbonization," Dan Pickering, founder and chief investment officer at Houston-based Pickering Energy Partners, told The Wall Street Journal.

"A bunch more people are saying it's going to take time," Pickering added. 

Supermajors Warn Of Price Spikes In A Disorderly Transition

Saudi Arabia, the world's top crude oil exporter, has been warning for years that the rush to ditch fossil fuels and the reluctance to invest in new supply would create shortages in oil and gas while the world still needs them. 

Now the top executives of the biggest international oil and gas firms are joining Saudi state oil giant Aramco in calling for an "orderly" transition in which people should get secure and affordable energy supply they currently need and they currently get from fossil fuels. 

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investment, if outright biased against the oil and gas industry, is a threat to energy affordability and energy security, Amin Nasser, the chief executive of the world's largest oil firm, Saudi Aramco, said last month.  

"If ESG-driven policies are implemented with an automatic bias against any and all conventional energy projects, the resulting underinvestment will have serious implications. For the global economy. For energy affordability. And for energy security," Nasser said at the Saudi Capital Markets Forum 2023. 

Just a week before Nasser's speech, UK-based supermajor BP said it would be producing more oil and gas for longer and increase investment into oil and gas projects by an average of up to $1 billion a year, or up to a cumulative $8 billion by 2030. BP's latest strategy update to produce more oil and gas in the short term was welcomed by the market, in a sign that investors appreciate the shorter-term gains for shareholder value more than the ESG trend. 

"We need to invest in today's energy system – which is predominantly an oil and gas system," Looney said at International Energy Week in London last week. 

"As the events of last year demonstrated, the sudden loss of even a small part of the world's oil and gas can have severe economic and social costs," Looney noted. 

"And to be clear – we should be clear – orderly is not another word for slow. What it does mean is keeping affordable energy flowing where and when it's needed. Investing in the transition AND investing in energy security," BP's top executive added. 

"Both things – at the same time. AND not OR." 

This week in Houston, Chevron's CEO Mike Wirth said that "one of the greatest challenges of all time" was to keep secure and affordable supplies flowing while managing the energy transition. 

"We have to be very careful about turning system A off prematurely and depending on a system that doesn't yet exist and hasn't been proven." 

If it's disorderly, such transition could become "painful and chaotic," Chevron's chief executive said.


Shell's plan to have its oil production decline by up to 2% each year this decade is currently under review, the supermajor's new CEO Wael Sawan said last week, adding that he is a firm believer of the statement "don't deny people energy."

"I am of a firm view that the world will need oil and gas for a long time to come. As such, cutting oil and gas production is not healthy," Shell's boss, who took over from Ben van Beurden on January 1, told The Times in an interview published on Friday.   

Olivier Le Peuch, the chief executive of the world's largest oilfield services provider, SLB, also said that the world would need hydrocarbons for decades and the energy transition would last for decades.

Echoing the comments of BP's Looney, Le Peuch told CNBC on Monday that it's not an issue of "or" – but of an "and" – when it comes to energy investment in hydrocarbons and low-carbon sources.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 09 2023 said:
    Not only will it take decades for the global energy transition to impact the global energy scene, the notions of total and imminent energy transition along with zero-emissions are illusions. Even a partial transition can’t succeed without huge contributions from natural gas and to some extent nuclear energy and coal.

    Oil and gas will continue to drive the global economy throughout the 21st century and probably far beyond. The relation between fossil fuels and the global economy is inseparable. Destroying one automatically destroys the other and vice versa.

    These are facts which the militant environmental lobby and Western green policies abetted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) deliberately ignore. They ignore the fact that the world is in an energy diversification era: one where renewables have to compete for a market share with fossil fuels, nuclear energy, hydro and geothermal energy. The higher their share in the global electricity generation the less natural gas, coal and nuclear energy used.

    The have also to accept that renewables on their own are incapable of operating any kind of economy. The reason is their intermittent nature. And while batteries can be used to mitigate this intermittency, today’s technology won’t allow us to save solar electricity generated in summer for use in winter. They need a parallel system to mitigate their intermittency and the most practical backup system seems to be natural gas.

    The most serious threat facing the global economy now is underinvestment in oil and gas exploration and capacity expansion. This could prolong the current global energy crisis and transform it in time into a permanent one possibly leading to a collapse of the global economy and even conflicts among major powers seeking to bolster their energy security at the expense of others.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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