Nasser calls for collaborative effort to address long-term future of oil and gas industry

Saudi Aramco president and CEO Amin Nasser emphasized the long-term viability of oil and gas as a vital global energy source — even during what many perceive to be a period of transition — in his keynote address at the Oil & Money conference in London last week.

The theme for this year's conference was 'Strategies for the Energy Transition,' and examined milestones achieved in 2019, but also reflected on the crossroads at which the energy industry finds itself today – particularly in its response to the challenge of climate change.

A key example of the world's need for hydrocarbons for energy today Nasser said, was the market's response to the recent attacks on Aramco assets in Abqaiq and Khurais, and the company's resilience and preparedness to respond quickly and safely, and to repair ahead of schedule.

"The sharp market reaction following the attacks on our facilities reflected understandable supply concerns," Nasser said. "The impact was designed to affect many industries, companies, the global economy, and more importantly consumers across the world. But Aramco's rapid response, and the confidence our stakeholders have in our ability to quickly restore production helped to calm the global market.

Amin Nasser, President and CEO Saudi Aramco

He also called for more radical thinking in finding an impactful and lasting solution, by criticizing the current focus on just two fixes – replacing hydrocarbons with renewables in the power sector, and on electrifying light duty road passenger transport, which address only one-third and just eight percent of total GHG emissions respectively.

Instead, Nasser offered a four-pronged collaborative strategy to improve and accelerate carbon reduction.

"First, we must go beyond electric power generation and light duty passenger transport, broadening our focus and paying attention to all the other economic sectors that jointly account for about two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. "Second, most clean R&D and technology funding by governments is currently focused on emerging energy sources, and this must be extended to the existing energy sources that will be with us for a long time to come." Third, he argued that we should concentrate on moving toward a Circular Economy – an economic system focused on the elimination of waste and the sustainable use of resources, which Amin characterized as the three Rs of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling. 

And fourth, he posited that we must look for GHG reductions across specific economic sectors offered by the circular economy, which would be lost if we work on various sectors in isolation, or focus only on a selected few.

Nasser discussed how Aramco is working both individually and with others in addressing its own GHG emissions. He expressed pride in the fact that today the carbon intensity of Aramco's upstream operations is among the lowest in the industry: 10 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per barrel of oil produced. Also, based on third-party verification, last year Aramco's intensity of methane gas was just 0.06 percent, also one of the lowest levels in the industry.

He also pointed out a company initiative to plant more than three million trees across the Kingdom to absorb carbon and enhance biodiversity, while also prioritizing water conservation as well as its treatment and reuse.

Nasser also pointed to areas of R&D ranging from the higher-mileage and lower-carbon integrated engine-fuel systems of the future; carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS); beneficial uses of carbon; and clean hydrogen from oil as a key energy source to fuel a potential future hydrogen economy.

"Our industry is fully committed to further lightening the GHG footprint of oil and gas," he added. "We are backing our words with concrete action. By the same token, I urge governments around the world to work closely with us to develop pragmatic policy solutions to deliver ample, reliable, safe, affordable and at the same time, sustainable energy to the world.

Amin Nasser , President and CEO Saudi Aramco

Now in its 40th year and hosted by Energy Intelligence, the annual Oil & Money conference is one of the world's pre-eminent forums for the energy sector bringing together senior executives, policy makers and industry experts.