World Petroleum Congress: Oil, gas industry “more comfortable than ever” with energy transition

Mitchell Ferman, Devika Krishna Kumar and Robert Tuttle, Bloomberg September 21, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Oil ministers and fossil-fuel company executives descended on Canada’s energy capital this week for the World Petroleum Congress. And even as oil prices threatened to break the $100-per-barrel mark, it was the global transition to cleaner energy that was the focus of proceedings. Here are some of the main takeaways from the event in Calgary.

Saudi show of strength. After missing the previous congress in Houston in 2021 as Covid scrambled countless travel plans, the Saudis were back this year, and in a big way. Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was the star of the opening session on Monday. He said OPEC is targeting market stability and not higher prices, and sounded a note of caution on Chinese demand. Crude futures duly slipped back on his comments, but that only underlined the strength of Saudi influence on the oil market right now. Saudi Aramco boss Amin Nasser followed with a withering assessment of the idea of peak oil consumption.

The country’s sizable delegation was unmissable in the exhibition halls. Monday ended with a lavish roundtable dinner hosted by the Saudis and with guests including Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, investors, analysts, and officials from bp Plc and other companies.

Oil isn’t going anywhere. Producers are planning on sticking around for a lot longer than their opponents would like. Energy executives pointed to the relentless rise in global energy demand, especially in less developed countries, and the challenges in relying entirely on renewables.

That’s not to say emissions were ignored, as much of the event was taken up with discussion of carbon capture and storage. Smith, the Alberta premier, appeared to sum up the mood. “We are transitioning away from emissions,” she said. “We are not transitioning away from oil and natural gas.”

Carbon capture is happening. From Exxon Mobil Corp. and Norway’s Equinor ASA to China’s Sinopec, there was apparent unanimity in Calgary that carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is central to the industry’s future.

CCS’s elevation can be explained in large part because it promises to allow production of oil and gas at or close to current levels, along with significant cuts to carbon emissions. Then there’s the 45Q tax credit and the subsequent incentives in Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. The credits “kind of pumped the tires on it, so we’ve got a lot of really good momentum now, almost to the point where we are victims of our own success,” said Corwyn Bruce, Project Director of Edmonton CCUS, which is working on a project for an Alberta cement factory. “There’s too much work to do.”

Transition talk isn’t scary. If this week’s event was anything to go by, the oil and gas industry is more comfortable than ever with the concept of the energy transition.

The comfort level is also tied to the potential of CCS, which offers the prospect of the industry being able to meet emissions targets more on its own terms. And there was a clear sense that the industry feels the dialog on the transition is no longer being dominated by its opponents. The debate is more “balanced” and “mature,” in the words of Mike Sommers, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil industry in Washington.

Connect with World Oil
Connect with World Oil, the upstream industry's most trusted source of forecast data, industry trends, and insights into operational and technological advances.