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Wed 28 Jan 2009 03:07 PM

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Turning up the gas

Qatar’s global green revolution.

Much attention has been lavished of late on the detrimental impact the sharp decline in the oil price has had on the market, forcing the issue of natural gas to the back of industry minds.

Natural gas is widely expected to be the fastest-growing major fuel source in the years ahead, outstripping every other alternative and conventional energy supply (combined) by absolutely miles.

ExxonMobil’s 2030 energy outlook estimates consumption of natural gas is expected to rise by at least 50%, overtaking coal as the second biggest global fuel source, and much of that gas will be delivered from the Middle East.

The green credentials of hydrocarbons will always come under scrutiny, or be entirely dismissed by environmental interest groups. However, much of projected future energy needs are going to come from power stations which alternative fuels are as-yet unable to match for output. As the 1.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to reliable electricity supplies are connected to grids and plug in, Africa and Asia-Pacific will see a huge leap in demand for electricity, and with it, fuel.

By switching from coal to gas, not only will these plants become more efficient, but the noxious emissions produced will be slashed compared to heavy oil and coal burning generators.

The incremental rise across Europe and North America will be dwarfed by requirements from Asia-Pacific. The “View to 2030” Exxon report estimates that this market’s demand will soar by 150% by 2030, much of that being met by LNG imports.

All of this should focus attention on the huge contribution that Gulf gas producers will make to meeting this energy, and atmospheric challenge.

Qatargas announced this month that it has produced a total of 10.09 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2008, setting a new record for annual LNG production since the company began producing LNG in late 1996.

Massive expansion projects that are currently underway in Qatargas will eventually see total LNG reach 42 million tonnes per annum.

Recently, HE the Minister of State for Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada said Qatar’s LNG output would hit a record 62 million tonnes in 2009. Two more super LNG trains of the same capacity are to be brought online in 2011, when Qatar will clock 77 million tonnes per year LNG production capacity, a goal set by the country a few years ago, and one it looks firmly on track to achieve.

All this means that whilst green campaigners fume their own noxious gases, Qatar, and other Gulf LNG exporters will likely be quietly doing their bit, slashing carbon monoxide and particulate emissions across the entire globe.

Biofuels, wind and solar energy will make an important contribution, but one has to wonder how long we’ll have wait to see LNG’s green awards come rolling in?

Daniel Canty is the editor of Oil & Gas Middle East.

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