Arabian Gulf countries must continue to work towards achieving energy security while creating jobs for their young populations, says
Energy efficiency and resource management must be priorities for governments and oil companies
Globally, the move towards low carbon economies and non-carbon emitting sources has transformed social and political discourse. Across the value chain, national and international policy developments and commitments are transforming how we think about natural resources and our personal consumption.
In the UAE, millions sit comfortably in their cars and wait until their tanks are full of gas while coffee is served – service par excellence! Yet, behind the scenes, processing and distribution is a rapidly-evolving industry that is increasingly complex, regulated and demanding. These demands come at the same time as an ever-greater need to ensure energy security for the country in the long term.
In the United States, policy-makers moved quickly after the discovery of huge shale deposits, licensing the commercial production of shale gas. It is the only country in the world currently doing so. Technological breakthroughs enabled US upstream companies to make incredible advances in exploration and production. The shale revolution in North America now means the country will be self-sufficient for 100 years, according to the US Department of Energy. Gas also emits only half of the CO2 of coal. In the oil-rich Arabian Gulf, the economic landscape is entirely different, yet the challenges remain similar.
Achieving energy security whilst retaining robust economic growth and creating jobs for an increasingly young population is a challenge for most Gulf nations. Yet it is the importance of achieving these goals, whilst also striving for a more diverse non-oil economy, that has focused the minds of UAE policy-makers and turned the country into one of the most advanced clean energy investors in the world. National Oil Companies (NOCs) have invested in innovative technologies in the refining, processing and distribution of energy products that fuel fast-paced cities in the UAE. Whilst the forecourt experiences that millions of people enjoy when they drive in to refuel their vehicles remains exemplary, NOCs are also evolving how they operate behind the scenes.
‘Demand side management’ must be at the heart of NOCs to drive towards the sustainable, clean use of the country’s energy resources. Part of this strategy should be to push the agenda on energy efficiency and resource management through which companies will be able to develop ways to reduce energy demand and reduce carbon footprint.
Other energy efficiency initiatives could include the use of additives for unleaded gasoline that allows for cleaner combustion and lower emissions. A case in point is where Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) processes additives at its wholly-owned MTBE processing plant which delivers a highly cost-effective and uninterrupted supply of feedstocks for the company’s Jebel Ali refinery, the first to be established in Dubai in 1999. The refinery is now undergoing a 50 per cent expansion project – an investment in the region of US$1 billion – that will manufacture products for the local market meeting stringent Euro 5 standards for clean emissions.
For the UAE, investments in cleaner and more efficient processing must be matched with the need to meet increasing demand right across the value chain – including jet fuel. Global trade and Dubai’s billion-dollar tourist industry rely on the delivery of efficient, clean and dependable jet fuel provided by its NOC and other suppliers.
It’s evident that energy security is critical to almost every aspect of economic activity. It is therefore incumbent on oil majors and fuel providers to invest in their own infrastructure to support the country’s growth. For the long-term, energy independence that is truly sustainable means aggressively working towards diversying the energy mix and reinforcing our infrastructure.
The UAE’s three-point national strategy aims to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, abate carbon output through the use of alternative energy; and enhance security for the UAE and wider region. Achieving these requires the promotion of a range of environmental strategies to multiple stakeholders, including customers. Those include the adoption of waste reduction and re-use strategies to conserve resources and promote a culture of environmental responsibility and action.
Mapping out a sustainable future that supports economic and personal ambition, as well as ensures energy security for generations to come, is a responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of the world’s governments and industrial companies. Achieving these goals with low-carbon technologies is the world’s challenge. Whilst the challenge is significant, investment in advanced technologies, establishing energy efficiency policies, and increasing the use of clean vehicles are practical measures that are already within our reach. Collaboration between industry, government and academia is becoming increasingly important for us to be able to achieve national agenda goals and secure the future for the next generation.
Saif Humaid Al Falasi is group chief executive of ENOC