Amid the furore of the Saudi state’s involvement in the assassination of political dissident Jamal Khashoggi, the Kingdom has threatened and then walked back on the possibility of using its oil wealth as a weapon (again). While the global implications and repercussions of the scandal are still unfolding, this has not deterred the Kingdom’s crown jewel Saudi Arabia from forging ahead with an ambitious slate of projects and investments meant to diversify its business and prepare itself an eventual IPO.
We were supposed to be at the cusp of the IPO already. Planned for Q119, a number of factors have led it to be placed on the backburner. The first is Aramco’s planned acquisition of another Saudi powerhouse, petrochemicals producer SABIC. The second is the complications of the plan, which was to dual list in both Riyadh and an international bourse; the London Stock Exchange went as far as to amend its rules to allow the listing of national oil companies, and New York was reportedly also lobbying hard for the IPO. This leads to the third – with the Khashoggi affair still dominating headlines, it would be politically unsavoury to list anytime soon. The project team overseeing the IPO was disbanded in August, suggesting that the IPO was cancelled, but Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – or MBS – has promised that it will eventually occur. But perhaps now only after people’s memories have faded.
Meanwhile, Aramco is forging ahead. After creating a network of major downstream investments linking its key markets – the expansion of Port Arthur in the US, the Maharashtra refinery in India, the RAPID refinery in Malaysia and key refining partnerships in China – the firm announced that it had signed 15 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) valued at over US$34 billion this month. Covering 15 partner firms across 8 countries, the new projects span the entire gamut of the energy industry – spinning out from the recent Davos in the Desert international investment forum in Riyadh . In the Kingdom itself, it is partnering with Total on a major petrochemical expansion in Jubail, as well as potentially establishing a retail service station network. An MoU with Hyundai Heavy Industries on investments in the King Salman International Maritime Complex for Industries and Services at Ras Al Khair was also announced, as well as one with Sumitomo for the upgrade of the PetroRabigh refinery and one with China’s Norinco for general refining and chemicals investment.
A slew of MoUs with upstream service firms was also announced, with Baker Hughes GE, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Oilfield Supply Center and NOV (USA) – useful, given Aramco’s directive to expand upstream domestically and internationally, especially with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia making motions towards settling the management of oil fields in the neutral zone between the two countries. The other partnerships were more specialised, linked to engineering steel, drilling chemicals, thermoplastic pipes and gasification power.
The wide scale of the projects suggest that Aramco sees no reason to decelerate its diversification and global investment drive. Transforming the company into a strong diversified firm away from a crude focus is necessary, not least because it ensures continued outlets for its crude. But also because it will justify the sky-high valuation estimates for the IPO, if it ever happens. But even if it doesn’t, Aramco’s ambitions are undeterred. Their path is forward, and it is ambitious. Political scandals nonewithstanding.
Saudi Aramco’s 15 announced MoU
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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) International Energy Outlook 2019 (IEO2019), global electric power generation from renewable sources will increase more than 20% throughout the projection period (2018–2050), providing almost half of the world’s electricity generation in 2050. In that same period, global coal-fired generation will decrease 13%, representing only 22% of the generation mix in 2050. EIA projects that worldwide electricity generation will grow by 1.8% per year through 2050.
EIA projects that total world electricity generation will reach nearly 45 trillion kilowatthours (kWh) by 2050, almost 20 trillion kWh more than the 2018 level. Although growth occurs in both OECD and non-OECD regions, the growth in electricity demand in non-OECD regions far outpaces those in OECD regions. Even though electricity demand growth contributes to a region’s fuel share of generation, the scale and scope of that region’s policies provide different incentives and play an important role as well.
Throughout the projection period, some regions have high electricity demand growth, some have aggressive emission reduction policies, and some have relatively little change in both. Varying demand growth and policies across regions lead to different distribution of fuel shares for electricity generation within each region. However, the power sector’s share of generation from renewables tends to increase and the share of coal tends to decrease.
High electricity demand growth
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019
India has the most rapid regional electricity demand growth (4.6% per year) in the IEO2019 Reference case. Although India has developed target levels for solar and wind capacity, it does not have an aggressive emissions reduction policy in place, so EIA projects coal-fired generation growth in addition to growth in solar and wind generation. Combined, solar, wind, and coal will account for 90% of India's electricity generation mix in 2050. Combined wind and solar generation increases from less than 10% of India's generation mix in 2018 to more than 50% of the generation mix in 2050. The level of coal-fired generation increases during that same time period, but coal’s share of India's electricity generation mix falls from about 75% of the mix in 2018 to less than 40% in 2050.
Aggressive emissions reductions policy
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019
Note: OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. International Energy Outlook regional definitions.
New capacity additions for renewable technologies are economically competitive with fossil technologies worldwide. But without policy incentives, growth in generation from renewable sources is limited in regions with slow demand growth. OECD Europe electricity demand is projected to grow at about 1% per year through 2050; however, EIA expects that a regional carbon dioxide cap will contribute to a reduction in fossil-fired generation and an increase in renewables generation to meet demand. Throughout the projection period, EIA expects that the share of wind and solar generation in OECD Europe will increase from 20% to almost 50% by 2050. In that same period, EIA projects that fossil-fired generation will decrease from about 37% to 18% of the generation mix. By 2050, coal-fired generation comprises only 5% of the region’s generation mix.
Low electricity demand growth/No emissions reductions policies
With annual demand growth slower than 1% and no firm policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the mix of generation resources in the non-OECD Europe and Eurasia region (which excludes Russia) will change only marginally. Through 2050, wind and solar generation increases marginally and accounts for less than 10% of the generation mix in 2050, leaving hydroelectric power as the main source of renewables generation for this region. Growth in natural gas generation will displace some coal-fired generation—which falls from 31% in 2018 to 15% in 2050—but the overall share of fossil generation will change relatively little throughout the projection period.
In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), released on January 14, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts year-over-year decreases in energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through 2021. After decreasing by 2.1% in 2019, energy-related CO2 emissions will decrease by 2.0% in 2020 and again by 1.5% in 2021 for a third consecutive year of declines.
These declines come after an increase in 2018 when weather-related factors caused energy-related CO2 emissions to rise by 2.9%. If this forecast holds, energy-related CO2 emissions will have declined in 7 of the 10 years from 2012 to 2021. With the forecast declines, the 2021 level of fewer than 5 billion metric tons would be the first time emissions have been at that level since 1991.
After a slight decline in 2019, EIA expects petroleum-related CO2 emissions to be flat in 2020 and decline slightly in 2021. The transportation sector uses more than two-thirds of total U.S. petroleum consumption. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) grow nearly 1% annually during the forecast period. In the short term, increases in VMT are largely offset by increases in vehicle efficiency.
Winter temperatures in New England, which were colder than normal in 2019, led to increased petroleum consumption for heating. New England uses more petroleum as a heating fuel than other parts of the United States. EIA expects winter temperatures will revert to normal, contributing to a flattening in overall petroleum demand.
Natural gas-related CO2 increased by 4.2% in 2019, and EIA expects that it will rise by 1.4% in 2020. However, EIA expects a 1.7% decline in natural gas-related CO2 in 2021 because of warmer winter weather and less demand for natural gas for heating.
Changes in the relative prices of coal and natural gas can cause fuel switching in the electric power sector. Small price changes can yield relatively large shifts in generation shares between coal and natural gas. EIA expects coal-related CO2 will decline by 10.8% in 2020 after declining by 12.7% in 2019 because of low natural gas prices. EIA expects the rate of coal-related CO2 to decline to be less in 2021 at 2.7%.
The declines in CO2 emissions are driven by two factors that continue from recent historical trends. EIA expects that less carbon-intensive and more efficient natural gas-fired generation will replace coal-fired generation and that generation from renewable energy—especially wind and solar—will increase.
As total generation declines during the forecast period, increases in renewable generation decrease the share of fossil-fueled generation. EIA estimates that coal and natural gas electric generation combined, which had a 63% share of generation in 2018, fell to 62% in 2019 and will drop to 59% in 2020 and 58% in 2021.
Coal-fired generation alone has fallen from 28% in 2018 to 24% in 2019 and will fall further to 21% in 2020 and 2021. The natural gas-fired generation share rises from 37% in 2019 to 38% in 2020, but it declines to 37% in 2021. In general, when the share of natural gas increases relative to coal, the carbon intensity of the electricity supply decreases. Increasing the share of renewable generation further decreases the carbon intensity.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2020
Note: CO2 is carbon dioxide.
GEO ExPro Vol. 16, No. 6 was published on 9th December 2019 bringing light to the latest science and technology activity in the global geoscience community within the oil, gas and energy sector.
This issue focusses on oil and gas exploration in frontier regions within Europe, with stories and articles discussing new modelling and mapping technologies available to the industry. This issue also presents several articles discussing the discipline of geochemistry and how it can be used to further enhance hydrocarbon exploration.
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