‘Focusing on net zero targets … may bring about less energy security’

Source: www.gulfoilandgas.com 6/13/2024, Location: Asia

Each year, AIEN hosts an annual lecture series in honor of Alfred J. Boulos, former AIEN president and highly-regarded international energy negotiator. This year, at the International Energy Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, Dr Kurujit Nakornthap – executive director of the Petroleum Institute of Thailand and former permanent secretary for the Ministry of Energy, was invited to give the lecture.

The lecture in part looked at how to turn conflicts into opportunities for natural gas exploration and production in South East Asia, but Dr Kurujit also wanted to look at the energy trilemma and the journey to net-zero.

‘The stone age didn’t disappear because we ran out of stone. Similarly, the oil age won’t disappear because we ran out of oil. However, focusing on net zero targets alone may lead us to neglect or decrease investment to find new oil and gas deposits, and thus bring about less energy security and volatile prices.

‘By 2050 the population will increase to potentially 10 billion. More than 60% will be in poor parts of the world and will need cheap energy. The targets for 2050 were too aggressive but that was to stop us being complacent. In my view, the real target should be 2070.’

‘Sustainable development means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It doesn’t mean we stop development at all costs.’

So, what did he think were viable options to help provide energy at an affordable price to the people?

‘CCS is important, but it will not work as a CSR project. It is too expensive. To make it less expensive, it needs to be run like a business project, not a charity.

‘Natural gas is a necessary part of energy security. It serves as a bridging fuel towards the transition, and will do so for at least for 30 years. It is a cleaner form of energy with lower carbon intensity. Responsibly produced oil and gas will provide energy access at affordable prices to a greater world population with lower carbon footprint.’

With this in mind, Dr Kurujit turned to exploration and production in the South East Asian region.

‘Oil and gas exploration is a big business with big risk and big return,’ he explained. ‘It needs the best technologies. Thai domestic gas reserves are now at a crisis level and petroleum exploration and production in Thailand is in a very worrisome state.’

Over the past decades, Thailand has found itself involved in territory disputes with other countries – also known as overlapping claimed areas (OCA). When it comes to settling these disputes, Dr Kurujit drew a big laugh from the crowd when he jokingly suggested war and a world court judgement as potential solutions.

‘These are impossible, which leaves the third option of negotiation. ‘You cannot expect to get 100% of what you want,’ he said. ‘That would be an ultimatum, not a negotiation. The solutions are either a clear boundary demarcation; a joint development arrangement; or a combination of the two.’

In 1997, after 6 years of negotiations, an agreement between Thailand and Vietnam led to the resumption of E&P in the area and the gas discovery of the Arthit field. Another resolution between Thailand and Malaysia saw both sides sharing 50:50 costs and benefits. ‘Two brothers drinking from the same well,’ concluded Dr Kurujit.

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