ECSSR Concludes 21st Annual Energy Conference

  • 26 November 2015

The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) on Wednesday brought down the curtain on its 21st Annual Energy Conference "GCC Oil in World Energy Markets: Continuity and Change."

A series of engaging technical and practical discussions unfolded over the course of the two-day conference held at the ECSSR office complex in Abu Dhabi UAE. During the Conference a number of key issues were examined such as those related to the present and future outlook of the GCC oil sector the rapidly evolving developments in the global oil and energy markets and the repercussions being felt worldwide as a result of such developments. A number of future energy scenarios and their estimated impact were filtered through a regional and international analytical framework of analysis.

The second day of the ECSSR 21st Annual Energy Conference began with the convening of third conference panel "Technological Development and the Future of GCC Oil" chaired by Dr. Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi UAE Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The first speaker was Dr. Jens Ejbye Schmidt Head of the Center for Energy (iEnergy) Masdar Institute of Science and Technology Abu Dhabi. In his paper entitled "Recent Developments in the Field of Clean and Renewable Energy Technology" Schmidt noted that the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has ambitious plans in place for both economic growth and societal development up to the year 2030 and beyond. He highlighted how Abu Dhabi has established key policy frameworks that are designed to ensure that sustainability remains at the forefront of national development plans. Nonetheless Schmidt added there is no doubt that such development plans will create an additional layer of pressure on the natural resources and infrastructure of Abu Dhabi.

Schmidt said that with the growth of population and improved living standards in the Emirate the demand for water and electricity shall inevitably increase. As a result the Abu Dhabi Government is drafting strategies in view of maintaining adequate energy supplies in order to meet this expected rise in demand; taking into account both the limitations of fossil fuel resources and the opportunities presented via the employment of renewable energy technologies (RE).

The Abu Dhabi Government has stated that by the year 2020 renewable energy resources should account for at least 7% of the total power generation capacity in the Emirate. The expected cost of investing in renewable technologies includes 4.5 billion and 8.4 billion to be spent on wind farms and solar-thermal energy respectively. The transition towards an increased use of renewable energy in Abu Dhabi can be secured through technologies such as offshore wind farms solar-thermal energy solar-photovoltaic energy. During the concluding remarks of his presentation Schmidt underlined the fact that the application of renewable energy technologies in the United Arab Emirates is an economically attractive option and will help to reduce the carbon footprint.

Dr. Mamun Absi Halabi Principal Research Scientist Petroleum Research Center Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research the State of Kuwait then presented his research findings in the form of a paper entitled "Technological Development of Ways to Exploit Unconventional Sources of Oil."

Dr. Halabi stressed that research and development (R&D) has played an important role in keeping oil and gas as the primary energy sources over the past century; as well as enabling an abundance of energy reserves to be stockpiled for future generations and helping the oil industry to adapt to any shifts in global market requirements both in terms of product quality and quantity. He added that R&D has also led to a reduction of the negative impact upon the environment.

Dr. Halabi said that some non-conventional oil resources such as oil sand and extra heavy oil contributed to the diversification of the liquid fuel basket for nearly two decades. He also asserted that the expansion in shale oil production over the past ten years underlined the renewed R&D efforts that are transpiring within the energy industry further exemplified by the emergence of a new wave of patents granted in the United States and elsewhere. He stressed that although shale oil gained prominence in the US market only recently the ability to exploit it was the result of the R&D efforts that have been made between 1970 and 1995.

Dr. Halabi also claimed that R&D within the oil and gas industry has historically been an incremental process and thus new innovative technological breakthroughs are unlikely to occur suddenly unless perhaps the industry were to be faced with a major technical challenge when expanding production. Dr. Halabi stressed that any improvements that can be made in the field of R&D will have a positive impact on conventional oil reserves and will reduce the cost of production.

Dr. Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Sahlawi Professor of Economics College of Industrial Management King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completed the lineup for the third panel. When presenting the findings of his research paper entitled "Technology and Future Energy Consumption"

Dr. Al-Sahlawi said that the technological advancement and rapid economic growh were among the main factors that paved the way for increased energy consumption after World War II and that this trend continued until the energy crisis in the 1970s. He added that high oil prices led to a decline in energy consumption which then encouraged the consuming countries to develop energy conservation methods and the associated technologies. Therefore increased energy efficiency and productivity became important political issues. Dr. Al-Sahlawi revealed how it has been estimated that global energy intensity has been declining at a rate of 1.5 per cent over the past forty years as a direct result of the development of new technologies.

The fourth panel"The Impact of Geostrategic Factors on GCC Oil"was chaired by economic affairs expert Dr. Mohammed Abdelrahman Al Asoomi. The first speaker was Dr. Pierre Noel Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Republic of Singapore who presented a paper entitled "Oil Transportation Routes: Are They Exposed to Real Threats?" Noel pointed out that Asia's energy imports are growing rapidly while US and European imports are in a state of decline. Meanwhile the maritime security environment in Asia has been unsettled by rising regional tensions. Therefore the security of seaborne energy imports has become an important issue. In addition pipeline systems will help reduce the exposure of Asia's energy imports to the potential disruption of key maritime routes in Asia and the Middle East.

Dr. Tatiana Mitrova Head of Oil and Gas Department Energy Research Institute Russian Academy of Sciences Russian Federation then presented her paper entitled "Global Energy Competition and its Effect on GCC Oil."

Mitriova said that when examining the distribution of conventional energy sources several areas of conflict surface at once. For several decades the global energy order was driven by three major arbitrating suppliers (Middle East Russia and Caspian) and two primary markets Europe and Asia. The third biggest market in North America was also dependent on hydrocarbon flows from the Middle East. The arrival of new players to the global market e.g. Australia East Africa Brazil and of course those that are part of the North American shale revolution has had a discernible impact upon traditional energy flows; in addition to aggravating competition fuelling tensions and creating potential points of conflict. This has coincided with weak global economic performance and the slowing down of demand. Therefore the next decade promises to be an extremely uncertain and turbulent period.

Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli Director of International and Geo-Political Studies Bahrain Center for Strategic International and Energy Studies (Derasat) Kingdom of Bahrain presented the final paper of the fourth conference panel entitled "Disputes Between Oil Producers: Repercussions on Production and Prices." Dr. Al-Ubaydli argued that global oil markets have seen a paradigm shift over the last ten years due to shale oil revolution and the weak performance of the global economy. The drop in oil prices which had been anticipated for a number of years prior to the eventual price slump was delayed by the disruption of Libyan and Iraq oil production and the sanctions on Iranian oil. In the second half of 2014 prices started to reflect things going back to normal in these three major oil producers. He stressed that geopolitical conflicts have fuelled competition among oil producers and that the Iranian nuclear deal will open the door for investment in Iran's oil sector and will push prices further down.

Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) concluded the ECSSR 21st Annual Energy Conference via his concluding remarks. Dr. Al-Suwaidi expressed his sincere appreciation for the important recommendations that were put forward by conference participants. He hoped that that these recommendations will find their way to decision-makers and consequently be turned into practical policies that are implemented on the ground in order to enhance international and regional energy security in general and the UAE energy security in particular.

He said: "Ladies and gentlemen at the end of our 21st Annual Energy Conference convened under the title "GCC Oil in World Energy Markets: Continuity and Change" and on behalf of my colleagues at the ECSSR and all participants in this conference it gives me great pleasure to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and President of the ECSSR for his continuous support to the ECSSR since its inception.

Empowered by the generous support offered by His Highness the ECSSR with remain a beacon of thought awareness and inspiration in the UAE under the wise leadership of His Highness President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who has sought to encourage the scientific and cultural advancement of our noble people."

Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi also expressed his heartfelt desire that the recommendations of this conference will be transformed from theory into practice by way of assisting effective policy and decision-making that aims to fulfill the hopes of the peoples of the UAE and the GCC and their aspirations for a decent and secure life.