Speech May 20, 2012
Natural gas and the transformation of global energy markets
Doha Forum XII
Speech May 20, 2012
Excellencies and distinguished guests, I am honored to participate in this year’s Doha Forum.
For more than a decade this event has sparked valuable discussions about the region’s political and economic future. The forum’s focus on issues such as development, governance, and trade has illuminated the thinking of numerous leaders in government and commerce from around the world.
This year we were asked to offer “insights on the political scene and the global economy.” Providing such insights into near-term political and economic developments is not an easy task — the uncertainty and volatility in many markets and nations of the last few years testifies to that fact.
It is therefore critical that we take a long term view of these matters, and it’s fair to say we have a good sense of where the global economy and energy markets are going in the mid- to long term: They will expand significantly.
Opening this forum several years ago, His Highness the Emir said that the region’s march toward economic and political progress — quote — “will go on and be completed because it is guided by man’s instinctive desire for freedom and his endeavor for progress and achievement.”
The ideas captured in that insightful remark form the basis of our own thinking at ExxonMobil. We believe that human aspirations for progress and advancement will re-shape and improve life for decades to come.
Growing Energy Demand
So it is no surprise that, despite the economic and political turmoil of recent years, we harbor an optimistic view about the world’s long-term energy and economic trends.
Consider that the global economy should more than double in size by the year 2040, according to our annual Outlook for Energy. Developing economies will lead this extraordinary expansion, growing at an annual rate of 4.5 percent every year for the next three decades.
An increasing population will partly drive this phenomenon, as the earth’s 7 billion current inhabitants grow to approximately 8.7 billion by 2040.
In addition to the sheer magnitude of population growth, a critical factor in explaining this projected economic expansion is the inspirational source to which His Highness alluded: humanity’s instinctive endeavor for progress and achievement.
Yet substantial economic growth and improved living standards cannot be fueled solely by shared aspirations for a better life. They will require more energy — a sizable amount more. ExxonMobil expects global energy demand to be about 30 percent higher in 2040 than in the year 2010, and more than 70 percent higher in this region — the Middle East.
Electricity’s Energy Transformation
The largest and fastest-growing source of that global energy demand will be for electricity generation. The world will experience an 80 percent rise in demand for electricity to power everything from a smart phone in a consumer’s hand to the massive server farms and data centers forming the backbone of the planet’s wired IT economy.
That’s the fascinating, and often untold, story about energy in the early decades of this century: Electricity will be key to extending the features and comforts of modern life to more and more people.
How we generate that electricity — indeed, how we satisfy the growing global demand for energy — speaks to the challenges facing companies like my own as well as nations like Qatar.
But it also suggests tremendous opportunities.
A variety of economic, environmental, and regulatory factors point to a profound change in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. In the coming years we will see a shift from coal to lower-carbon fuels, particularly natural gas. By the year 2030, natural gas will account for more than a quarter of the world’s steadily growing electricity needs.
Qatar’s Gas Leadership
Where will the growing markets in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and elsewhere get the supplies they need?
Unconventional sources like shale will play an important role. And increasingly, liquefied natural gas will create a global market for natural gas that will meet a growing proportion of the demand as well – particularly in Asia. According to our projections, roughly one-sixth of the world’s natural gas demand in 2040 may be met by LNG alone.
Needless to say, the State of Qatar is well positioned to benefit from these developments. That is not simply because Qatar is blessed with abundant reserves of natural gas. It is because His Highness the Emir articulated a farsighted vision for his people. The Qatar National Vision 2030 provides a strategy to use the state’s resources to modernize Qatar’s economy, to increase education and opportunity, and protect the environment for generations to come.
These efforts have helped make Qatar the world’s largest supplier of LNG, and a symbol for how to develop resources efficiently and wisely — something the entire world will see clearly when the spotlight shines on Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.
At ExxonMobil, our role in contributing to Qatar’s emergence as a global energy leader is a source of great pride. Our joint ventures with Qatar Petroleum in helping develop the North Field, the world’s largest non-associated gas field, suppl markets around the globe.
At the same time the Al Khaleej Gas and Barzan Gas projects will provide critical supplies for the domestic market and help support Qatar’s transition to a knowledge-based economy.
Both developments explain Qatar’s position at the forefront of a global energy transformation.
They both underscore why Qatar will be regarded as one of the 21st century’s most important energy producers.
And they both confirm the validity of His Highness the Emir’s prediction of several years ago. The pace may sometimes change, but the outcome is not in doubt. The region’s progress and economic development will continue.
And at ExxonMobil, we’re proud to be partners in that progress.
I wish all of you success on your deliberations at this very important forum. Thank you.