The Quarterly Q&A – with ANGEA CEO Paul Everingham

In the September instalment of this quarterly series, Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association CEO Paul Everingham reflects on a very busy Gastech in Singapore, increasing awareness of the importance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Asia, the state of global energy markets and the growth and development of ANGEA – over the past 12 months and in the year to come.

September marked a pretty significant milestone, in the form of ANGEA’s first year of full-scale operations. How do you reflect on that?

It’s been a busy and rewarding year.  We’re very pleased with the progress ANGEA has made in a range of areas – highlighting the role that natural gas plays in energy security, supporting countries in the energy transition, growing our membership and also raising awareness of who we are, why we exist and, more broadly, key issues in global energy.

But the past 12 months are really just the start and there is a lot of work ahead.  Energy transition is an incremental process and we need to keep building on the work we’ve done so far in places like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, while growing relationships in other important markets such as India, Malaysia and the Philippines.  There’s also a great deal of really promising work to follow through on, especially around carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy security.

How significant was Gastech being held in Singapore in September?
Gastech in Singapore was a fantastic event. To have so many people from the energy industry coming together to discuss best practice and explore ways to collaborate is extremely impactful. And Singapore, a long-standing energy hub where ANGEA is proud to be headquartered, is a great city to host the event.

From ANGEA’s perspective, it was an excellent opportunity to be in the same place physically as many of our most important stakeholders. Gastech provided a chance for ANGEA to host in-person Steering Committee and Board meetings, which geography can often make challenging, given we have members in Asia, the US and Australia.  I also really enjoyed being part of a panel session on carbon capture and storage and being able to discuss the really exciting potential of that technology for the Asia Pacific.

That’s the second time you’ve mentioned CCS – clearly it’s a big focus area for you and ANGEA?
Even if I was just a person interested in the energy industry, rather than working in it, I would still be fascinated by CCS. The whole world is looking to solve this very challenging puzzle around how we can meet energy demand – which is increasing rapidly in highly-populated emerging economies – and at the same time achieve emissions reductions. CCS is a technology that can help solve that. And one of the best things about CCS is that it’s technology that’s already proven to work.

It’s not quite that simple in practice, of course. Before there can be widespread implementation of CCS, it has to be shown to be cost-effective at scale, there needs to be a regional policy framework to support it and there must be a transparent carbon market. These are areas where ANGEA will be very active over the next couple of years, collaborating and partnering with a wide range of stakeholders. We’re planning to undertake an extremely detailed study on a CCS framework for the Asia Pacific region that incorporates capture, storage, transport and pricing, and which will help pave the way for countries, industries, companies and investors to work together and make it all happen.

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How do you view the global energy situation at the moment?
I think it’s in a very interesting place. The past couple of years, since Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, have been a really significant reminder of the importance of energy security, particularly for developed economies. The western world is absolutely conditioned to electricity being available whenever it is needed and seeing that potentially compromised in some parts of Europe was quite a big wake-up call. I say that as a person who grew up in a very developed country in Australia and who currently lives in a wealthy nation in Singapore – I’m definitely a person who is used to power being there whenever I flick a switch.

I think there is a gradually growing sense of pragmatism around energy, particularly when it comes to  emerging economies like many in Asia. These countries need reliable and affordable energy to drive economic growth that will raise standards of living and, wherever possible, they need an alternative to coal. Natural gas and LNG can be that alternative and underpin much lower-emission electricity generation. Seeking to deny energy to developing nations or thinking they can survive on renewables alone isn’t helpful to anyone. I’m optimistic the message is starting to get some cut-through at the highest level in the developed world.

How do you view the current global situation in relation to gas demand versus supply?
Things are still tight and quite precarious. Europe’s 2022/23 winter was fortunately quite mild and didn’t put the kind of strain on storage and supply that we were initially worried about. But who knows what will happen this northern hemisphere winter? Recently, there has been industrial action in Australia’s gas industry. There hasn’t been a material impact on supply but it’s another reminder that there are a huge number of factors that influence the global gas market. To the extent it can be, the world has to be prepared for each of them.

The mid-to-late 2020s are going to be a really exciting and fast-moving time for the gas industry, with a significant number of new projects coming online. There will be expansion in Qatar, increased production from the US through projects like Plaquemines and Port Arthur, LNG Canada and Woodfibre will be operational, and Australia will have the Scarborough project and continued expansion at Gorgon. The challenging part – and what gas-producing nations need to be thinking about right now – is what happens in the 2030s and beyond. Demand for gas and LNG, especially from Asia, isn’t just going to cease.  It will be there for decades. Ensuring the future supply question is adequately addressed was a key recommendation of the Rystad Study Into Energy Security In Southeast Asia, which ANGEA commissioned earlier this year in partnership with the American Petroleum Institute. It’s vital that Asia’s gas demand through the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s can be met.

You quite often talk about responsible use of gas – what does that mean to you?
It’s really an acknowledgement that the way we produce, transport and use natural gas is evolving all the time based around sustainability – as it should do. Our industry recognises gas and LNG have emissions profiles that need to be managed. Operationally, that means producing gas with the lowest possible carbon footprint. All along the supply chain, ANGEA member companies and industry more widely are strongly focused on identifying and mitigating methane emissions. In relation to the shipping and transport of gas, fuels like ammonia are being researched and developed with a view to greatly reducing future emissions. And, of course, modern gas power plants are much more efficient and sustainable than their predecessors.

In my opinion, CCS will be the technology that eventually ties this all together. We’ll definitely see widespread use of it in the production and combustion of gas and quite likely in shipping as well. In turn, CCS will unlock all kinds of opportunities for new and spin-off industries, further contributing to economic growth throughout Asia Pacific.

What’s on the radar for ANGEA in the months to come?
In late October we have Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), which is another really big event in our “home city.” I’m very much looking forward to that. Singapore has been a trading hub for centuries and is one of the world’s premier energy hubs. The evolution of the energy mix coming through Singapore will be fascinating to observe and I’m sure that will be a strong focus of SIEW.

The last 12 months for ANGEA have largely been about establishing relationships that allow us to support countries as they seek affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. We’ll seek to build on those relationships and forge new ones that will help us take ANGEA into countries where we haven’t yet had on-the-ground engagement. There is a lot of impactful policy work that we are keen to get stuck into and which we are now well-prepared for after a year of full-scale operations. We also want to keep growing a wider understanding of Asia’s energy transition – not just the big picture, such as a target like net zero, but the practical solutions that will help achieve it.

Paul Everingham is the inaugural CEO of the Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association (ANGEA), which works with governments, society and industry throughout Asia to build effective and integrated energy policies that meet each country’s climate objectives.