The Quarterly Q&A – with ANGEA CEO Paul Everingham

In the January instalment of this quarterly series, Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association CEO Paul Everingham reflects on the 2023 energy year, outcomes and talking points from COP28, concerns about recent developments in US LNG export approvals and what 2024 holds in store for ANGEA.

2023 was a very busy year – not only for ANGEA but right across the energy world. How do you look back on it?

I think the energy landscape continues to be quite delicately poised. If you look at the world’s most complex energy challenge – finding ways to affordably meet energy demand while also making progress on climate – there have been some quite pragmatic public statements over the past 12 months that were encouraging for the gas and LNG industry. As a counter-balance to that, I still feel the realities of energy transition aren’t widely enough understood or appreciated, especially when it comes to the world’s emerging economies – many of which are located here in Asia. There remains a clear need for education and advocacy around that transition and the role that gas can and should play, which is a major reason why ANGEA was formed three years ago.

From ANGEA’s perspective, 2023 was quite a significant year. We were able to build on some of the key stakeholder relationships we established late in 2022 in Japan, Thailand, the US and Australia, and undertake on-the-ground engagement in Indonesia, Vietnam and Canada. It was particularly exciting for ANGEA to launch the Asia Pacific Cross Border Carbon Accreditation Study on the sidelines of the APEC CEO Summit in November. The Study will have a tangible and long-term impacts for our region and we were delighted to be able to announce it at such a globally significant event as APEC.

Sticking with global events, COP28 in December certainly captured worldwide attention. What was ANGEA’s take on the event and its outcomes?

Ultimately, it was pleasing that delegates were able to reach agreement on a way forward that recognises the role of transitional fuels in supporting both energy security and energy transition. Gas and LNG are very clearly required for a just and orderly energy transition in Asia, as is carbon capture and storage (CCS), which was also referenced positively in the final text from COP28.

Again, however, I think it’s fair to look at an event like COP28 and some of the conversations around it and have concerns about how well and how widely energy transition is truly understood. The pathway to net zero must provide all countries with the opportunity to strike a balance between affordably meeting energy demand and decarbonisation. In line with that, LNG and gas won’t just be needed for the next few years, they will be required to support and underpin transition that will unfold worldwide over several decades.

A lot of the public focus on COP28 was about how fossil fuels would be referenced in the event’s final text. Do you think the commentary around that was healthy?

It’s very important that people around the world talk about the future of energy. The more people take an active interest in it, the better our solutions are likely to be. Where I think the conversation often breaks down is when it’s overtaken by ideology and nuances are lost.

Yes, gas is a fossil fuel. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be part of the road to net zero or that the gas industry is somehow in opposition to renewable energy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Available and affordable gas helps reduce emissions by decreasing dependence on coal, and gas-fired power is a great fit alongside renewables as a reliable source of generation that balances out issues with intermittency.

I think it would be useful if people looked at natural gas in a more dynamic way, because the ways in which it is being produced and used are evolving and becoming cleaner all the time. By way of example,  hydrogen and ammonia have been quite publicly highlighted as likely foundations for a low-carbon energy future. But producing them cleanly and economically at scale – for the immediate term at least – will involve adding carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to existing industrial processes that use gas as a feedstock.

What are some of the major global energy issues that ANGEA is currently monitoring?

During the northern hemisphere winter, we’re always keeping a close watch on the availability and affordability of LNG amid demand spikes – particularly now that Europe is a major importer. But from a longer-term perspective, the policy environments in the US and Australia are of significant interest to ANGEA, our members and governments right across Asia.

The next five years will bring some very important additions to global gas supply, including new projects in the US and significant expansions from Qatar. But supply for the 2030s and beyond is just as important and it’s critical that policy settings in gas-producing countries remain conducive to investing in and developing major products. There’s a current lack of clarity in the US and Australia and that is of concern for many Asian countries.

The US situation is particularly worrying because it currently involves a pause on pending export approvals for LNG projects that Asian customers were relying on to meet their future energy needs, along with reconsideration of the criteria under which future approvals would be assessed.  ANGEA has recently written to both US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to outline its concerns.

If proposed future projects in the US and Australia don’t proceed, gas supply would become highly constrained, more expensive and also quite concentrated in terms of its sources, and the likely consequences would be far-reaching. Emerging nations in Asia would inevitably end up falling back on affordable coal and there would also be a significant impact on energy security for some of Asia’s biggest and most globally relevant economies. Japan, South Korea and China are the largest three importers of LNG in the world, while Singapore is a major trading and economic hub that relies on gas and increasingly gets it via LNG.  It’s vital for regional and global prosperity that there is sufficient LNG supply to meet these countries’ energy needs over coming decades.

You touched earlier on the Asia Pacific Cross Border Accreditation Study – can you tell us a little more about it and how it will progress throughout 2024.

The Cross Border Accreditation Study is an incredibly exciting initiative and one that ANGEA and our member companies are really looking forward to progressing. In very simple terms, for countries in Asia Pacific to achieve their net zero aspirations, CCS solutions will have to be developed and implemented at considerable scale. This will involve CO2 being captured in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore and then transported to other geologically-suited jurisdictions – places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia – for permanent storage.

What is currently lacking is a whole-of-region framework to harmonise the accreditation or certification of CO2 emission reductions across borders. Because there has largely been a country-by-country approach to date, there’s no consensus on which bodies will be responsible for accreditation, what standards and accreditation will be used, how governments will ratify carbon credits, how double-counting of credits can be avoided, how certification might be applied in different jurisdictions and, in the case of cross border exchanges, which country should take credit under its National Determined Contribution. Our framework will address all these aspects.

The study is being undertaken by Boston Consulting Group and is now kicking off in earnest. Although it’s a multi-year project for ANGEA, we’ll be providing regular updates to coincide with milestones in the work.

What else does 2024 hold in store for ANGEA?

This year will be about consolidating relationships in countries we’ve visited over the past two years and developing greater awareness of ANGEA in places like Malaysia, India and the Philippines. On-the-ground engagement with stakeholders will naturally be part of that but it’s also important that ANGEA continues to increase its profile through media outreach and participation at major global events such as CERAWeek and Gastech, both of which will be held in Houston in 2024.

We have a couple of other significant projects in the pipeline which we’re looking forward to unveiling over the next couple of months. In line with that expanded work program, it’s been very pleasing to make some full-time additions to the ANGEA team.  Mr Alex Yelland has been appointed as ANGEA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. Alex brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from the energy industry.  Ms Laila Nowell, who has worked extensively in the oil and gas industry in Asia and the minerals and energy industry in Australia, has joined ANGEA as our Chief of Staff. We have also engaged Ms Hanh Le, who is based in Bangkok, as our Policy Manager to oversee the Cross Border Carbon Accreditation Study. Hanh has significant experience working on energy and carbon financing solutions throughout Asia. Growth and added expertise in the ANGEA team will support our increasing role working with governments and industries around the Asia Pacific region through the energy transition.

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.