A Return to Energy Realism

A Return to Energy Realism

There is a need to reevaluate the situation and develop transition plans that are more realistic, acknowledging the need for ample, reliable, and affordable energy - of
course, alongside climate-protection efforts.

Saudi Aramco will increase its maximum sustained capacity from 12 to 13 MBPD by 2027, and gas production by more than 50% by 2030, including 630,000 BPD of gas liquids and condensate from the unconventional Jafurah field. It’s also increasing focus on the materials transition, with an ambitious growth plan in chemicals. In addition to its 2050 net-zero aspirations, the company’s interim targets include: 15% lower upstream carbon intensity by 2035 versus 2018 baseline; continued investment in cleaner conventional engines, CCUS, hydrogen, and renewables; and widespread adoption of AI, robotics, super-computing, and the latest digital technologies.

Mr. Al-Naimi opened with the idea of a domino effect - a series of recent events that are having a massive impact on the oil and gas industry. “In our view, it began when unrealistic scenarios and impracticable transition policies led some people to think that oil and gas must be replaced as we move to a lower-carbon world.” Although some blame current supply issues and price volatility on the Ukraine conflict, Mr. Al-Naimi says the energy industry was stretched thin long before. He explained how overly optimistic beliefs have fueled chronic underinvestment in the oil and gas industry, scaling back from over $700 billion in 2014 to about $300 billion in 2021.

Clearly agreeing with other presenters about the prominent role of fossil fuels in the future energy mix, he shifted the emphasis somewhat to a much-needed re-framing in the public eye: “I believe we need to take every opportunity as an industry to shatter the misleading narrative that oil and gas can be quickly and easily replaced in the global energy transition, or that conventional sources have no role in a net-zero world.”

Greatly influenced by negative media, Mr. Al-Naimi said a talent shortage was a critical domino that must be fixed soon. Good hands and minds are leaving at an alarming rate—many finding different employment through the pandemic, taking early retirement, or young professionals choosing to not enter the industry at all.

“That’s why regularly reinforcing the important role oil and gas plays in any viable energy future and the wonderful opportunities available for talented people is so vital. If we do not, this could potentially lead to increased number of safety risks, lower efficiency, and lower reliability for our industry.”

He drew attention to the unrealistic expectation that one solution would work across the board. Instead, he said transition will happen at different speeds in different parts of the world, depending on stages of development. Poverty is another key factor he stressed, reminding us of the 2.6 billion people without access to clean cooking fuel, or the three quarters of a billion people with no electricity.

Localization efforts will be a big part of the solution there, he said, citing Aramco’s long-standing iktva program for the development of a resilient, efficient, and world-class in-Kingdom supply chain.