The Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS 2020) Strategic Conference convened industry leaders from top energy-producing countries to deliberate the transformation of the global energy market to stay abreast of international megatrends across the oil and gas domain.

Tarek Amer, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Central Bank of Egypt, was one of the key speakers in the first day where he shed light on Egypt’s economic status. “I can say today that the Egyptian economy is in a solid position.” With the oil sector as a flagship in the country, Amer stated that they are looking forward to more agreements in this regard. “We are very proud to work with the petroleum sector over the last decades. Our banking system continues to support the petroleum sector with all its power,” he added.

Amer shared some of the initiatives that Egypt has endeavored since 2016; from abolishing the black market to liberalizing Egypt’s foreign exchange regime. “These bold moves were planned very meticulously and its success was the catalyst that jump started the economy and its growth,” Amer indicated, adding that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has had a role in giving a message to international partners that these new policies are market-oriented. “We have a solid banking system that is ready to finance the ambitious financial plans of the government. Many of the petroleum sector’s projects have been financed by local banks. In addition, the government is negotiating with the IMF for a structed reform streamlining the investor’s environment,” the chairman said.

Global Business Leaders

In the Global Business Leaders session, His Excellency Tarek El Molla, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, discussed with his Equatoguinean counterpart His Excellency Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, the balancing of supply and demand with geopolitical uncertainties, global trading agreements, and policy objectives. Other speakers in the session were: Frank Fannon, Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Energy Resources, US Department of State, John Christmann, CEO and President at Apache Corporation, and Brendan Bechtel, Chairman and CEO at Bechtel. The session addressed how geopolitics and foreign trade policies continue to have a major effect on crude oil pricing and supply and demand, giving a glimpse of the new geopolitical power dynamics, new trade alliances, and partnerships that can be expected to dominate oil and gas in the years ahead.

“Talking about oil and gas is not just about sufficiency, but about setting new benchmarks,” El Molla said. He went on to discuss how this is evident through the idea of establishing a regional energy hub. In relation to how nations are responding to the global energy challenges, El Molla further looked into the policies, agreements and dialogues that need to be implemented to develop global security of supply. The minister ensured that the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) initiative was taken based on actual steps and established foundations, as Egypt does not only have infrastructure, but also has robust reforms as well. “We have well- demonstrated that we are on the right track,” El Molla said, adding that “Egypt cannot be a hub without its neighbours so we co-operate [accordingly].”

Meanwhile, Fannon said that a vision needs execution. Creating an inclusive region where all parties can benefit can create political stability, he said, explaining that is the reason why the US fully supports the foundation of EMGF. “We believe energy could be a catalyst among nations for cooperation,” Fannon remarked. Nonetheless, this will not be achieved over night; he thought, saying that “What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Taking a closer look into the US-Mediterranean partnership and its contribution to economic and social development, Christmann said that people are pushing for cleaner energy. Furthermore, it is not the fossil versus non-fossil conversation anymore, rather it is a holistic incorporation between all energy systems, he said. The Equatoguinean minister shared with the panel one of the most important lessons that he has learned throughout his career in the oil and gas sector. According to Lima, the sector is based on cycles; what might be in style today might be out of style tomorrow. Sometimes the US takes the lead in the market, other times it is China, nevertheless, “we all need each other,” he said. Speaking of the technology manifesto, Bechtel deliberated how countries are fostering research and development (R&D) and the creation of disruptive technologies and digitalization strategies. In paving the way for digital policy dialogue, this new technological era impacts and benefits today’s society.

Reshaping Energy Markets

The third strategic panel, entitled “Reshaping Energy Markets,” witnessed a fruitful discussion from Bernard Looney, the CEO of BP. Looney began his speech praising the role of El Molla, saying that the minister’s achievements are evident throughout the entire oil and gas sector, and interweaved in the country’s progress toward a safer,  stronger, and more fruitful future. He discussed three main things: energy transition, technology, and the human element. In the topic of energy transition, he said that the history of energy always seeks to evolve, transitioning from one phase to another. Looney pointed out that Egypt has a huge increase in energy demand and supply, saying that “Egypt is a case study in how to grow energy and use local resources to do it as cleanly as possible.” Looney argued that the second trend of the century is the transformative power of technology. “Technology has transformed entire societies,” he concluded.

Partnership’s Milestones in Achieving Growth

A panel entitled “The Importance Forward Looking Partnerships to Deliver Growth Aspirations” ended the strategic sessions on the first day of EGYPS. The speakers of the session were Olivier Le Peuch, the CEO of Schlumberger, and, Mario Mehren, the CEO of Wintershall Dea. The CEO of Wintershall Dea, opened his speech praising the minister’s idea of establishing a regional hub, “First of all, El Molla’s idea of creating a Mediterranean natural gas hub is wonderful,” he said.

Mehren referred that this a good opportunity for partnership “because it is bringing together nations, it is bringing together companies, it is bringing together different stakeholders to achieve something that would not be able to be achieved on the individual basis,” he discussed. Mehren said that these partnerships enable the utilization of the preexisting infrastructure and capabilities within each company. On the other hand, Le Peuch said that his company has been collaborating around the world and establishing partnerships for more than 80 years. He said that his company puts the people first.

STRATEGIC ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS

Running simultaneously, the North African and Mediterranean Strategic Roundtables examined the regional opportunities across the oil and gas value chain, aiming to promote collaboration, understanding, knowledge-sharing and business opportunity. The first roundtable, entitled Transforming into a Regional Energy Hub was by Osama El Bakly, Chairman at Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS); and Sameh Sabry, Senior Vice President and Managing Director – Egypt at Wintershall Dea. The roundtable presented the possible opportunities to embark on the journey to become a hub for potential investors and strategic partners. Furthermore, Sabry and El Bakly discussed the cutting-edge technologies that are required to achieve this goal.

The second roundtable, Unlocking Energy Efficiency, was set by Eng Abed Ezz El Regal, CEO at Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), and Samir Sarhan; Vice President and Chairman of Air Products. They discussed how Egypt is unlocking the full potential of its natural resources and making them efficient, in addition to the mindset changes that are required to create a transformation culture that buys into and embraces energy efficiency.

The third roundtable was dedicated for bolstering oil and gas infrastructure, ensembled by Eng Waleed Lotfy, Chairman at Petrojet; and Maurizio Coratella, COO – E&C Onshore Division at Saipem. The roundtable conferred how a dialogue on commercial, financial and technical cooperation between all parties is crucial to ensure effective modernization, operation and maintenance of pipelines, terminals, storage facilities and ports.

The fourth and final roundtable aimed at discussing replacing fuels with natural gas, which was debated by Magdy Galal, Vice Chairman for Operations and National Gas Grids at Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS); and Khaled AbuBakr, Chairman at TAQA Arabia.

Energy Transition

The first discussion of the second day, entitled “Responding to Energy Transition and the World’s Future Energy Mix”, focused on ways to respond to the transition amid a fluctuating market. The session witnessed the participation of four prominent panelists talking about the importance of hydrocarbon industries to the global energy mix. The four leaders were Her Excellency Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner of Infrastructure, Energy, ICT and Tourism African Union Commission; Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy US Department of Energy; Ayed S Al-Qahtani, Director of Research Division at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); and Pál Ságvári, Ambassador-at-Large for Energy Security Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Hungary.

During the panel, which casts light on energy demand in Africa, Abou-Zeid explained that “Africa will be in a few years the most populous region of the world, and the youngest,” adding that “half a billion people in the continent are going to live in urban areas, that are more than rural areas, from here to 2040.” She also referred to Africa’s richness with both renewables and non-renewable sources of electricity, adding that “40% of the gas discoveries in the world were in Africa,” during the period from 2011 to 2018. Yet, “more than half of the population, around 600 million people, does not have access to energy.”.

As the petrochemical industry is turning into the main source of oil demand, the session discussed petrochemical models, drawing the light to the necessary steps to be prioritized in order to have higher productivity capital and to reach a high position of cost advantage. The panelists further reviewed methods to help the oil and gas industry achieve high profitability and boost returns.

Moreover, the panel went on to discuss the future of energy transition, which is the topic of interest in the global energy industries, reviewing emerging trends like electric cars and SUVs, and the future of oil fueled vehicles, referring to emerging economies role to deal with these changes.

Delivering Downstream Values

The second session, entitled “Delivering Value across the Downstream Landscape” witnessed a discussion between global business leaders of oil and gas companies. The speakers were Ibrahim Al-Buainain, CEO at Aramco Trading; Saad Helal, CEO at the Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM); Andreas Shiamishis, CEO and Executive Member of the Board of Directors at Hellenic Petroleum; Jean Sentenac, President and CEO at Axens; and Stanislas Mittelman, Senior Vice President Africa Division at Total Marketing & Services.

The session reviewed the increasing opportunities in the oil and gas downstream sector. Al-Buainain shared recent challenges and updates facing Saudi Aramco and affecting the global energy industry. He mentioned attacks and successes like SABIC stating that “the acquisition of SABIC was part of Aramco’s strategy of growth. Since 2010, Aramco has changed its strategy to become a global energy company and a chemical integration with refining that is in the core of its strategy.”

The panel referred to several ways followed by leaders to develop refining efficiencies and boost performance in order to meet growing demands. Helal mentioned that the Egyptian government has been developing the downstream strategy to increase the added value, noting that “without making added value, there is no economy.”

“In the future, fossil fuel demand growth will be replaced by petrochemical. So, based on that, most of the players are trying to go more for petrochemicals, which is supposed to grow at a rate of 3% to 4% a year worldwide,” Sentenac pointed out.

The panelists further talked about how the petrochemical industry’s dynamic could be affected by what is known as plastics circular economy, highlighting the importance of recycling.  Moreover, the oil and gas leaders discussed the low sulphur regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and how they could affect the downstream industry. “The IMO is the last chapter in a very long book, of which the industry has yet to see many chapters,” Shiamishis stated.

East Mediterranean Gas Market Transformation

The third session, entitled “Transforming the East Mediterranean Gas and LNG Market” included a discussion between global oil and gas leading figures. The session had a discussion between six powerful panelists: Donald Bagley, Vice President Exploration and New Ventures (Europe, Russia, Caspian, MENA) at ExxonMobil; Toula Onoufriou, President at Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company (CHC); Abdulsamad Abdulrahim, Chairman of the Association of Tanzania Oil & Gas Service Providers; Houda Dabbousi, Vice President Commercial MENA at Royal Dutch Shell; Mathios Rigas, CEO at Energean; and Mahdjouba Belaifa, Head of Gas Market Analysis Department at Gas Exporting Countries Forum Secretariat (GECF).

The session tackled plans in the East Mediterranean region to create natural gas hub, which led countries to put aside their ever-going conflicts and form geopolitical alliances. About whether the East Med is able to achieve sustainable net exports of gas to the world, Bagley said that “there are great signs around that, but it is going to take a sustained and continued exploration efforts to achieve those sorts of goals.”

The oil and gas leaders talked about remaining necessary changes in the region’s infrastructure and the needed investments to help the hydrocarbon industry meet the market’s natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) needs. Summarizing the gas market issues, Rigas noted that investments in the gas fields exist; however, “the real issue right now in the Mediterranean comes around to two points. Number one is infrastructure, and number two gas prices.”

The panel also reviewed the future of electricity and energy mix. “If electricity leaders want their young family members, children and grandchildren, to live with electricity as a right, they need to make sure that they have more energy and they have cleaner energy,” Dabbousi noted. “Operators need to look at the energy mix very closely and to think about how renewable energy can take more prominent percentage of the energy mix, not only in electrification, but across all energy uses, and how gas being the lowest carbon emitter out of the hydrocarbons to play a role in helping the operators get there and in bridging that renewable space,” she concluded.