By Christopher Hudson
Be in no doubt: 2022 is a year of unprecedented upheaval in the global gas sector.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken markets and precipitated a seismic shift in the geopolitical landscape. The crisis has upturned policy assumptions in Europe, presented significant supply challenges in an already tight market and opened new investment opportunities for the sector during the energy transition.
It has also thrown into sharp relief a fundamental truth: despite advances in renewable capacity, zero-carbon sources alone will not keep pace with growing global energy demands as we move towards 2050. Gas remains the lynchpin of Europe’s energy security and will be an essential enabler of a just transition to net-zero.
Against this backdrop and a heightened focus on the essential importance of natural gas and LNG in the global energy mix, Gastech will host its 50th anniversary edition in Milan on 5-8 September. This year’s integrated conference and exhibition, the largest of its kind in the world, stands to be the unmissable event of 2022 for industry leaders, policymakers, and investors.
Half a century on from its first ever edition, the geopolitical shocks that defined the industry transformation in the 1960s and 70s are back with a vengeance. The pivot by Europe – where Russian gas accounts for 40% of supply – and much of the West towards a ‘Zero Russian Gas’ policy arguably represents the industry’s biggest shift in a generation.
Across Europe, consumers are feeling the squeeze from surging gas prices. Now more than ever, we urgently need ideas, solutions, and innovations to tackle the acute problems currently facing the market, and to provide affordable low-carbon energy for all.
Gastech 2022 will be the forum to drive a global conversation around the realities of this recalibration of the continent’s gas supply. It will be where industry leaders, policymakers and investors collectively engage in dialogue to address the crucial ‘how to’ questions of energy transition, balancing near-term energy security imperatives with longer-term decarbonisation objectives.
That will undoubtedly mean exploring new opportunities for gas investments in Europe, not least in the Eastern Mediterranean, after years of investor reticence and regulatory and diplomatic intransigence. But it will also mean accelerating the industry’s investments in carbon capture and storage and fugitive emissions solutions, as well as sharpening the focus of industry and policymakers on overcoming the significant cost barriers to deploying hydrogen at scale.
As COP27 in Egypt approaches, the global picture and the central role of natural gas, LNG, hydrogen, and low-carbon solutions in achieving a ‘just’ energy transition cannot be forgotten. Gastech 2022 will take place in Milan - Italy’s anchoring role in Europe and outlook across the Mediterranean will make it a perfect host country for debates on how the gas sector can make a positive, proactive contribution to developing economies in Africa and the global fight against climate change.
Low-carbon alternatives are critically important for weaning developing economies off coal and meeting their growing energy demands over the coming decades. We have seen panicked reversions to the dirtiest fuels amid renewable shortages and tight supplies of LNG in recent months, which augur badly for future supply shocks. This represents a particular challenge for Asia, where Gastech will take place in 2023.
Complicating all these challenges and debates, however, is the massive price volatility we have seen this year, and since the pandemic began. It is less than two years, lest we forget since the price of a barrel of oil briefly turned negative as global energy demand collapsed amid economic shutdowns. Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis began, prices have reached highs not seen since 2008.
After years of under-investment, higher prices should incentivise capital allocation to low-carbon fuel projects. But market instability risks undermining investor confidence and letting opportunities go to waste. Here, Gastech will facilitate vital conversations between industry and the financiers, bankers, and governments involved in financing the net-zero energy transformation. It is in the meeting rooms and corridors around the conference floor where the industry’s response to this year’s generational shifts will be forged.
Over the next six months, the gas sector will doubtless be buffeted by many more geopolitical twists and turns as the Russia-Ukraine crisis evolves. The only certainty is that when September comes, Gastech will be where the gas industry redefines its value proposition and charts a course to a just transition through COP27 and beyond.
A landmark event in the industry’s calendar, Gastech 2022 will shape the future of energy by bringing the industry together to discuss the global energy agenda.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in Milan on 5-8 September 2022, the four-day exhibition and conference will gather Ministers, CEOs, policy makers, business leaders, engineers, innovators, and disruptors. They will convey their unique perspectives on the current state of the energy industry and ambitions for how it will evolve over the coming decades.