Oil and Gas Industry: Bringing Prosperity and Happiness to the World
I vividly recall a trip with my family when I was 10 years old from my hometown Hofuf to Dammam city on the east coast of Saudi Arabia. This was the early 1970s, and we passed through the northern part of Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world. We also drove through Abqaiq city, which was established by Aramco as a crude-handling facility. During that trip I was wondering what oil and gas would bring to me and to my country, Saudi Arabia. During that time, Saudi Arabia was at the initial stage of educational, industrial, and scientific evolution, trying to catch up with the more advanced West. I remember Saudi Aramco (Aramco back then) was the company where most of the people in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia dreamt of working. Not only was Aramco a source of a reliable job with good pay, but also health, education, sport, food, and entertainment. To my generation in Saudi Arabia, the oil and gas industry was everything a young person dreamt of. During that trip, while gazing through the drilling rigs and flares on both sides of the highway at night, I created for myself a goal to be part of this great industry.
My thoughts back then were limited to myself and my family, hoping for more economic prosperity and happiness. Today, after 45 years, I can observe how oil and gas has brought economic prosperity not only to myself and my family, but to my country. I also see the positive impacts globally.
Saudi Arabia has evolved in a very short time to be one of the top developing countries, one of the top 20 global economies, primarily because of oil and gas. In a few decades, Saudi Arabia achieved extraordinary advancements in many areas—economy, health, education, manufacturing, agriculture, sport, and entertainment. It isn’t just exporting countries though. South Korea is an example of an importing country that has also developed due to oil and gas. Imported energy supplied the fuel for its development in advanced electronics, automobiles, and heavy industry. In mid-March, the SPE Board of Directors held a meeting in Ghana. Just days before, The New York Times published an article projecting that Ghana will be the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2018. This is primarily due to the recent offshore natural gas discoveries and the high potential for more oil and gas development in the region. Like many parts of Africa, Ghana does not have a countrywide electrical grid, and most current electric power comes from diesel fuel. The availability of clean natural gas has the potential to make major changes in the quality of the environment and the lives of people throughout Ghana. A number of other African countries have also had recent discoveries, meaning that even more people may benefit as these resources are developed.
Our industry will continue playing a key role in meeting future global energy demand for the short, mid, and long term. This will occur because of technology advancement within our industry, which allows us to discover more oil and gas resources, and to increase the recovery from existing resources, all in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.
I also welcome the advancements in renewables and energy efficiency, and believe they will complement, but not replace, oil and gas. I believe, as illustrated in many energy forecasts, that hydrocarbons will continue to dominate the global energy map, especially in the transportation and chemical sectors. The contribution from renewables will increase and will help, especially with power generation. However, world energy demand is growing rapidly and right now only oil and gas can fill the gap.
I believe that public concerns about climate change pose risks to our industry. We are undertaking significant investment to reduce methane emissions and flaring, to develop hydrocarbon resources more sustainably, and to enhance environmental protection. These have become core operating principles of companies of all sizes and industry sectors. We need to loudly and proudly show the world that we are major players in the climate change solution, rather than being presented as the cause. Our industry has created several technology hubs that focus on developing better fuel formulation with less carbon emissions and greater efficiency for combustion engines. Several CO2 capture and sequestration projects have started for enhanced oil recovery. We’re leading the way on liquid-to-gas conversion strategies for power generation. I also believe that our industry, through a “crude-to-chemicals” strategy, will develop new noncombusted uses of oil and gas that will not only create new demand with minimum environmental footprint, but also will invent new products (advanced chemicals) that will further improve human lifestyle across many domains.
I am also proud of the industry’s unmatched efforts and investments in social corporate responsibility programs, and their positive impact on humanity, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries. Our industry is a significant contributor to the social development of the countries it operates in.
Today, more than 50% of the global energy mix comes from oil and gas, with most projections seeing that portion fall only slightly by 2040. The total volume of oil and gas needed to supply the world with energy will actually increase significantly by 2040. That means our industry will remain a major contributor to global economic growth, social development, and lifestyle improvement. This makes me optimistic for our future. The young people already in our industry, and those who will join in the future, will ensure that we continue to help solve the world’s energy and environmental challenges. I hope we will be recognized for our contributions to improving people’s lives. We, as members of this great industry, need to feel the pride and responsibility of doing so.
With the current lifestyle of the 21st century, my generation believes that it is the luckiest generation. I believe that the luckiest generation is yet to be born. The lifestyle improvement brought by our industry will continue to grow in the future, bringing more economic prosperity and happiness to the world.
I have no doubt that, through the oil and gas industry’s technical capabilities and the wisdom of its leaders, we will never fail in meeting the global call for energy. It will be delivered in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, with significant economic and social development. SPE will play a major role and be a catalyst in achieving this noble goal. It will be a very exciting journey, full of achievements and milestones. I call upon all SPE members to board the plane with us to spread the benefits of affordable, reliable, sustainable energy globally.
Oil and Gas Industry: Bringing Prosperity and Happiness to the World
Sami Alnuaim, 2019 SPE President
01 October 2018
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19 June 2019