CERAWeek 2023: Aramco shares expertise on the future of energy
Tackling the trilemma of energy affordability, energy security, and sustainability.
Aramco director of Global Analysis, Musaab M. Al Mulla, and head of Corporate Support and Industry Insights, Sarah N. Baashan, recently participated as high profile CERAWeek panelists discussing the future of energy and the importance of hydrocarbons as the world moves toward net zero.
Reimagining the future
Al Mulla’s panel “Reimagining the Future of Energy,” which was conducted in the main executive conference, charted a path forward for the industry that accounts for accelerating net zero ambitions, market disruptions, and global economic headwinds. It also focused on new opportunities arising from Europe’s REPowerEU plan and the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., which may spur investments in new energy technologies.
A key issue addressed by the panel — which was conducted as part of the closing session of the event on the final day — was how to address the trilemma of energy affordability, energy security, and sustainability.
“Last year, our president and CEO, Amin Nasser, called for a platform for inclusive dialogue, and we see that on the ground this year,” Al Mulla said. “This CERAWeek validated his point that the energy trilemma is critical, and that to solve the problem we need to look at the energy triangle.”
Nasser has said tackling climate change is at the center of the so-called energy triangle.
Al Mulla said that it was crucial for policymakers to remain open to new developments and avoid being overly prescriptive.
“It’s not only about the energy transition,” he said. “There is a material and mobility transition happening in parallel, which policies today are not reflecting. It has been proven that the oil and gas industry will play a vital role in all three.
“Policies often don’t reflect the complexity of the energy systems today,” Al Mulla added. “A good example is when you target the end use of mobility rather than the life cycle of carbon emissions, that would be a policy risk for investments in R&D and other alternatives that could be the future like e-fuels or synthetic fuels. Without looking at the complexity of the energy system, and designing simplistic policies, you could pose a significant policy risk to potential solutions.”
Net zero and multiple approaches
Baashan’s panel on “The Role of Hydrocarbons in Getting to Net Zero,” took place in the technology-focused Agora area. It provided an opportunity to share her views on the importance of thinking comprehensively about the energy transition and embracing multiple approaches.
“Getting to a resilient, low emissions, and economically robust future requires us to solve for the variables of the formula together, rather than addressing them in silos,” Baashan said. “Each company, country, and individual will solve for it differently and that is OK, because this equation or framework gives us the direction of travel and assurance that we are balanced in our approaches.”
Baashan also noted that hydrocarbons would play an important role in what Aramco calls the materials transition: “Electrons will be an essential part of the future, but also essential will be the molecules that give us energy and can help us build the future,” she said. “Chemical products will be very important in creating the durable materials we need, and we refer to these as ‘nonmetallic solutions.’”
Baashan added that innovation in carbon capture utilization and storage projects is especially important: “Unabated CO2 is definitely a problem, but when you manage to deploy technologies and innovations to capture and utilize carbon, this is how we convert a challenge into an opportunity,” she said.
Caption for top photo: Musaab M. Al Mulla discusses the energy trilemma during a panel session at CERAWeek 2023 in Houston.