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All eyes on unconventional energy in the Middle East


Unconventional gas types require advanced technologies and expertise.

January 7, 2014 4:01 by

Due to projected rise in energy consumption worldwide, there has been growing urgency for unconventional solutions in the gas sector, particularly in Gulf countries such as Oman, where hydrocarbons make up 86 per cent of government revenues and fuel economic growth. While the MENASA region holds 40 per cent of the world’s proven gas reserves, it only accounts for 15 per cent of global gas production, indicating a massive untapped potential.

Knowledge Expansion – a regional oil and gas knowledge transfer consultancy – is organising the International Unconventional Gas Conference and Exhibition (IUGCE) from January 22 to 24 in Muscat, Oman. Being the Middle East region’s largest oil and gas producer that is not a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the country makes for an ideal host.

Considering the growing demand for gas – driven by the recovering global economy and population growth – the Middle East region is seeking to strengthen its position at the forefront of the gas sector by diversifying from conventional gas reserves to its largely untapped unconventional gas ones. However, the major challenge is that unconventional gas types, such as tight gas and shale gas, require much more advanced technologies and expertise.

While the region’s existing conventional gas fields remain highly productive, governments have opted for a proactive approach by exploring alternative solutions, rather than waiting for conventional gas production to peak or dwindle. Tight gas exploration and appraisals in countries, such as Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, have increased and are expected to gain momentum with time. This will ultimately strengthen energy security, unlocking new economical energy sources.

According to a report by the World Energy Outlook that was released in November 2013, by the mid 2020s, non-OPEC production will start to fall back and countries from the Middle East region will provide most of the increase in global supply. A high market price for oil will also help to stimulate drilling for light tight oil, but the resource is finite and low-cost suppliers are mostly in the Middle East region. It projects that by 2035, renewable energy will make up 18 per cent of energy supplies, up from 13 per cent in 2011.

As of late 2013, the Middle East region held approximately 40 per cent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, a fact that will support both its growing need for cleaner domestic fuel and exports to overseas markets. It is set to move to centre stage as an energy consumer, becoming the world’s second-largest gas consumer by 2020 and the third-largest oil consumer by 2030, redefining its role in global energy markets.

This article first appeared on sister publication

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