Gas to overtake coal as world’s second largest energy source by 2030

Global gas demand would increase by 1.6 percent a year to 2040, Paris-based IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Gas to overtake coal as world’s second largest energy source by 2030

  • Global gas demand would increase by 1.6 percent a year to 2040
  • The US could account for 40 percent of total gas production growth to 2025

LONDON: Natural gas is expected to overtake coal as the world’s second largest energy source after oil by 2030 due to a drive to cut air pollution and the rise in liquefied natural gas (LNG) use, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.
The Paris-based IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2018 that energy demand would grow by more than a quarter between 2017 and 2040 assuming more efficient use of energy — but would rise by twice that much without such improvements.
Global gas demand would increase by 1.6 percent a year to 2040 and would be 45 percent higher by then than today, it said.
The estimates are based on the IEA’s “New Policies Scenario” that takes into account legislation and policies to reduce emissions and fight climate change. They also assume more energy efficiencies in fuel use, buildings and other factors.
“Natural gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel in the New Policies Scenario, overtaking coal by 2030 to become the second-largest source of energy after oil,” the report said.
China, already the world’s biggest oil and coal importer, would soon become the largest importer of gas and net imports would approach the level of the European Union by 2040, the IEA said.
According to Reuters calculations, based on China’s General Administration of Customs data, China has already overtaken Japan as the world’s top natural gas importer.
Although China is the world’s third-biggest user of natural gas behind the United States and Russia, it has to import about 40 percent of its needs as local production cannot keep pace.
Emerging economies in Asia would account for about half of total global gas demand growth and their share of LNG imports would double to 60 percent by 2040, the IEA report said.
“Although talk of a global gas market similar to that of oil is premature, LNG trade has expanded substantially in volume since 2010 and has reached previously isolated markets,” it said. LNG involves cooling gas to a liquid so it can be transported by ship.
The United States could account for 40 percent of total gas production growth to 2025, the IEA said, while other sources would take over as US shale gas output flattened and other nations started turning to unconventional methods of gas production, such as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Global electricity demand will grow 2.1 percent a year, mostly driven by rising use in developing economies. Electricity will account for a quarter of energy used by end users such as consumers and industry by 2040, it said.
Coal and renewables will swap their positions in the power generation mix. The share of coal is forecast to fall from about 40 percent today to a quarter in 2040 while renewables would grow to just over 40 percent from a quarter now.
However, the world’s coal plants make up one third of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions today. Many of those are in Asia, where average coal plants are on average 11 years old with decades left to operate, compared with an average age of 40 years in the United States and Europe.
“We can create some room for maneuver by expanding the use of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage, hydrogen, improving energy efficiency, and in some cases, retiring capital stock early. To be successful, this will need an unprecedented global political and economic effort,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
Energy-related CO2 emissions could reach a record high this year, the IEA said, and will continue to grow at a slow but steady pace to 2040. From 2017 levels, the IEA said emissions would rise by 10 percent to 36 gigatons in 2040, mostly driven by growth in oil and gas.
But this is “far out of step” with what scientific knowledge says would be required to tackle climate change, it added.


INTERVIEW: Sam Darwish, Group CEO at IHS Towers - the accidental engineer who found his calling

Updated 25 May 2019
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INTERVIEW: Sam Darwish, Group CEO at IHS Towers - the accidental engineer who found his calling

  • The CEO has made it big in telecoms, in a career shaped early on by Lebanon’s bloody civil war

For some, student survival means merely coasting along at university in the hope of bagging a 2.1, as well as invites to as many parties as possible.

For telecoms executive Sam Darwish, however, survival took on a more literal sense, having embarked on his studies in the dying days of the Lebanese civil war.

Teenage life was tough for Darwish, who is now 47 and a US citizen. Growing up in Beirut in the 1980s meant a constant backdrop of violence —  “there were many wounded,” he said — plus the daily struggles of putting food on the table and regular electricity blackouts.

But it was this experience that taught Darwish a certain “pragmatism” that he continues to put to use today as chief executive of telecoms company IHS Towers, which has to date raised more than $5.5 billion in funding.

Sitting in the IHS office in London’s plush Mayfair district, Darwish recounted how, when he was a student, his father would give him a small sum of money each day. He could either use it to take public transport to the American University of Beirut campus — or buy lunch, and risk the walk through the war-torn streets.

“Decisions like that make you pragmatic. It makes you solution-orientated. It makes you appreciate what the basics in life are,” said Darwish.

“You need just to survive. You need to find a solution. Electricity would disappear for a few days, then people started charging their batteries in their cars, and at the end of the day remove the battery to put on a light or small TV,” he added.

“It taught me to not take anything for granted. You needed to think and rethink every little thing that exists.”

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BIO

SAM DARWISH

•47 years old

•US citizen, grew up in Lebanon

•Married, three children based in US

EDUCATION

•Bachelor’s engineering degree in computer communications, American University of Beirut

CAREER

•Network chief engineer, Libancell, Lebanon

•Vice chairman, director of projects, Lintel

•Deputy managing director, CELIA Motophone, Nigeria

•Co-founder, IHS Towers

OTHER INTERESTS

•Founder, Singularity Investments

•Founder, DAR Properties

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This practical attention to detail — along with an awareness of the importance of finance, power and security — are very much required in Darwish’s role today.

IHS Towers’ business model is relatively straightforward: The company buys mobile towers from telecoms companies, or builds them itself, then leases them back to the operators.

Darwish co-founded the company in Nigeria in 2001, and it now has operations in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Zambia.

Renting out mobile communications towers is hardly the most glamorous of businesses — it is “simple and low profile, we don’t make it flashy,” he said — but the economics stack up.

Selling mobile towers allows telecoms companies to free up cash, while companies such as IHS can rent space on the masts to multiple carriers, which is more efficient. It is a model that Darwish believes the entire industry will one day embrace.

“When (a single operator) owns a tower, often it’s not optimized in terms of the revenue that that tower can get,” he said.

“They end up with hundreds of millions, sometimes billions of dollars on their balance sheet (with) towers (that are) inefficient, and simply depreciating. Sharing means more efficiency, and more margin for everyone.”

There is also a certain advantage to dealing with purely “basic” infrastructure, given the global furor about the security of telecoms networks.

IHS deals with the actual steel masts, rather than the more sensitive communications kit or software they house.

For that reason, it does not face as much scrutiny as a company such as Huawei, the Chinese equipment firm that the US believes poses a security risk.

“There’s a big difference between us and what Huawei does. We’re providers of passive infrastructure,” said Darwish.

“Our towers are simple towers … It’s a location, it’s a tower, it’s power, it’s security —  that’s what we provide,” he added.

“But at the end of the day, we’re also part of critical infrastructure for countries … So there’s always the aspect of ‘who are these guys, who are their shareholders, what’s their track record, what’s their governance like?’”

That is partly why Darwish runs IHS as if it was a “a public company by Western standards.” The company’s governance is “very strict,” and its high-profile shareholders include Goldman Sachs (through a special fund), the Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, the Korea Investment Corp. and IFC, the private equity arm of the World Bank.

At the end of the day, we’re part of a critical infrastructure for countries.

Sam Darwish

Such backing — Darwish said IHS has raised between $5.5 billion and $6 billion of capital since it was formed —  and governance standards bode well for a potential initial public offering (IPO) of IHS.

The company last year shelved such a plan, but Darwish said it is thinking about “moving ahead” with plans for a listing in New York or London.

“There are hundreds of thousands of towers out there that could be bought, or built, over the next few years … That’s why a potential listing is important to us at some point in time,” he said.

Such a move would potentially expedite the company’s expansion in areas such as the Arabian Gulf, which is currently its “main focus.”

IHS has already struck regional agreements to buy towers from telecoms operators Zain Kuwait and Zain KSA.

Upon completion of those two deals — which are still subject to regulatory approval — the Mauritius-headquartered IHS will have approximately 33,100 towers in its portfolio. It is currently the world’s second-largest independent, multi-country tower operator.

Darwish said Saudi Arabia is “where we’d like to grow,” with IHS recently having obtained a foreign investment license from the General Investment Authority, with plans for an office staffed by 100-200 people.

He cited the economic reforms underway, which include weaning Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil and encouraging more women into the workplace.

“The Kingdom is going through a transformation now. This transformation is fascinating, and it’s something that needs to be watched very carefully,” he said.

“They’re using this cash they have now to start planning, and start transforming — theaters, entertainment, industries, manufacturing, all these massive investments they’re doing.”

Whilst inhabiting an industry that lacks a certain glam factor, there is something of the “Davos man” about Darwish.

Dressed casually in a designer jacket in his Mayfair office, he explained some of his interests that run parallel to IHS.

He is the founder of Singularity Investments, a private investment firm with a focus on technology and media companies in the US and emerging markets, along with DAR Properties, a property investment company.

Darwish also has a strong interest in corporate social responsibility, having supported incubator programs for aspiring tech entrepreneurs in Lagos, served as a mentor to local business executives, and worked on several health and education projects in Africa.

His personal passion, however, is the IHS Academy, launched one and a half years ago, which offers online education in the field and has seen some 40,000 course completions.

“The training for me is the single most important thing I can give, and it helps us at the end of the day,” said Darwish.

“I personally believe in the power of education — that’s what transformed my life. My father worked three shifts to basically make sure we stayed in the best private schools … He believed in what education can do in transforming lives.”

Darwish’s own studies in Beirut, however, nearly took a different turn. Though he graduated as an engineer in computer communications with “the highest distinction” — setting him out on a 20-year career in telecoms — it was never the path he envisaged.

“I wanted to be a Nobel Prize physicist. (But the university) dean called me, and he was like, ‘no — we need you in engineering’,” Darwish said. “It was just by accident that I became an engineer, but it paid off.”