Saudi Arabia to use 4IR to transform energy sector, fight climate change

Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim (L), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (C) and Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the 4IR forum. (Screenshots)
Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim (L), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (C) and Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the 4IR forum. (Screenshots)
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Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia to use 4IR to transform energy sector, fight climate change

Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim (L), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (C) and Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the 4IR forum. (Screenshots)
  • Ministers laud the technology at forum for Fourth Industrial Revolution in Riyadh
  • 4IR is a way of describing the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds

DUBAI/RIYADH/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is aiming to use Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology to fundamentally transform the energy sector, enhance the security of its water and food resources, and fight climate change, senior ministers announced.

“Our vision is to transform the energy sector through the application of data and technology,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said during the 4IR forum in Riyadh on Thursday.

“Saudi Arabia has a rich resource of youthful innovators who can be entrusted with the task of seeing this transformation through to fulfillment. The synergy between youth and technological innovation will make Saudi Arabia a dynamo for the digital transformation of the energy sector.”

4IR is a fusion of advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering, quantum computing, and more. It is a way of describing the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

The application of 4IR technology in energy will enable the Kingdom to lead the way in the battle against climate change, the Saudi energy minister said. 

“Perhaps the most important area where technology and energy can combine to the benefit, not just of the Kingdom, but of all mankind, is in the search for cleaner energy,” Prince Abdul Aziz said. “Here, we can use the technology of the 4IR to accelerate the energy transition, and meet the goals for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

His view was echoed by Ahmed Al-Zahrani, assistant minister for energy, who highlighted the potential of 4IR technologies like IoT and Blockchain. 

“These will help our endeavors to improve efficiency and reduce emissions,” Al Zahrani said.

The Kingdom is known for its energy security as it has been endowed with huge energy resources, but when it comes to food and water security, the country is facing challenges. Adding 4IR applications can address these challenges, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli told the conference. 

Al-Fadli also said 4IR applications such as the use of remote sensors, artificial intelligence, and robotics will help the farming sector in Saudi Arabia as the technologies will provide better data from the fields. He also mentioned that these applications will assist the Kingdom in its plan to plant billions of trees under its green initiative.

“The challenge we all face is to tackle the great issues of the world today, like post-pandemic economic recovery, energy reliability, and sustainability,” Prince Abdul Aziz said.

In other developments from the forum, Ahmed Al-Saadi, senior vice president for technical service at Saudi Aramco, said the oil company had developed its technology for many years, notably in monitoring conditions in oil reservoirs. He said Aramco had made great strides in technology and was among the “best in class” operators in the global energy peer group.

Mohammed Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power, the utility developer backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, told the forum most of its operations were now digital and that essential maintenance was controlled and managed through digital functions.

Abunayyan also said the involvement of the private sector in the digitization of energy was crucial: “The private sector will always deliver better value than the public utility model.”

Jason Bordoff, Dean of the Columbia Climate School in New York, had a warning about the slow progress towards the Paris Agreement goal of reducing CO2 emissions.

“We are not on track to meet those goals,” he said. “We need emissions to decline faster.”

Melissa Lott, research director at Columbia’s energy policy center, said carbon capture, utilization, and storage — a big element in Saudi Arabia’s Circular Carbon Economy framework — was crucial to efforts in reducing emissions.


Indonesia wrestles with lure of lucrative coal industry and greener vision

Indonesia wrestles with lure of lucrative coal industry and greener vision
Coal barges at Mahakam river, Samarinda, Indonesia. Image: Shutterstock
Updated 6 sec ago

Indonesia wrestles with lure of lucrative coal industry and greener vision

Indonesia wrestles with lure of lucrative coal industry and greener vision
  • Indonesia, the eighth-biggest carbon emitter, recently brought forward its goal for net zero emissions from 2070 to 2060 or sooner
  • With nearly 39 billion tonnes of reserves, coal remains the economic backbone of parts of Indonesia and miners are among the biggest taxpayers

As Indonesia wins cautious praise from some green groups for ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions, the world's biggest exporter of thermal coal is grappling with its commitment to a greener future.


Indonesia, the eighth-biggest carbon emitter, recently brought forward its goal for net zero emissions from 2070 to 2060 or sooner, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, and joined a U.S.-led Global Methane Pledge.

Indonesia is wrestling with how to balance its environmental targets with the cost of pulling the plug on an industry that contributed $38 billion in export earnings in the first seven months of 2021.


It also plans to stop commissioning new coal-fired power plants and phase out coal for electricity by 2056 under a new, greener, long-term economic vision.


"We are phasing out coal power plants. But if you ask whether we're closing down mines, we have the coal and there are other utilisation options," Dadan Kusdiana, the energy ministry's head of renewable energy, told Reuters.

Indonesia is exploring ways to keep consuming and extracting value from coal by using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, although environmentalists say CCS is unproven and expensive.

COAL GASIFICATION


With nearly 39 billion tonnes of reserves, coal remains the economic backbone of parts of Indonesia and miners are among the biggest taxpayers.


The government has been encouraging miners to invest in production of dimethyl ether (DME) from coal. Under new laws passed in 2020, it no longer requires them to pay royalties to the government on such processes, and their mine permits can be extended.


It has touted DME as a replacement for imported liquefied petroleum gas and a feed stock for chemicals and fertilizer.


Making DME requires burning coal, so it needs to be paired with CCS to be environmentally friendly, Dadan said.


However, if Indonesia can adopt CCS more widely and cheaply, the technology could also be applied to coal power plants, extending their usage, he said.


He said that although using CCS technology is feasible, there is risk of leakage in trying to capture emissions from burning and mining coal.

RECORD PRICE 


Coal power generation is Indonesia's second-biggest emissions source after deforestation, contributing 35 percent of its 1,262 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, government data showed.


Indonesia consumes about 130 million tonnes of coal annually to fuel 60% of its 73 gigawatt (GW) electricity capacity, and exports about three times that amount.


Renewable sources like solar, hydro and geothermal make up just 11 percent of its energy mix, even though experts say Indonesia has 400 GW of renewable potential.


The government has pledged to increase the renewable share to 23 percent by 2025. 


Coal power remains the cheapest option.  Coal prices hit all-time highs this year, helping Indonesia book record exports and a trade surplus in August. The government raised its 2021 coal output target by 14 percent to 625 million tonnes to cash in.


Cerah and other green groups have campaigned to retire coal plants early, but officials have said this could trigger fines for breaching contracts with independent power producers.

On the flip side, parliament is reviewing a government-proposed carbon tax, and Indonesia has ambitious plans to use its nickel reserves to become a production hub for batteries and electric vehicles.

 


Saudi Arabia's blockchain market to grow 41 percent by 2025

Saudi Arabia's blockchain market to grow 41 percent by 2025
Updated 40 min 58 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's blockchain market to grow 41 percent by 2025

Saudi Arabia's blockchain market to grow 41 percent by 2025

Saudi Arabia's blockchain market is expected to grow by 41 percent between 2021 and 2025, according to estimates of the Kingdom's communications sector regulator.

The blockchain market surge is part of wider expected growth in the IT and emerging technology sector that will hit SR100 billion by 2025, with an annual compound growth rate of 10 percent, Saudi Press Agency reported, citing Raed Alfayez, vice-governor of emerging technologies at the Commission of Information Technology and Communication.

The market today has a size of SR65 billion, he added.

 


Surge in MENA’s SPAC activity counters IPOs drop, says Ernst & Young

Surge in MENA’s SPAC activity counters IPOs drop, says Ernst & Young
Updated 48 min 40 sec ago

Surge in MENA’s SPAC activity counters IPOs drop, says Ernst & Young

Surge in MENA’s SPAC activity counters IPOs drop, says Ernst & Young

Middle Eastern businesses are increasingly making use of the alternative route to public listing known as SPACs, a report by Ernst & Young has claimed.

The analysis shows a rise in activity involving special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and MENA-based firms.

SPACs are publicly listed companies created with the sole purpose of purchasing privately owned businesses, which therefore leads to its target to be listed. 

As well as private companies, sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East — including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala — have also made use of SPACs, with PIF investing USD$75 million in NYSE-listed Compute Health in February.

Gregory Hughes, Ernst & Young MENA IPO and transaction diligence leader, said: “IPO activity during H1 2021 was below expectations, nevertheless the year did bring some remarkable deals with MENA companies showing an ever-increasing interest in SPAC transactions as a means to go public. We expect this trend to continue as companies seek to increase their international presence and gain access to a wider pool of investors.”

Among the MENA companies to go public this year after merging with SPACs were Abu Dhabi-based music streaming platform Anghami, and Dubai-headquartered transit firm Swvl Inc.

While SPAC activity was surging, the proceeds from initial public offerings (IPOs) across the region saw a year-on-year drop of 48 percent in the first half of 2021. 

Four IPOs raised USD$425.8 million, even though the number of listings stayed the same as 2020. 

Matthew Benson, EY MENA Strategy and Transactions Leader said that despite the drop, his company’s outlook on the region’s IPO activity “remains positive”.


World shares slide to a one-month low as uncertainty grips markets

World shares slide to a one-month low as uncertainty grips markets
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 23 min 25 sec ago

World shares slide to a one-month low as uncertainty grips markets

World shares slide to a one-month low as uncertainty grips markets
  • European shares sank 1 percent to a near two-month low on Monday
  • The benchmark European stocks index has now fallen for three straight weeks on worries about slowing global growth

World shares skidded and the dollar firmed on Monday ahead of a week packed with global central bank meetings, while debt troubles at property group China Evergrande dragged Hong Kong stocks towards to a one-year low.

European shares sank 1.8 percent to a two-month low on Monday, tracking Asian equities lower, with energy and mining stocks tumbling as the dollar's jump to near four-week highs crushed commodity prices.


Holidays in Japan, China and South Korea meant trading was thin in Asia, while politics added extra uncertainty with elections in Canada and Germany bookending the week.


Shares in China Evergrande plummeted 12 percent after earlier losing as much as 19 percent to more than 11-year lows.

The company's listed units also fell, as investors worried about the real estate developer's ability to repay a small portion of its $305 billion debt due this Thursday.


Evergrande's troubles added to growing concerns about the health of China's economy after Beijing's recent crackdown on tech firms. The Hang Seng index shed 3.5 percent, while Singapore-traded FTSE China futures fell 3 percent.


MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 1.7% to its lowest since August 24, with Australia stocks, in their worst session in nearly seven months, slumping 2.1 percent.


The MSCI All Country World Index lost 0.5 percent, close to a one-month low and down further from record highs hit earlier this month.



 


Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge

Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge

Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge
  • Saudi oil arrivals surged 53 percent from a year earlier to 8.06 million tonnes
  • Shipments from the United Arab Emirates fell nearly 40 percent year-on-year

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, kept its ranking as China's top crude supplier for a ninth straight month in August as major producers relaxed production cuts.

Saudi oil arrivals surged 53 percent from a year earlier to 8.06 million tonnes, or 1.96 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday.

That compares with 1.58 million bpd in July and 1.24 million bpd in August last year.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, decided in July to ease production cuts and increase supply by a further 2 million bpd, adding 0.4 million bpd a month from August until December. In July, OPEC output increased by 640,000 bpd to 26.66 million bpd. read more

China's crude oil imports from Russia stood at 6.53 million tonnes in August, or 1.59 million bpd, flat versus 1.56 million bpd in July.

The big gap behind Saudi volumes was due to Beijing's decision to slash crude oil import quotas to its independent refiners, who favour Russia's ESPO blend.

Crude oil arrivals from Malaysia more than doubled from year-ago levels to 1.75 million tonnes, with traders saying refiners might have rebranded Venezuelan heavy oil previously passed on as bitumen blend into Malaysian crude after Beijing imposed hefty import taxes on blending fuels. read more

Meanwhile, shipments from the United Arab Emirates fell nearly 40 percent year-on-year, a possible sign demand for Iranian oil passed on as grades including UAE supplies remained lacklustre after peak arrivals early this year.

Official data has consistently recorded zero imports from Iran or Venezuela since the start of this year.