Current Debate Topics

Current Debates
Audience
Current Debate 2
The Preliminary WGC 2021 Current Debate Topics Announced! 

These sessions will give audience members the opportunity to debate with invited senior-level executives on the most commercial and strategic topics of the moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic created the largest decline in global energy demand since World War II and injected new uncertainty into the future of energy markets. Energy systems around the world were already going through rapid transitions that will bring important changes to the way we fuel our cars, heat our homes, and power our industries. Actions to mitigate the economic consequences of the Pandemic and ultimately to return countries to growth will be critical for Government and business leaders and will impact energy consumption with mounting pressure to deliver energy produced with dramatically lower emissions and in more sustainable ways. This session will examine the macro energy landscape from the intersection of policy, markets and geopolitics.

  • What will be the biggest drivers and concerns for global energy and commodity markets in the next decade?
  • Did the COVID-19 crisis accelerate what most long-term forecasts anticipated for the energy sector: declining demand for fossil fuels, decarbonized electric and retail sectors, and greater penetration of renewables?
  • Will the rise of nationalism, the search for energy security, tariffs and trade wars continue to dictate global pricing and trade flows for multiple commodities?
  • What decisions are different regions and countries of the world making about their energy choices?
  • How will the groundswell of “clean energy” policies being implemented by governments in different regions of the world impact natural gas demand?

The COVID-19 pandemic has occurred at a time when global gas markets were already under enormous price pressure from a surge in LNG supplies, weaker demand in Asian markets and warmer weather. While this environment creates significant short-term hurdles for the wider LNG industry, the demand for energy in developing regions, the need for cleaner sources of energy, and the increased competitiveness with other energy sources lead to optimism about LNG’s longer-term future. But continued growth will require substantial new investment from both seller and buyer in the infrastructure needed to meet new demand and these investments will be accompanied by new risks that must be managed. This session will examine the potential for expanding existing markets and opening new markets, the innovations needed in both technology and market design to reduce costs and manage risk.

  • What will gas’ role be versus other energy sources as countries begin to restart their economies after the Pandemic?
  • How will competing energy resources, energy efficiency and infrastructure constraints play a role in dampening the outlook for world gas demand?
  • To what extent will further innovation and technological advancement in each part of the value chain continue to be needed to drive down costs?
  • What has to happen in developing countries for gas to play a larger role in their energy mix as they develop long term plans for their power and gas markets?
  • Specifically, what has to happen in Asian gas markets be able to absorb the huge volume of new LNG supplies that are being developed?
  • How can gas overcome questions about the fuel’s long-term green credentials?
  • How is the current economic outlook affecting the development of future planned LNG projects around the world?

A resilient energy sector has been critical for global and national response and recovery efforts and highlighted the importance of strengthening energy security. Defined as the availability of energy in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices at all times, energy security is a complex issue and a high priority for every nation due to energy’s importance for economic development and growth. Key security issues include diversity of supply, stable prices, the reliability of infrastructure, and the use of clean sustainable resources. This session will explore developments within the EU, ASEAN and East Africa to enhance their respective regions energy security during a period of growing interconnectedness of the world’s energy supplies.

  • Energy security remains a cornerstone of economies especially during turbulent times. Did the Pandemic and its consequences change countries perspectives on what energy security means? Has there been a search for greater resilience, diversification, and support for indigenous energy sources?
  • How is the evolving structure and trends within the world energy markets influencing perceptions of energy security?
  • What policy frameworks are being developed to enhance energy security?
  • What investments in strategic energy infrastructure are being made to prevent and manage energy supply emergencies?
  • What policies aimed at attracting and retaining foreign direct investment in energy infrastructure are being developed?
  • To what extent are the countries in these regions using renewable energy and decarbonized fuels to reduce the challenges of import dependency and supply disruptions?
  • What are countries doing to diversify their energy supply and ensure stable energy security?

The global gas market is undergoing a structural change as market dynamics shift risk from buyers to sellers and the LNG market adjusts to the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19. By adapting to the changing landscape and developing new business models, gas traders and aggregators are playing a key role in mitigating these risks. This session will examine the risk management tools that often accompany the evolution of traded markets and that can be adapted for global gas markets.

  • How are contract structures changing in response to shifting market fundamentals?
  • Did the COVID-19 crisis have a significant impact on the evolution of contractual arrangements in the industry?
  • Are the lessons learnt from COVID-19 likely to lead to the LNG industry making changes to the terms of future long-term LNG SPAs?
  • What will be the positive and negative impacts of these changes on existing business models?
  • What are the prospects for the further development of local and international market hubs which are so important for fragmented markets and managing demand risk?
  • How will the limitations in customer infrastructure impact the development of new LNG markets?
  • Will new business models develop to allow financing of floating storage and regasification units (FSRU), floating LNG (FLNG), micro-LNG, and bunkering?
  • Will floating liquefaction and regasification units in new markets provide increased trading opportunities and contribute to a more flexible spot market?
  • Contracts in smaller markets are typically higher risk and for lower volumes and shorter periods of time. How are sophisticated sales and trading strategies helping manage risk in these smaller fast-growing niche markets?

Both mandated and voluntary methane reduction initiatives are rolling out across the oil and gas sector and challenging the industry to address the urgent need to continually reduce emissions of methane across the entire gas value chain. This session will examine the industry’s progress in overcoming the challenges in measuring, quantifying and reducing these emissions.

  • What systematic and comprehensive actions are being undertaken to reduce methane emissions?
  • What are the greatest reduction opportunities?
  • What are the challenges in monitoring, measuring and reducing methane emissions and how are they being overcome?
  • What GHG reducing technologies are being implemented or developed to reduce methane emissions along the entire natural gas value chain?
  • As measuring and control technologies are developed, how will these best practices be disseminated around the world?

Technologies and ideas that already existed were put to widespread accelerated use during the pandemic. Many of these new technologies have shown the potential to disrupt long-standing market structures and change how the world uses energy. No aspect of the natural gas value chain – from upstream to behind the meter will be unaffected. This session will identify the new and emerging technologies that are and will shape the future of the gas industry and determine if the industry will lead or be left behind by advanced technologies.

  • Paris Agreement targets will not be reached without substantial new policies and widespread deployment of low, zero-, and potentially negative-emissions technologies. Which of these technologies have the potential to disrupt individual segments of the natural gas value chain?
  • Which technologies provide the greatest opportunities, especially in the context of meeting the gas industry’s sustainability goals?
  • The impact of the Pandemic hasn’t altered the strategic direction of the energy transition just perhaps delayed it. Has this delay provided the gas industry more time to develop a decarbonization strategy?
  • As the industry expands its horizons from biofuels to fuel cells, what other industries and technologies could join and shape the future look of the gas industry?
  • With investment dollars shifting to lower carbon intensive industries, what will be the sources of finance that will help to ensure that sufficient funding will be available to develop new gas industry technology projects?
  • As the governments turned their focus to fiscal budgets, the re-start of the economy and increased employment, how were incentives that focused on the higher cost emerging de-carbonization technologies impacted? Was there a deceleration of the development, scale-up and broader adoption of higher-cost technologies such as CCUS and were their deployment delayed?

With a population larger than that of the United States and an economy that is growing faster than that of China, the economic success of Southeast Asia is dependent on governments and businesses joining forces to provide the clean affordable energy that will fuel their economy and transform their energy systems. This session will review master plans for the power and gas markets in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. It will review the challenges these Southeast Asian countries are facing in key energy related sectors such as renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, development of the ASEAN Power Grid, building out LNG terminal infrastructure and regasification capacity, and implementing new technologies such as microgrids to serve rural areas.  This session will also examine the fallout of the Pandemic on these energy plans and the regions fuel mix.

  • National energy plans have recently been updated in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. What are the priorities as reflected in these plans and how have those strategies been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis?
  • The IEA forecasts that Southeast Asia requires at least $2.7 trillion in energy investments by 2040. What further policy initiatives will be required to attract the needed financing?
  • How important is regional cooperation in bringing major cost savings in building and operating the region’s energy systems?
  • What off grid solutions such as solar mini-grids and microgrids are being explored to provide power to island communities and remote areas where expanding the existing grid is often economically unviable?
  • What efforts are being undertaken by Singapore, Thailand, and others to build the LNG terminal infrastructure and regasification capacity needed to support a shift from pipeline-delivered gas imports from within the region to tanker-delivered LNG imports?
  • Have low spot prices caused by the 2020 economic downturn accelerated the transition away from oil-linked LNG contracts, further improving the competitive position for gas in SE Asia?

The goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all transportation sectors has motivated search for alternative sources of fuels that will significantly lower these emissions. The success of a technology will depend on a number of factors including economic viability, infrastructure to support it, availability of feedstocks or other required resources, environmental impact and government policies and regulations supporting their development. This session will take a close look at the current market potential for transportation fuel technologies that include electricity, biofuels, CNG and hydrogen fuel cells with a special look at the progress being made in implementing the IMO 2020 sulphur cap requirements.

  •  What energy policies in the U.S, Europe and Asia are encouraging the development and use of these technologies?
  • Studies have shown a correlation between long-term exposure to PM2.5 and COVID-19 mortality rates. Will this be another factor pushing cities to aggressively promote and accelerate zero-emission mobility to improve urban air quality?
  • What are the infrastructure challenges for each of these alternative transportation fuels?
  • Biofuels can be produced from a wide range of feedstock through technologies in constant evolution and used directly or blended with conventional fossil fuels. What are the most limiting aspects of biodiesel and similar advanced biofuels?
  • Currently, BEV technology is limited by time and range. What progress is being made in battery development in solving these issues?
  • What advances in materials and cell design are occurring to reducing costs and improve durability and the performance of fuel cells being used for transportation?
  • What have been the challenges of using LNG as a marine fuel to meet the requirements of IMO2020?

South Korea has won plaudits for its approach to containing the COVID-19 pandemic but is also using its coronavirus stimulus package to accelerate the diversification of its energy mix, expand the use of hydrogen and cleaning its air. The country earlier had under the Energy Policy Roadmap embarked on a path to utilize more renewable sources to generate electricity, to decrease the number of coal and nuclear-based plants, and to promote the use of hydrogen for automobiles and public transportation. The post virus New Green Deal included substantial investment in renewable energy, the introduction of a carbon tax and the phasing out of domestic and overseas coal financing by public sector institutions. This session will explore present and future energy policy paths and their implementation, the challenges and opportunities for the country’s ambitious energy transition, and the role Korean industries will play in developing and deploying new technologies to meet these goals.

  •  How has Korea taken the opportunity through its coronavirus stimulus to remake its economy in a cleaner, greener way?
  • What are the key elements of the New Green Deal and to what extent has it been driven by a growing public awareness of how environmental issues affect their lives? How does it relate to the Energy Policy Roadmap?
  • Under the original Energy Policy Roadmap, renewable energy sources, such as sunlight and wind, will account for up to 35 percent of the country’s electricity output in 2040, sharply up from around 6 percent of the country’s energy portfolio in 2017. What progress is being made and will that target be met?
  • The plan will see three cities use hydrogen as the fuel for cooling, heating, electricity and transportation. Have the three test cities been selected and what initiatives are underway?
  • The plan calls for some existing coal plants to be renovated to run on more clean resources, such as LNG. Have these plants been selected and what will be the impact on LNG demand?
  • Under the Green New Deal, South Korea was to establish a Regional Energy Transition Centre to support workers as they move to jobs in more sustainable sectors. Has a timeline for its implementation been established?

Planning and operating the grid has become more complex as new technologies create more dynamic systems and smarter, cleaner technologies offer new ways to generate electricity and manage energy at the local level and provide grid reliability while challenging the need for gas power plants. Under scrutiny for methane and carbon emissions, gas for uses other than electricity (e.g. heating and cooking in buildings and homes) are also facing greater scrutiny. This session will survey developments in several regions of the world as they transition their energy systems and debate the future role of natural gas. 

  • What are the kinds of challenges wind and solar pose to grids and the kinds of solutions grid managers are using to address those challenges?
  • How does natural gas compare to other flexibility options such as those related to demand response, battery storage, grid reinforcement and operation, or adjusting market rules?
  • How will the developments in microgrids, advances in battery and storage technology and the way grids will be operated in the future affect the need for natural gas peaking plants?
  • Can future natural gas plants be designed to be less carbon intensive, with efficiencies and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, while still providing baseload capacity and complementing robust renewable energy growth?
  • How will policy-driven bans on natural gas as an energy choice for residential and commercial customers affect affordability, reliability, and resilience?
  • What advanced and emerging natural gas technologies can achieve all of the same environmental goals as converting to all electric?

Governments, companies and experts are increasingly looking to renewable hydrogen as a long-term pathway away from oil, natural gas and coal. National initiatives worldwide are establishing the economic and technical feasibility of scaling hydrogen production for transport, buildings and power generation while building on existing infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines. This session will take a close look at the key long-term growth drivers for hydrogen use and examine national and regional initiatives for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and charging stations, larger-scale pilot projects with industrial end-users, and a low-cost option for short- and long-term storage of renewable energy.

  • What are the factors affecting the future competitiveness of hydrogen production and its pathways?
  • What is the most cost and carbon efficient way to produce hydrogen?
  • What are the technical developments in passenger hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs)?
  • The United States, China, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom have all been developing initiatives to deploy FCEV technology. What impact are these initiatives having on the future use of FCEVs?
  • Safety ranks as one of the most important challenges for using hydrogen in fuel cells. What progress is being made in developing safety regulations that cover its transportation, storage, and use?
  • What progress is being made in launching the first international shipping routes for hydrogen and developing a hydrogen trade? What are the important pilot projects? What lessons can be learned from the successful growth of the global LNG market?

While the use of renewable energy has increased dramatically, the world-wide use of natural gas, hydrogen and LPGs will also have a major role to play in reducing GHG emissions and improving air quality. Natural gas plants improve air quality when they replace coal and diesel. Hydrogen can play a key role in helping meet  decarbonization goals in transportation and LPGs are a vital source of energy for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world and provide a modern alternative to traditional cooking fuels (e.g. firewood, charcoal, dung), contributing to a better quality of life by reducing particles and toxic chemicals. By examining specific case studies, this session will examine recent developments and the competitive landscape for these three fuels.

  • What are the various opportunities and hurdles for coal to gas switching around the world?
  • How have the cities of Beijing, Santiago, and Morbi (India) used natural gas to reduce the most harmful emissions such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOX) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5)? What have been the health benefits of switching to natural gas?
  • Coal power plants are still being built in the fast-growing economies of China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. What are the greatest challenges from a policy, infrastructure and economic perspective for natural gas replacing coal in these markets?
  • Where in Europe is the infrastructure being developed to use hydrogen as a transportation fuel?
  • Where is hydrogen beginning to make inroads in rail and marine transportation?
  • What is hydrogen’s potential role decarbonizing the hard-to-abate sectors such as steel, petrochemicals, aluminium, cement, and fertilizer?
  • Which are the key growth markets for LPG? What trends, challenges and barriers in these markets will impact their use?
  • How does the strategic role of LPG’s differ in mature versus emerging markets?
  • To reduce household air pollution, improve health outcomes, save non-renewable biomass, and support local economic development, how are government initiatives across countries, such as India, Indonesia, and China expanding liquefied petroleum gas applications as a cooking fuel?

As the world moves to achieve its climate goals, a mix of low and zero-carbon gaseous fuels, such as biogas, biomethane, (blue and green) hydrogen, and synthetic methane could play a vital role in future energy markets and accelerate energy access in developing economies. This session will focus on the current status of producing and using biogas and renewable natural gas including the role they play in the energy plans of different countries and regions of the world.

  • What have been the latest in technology innovations in the production of renewable natural gases?
  • How did the COVID-19 pandemic economic, environmental and policy impacts affect the growth of renewable gases?
  • Was there a continued or even new use of traditional fossil fuels in emerging nations, where the overwhelming imperative is to expand electricity supply as cheaply as possible?
  • What has been the role of policy makers and regulators in various regions of the world in accelerating the use of biogas and renewable natural gas? What regulatory models are necessary? What financing models have been most effective?
  • RNG has flourished in Europe because of generous subsidy programs. What are the prospects for bringing RNG technologies to a competitive cost level with other fuels?
  • In countries with well-established and closely linked gas grids,what are the steps to creating a future green gas grid?
  • What are the implications for the existing natural gas networks and their operators? What are the gas quality issues in using RNG’s?
  • Is there a role for RNG’s in transportation?

As natural gas gains increasing importance in global energy markets, the focus of investment is shifting towards the challenges of expanding energy infrastructure in emerging and developing economies.  While the traditional financing challenges in these countries are well documented, the growing awareness of the role that the financial systems can play in mitigating climate change has created a new set of challenges as investors not only shift their focus to clean energy and low carbon technologies, but seek to end new fossil fuel investments. This session will look at the trends in infrastructure investment and financing and how the industry is responding to investment risks and opportunities.

  • The IEA has noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has set in motion the largest drop in global energy investment in history, with spending expected to plunge in every major sector this year – from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency.  How will this slowdown impact the development of LNG markets?
  • What are the infrastructure investment needs in the developing countries in Asia and Africa?
  • How are LNG suppliers and traders expanding their reach along the value chain by financing import facilities including floating storage regasification units (FSRUs) which are cheaper and faster to deploy? Where has this approach been successful?
  • Are we beginning a fundamental reshaping of energy financing with a much stronger focus on renewable energy? Will concerns about climate change start redirecting energy investments away from fossil fuels?
  • How do financial institutions, governments and international organizations differ in their definitions of green financing?
  • A focus on just sustainable development implies that one size fits all. Should energy investment be approached country by country since every country is different in terms of endowments, in terms of how much solar irradiation they have, or how much wind they have, or whether they have fossil fuel resources?

Addressing climate change—particularly at a reasonable cost—will require advancements in a range of energy-related technologies. These technologies include CCUS which has significant potential to reduce CO₂ emissions in energy systems including emissions from cement, iron and steel, and chemical production which are among the most challenging to abate. CCUS is one of the most cost-effective solutions available for such large-scale emissions reductions. In some cases, captured CO₂ can be used to produce manufactured goods or in industrial and other processes. Another primary use of CO₂ is for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). This session will provide an overview of CCUS technologies including how they work, where they are currently used in the world, the barriers for more widespread use, and policies that affect its development and deployment.

  • What are the most significant barriers to widespread deployment of CCUS technologies?
  • What are the different technologies that can be used to capture CO₂ at the source and the status of current projects?
  • Of the three primary technologies- post-combustion carbon capture (the primary method used in existing power plants), pre-combustion carbon capture (largely used in industrial processes), and oxy-fuel combustion systems- which are commercially available?
  • One-third of industry energy demand is for high-temperature heat, for which there are few mature alternatives to the direct use of fossil fuels. What are the challenges specific to these industries?
  • Governments have a leading role to play in deployment of CCUS technologies, either by encouraging research and development or by setting regulatory frameworks. What are examples of policies that will increase demand and reduce the costs for CCUS?
  • What role has international collaboration played in accelerating the development of CCUS? How can such collaboration be strengthened?

Small and micro scale LNG technologies are positioned to be a critical driver of future LNG market growth. These technologies are scalable and can meet the growing demand from the shipping and trucking industries for fuels that are more environmentally friendly than oil and diesel and also enjoy advantages in addressing off-grid power generation for industrial and residential needs. This session will examine the technological developments in their key segments, the geographic demand, and the market factors affecting growth in these countries and regions.

  • What have been the technological advancements in the liquefaction and regasification processes for small and micro scale LNG?
  • How have the dynamics in global natural gas markets — lower commodity prices, oversupplied gas markets, and an industry focus on cost reduction- shifted the investment focus to these technologies?
  • The Asia Pacific is the current market leader followed by Europe in the use of small and micro scale LNG. What are the key factors for growth in these markets? What government policies in Asia and Europe are driving the small-scale and micro-scale LNG market?
  • What has to happen to capture the significant opportunities for island-based LNG in countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Philippines, and Myanmar? In the islands in the Mediterranean?
  • One area where micro-scale LNG facilities have gained significant interest is as a solution to curtail gas flaring. What are developments in this area?

The COVID-19 pandemic is shattering long-held assumptions about the global economic and political order, with a clear shift towards direct government involvement in national economies. Some see this development as an opportunity to accelerate investment in clean energy technologies while others argue those countries hit hardest by the pandemic are likely to opt for cheaper fossil fuels undermining long-term sustainable development. This session will explore what has been the effect of low fossil fuel prices and the economic consequences of COVID-19 on governments’ decarbonization agendas.

 To what extent have policies and resources shifted away from the long-term aspirations to mitigate climate change towards the immediate goals of restoring jobs and economies?

  • Will the crisis bring forward peak demand for fossil fuels and create space for policymakers to accelerate the growth of sustainable energy systems?
  • How can Korea’s stimulus package in response to the 2008–2009 financial crisis, where money went into energy efficiency and green transport, be held up as a recovery plan that was very successful?
  • Is the €1 trillion European Green Deal a good model for a stimulus package?
  • What has been the impact of the crisis on the renewable energy industry where many renewable energy developments are on hold as construction is paused and global supply chains are disrupted making it harder to get components for renewable energy projects?
  • To what extent has this low-price environment allowed governments to reform and reduce in subsidies for gasoline, diesel, coal and liquefied petroleum gas?
  • How will countries achieve the decarbonization goals internationally as agreed and ensure they follow the low carbon pathways under an economically constrained environment? What will be the trade-offs? How realistic are the targets?

Interested in being a part of our program? For speaking enquiries please contact the WGC conference team at papers@wgc2021.org

© WGC 2021 National Organizing Committee

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