Environmental Sustainability in Qatar: Perspectives

qatar-ghg-emissionsIn recent years, the concept of environmental sustainability is slowly, but steadily, getting prominence, both in the public and private sectors in Qatar. Mounting environmental pressure has led to the development of new initiatives in several state-owned and private companies. As a major fossil exporter and one of the wealthiest countries, Qatar should do its fair share in reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions and developing strong climate adaptation plans.

Many companies are investing heavily in replacing old turbines, boilers, and furnaces, minimizing GHG and non-GHG emissions, and wastewater discharge. The new companies that were set up in last decade are adopting the best available technologies, and they are on a par of excellence with the global environmental standards. Because of national targets to minimize flaring emissions, all of the oil and gas companies have been marshaled under the national initiative by setting goals, allocating investment and monitoring the yearly changes. So far, this initiative has been remarkably successful. For example, the direct benefit of flaring reduction resulted in savings of natural gas and emissions.

The government should hasten its steps in developing a comprehensive climate policy framework addressing all sectors, with a special focus on energy-intensive industries. The industrial sector is the major contributor to country’s economy and will continue to retain this status for the next several decades. Therefore, the government and the industrial sector must prepare a comprehensive roadmap and strategic framework under the broader climate policy framework, such as “Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy”. The strategy must assess all possibilities of decarbonising the industry and set ambitious goals to minimize GHG emissions for the short and long-term.

In addition, the framework should focus on potential structural changes in the global market, technological dynamics or deployment of disruptive technologies, domestic institutional reforms, and relevant policies that can support decarbonization. The policy should foster the development and implementation of wide-ranging innovative low-carbon technologies, processes, standards, norms and legislations that enable decarbonisation of the sector by 2050. The legislative instruments should include emission caps, internalizing social and environmental costs and taxation on emissions for the industrial sector. This is also echoed in the first Natural Resource Management Strategy.

The government should press ahead with this proposition; expediting the creation of new regulations, developing a strong support system for large and small/medium sized industries and ensuring transparency and accountability. Methane is the second major source of emission from natural gas production and processing facilities. Many companies fail to measure/monitor methane emissions from their facilities. I suggest that the Ministry of Environment undertake a Methane Monitoring Initiative to measure methane emissions from extraction to delivery and also to prepare a standardization method for estimating and reporting emissions from different sources.

The Ministry must create an effective, well-functioning, transparent and less bureaucratic support mechanism for companies (medium/small scale industries or SMEs) that lack technical and financial capacity. There are several piecemeal initiatives started by different companies that are already helping in this direction. However, they are fragmented, lack coherence, monitoring, and reporting. It is important to compile all of the initiatives and develop key performance indicators and analyse the trend. So far, there is only one project accredited under the Clean Development Mechanism (Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project, started in 2007). The government should exploit all possible opportunities with regard to reducing emissions and increasing economic savings. These are remarkable achievements and these companies must be recognized for their activities. Likewise, policymakers should capitalize on these efforts and raise the bar and set definitive goals and strict timelines for implementation.

Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project is the sole CDM project in Qatar

Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project is the sole CDM project in Qatar

According to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 15 of 2011, the respective agencies must propose policies and action plans to reduce GHG emissions and set up a database within the requirements of the UNFCCC convention and Kyoto protocol. Unfortunately, there was no tangible response to this Resolution. So far, Qatar has published only one national communication. Under the initiative of Qatar Petroleum HSE, many companies started to publish their emission data in their annual sustainability report, however, some companies continue to withhold the data. Since it is a voluntary process, there is no incentive for companies to report.

It is strongly recommended that the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) and Ministry of Energy and Industry (MoEI) issue a joint decree for a mandatory GHG and non-GHG pollution monitoring and disclosure framework. The disclosure framework must include a well-designed surveillance system to ensure transparency and accountability. Additionally, the disclosure framework will be useful in documenting the trend of overall emissions and how the new policies, regulations and technological replacements are shifting the trend. As a result of documenting emission trends, one can notice the effectiveness of energy management initiatives, which provides opportunities and encourage other companies to learn from best practices. Companies that emit more than 25,000 tonnes CO2eq should quantify, verify and publish in a single-window system that can be accessed by other ministries and the public alike.

Energy Efficiency Perspectives for MENA

MENA countries are facing an increasing challenge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. In case of business-as-usual scenario, GHGs emissions from the energy sector will continue to rise throughout the region. According to a recent report by International Energy Agency (IEA), energy intensity demand in MENA is mainly driven by population and economic growth and reliance of heavy industries on generous energy subsidy. It is projected that primary energy demand in the region will be doubled by 2030 and the region’s share in global oil production will increase from 35% now to 44% in 2030. MENA countries together have 840 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves (57% of world’s oil) and 80 trillion cubic meters of proven gas reserves (41% of world’s natural gas). Population growth and economic expansion have increased energy demand significantly over the past decade; between 2000 and 2011, domestic consumption almost doubled in Oman and tripled in Qatar. 

Growth in energy demand is driven across the end-use sectors: in the residential sector through increased use of air conditioning and cooling units; in the transportation sector through rising vehicle ownership; and in the industrial sector from greater industrial activity, hydrocarbon production and refining, and energy-intensive desalination plants. One of the central reasons for increased GHG emissions from MENA energy sector is the low efficiency of energy resource consumption. The energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) is very high which drives up atmospheric GHG emissions. However it is important to highlight the difference among MENA countries regarding carbon intensity levels where GCC nations are rank higher compared to energy-importing MENA nations like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon etc. All these facts stress the urgent need to increase energy efficiency in order to precipitate decline in energy intensity and thus reduce GHG emissions.

There is a wide array of measures on both supply side and demand side, to boost MENA energy efficiency levels by promoting stringent environmental, energy saving policies to combat climate change.  Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region. A robust regulatory and institutionalized framework can help to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions through a bundle of non-market based and market-based instruments.

Also known as command and control instruments (CAC), these regulations focus on preventing environmental externalities which is achieved through auditing and monitoring/inspection program and performance-oriented regulations to limit air pollutants. Here are some examples of command and control instruments:

  • Awareness and information campaigns
  • Labeling & training programs to engage end-users to reduce their emissions voluntarily.
  • Information-based programs to spread awareness and encourage efficient consumption patterns.
  • Establishing minimum energy performance standards for appliances, equipment and vehicles as a complement to labelling methods.
  • Building codes and insulation to save the energy loss.
  • Smart reductions such as smart meters, energy audit, energy saving plans etc.
  • Phasing out of inefficient lighting like incandescent bulbs and CFLs.

Market-based instruments are defined as a policy instrument that use market, price to provide incentives for polluters to reduce or eliminate their emissions (negative environmental externality). Building regional cap, carbon trading platform and grants/rebates/tax exemption/rewards to encourage efficiency measures are good examples of market-based incentive program that may be implemented in the Middle East.

Conclusion

On account of its huge fossil fuel reserves, MENA has a great role to play in the international efforts towards green economy and sustainable development. Recently, the GCC has embarked on ambitious policies and projects across different sectors which may, explicitly or implicitly, mitigate impacts of GHG on their economies and development priorities. 

Adoption of energy efficiency-based energy policies in commercial, industrial and domestic sectors is integral to climate change mitigation in the MENA region. It is imperative on MENA governments to create an environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation for all kinds of energy users. The Middle East electricity market is growing at a rapid pace due to higher consumption rates in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors which underlines the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

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Peak Oil: Perspectives for Saudi Arabia

PeakOil-SaudiArabiaThe term ‘peak oil’ is ominous to the Middle East, as most of the countries in the region are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas for industrial, economic and social development. Petroleum is considered one of the world’s most important sources of energy generation, after uranium, of course. Many other substances have been tested in order to be used as alternatives to petroleum, but none have hitherto been successful. Scientific research illustrates how the world is facing catastrophe if it doesn’t find an alternative to oil, as it is currently impossible for the global economy to grow without sufficient amounts of energy which are adapted to the demands of this growth. There is more discussion now than ever before about how the world is definitely starting to approach a stage of peak oil.

What is Peak Oil

Peak oil is a termed coined by the renowned American geologist King Hubbert in the fifties. He managed to predict an oil peak in several regions in America which would occur in the seventies; and exactly what this scientist predicted did in fact happen. For when oil extraction reaches extreme levels it begins to decline and gradually ends. Oil is considered a finite resource, or one which isn’t renewed as it is used up.

This theory confirms that global oil production has reached its peak today and has started declining inexorably now that 50% of the world’s oil reserves have been consumed. This proves that oil could be on the brink of depletion if clear and serious plans are not put in place to guide consumption and therefore encourage using provisional reserves in the best way. However, this theory is not accepted by many or by those who continue to focus on how large the earth’s oil reserves are, and how they only need investment so that they can be drilled.

Peak Oil Scenario for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the largest global oil exporters and the only one able to regulate and stabilise the global oil market, thanks to its reserve stocks. These reserves are calculated to be at 265.4 billion barrels, or what is enough to last, at the current level of production, for more than 72 years. According to ARAMCO reports, there are around a trillion barrels that will be discovered in the future and will satisfy global demands, despite current consumption, for one whole century.

 Saudi Arabia is currently focussing its efforts on drilling and extracting natural gas, as it doesn’t import it but depends on domestic production. Alongside this, the Saudi Kingdom is currently making huge investments in nuclear energy and solar power.

But can natural gas and renewable energy be relied upon as alternatives to oil in order to satisfy Saudi Arabia’s domestic needs, which are rapidly growing each day? According to a recent report by America’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-consuming nation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia consumed 2.9 million barrels per day of oil in 2013, almost double the consumption in 2000, because of strong industrial growth and subsidised prices. One important contributor to Saudi oil demand is the direct crude oil burn for power generation. There is not just enough fuel oil and natural gas to meet the demand and hence the resorting to crude oil.

Has peak oil really arrived? If not today, then when? And how will it look, especially for countries totally dependent on oil? Will its consequences be different for both developed and under-developed nations?  Given that global demand for oil will only grow to exceed 100 million barrels a day after 2020, according to the most extreme estimates, I believe that the time may have come for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to start planning for what follows the oil era.

Despite looming threat of peak oil, power generation capacity in KSA is expected to rise from current level of 58GW to 120GW by 2032, however Saudi Arabia cannot afford to burn rising crude oil volumes for power generation. In spite of the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world, it does not produce sufficient gas for power generation and for its vast petrochemical industry. The only solution at this point of time is transition to low-carbon economy whereby Saudi Arabia make use of its massive solar energy potential, implement effective measures for improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and remove huge energy subsidies for industrial and domestic users.

 

Note: The article has been translated from Arabic by Katie Holland who graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts.