The theme for AOP 2017 is “Catalysts for Change.” Eric Williams, President of Royal Triangle Energy Solutions and former energy minister for Trinidad and Tobago, expands on the factors he believes will lead to change in the energy sector in the coming year.
One of the key drivers in this industry is that African governments now need to consider the strategic use of the natural resources within their country, and to determine what kind of returns the country expects to get from those resources. In Trinidad and Tobago, a key thing impressed on me by the generation before was to ensure that our natural resources are used for socioeconomic benefits, and not purely economic benefits. In the 1970s the government tapped into the fact that natural gas is both a fuel and a feedstock, and they used it to drive a broader economy — building the electrical capacity needed for industrial development and a safe and efficient port for the export of petrochemicals. Developing our gas resulted in additional spin-off benefits.
In terms of gaining greater value, if you have a resource such as natural gas, and you have a project that is seeking that natural gas, whether it is petrochemicals, power, or LNG, then you need additional investments to make the projects feasible, such as an industrial estate and a safe port.
These are the parts of the oil and gas industry that enable diverse economic activity. If you have some range of other natural resources — and no country in Africa is without natural resources, whether it is agriculture products, minerals, diamonds, copper, timber, etc. — and if you now have an industrial estate and port, you can encourage other industries to benefit. Then you are able to attract another kind of investor, now a local investor, who can add value to the local natural resources. It speaks to not just job creation in the oil and gas sector, but an economic environment that piggybacks on those activities and creates more opportunities in the local economy.
An energy policy really should be a subset of a national development policy, and if you know the resources you have and you can come up with an energy policy that brings added value to the socioeconomic system as a whole, that is ideal.
The theme of Africa Oil & Power, Catalysts for Change, encompasses the major changes that African governments and firms are undergoing in 2017, and the significant developments in the oil, gas, power and finance industries in response to a sustained low oil price. We asked the leading voices in the African oil, gas and power business to give us their views on the drivers for change and the challenges to established practices in the energy industry.