ExxonMobil: alternative energy sources are not economical enough at the moment - but that is the future

English2020. dec. 30.Harsányi Péter

Managing Director of ExxonMobil's Hungarian subsidiary told növekedés.hu, with the adoption of fuel cell technology, it will be possible to capture up to 90 percent of CO2 emission in large industries. According to Kirschbaum Jeroen the current renewables will not be sufficient in the foreseeable future or until at least 2040 to replace oil and gas as the predominant source of energy.

Over the next two decades, global energy demand is estimated to increase by 25 percent, which requires clean and affordable energy production solutions. Which renewable resources could offer greater growth potential in the next 10 years?
Oil and gas currently account for approximately 60 percent of global energy mix. According to the projections of major third-party institutions, that ratio will be still around 50 percent by 2040, mainly because the alternatives we have today don’t have the necessary scale, transportability, availability and affordability for wider acceptance.
Renewables are expected to grow to about 18 percent of the energy mix in that same timeframe, so are indeed an important part of sustainable energy production. However, we must recognize that the deployment of current technologies and existing renewables are not enough to solve the ongoing and growing need for energy.
ExxonMobil is focusing on reducing emissions and mitigating climate impacts from our operations, but also on impactful technological improvements.  For example, we can make a difference and reduce emissions with technologies such as biofuels and by reducing the costs of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In addition, we are progressing hydrogen-based technologies. We believe the overall hydrogen value chain can significantly contribute to achieve the climate goals of the European Union.  ExxonMobil is an industry leader of large scale projects and it has a significant expertise regarding hydrogen as a low carbon carrier.
What are currently the most important energy innovation projects of ExxonMobil? How much emphasis is placed on biogas and low carbon fuel projects?
In the past 100 years research and development played a very important role in the life of ExxonMobil.
The company has invested 16.5 billion US dollars since 2000 in R&D activities.
That can foster the development of next generation energy solutions including advanced biofuels, carbon capture, natural gas technologies and energy efficiency. We believe these solutions can be applied in power generation, industrial transportation and manufacturing.
We also see fuel-cell technology as a potential game changer, where we are using carbon fuel cells to more economically capture CO2 emissions.
We believe that this solution can significantly reduce the energy needed to capture CO2. The technology could be used in industrial sites and in power plants, as well. With the adoption of fuel cell technology, it will be possible to capture up to 90 percent of CO2 emission in large industries.
On the other hand, the greater use of natural gas will make it easier to achieve the climate goals of the Paris accord – which we support. Natural gas can reduce CO2 emission by up to 60 percent compared to coal. As you know, coal is still actively used in Europe in the energy production process. We see ourselves as a leader in LNG (liquefied natural gas) technology. As a result, we can supply our partners with natural gas practically worldwide.
In our European technology center we are focusing continuously on innovation and trying to find breakthrough technologies. We are also working with 80 universities around the word, including universities in Europe.
Does ExxonMobil plan to strengthen its presence in Hungary?
We have made a long term commitment to Hungary. The global business center of ExxonMobil is located in Budapest, which is a very large and mature establishment with over 16+ years of history. We have hired the 2000th employee in November and continue to grow the capabilities and capacity of the organization.
More than 80 different nationalities are working at ExxonMobil in Hungary, what makes us one of the most diverse organization within ExxonMobil network. That diversity is an important source of innovation.
The company is also investing in a new office in Budapest for a move in early 2022, offering a world class work environment to grow and innovate.  
In Budapest we primarily cover the Financial, Accounting, IT, and Upstream and Downstream Business activities for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, as well as we provide business support to countries all over the world.
Which are the most promising innovation student tenders announced by ExxonMobil that could play an important role in optimizing energy consumption and utilizing green energy sources?
We asked students and universities to share their research and provide ideas regarding the field of energy. Upon completion of the student tender, we had more than 30 nominations and announced 3 winners in November.
The winning project is dealing with the technical issues of biogas consumption – focusing on the impact of combustion projects generated by burning biogas on the engine of turbines for biogas plants.      
The winners will visit the European technology center in Brussels, where most of our research and development in Europe takes place. They can meet our scientists and experts to learn more about our actual projects in the European region.
To what extent can the emergence of alternative energy sources dampen global oil demand in the long run?
It really depends on what you consider long term. The global energy mix changes very slowly. Even as renewables are growing, the transition will still take a significant amount of time. If you take natural depletion of oil and gas into consideration, there is a tremendous need for new investments in responsible oil and gas projects as well.
We don’t know how long it will take for demand to recover after the COVID-19 shock, but we do know that there is an overall growth expected in the world population, and with that in the demand for energy.
Non-OECD and emerging countries are looking for the prosperity that will drive energy demand.
The current renewables will not be sufficient in the foreseeable future or until at least 2040 to replace oil and gas as the predominant source of energy.
So again the scale, the transportability, the affordability of renewable energy sources must be improved not just in the developed but in the developing countries as well.
How long will be the oil market oversupplied? In your view, in what range could WTI and Brent oil prices fluctuate in the medium term?
It is really hard to predict the price of oil, and the current path of economic recovery is very uncertain. As a result of COVID-19, there is a major disruption in demand at this moment. In the long run, however, the natural depletion of oil reserves will have a significant impact on supply. Under any demand scenario the depletion of oil and gas will require huge investments worldwide.
If you look at the projections of IEA, in the next two decades 12-17 billion dollars of new investments are needed in the industry just for energy supply to keep up with demand.
While ExxonMobil has slowed down its investment activity due to the current disruption, the projects are deferred and not cancelled.  There is retained flexibility so we can quickly respond as the market recovers. That flexibility and optionality will generate significant shareholder value.