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CERA: Energy Security Considered Biggest Industry Issue by CEOs

Energy security is the highest-ranking issue facing the global industry, which in turn demands action and poses a "high level of uncertainty" in both the short- and long-term, according to a survey of energy company CEOs by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). Besides global oil security, the survey found that the "dash for gas," created when natural gas became the fuel of choice for new power generation worldwide, poses additional security issues that need to be addressed.

"Energy is the hinge of the world economy, and its security cannot be taken for granted," according to CERA's and WEF's new report, "The New Energy Security Paradigm." According to the authors, the world's energy producers, consumers and policymakers have to "urgently consider" how the traditional energy security approach of the 1970s -- established during that decade's oil crisis -- can evolve to meet new realities and long-term needs. New forms of terrorism were ranked as the concern posing the highest level of uncertainty for energy, and a $100/bbl price for oil was cited as having the highest potential impact.

"The risks are different, the considerations for the best response have changed, and the implications for solutions are far more complex," said CERA Chairman Daniel Yergin. "The 1970s model is no longer sufficient, and a more expanded concept now seems necessary."

Among other things, the authors suggest achieving energy security by diversifying supply sources, investing in technological change, committing to research and development, and relying on flexible markets.

"The energy security paradigm is evolving into a new form, based on a far more complex integration of economies, energy infrastructure, and political alliances," the authors write. "The old energy security structures continue to operate effectively, as illustrated by the successful response to energy supply disruptions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. However, the next crisis no doubt will have different causes and will require fresh solutions."

Hand-in-hand with oil security, the authors note that the "dash for gas" has more than doubled in the past 30 years, "driven largely by new technology" and growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies. CERA estimates LNG, with more supply flexibility than point-to-point pipelines, will claim 17% of the global market by 2020, up from 7% in 2003.

"The push to be able to deliver natural gas by both pipelines and LNG tankers adds to the complexity of energy security," the report notes. "The high seas will carry more LNG tankers along with oil tankers."

Gas-fired power generation demand has also grown, the report states. In the United States alone between 1995 and 2005, the U.S. power sector added 252 GW of gas-fired capacity, outpacing any other form of new electric power.

"The world economy and energy markets are more closely linked than 30 years ago -- or even five years ago," the authors write. "The recent supply disruption in 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico was felt in Europe, Latin America and throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Similarly, financial flows are closely linked and any showdown in one economy would put all economies at risk. Gas prices in North America, Europe and Asia will to a degree unanticipated just a few years ago increasingly influence each other through LNG."

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