National O&G company raises investments in renewable energy

Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) is gearing itself to include renewable energy in its portfolio to future-proof the organisation.

THE oil and gas (O&G) industry was slapped with a shock last year when the world was hit by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

On top of that, the industry experienced the unprecedented event of oil prices going into negative territory due to oversupply and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

While the oil price has recovered somewhat with Brent crude oil now trading above US$66 per barrel, the industry is undergoing fundamental shifts that demand cleaner and sustainable energy production.

Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) is gearing itself to include renewable energy in its portfolio to future-proof the organisation.

At his first quarterly result briefing, Petronas president and group chief executive officer Tengku Muhammad Taufik (pic below) says the group is increasing its capital expenditure allocation to expand its alternative energy portfolio.

“We have increased our capex allocation for new energy to 9% for 2021. This is a marked increase compared to the 5% allocation announced last year, signalling our intensified commitment to Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050, ” he told reporters at the group’s fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2020 results briefing.

The national oil company has earmarked RM40bil to RM45bil for the group’s annual capex for the next five years.

Last year, Petronas made the commitment to achieve Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

The world’s energy transition bodes well with Petronas’ position as the largest liquified natural gas (LNG) exporter in South-East Asia and the third-largest in the world.

Tengku Muhammad Taufik points out that LNG would play a strong role in being the transition fuel as the world moves into cleaner and renewable energy.

For instance, he says, LNG is gaining demand from countries that are looking to replace coal for energy generation.

“Consumer preference and legislation are accelerating the renewable energy space and climate action is gaining traction.

“The queries on how we are measuring, recognising and doing something about our carbon footprint is increasingly on the mind of financiers.

“They also want to know if we have clear and concrete steps to know that if they (financiers) lend to us, it is not going to end up in a business that has stranded capital or something that is not viable after all the legislation, technology and consumer preferences kick in, ” he elaborates.

While recognising that O&G will still form 50% of the world’s energy mix for the next two to three decades, Tengku Muhammad Taufik says Petronas would need to look beyond that.

“Holistically, Petronas has very little choice but to address this, ” he adds.

Tengku Muhammad Taufik says Petronas is likely to look into mergers and acquisitions to accelerate its “new energy” segment.

All of this though, will not make oil irrelevant yet, as it still has its usage in refineries that generate petrochemicals which are used in daily consumer products.

In 2020, Petronas reviewed its future strategies and decided to increase the pace and magnitude of investments in areas such as chemicals, renewable energy and storage as well as hydrogen.

“Additionally, the group has placed an elevated focus on its venture capital ecosystem.

“We even stretched our horizons further into other steps out areas and have begun with early developments in a circular economy, biomass to chemicals and advanced materials, ” Tengku Muhammad Taufik says.

Aside from Petronas, the country’s largest utility provider Tenaga Nasional Bhd and the largest independent power producer Malakoff Corp Bhd are some of the domestic energy companies that also play an active role in the renewable energy space.

Tengku Muhammad Taufik says Malaysia needs a concrete policy when it comes to renewable energy.

Notably, three years ago, Malaysia announced that it had set a target of 20% of renewable energy in its generation mix by 2025.

In Malaysia, for the longest time, Petronas had to bear the cost of subsidised gas price for power generation for the consumer and commercial sectors.

Petronas had forgone about RM200bil in revenue from selling natural gas in Malaysia at rates lower than global prices since the country regulated prices of the fuel after the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis.

Only recently Malaysia liberalised its gas market for the commercial sector that now attracts third-party players to come into the LNG market in the country.

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