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Hard decisions necessary on securing Oman’s future energy needs, prioritising gas use


Given the pace at which electricity demand is projected to grow in the Sultanate, major utility-scale solar photovoltaic projects planned for implementation over the next five years will not go far enough in paring the demand for natural gas as a fuel resource in power generation.

In the upshot, Oman has to take some hard decisions not only in terms of the prioritisation of its gas resources for specific uses, but also to secure its long-term energy requirements potentially through imports. Additionally, these decisions, according to Salim bin Nasser al Aufi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Oil & Gas, must not be left for a time when the nation is faced with a potential shortage of this vital resource, but should rather be taken forthwith.

“At some point in time, we will have a gas shortage in Oman. And if we don’t take that message seriously today and start doing something about it, we will come to that cliff-point and everybody will be looking around like a headless chickens without understanding what to do. That is the wrong time to make decisions, when you have absolutely no options but to make drastic cuts or take other drastic decisions,” the official cautioned.

Al Aufi made the comments in an address at the opening of the Oman Energy Forum 2018, which was held at the Grand Millennium Muscat Hotel yesterday. The day-long event, focusing on the theme, ‘Oman Energy Master Plan 2040: Powering Oman’s Energy Transition for the Future’, was organised by Gulf Intelligence in collaboration with the ministry, and a host of industry stakeholders.

A robust framework for the gas market in the Sultanate, the under-secretary said, should also factor in a plan for securing the nation’s future energy needs. “It’s good to highlight that there will come a time when we will have to make serious prioritisation decisions on where do the remaining molecules of gas should be diverted: should it be for export as LNG, or for industry, or for domestic use? (These resources) will have to go somewhere and that needs to be thought through carefully today, while understanding the strategic, social and economic implications and so on,” he noted.

Earlier, the official welcomed initiatives that sought to bring the different components of the energy value chain on a common platform for discussion and deliberation. Current efforts in support of Oman’s transition towards a sustainable energy future are divided among multiple government bodies and agencies, he lamented.

“My biggest concern with regard to Oman’s energy transition is that the effort is currently scattered among different players; If we don’t pull together under a (integrated) Energy Transition Master Plan, we will probably find ourselves led in directions that would probably require more time and energy spent in recovering from it than correcting it,” he said.

Helping bring about a convergence of the disparate energy components on a single integrated platform is the National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh), the official stated. The goal, he explained, is to merge the power sector with the Oil & Gas industry under a proposed ‘Ministry of Energy’.

“A critical recommendation by Tanfeedh is to bring energy under one umbrella,” Al Aufi said. “That (initiative) is in progress at the moment, and hopefully we will hear about it very soon about ultimately how it will end up. But it is good to have the resources of energy and electricity under one umbrella so that decisions are made with a total understanding of how decisions on energy are taken.”

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