28 Mar 2018 18:30

Interfax Global Energy‘s Chief Energy Analyst forecasts bigger role for LPG in global energy mix during international conference in Venice

Liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) are set to play a bigger role in the global energy mix - that was the main conclusion of a detailed analytical report that Peter Stewart, Chief Energy Analyst at Interfax Global Energy, gave at ACI‘s annual European Fuels Markets & Refining Strategy Conference in Venice.

Stewart, in his role as a keynote speaker, opened the conference‘s business program and spoke at the first session, which was devoted to an in-depth insight into the global fuel markets.

LPG, production of which has risen sharply internationally in recent years, could emerge as an alternative to liquefied natural gas (LNG) in both power generating and industry, Stewart said.

He spoke, among other things, of the growing competitive role of LPG in the global energy mix, and the growing competition to refined products such as diesel and heavy fuel that it play in the power sector, particularly in developing countries which do not yet have a national grid for natural gas distribution.

"This will mainly affect the energy mix in developing markets in Africa, Asia and China, where LPG and natural gas look set to play a bigger role in the power and transport sector," Stewart said.

He also highlighted the positive role that LNG and LPG could play in the transportation sector, particularly if oil prices strengthen relative to gas/LNG prices. "Most of the speakers were less bullish about the use of gaseous fuels in transport, but I believe this is because they are focused on supplying fuels in Europe, whereas in my opinion the growth will come from developing countries," Stewart said.

The general conclusion was that LNG would gain ground as a fuel for the transport sector, in particular in cruise ships, but that large-scale uptake for marine tankers would happen only slowly. "My own view was rather different as I believe there will be a very significant market for LPG as a precursor fuel to LNG," he said.

Several speakers referred to Stewart‘s analysis in their own presentations, and mostly agreed about the growing role of LPG in petrochemicals.

According to Interfax Global Energy, The global supply of LPG grew by nearly 6% in 2017, to more than 300 mt, driven by unabated exports from the United States. This brought prices down hand made the fuel more competitive. Continued growth in supply from the U.S. and the Middle East make it likely that LPG will increasingly compete with LNG in the petrochemicals sector and as a household fuel, with the potential for use in electrical power generation in developing countries.

LPG and LNG could also serve as alternatives to heavy fuel oil for shipping companies after new UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations come into effect in 2020, forcing international shipping to reduce sulphur emissions. The maximum sulphur limit for marine fuels is currently 3.5% but by 2020, ships will either have to convert to fuels with a maximum Sulphur level of 0.5% or their owners will have to install exhaust scrubbers.

The IMO regulation to set a maximum sulphur limit for marine fuels in 2020 was the topic that was most immediately relevant to the gas sector during the ACI conference. The conference explored the various options that refiners have to meet the new standards, and whether the regulation would promote the use of gaseous fuels such as LNG and LPG in the transport sector.

Pierre Dechamps, who is a senior policy officer in the European Commission‘s Directorate General for Research and Innovation, gave a very detailed outline of the EU‘s decarbonisation policies, including the outlook for future fuels for transport, during the conference.

Alessandro Bartelloni, who is policy director of Fuels Europe, which groups 32 of the leading oil and gas companies in Europe, gave a speech on the emissions from the main transportation fuels. This led to a discussion about the role of electric vehicles in the European market.

The conference, called "European Fuels Markets & Refining Strategy Conference," took place on March 21-22 and provided a detailed review of key issues affecting the global oil refining sector.

The ACI European Fuels Markets & Refining Strategy Conference brought together executives from refining, shipping and trading companies and officials from government and regulatory bodies to discuss the key demand and supply trends for fuels. Speakers included government officials and senior executives from major oil companies like Eni, oi refining companies like Hellenic Petroleum and PKN Orlen, consultancies such as Nexant and DNV GL, and associations such as Fuels Europe and CONCAWE.