Beyond the pandemic: an Aramco perspective
Recapping his remarks at the Aramco Virtual Energy Forum in conjunction with IP Week 2021
To say the past year has been challenging is an understatement. Countries and communities, industries and individuals, have all been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth noting that despite these challenges, our industry did not falter. We continued to meet the world’s vital energy needs, even as we encountered a number of unprecedented events.
There was demand destruction, the likes of which we have never seen before – with over 20 MMBD of global demand gone. We experienced major and rapid swings in production, from record output in April to millions of barrels of supply constraint just a few weeks later in May and June. Then there was negative pricing, which shocked us all.
But we continued, as a company and as an industry, to meet global demand reliably in the COVID-19 environment. An environment where individuals had to work from home. Where companies had to scramble to communicate with employees and customers. Where people had to deal with curfews and lockdowns that disrupted both work and life.
I tip my hat to all our front-liners. The people working in everything from production to stabilization, from distribution to inventory management, from loading facilities to marketing. They are the people who went above and beyond for our industry and our companies in 2020.
And as if this wasn’t hard enough, Aramco forged ahead with one of our industry’s biggest acquisitions in recent memory – the acquisition of a majority stake in SABIC. It was indeed an interesting year.
The events of 2020 would have been difficult enough to cope with individually under any circumstances, never mind collectively during a pandemic. But we coped by showing resolve, by demonstrating resilience and by not allowing short-term events distract or deter us from our long-term goals or commitment to our customers.
As a result, we are well placed to emerge from this difficult period stronger than ever. Aramco continues to be the world’s largest producer of crude oil and we are focused on maintaining our pre-eminent upstream position by, first and foremost, maintaining one of the industry’s lowest upstream carbon footprints.
At the same time, we are continuing to pursue a wide range of initiatives to further lower our carbon intensity. We are also collaborating with other major companies to share best practices and devise common solutions to climate change, including through participation in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative.
We remain committed to providing access to the energy the world needs – and we will continue to invest in research and technologies that have potential to advance the energy industry. Of course, it goes without saying that we also intend to maintain our operational flexibility in order to respond to changes in supply and demand.
In an increasingly carbon-conscious world, we believe that being an integrated company across upstream, downstream and petrochemicals creates structural portfolio resilience. This is key to future development, as we see tremendous growth potential in petrochemicals, particularly in growing markets like Asia. It is one of the reasons we acquired our stake in SABIC and will continue to pursue further downstream integration, both in Saudi Arabia and internationally.
Meanwhile, Aramco is seeking over time to develop an integrated global gas portfolio. We will continue to evaluate investment and joint-venture opportunities outside Saudi Arabia in natural gas and LNG projects, while our domestic natural gas program is increasing the percentage of gas used to meet Saudi Arabia’s energy needs – in line with our strategy to further reduce our carbon footprint. We are also working on exploring the use of hydrogen from oil-based feedstock in multiple end-use applications, in addition to blue hydrogen and ammonia from gas initiatives.
While 2020 turned into a year that many of us may wish to forget, it was also a year that we must learn from – even as we look ahead to a more promising outlook for 2021.
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