Are we entering a Golden Age of Gas?” – That was the question the International Energy Agency asked in 2011 when examining the combination of market dynamics and policies that might allow natural gas to thrive in the future.
The idea of a “Golden Age” was built on a few pillars. On the supply side, the main thesis was that the abundance of unconventional gas resources would help to bring down supply costs, making natural gas more attractive and accessible worldwide. On the demand side, the main elements were an ambitious policy promoting gas use in China, lower growth in nuclear power and more use of gas in road transport.
Seven years later, most of these pillars are still at least partly in place. Today’s price levels are very much in line with those in the “Golden Age” analysis; China has reserved a strategic role in its energy policy for gas; the outlook for nuclear has indeed faded somewhat; the only area where natural gas has not made much ground is road transport, where electric vehicles have taken the lead.
Yet the mood in the natural gas industry, at least outside the United States, has not always been so optimistic since then. Demand has slowed considerably for most of the period since 2011, from an average of 2.8% per year between 2000 and 2010, to 1.4% per year from 2011-2016; lower prices squeezed revenues; traditional business models have been questioned without anyone being sure what will take their place; and the competitive landscape has become significantly more complex, as the traditional sparring partners for gas – coal and, to a lesser extent, oil – have been joined by the rising forces of renewables and energy efficiency.
Source: International Energy Agency