The world’s population is growing. More people means that more living space is needed along with more farmland and also more energy. And yet how can the growing demand for energy be met in an environmentally friendly way? CEO Rainer Seele answers these questions and explains the role played by OMV in a new energy era.
Mr. Seele, oil and gas are the core pillars of the OMV business. What role will these energy sources play in the future?
From the way things look today, it is unrealistic to think of a future without crude oil and natural gas. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that oil and gas will still account for more than 50 percent of the world’s energy supply in 2040. Natural gas in particular will be essential for a very long time as it is the most cost-efficient choice in terms of greater energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions. If we were to replace coal with natural gas across the whole of Europe, we would be able to cut 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. In the power sector this would even save up to 40 percent. This makes natural gas the ideal partner for renewable energy. Natural gas is available, affordable, sustainably and can be applied flexibly. Especially when wind and sun fall short in terms of energy provision, natural gas can guarantee reliable basic supply.
What is OMV doing in terms of natural gas commitments?
According to the IEA, in future natural gas will be the most important energy source in Europe, accounting for almost 30 percent. We are committed to sustainably securing Europe’s energy supply. We expect European gas production to decline in the coming decades at the same time as demand itself is set to rise. In order to fill this gap it is necessary to strengthen Europe’s current production and this in turn requires appropriate investments. The precondition here is an attractive political and regulatory framework offering long-term stability. On the other hand, we have to secure the supply of additional natural gas to Europe. This requires modern, efficient infrastructure. Here OMV is committed to financing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for example, which we view as a significant component for security of supply to Europe.
There’s no question that we, as an oil and gas company, also have an obligation to implement the climate agreement. But we also believe that a properly functioning energy system can only come from a well-balanced energy mix – without excluding any individual energy sources or technologies.
Traffic and transport play a key role in relation to climate discussions. What can an oil company contribute here?
Mobility is one of society’s fundamental needs and today we supply more than 100 million people with our fuels. There’s no question that we, as an oil and gas company, also have an obligation to implement the climate agreement. But we also believe that a properly functioning energy system can only come from a well-balanced energy mix – without excluding any individual energy sources or technologies in advance. Here the availability of infrastructure plays a key role. The filling station is the interface where conventional fuels, as well as natural gas, hydrogen or electricity as fuel, meet the customer. Without the requisite infrastructure no technology will be able to establish itself long term. Close cooperation between the automotive and energy industries is necessary for expanding this infrastructure in order to guarantee the optimum parallel growth in supply and demand.
What does OMV see as the future of mobility?
OMV is delivering an important contribution by investing in alternative fuels and is one step ahead in many areas. It is already more than twenty years since OMV became the first company in Austria to provide filling station infrastructure for natural gas vehicles. And the country’s first hydrogen filling stations also come from OMV in exactly the same way. And we have a significant stake in the rapid spread of electromobility: From the beginning we made space for charging points at our filling stations to enable electric vehicles to recharge more quickly on the road. In addition to our investments in alternative drive systems, we are also involved with technological innovation in our conventional fuel portfolio. One example here is incorporating biogenic oils into fuel production, known as “Co-Processing”.
What framework do you believe is necessary in order to shape a sustainable energy future for Europe?
We have to guarantee that the demands of energy supply can be realistically met, especially given the higher living standards of a growing global population. Setting targets that are divorced from reality endanger affordability for members of the public: Electromobility, for example, will only gain widespread popularity when drivers can also afford this technology. However, overambitious targets also weaken the competitive ability of businesses and the economic and financial performance of the economy as a whole. If this means that the requisite funding for investments and infrastructure is lost, then new technologies will not be able to establish themselves long term. Here we all have to work together – the state, companies and citizens – in order to achieve the goals of an energy and economic system that is CO2-efficient.