Abu Dhabi, The future of Middle East economies lies in natural gas, Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, told an audience of energy ministers and industry leaders gathered in Abu Dhabi for the World Energy Congress on Monday.

Jafar, who leads the Middle East's first and largest private upstream company and serves as Board Managing Director of Dana Gas, made his comments in a special session entitled "The role of gas in the transition to a lower carbon economy in the MENA region" on day one of the four-day World Energy Congress (WEC24). The Congress is being held in the Middle East for the first time in its history.

"As countries in the region build their non-oil economies and reduce their carbon footprints, natural gas for generating electricity and fueling industry has become a central aspect to economic plans," Jafar told the plenary session.

"For decades oil and gas producers in the region have flared gas as an unwanted byproduct of oil, or left their gas resources in the ground because they were considered of marginal value. Today, those resources have never been more important: natural gas equals electricity, which equals economic growth."

The Special Session on natural gas also featured Tarek Al-Molla� Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Egypt; Yury Sentyurin, Secretary General of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF); Fatema Al Nuaimi Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) LNG; and Olivier Le Peuch Chief Executive Officer of Schlumberger Limited. Also featured were Saji Sam, Partner at Oliver Wyman Group and Gerald Schotman EVP Joint Ventures at Royal Dutch Shell.

Jafar pointed out in the session that despite the abundance of gas resources in the region and soaring demand for gas, a combination of geopolitics, lack of infrastructure, and low gas prices have hampered development. That has resulted in the ironic phenomenon of MENA countries importing LNG and other forms of gas from other parts of the world, although more than half of worldwide gas supply sits within the region's borders, he said.

He added that MENA governments have begun to take steps to incentivise exploration and development of domestic gas resources. Jafar added that the regional private sector, including regional firms like Crescent Petroleum, is ready to fulfill its role in helping develop those resources. But that reforms were required in transparent pricing policy, upstream incentives, and the building of necessary infrastructure, in order to achieve these objectives.

"Since our start in 1971, we have leveraged our understanding of the Middle East to promote cleaner energy and social sustainability," he said. "We are optimistic about the future of the region and its people, and see the private sector in our region as enablers who leverage our people, technology and knowhow to tackle the energy challenges for the benefit of the local economies."

Crescent Petroleum is a sponsor of the 24th World Energy Congress, WEC24, which is the world's largest energy event, covering all aspects and sectors of the energy agenda. The WEC, which is held every three years, is being hosted in the Middle East for the first time since its start in 1924.

More than 5,000 ministers, industry leaders and academics representing 150 countries around the world are debating the future of energy and energy policy at the event in Abu Dhabi, which has become a major global hub for energy policy discussions and meetings.

Source: Emirates News Agency