Advocating the merits of gas in Europe

Having gained over 20 years of experience in the energy industry working for BP and BG Group, Mark Simons, Head of Global Gas Trading at Maersk Oil talked with Gastech Insights to discuss Europe’s gas market and what gas companies need to be doing to maximise the growth possibilities.

Gastech Insights: How can Europe’s gas market absorb excess gas supply?

Mark Simons: In terms of how gas companies in Europe can consume additional gas supply aside from power generation, the other option is in transportation. We’ve already seen steady progress in cars, buses, lorries and ships being powered by gas and it would be great to see more of that in Europe. Not only is gas cleaner for the environment, particularly if it displaces diesel which contributes to thousands of premature deaths in Europe; but it’s also a cheaper fuel than oil.

Gastech Insights: What is the impact of recent political changes on the European gas environments?

Mark Simons: Recently, we have seen Brexit in the UK and Trump’s election in the US and this could lead to some changes in energy for Europe. However, I think those changes will not amount to much in the short term.

Brexit could frustrate the flow of gas between the UK, Ireland and the Continent, particularly in the ‘no deal’ scenario that the British Government has talked about. That could cause significant price volatility between NBP and TTF.

With regards to the election of Donald Trump last year, he’s advocated an increase in production of fossil fuels in America which will likely mean that natural gas prices in the US remain under pressure. This might have a positive impact with regards to gas being a more competitive fuel versus coal in Continental Europe, which should help with the displacement of coal in power generation.

Gastech Insights: Considering today’s challenges, what can gas players do to maximise gas business in Europe?

Mark Simons: The world is becoming a much smaller one from a gas price perspective, and we are likely to see an increasing correlation between gas prices in different regions of the world. I believe gas companies in Europe need to be doing more in the way of advocating the merits of gas and how it can play a key role in both the move to zero fossil fuels and the transition away from coal fired generation. Displacement of coal has to be the number one objective. There also needs to be greater political advocacy for gas, which is not something the industry has done very well in recent years. Gas should be sold on its merits, particularly its cleanliness versus coal.

Gastech Insights: What do you enjoy most about the European Autumn Gas Conference (EAGC)?

Mark Simons: The benefits of attending EAGC are meeting market participants and discussing what’s going on in the industry. It’s also about listening to what different speakers have to say about the industry and hearing their perspectives on different issues. It is an event I have attended on a regular basis.