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LNG is a ‘perfect business’ says TotalEnergies CEO

TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne Reuters
TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné said LNG is capital-intensive but his company's balance sheet allows it to run the risk
  • TotalEnergies targeting 50m tonnes of LNG by 2025
  • Part of group expanding Qatar’s North Field
  • CEO told Adipec it is ‘big business’

TotalEnergies is pressing ahead with a strategy focusing on gas and integrated operations, even if its CEO foresees a possible glut in expensive liquefied natural gas terminals towards the end of the decade.

The French company has been in the LNG business for 40 years and has become the second biggest operator in the sector by volume produced. It is targeting sales of close to 50 million tonnes per year by 2025. 

QatarEnergy has chosen TotalEnergies – alongside Eni, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Exxon – to develop the multibillion North Field Expansion LNG project.

The development is set to boost Qatar’s LNG production by more than 63 percent from 77 to 126 million tonnes per year (mtpa) by 2026.

Besides Qatar, the TotalEnergies has LNG interests in the US, Papua New Guinea and Egypt.

Its project in Balhaf, Yemen, however remains mothballed pending long-term resolution of the civil war, and it was forced to declare force majeure on a large scheme in Mozambique in 2021, which it says will resume this year.

“LNG is a big business for us. It is a perfect business,” TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné said. “It is capital intensive, but we have a huge balance sheet, we can run the risks of trading this energy.”

Pouyanné was speaking at the Adipec conference in Abu Dhabi, before leaving for Qatar for a groundbreaking ceremony of the North Field LNG expansion.

A growing market

LNG has become particularly favoured in power usage as coal and oil have decreased in popularity because of their high greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent imposition of sanctions have also thrust LNG centre-stage. US suppliers have stepped in to provide Germany, as it completely phased out its nuclear power capacity, and is largely dependent on Russian gas supplies. 

Pouyanne said that he expected TotalEnergies’ LNG production to grow almost by 50 percent between 2022 and 2030.

The cost of developing the “trains” – the compression units that capture and freeze the gas; the specialist ships and pipelines that transmit it; and regasification centres means high underlying prices are needed to support investment.

Total has a fleet of 30 tankers according to Pouyanné, and owns its own regasification terminals.

“I’m not a big fan to see additional (LNG) trains because, by the end of the decade, we might have too many, but that’s part of a cycle,” he said. 

The Qatar expansion comprises six giant production trains with a production capacity of 8 million tonnes of LNG.

It is split into two parts: the North Field East composed of four trains with a capacity of 32 mtpa and the North Field South composed of two trains, with a capacity of 16 mpta.

Pouyanné said he is planning to build an electricity company where gas, oil, and renewables will each account for a third of its activities. 

He named China as offering opportunities for expansion because the government wants to reduce coal consumption, as citizens are facing health problems related to air pollution. “In Beijing or Shanghai, everybody is looking at his iPhone to see the level of particles. It’s just incredible.”

He added that India is another country that is opening to LNG. 

The gas industry faces other challenges, such as the need to reduce methane emissions, eliminate flaring and decrease so-called fugitive emissions. 

Pouyanné said TotalEnergies had cut its methane emissions by half between 2010 and 2020 and was intending to lower them by a further 80 percent between 2020 and 2030.

Methane has a global warming potential 28 times higher than that of carbon dioxide.

“We also developed a technology that allows measuring fugitive emissions,” Pouyanne said. “We will soon announce that we have decided to make full measurements at all Adnoc offshore fields in Abu Dhabi.”