The Future of Energy: Insights from the Kazakhstan Energy Expo
There are a handful of countries that are fundamental to understanding the mining, energy, and agriculture sectors. One such country is Kazakhstan, which hosted this year’s Energy Expo in its capital of Astana. This year’s Expo gave participants a unique opportunity to understand Kazakhstan and gave key insights into developments in CID’s target sectors. In this two-part series, CID will explore the themes learned at the Expo and cover the latest promising innovations in energy.
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest land locked country and the ninth largest country. What for some may be an inhospitable and uninteresting land, for others, namely energy, mining and to some extent agriculture industries, it is a land of opportunity. The country is central to the functioning of the global economy given it is home to some of the world’s largest oil, gas, uranium, and raw metals reserves. Notably, Kazakhstan supplies 40% of the global supply of uranium, which makes it the largest producer of the element in the world.
In order to understand the economy of the most important nation in Central Asia one has to know Samruk-Kazyna – the sovereign wealth fund of Kazakhstan – and the major financier of this year’s Expo. Samruk-Kazyna has full, or major ownership in critical businesses of Kazakhstan. Those include the national oil company, KazMunaiGaz, the national uranium explorer, KazAtomProm, the national electricity generator Samruk Energy, and the national agricultural management holding, KazAgro. All played a crucial role in the Expo, demonstrating their latest innovations. Below is a breakdown of the insights learned by energy source:
One interesting thing to note is that the central pavilion of the event, which focused on the “Energy of the Future” did not mention at any stage fossil fuels, which is a very profound insight. The Expo showed that more and more nations decide to further fuel the changes of the energy sector by setting goals. Kazakhstan aims to produce 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2050. Argentina wants to have 20% renewables on the grid by 2025, while Mexico aims for 25% by 2024. Angola bets on biomass wanting to develop 500MW by 2025, while Algeria wants to get 10% more efficient by 2030.
The United Arab Emirates were proud of their Masdar City, as well as oversees investments in The London Array and in Egypt, Morocco and the Pacific Islands. It was noticed that biomass supplies already 10% of world’s energy needs and biofuels can mean great opportunity for farmers and agriculture. Moreover, those fuels match very well with the existing system, which accustomed us to using solid, or liquid fuel. Agriculture-focused readers should therefore assess whether they can position themselves to benefit from this identified opportunity.
Even though fossil fuels were given no spotlight in the main pavilion, we would be naïve to think they do not play a major role in the current system. It is hard to dismiss the hypothesis that the fossil fuels are very likely to play significant role in the foreseeable future. It is enough to look at the list of sponsors of the Expo to see that fossil fuels are of crucial importance. In Kazakhstan’s case majority of electricity is produced by coal powered power stations. However, not much room for discussion about coal was conducted at the Expo.
Oil was not a prominent theme at this year’s Expo. Both Germany and Israel made bold statements that we need to strive to achieve fully oil-free economy, as soon as possible. When in the case of Israel those was not a substantiated statement, Germany claimed it is working on new type of plastic, which requires no oil, or natural gas inputs for its production. Furthermore, Pacific Islands envision a world which is 50% less dependent on oil than the current state. However, both Chevron and Shell were proudly sharing the statistics on how many billions of USD they invested in Kazakhstan since entering this country – $12 and $15 billion USD respectively.
Natural gas, however, played a prominent role in discussions at the Expo. Numerous countries talked about the bright future for gas in either pipe or LNG form and either as an exporter or importer of this fuel. Lithuania was very proud of completion of its LNG receiving terminal and now has long-term, very ambitious plan to import most of its gas from the U.S. and not having to rely on Russia any longer. In those plans the peak of imports from the U.S. coincides with an envisioned increase in gas prices in the U.S. around the year 2022. All the exporting end established players like Qatar and Malaysia expressed optimism about the LNG market’s future as well. However, it is Russia, who showed impressive boldness with its LNG export plans. By the end of 2030 Russia will have an operational fleet of icebreaker ships capable for crushing 4.5m thick ice. This nuclear-powered fleet will make exports of gas from the Yamal Peninsula via the Northern Route to Asia a reality. Those developments will have profound impact on the LNG markets globally.
Nuclear energy was presented as misunderstood but critical energy source for the future generations. The Japanese pavilion mentioned and explained the 2011 disaster in an attempt to recover the safe reputation of nuclear. KazAtomProm with its international partners Cameco from Canada, Areva from France and RusAtom from Russia, hosted a superb pavilion explaining what is nuclear energy, as well as the whole value chain of this energy source. Russia definitely had the most inventive presentations with their nuclear-powered icebreakers and a floating nuclear station concept that could produce 70 MW of electricity. Even Saudi Arabia stated during the Expo that nuclear will play an important role for the country’s electricity supply in the future. We cannot forget about Kazakhstan, which also wants to develop nuclear based electricity generation for domestic use. An impressive sign of leadership was shown by the Kazakh government in 2015, when the country committed to creating Low-Enriched Uranium Bank together with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In part two of this article, CID will discuss some of the exciting new technologies presented at the Expo. Stay tuned!
Mateusz Ciasnocha is constantly on a mission to “unleash dormant potential.” He specializes in agriculture, energy, and Africa, and is also passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship. Mateusz currently studies at ESCP Europe Business School and the University of Oxford, where he is receiving a Masters in Energy Management and Philosophy Certificate, respectively.