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Expert envisions trouble in energy sector

After successfully forecasting current oil prices at the first All Energy conference in 2001, John Westwood, an energy expert, said that “more pain is to come” for world energy.

Speaking at the opening session of the All Energy'08, the 8th in the annual series, John Westwood, Chairman of energy analysts Douglas-Westwood, a research consultant company for international energy industries, said “there is a strengthening view that the 'peak oil scenario' is approaching much faster than any of us expected.”

He said people such as Christoph De Margerie, CEO of Total, and T. Boone Pickens believe the world will never exceed its current level of production as new oil fields fail to compensate for declining ones.

The energy expert said recently published statistics suggest production from ten out of the top 13 international oil companies, including BP, Chevron, Total and Shell may have already passed it speak.

He said that in 1970 such oil companies controlled about 80 percent of world reserves whereas today that 80 percent is in the hands of national oil companies.

“However, the Saudis have put their oil campaign on hold stating that it will not increase production to 15 million barrels per day; and despite oil prices hitting new records Russian output has slumped,” he said, adding that this may be another hint of the oil peak.

Turning to natural gas, Westwood stated that local depletion in countries such as the UK is bringing major security of supply concerns, as “nowadays over 40% of Europe's gas is supplied by Russia.”

He said that coal has great potential for fueling increased power generation but Australian coal prices recently went from $98 to $300 dollars per ton in one step.

Westwood said the world has a major need to develop clean coal technology for application, but the practicalities and economics are very difficult.

“Nuclear power offers a practical way ahead with massive investment likely, but as with other sectors costs are soaring,” he said.

It is reported that prices for new generation nuclear plants are now $5 billion - $12 billion, two to three times earlier estimates, the energy expert said.

“Undoubtedly, huge opportunities lie ahead for renewable energy,” Westwood said, adding that a recent UN report estimated that in 2007 global investment in renewable energy reached $100 billion and Morgan Stanley has forecast that clean energy will be a one-trillion- dollar market by 2030.

Douglas-Westwood forecast that annual investments in offshore wind power projects will rise from less than one billion dollars in 2007 to nearly seven billion dollars in 2012.

While describing the increased use of food crops such as corn to produce first generation biofuels and consequently driving up food prices as 'totally insane,' he said that the renewables industry faces a major supply chain problem.

“We see major long-term opportunities in renewable energies, but governments must address the planning issues and national strategies must have priority over local objections,” he said. (Xinhua)