Remarks of ASFE Steven Winberg as prepared at the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) on June 12, 2020
Good morning to everyone in the United States and good evening to everyone in India. I appreciate the opportunity to join you today.
I want to thank the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) for arranging this important panel to discuss our collaboration on fossil energy opportunities. This panel serves as a good lead-up to the Ministerial meeting of the U.S. – India Strategic Energy Partnership, or SEP, hopefully taking place next month.
We are saddened to hear of the recent ongoing high pressure natural gas leak in Oil India Limited’s field in the state of Assam.
In 2015, we faced a similar high pressure gas leak situation in the United States, in the state of California. The Department of Energy was fortunately able to assist the company with the leaking well. The leak was eventually stopped with a relief well.
DOE is pleased to be able to assist India with our technical advice and expertise, and hope the situation in Assam is resolved very soon.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on both our countries. The crisis has also affected energy markets around the world. Today, it seems that markets are stabilizing. However, there very well may be lasting impacts on energy demand and consumption. We will see how significant these impacts may be but, I believe that it will take some time to fully understand any lasting impacts.
Nevertheless, I am certain that fossil fuels will continue to underpin much of our economic prosperity in the United States and much of your economic prosperity in India. Fossil fuels make our energy supply stable and reliable.
Just before the pandemic hit, DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecast that India would have the fastest-growing rate of energy consumption in the world – right through 2050. In its 2019 International Energy Outlook, EIA also projected that India will consume more energy than the United States by the mid-2040s.
While the pandemic will slow these trends, I am confident that these trends will continue. India’s tremendous growth makes India an important market for our U.S. energy exports and more broadly, an important partner.
We share India’s interest in increasing your domestic oil and gas production, and in building the critical infrastructure that will facilitate the development of those domestic resources and continued U.S. imports.
Let me describe in detail all the areas that we have identified for collaboration and growth.
First, high-efficiency, low-emission coal power generation.
India is the world’s second-largest coal consumer. Global environmental targets, described by the International Energy Agency, will require coal plants to produce fewer carbon emissions.
The technology we are developing at DOE in our Coal FIRST initiative can help India meet its energy and environmental goals. Coal FIRST stands for Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, and Transformative. These small modular plants will be highly efficient, with zero to near-zero emissions, opening a whole new chapter for coal.
Also, many aspects of Coal FIRST for power generation can be used to upgrade existing coal plants to improve their performance, in terms of higher efficiency, reduced water consumption, and lower emissions. For example, advanced control systems based on artificial intelligence and machine learning can use data from advanced sensors that are installed throughout a power plant.
Second, carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology is another area for collaboration. CCUS helps reduce carbon emissions from coal plants and converts CO2 to a valuable commercial resource. The latest CCUS systems will focus on improving efficiency, increasing plant availability, reducing cooling water requirements, and achieving ultra-low emissions.
And CCUS will be an important component of hydrogen production. Hydrogen is an attractive zero-carbon fuel that is much less expensive to produce from a fossil plant than from non-fossil resources. Right now, as you may know, natural gas reforming produces about 95% of the hydrogen in the U.S. We see a huge opportunity to expand hydrogen production, utilizing coal.
Third, transforming coal to chemicals and to carbon products. At DOE, we are researching how coal can be used to manufacture a wide range of high-value carbon products, including carbon fibers and nanomaterials, cement and building composites, and battery and electrode materials. Please note that we are open to cooperation with India and with other countries on these technologies.
Fourth, working with the U.S. India Oil and Gas Task Force, which operates on multiple fronts. The Task Force is an industry-focused forum which identifies innovative policy reforms to support India’s ambitions to transition to a natural gas economy, as well as lower market barriers for U.S. gas and related technologies.
Under the Task Force’s umbrella, three U.S. and Indian industry co-led subcommittees are working on Gas Demand Growth, Gas Grid Strengthening, and Markets and Regulation, with the ultimate collective goal of growing India’s natural gas market.
And also on the natural gas front, DOE continues its long-term, ongoing cooperation on methane hydrate testing and production with India’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
On the petroleum side, the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, part of the Fossil Energy portfolio at DOE, is working with India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL) on a Memorandum of Understanding to initiate cooperation. That is among the many cooperative activities being addressed by U.S. and Indian government and industry under the SEP’s Oil & Gas Pillar.
Fifth, encouraging the U.S.-India energy trade relationship. Fossil fuels are a key part of that relationship. We export a large amount of coal to India – it was actually the top destination for U.S. coal exports last year, with almost 13 million short tons going to India. While the majority of our coal exports to India are metallurgical coal, we believe that there are opportunities to provide India with some of the highest quality steam coal in the world, along with emissions control technologies to make India’s coal-fueled electricity plants even cleaner.
And our oil and gas exports to India have been growing rapidly. The U.S. delivered 93 billion barrels of crude oil to India in 2019.
From February 2016, when exports of U.S. lower 48-states LNG began, through March 2020, 61 shipments of U.S. LNG totaling 210.1 billion cubic feet (Bcf) were exported to India, making India the 7th largest country of destination of US LNG exports during that time period.
So, I’m happy to talk about what we’re doing, but what I really want to do is get your perspectives on how DOE and the U.S. private sector and India can work more closely together to help India develop a diverse and secure energy future.
Now, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Arya.