Inspired by the American energy renaissance, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is increasingly exploring the potential to turn its own unconventional reserves into the biggest boom in the energy market in decades.

And why not? Conventional gas and oil production are still cheap in the Middle East, but decreasing reserves and increasing domestic demand is driving accelerated interest in unconventional resources. It makes perfect sense for some of the richest oil-producing regions in the world to seek ways to further exploit these precious natural resources. 

‘Smart Grid,” a term we should all be familiar with by now, is the integration of technology – both new and old – within the industry and society. This integration actually simulates the laws of attraction. Generally speaking, in order for there to be attraction there needs to be desire, and we can all agree that there is a desire for things to be easier, more streamlined, and therefore, there is attraction. Attraction between the energy world and technology: a smart grid. However, like any attraction, there are obstacles to overcome. This marriage of technology and energy has unique roadblocks to overcome and unlike most other industry modernization, it must endure the differences in state of minds to coexist.

Mining companies often operate in less than hospitable parts of the world and face a number of political and other risks, ranging from cancellation of concessions, leases or licenses, and expropriation of shares, to windfall and other taxes, political interference, environmental regulation and remediation responsibility, land rights issues, riots, protests and theft from employees or the local community, illegal mining in the concession area, prohibition on the repatriation of profits, and exchange rate risks, to name but a few. The matrix of more than 3,000 bilateral investment treaties (BIT), multilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements may provide foreign mining investors with a level of protection under international law beyond the remedies that are available under contract or national law or the protection offered by political insurance.

The world’s developing and rapidly industrializing nations are in constant need of new energy sources to fuel their growth. For China and India, this energy source has been primarily coal, which comes at a high price in terms of cost and environmental impact. For other developing regions such as Central Asia, Africa and parts of South America, there is more of a reliance on expensive oil, imported natural gas or LNG for their power generation needs. In the more remote regions of the world where there are no coal deposits or ready access to oil or natural gas, the lack of energy resources keeps many countries from realizing their full economic potential.

Carbon-based emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), have drawn massive amounts of negative attention. Many countries, provinces, states and corporations have carbon emission limits in place. There are concentrated efforts on several fronts to help reduce carbon footprints. But what if carbon could be transformed from a liability to an asset? What if an economy arises where carbon-based products become sought after, valuable and integral to the fabric of our lives? This is the vision of the $35 million (Canadian) CCEMC Grand Challenge: to identify and support development of technologies that convert CO2 emissions into carbon-based products – promoting new businesses and new markets.

South America’s role and importance in the global oil and gas puzzle is quickly changing – and the region is once again attracting considerable global attention. Whether the interest lies in the burgeoning Brazilian pre-salt fields, the large and unexplored expanses of Colombia, new bid rounds in Ecuador and Peru, non-conventional potential in Argentina or Venezuela’s vast reserves, the region can certainly claim to be vital to global supplies in the years to come.

The Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania has opened up a wide variety of nearly limitless opportunities within regions of the commonwealth that have seen no sign of economic activity in decades. Most of Central and Western Pennsylvania are consumed with the exploration, development and transportation of immense new reserves of natural gas that are now recoverable through very refined techniques of hydraulic fracturing. The amount and quality of the gas extracted is feeding new revenue streams for pipeline development for inter- and intra-state shipments of gas, especially to the Philadelphia region.

As the concept and processes behind hydraulic fracturing become more mainstream, federal, state and municipal lawmakers are adjusting their demands for environmental regulation accordingly. Now that the oil and gas operators have shown they want to be compliant without making the proprietary information behind their fracking solutions public knowledge, common-sense regulations are coming to fruition throughout the United States.

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