Posts Tagged ‘LNG’

Japan, Russia Need to Enhance Trust Before Gas Pipeline Plans: Minister

August 7, 2017

TOKYO — Japan and Russia need to work on building a more trusting relationship before any plans to build a natural gas pipeline between the two nations can be fulfilled, Japan’s Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said on Monday.

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Building a pipeline linking Russia and Japan is a long-standing idea, but a dispute over islands seized by Russia near the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido at the end of the World War Two has kept relations testy at times.

Japanese gas and electric utilities that have invested heavily in import terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) may also be reluctant to invest in a pipeline.

“Without a sense of further sense of trust such as a peace treaty, a pipeline would be no good,” Seko said during a speech in Tokyo while answering a question about Japan’s energy relationship with Russia.

Japan imports nearly all of its energy sources and is the world’s biggest buyer of LNG, which is natural gas cooled until it becomes a liquid and then transported on ships.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in April that Japan wants to resolve a territorial row that has over-shadowed ties with Russia since World War Two.

The islands were seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war and 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee.

Despite the lingering dispute, Seko said that Japan imports around 10 percent of its LNG from Russia and the country could increase its reliance on Russia’s LNG a little bit more.

(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Christian Schmollinger)

Rosneft CEO: U.S. Sanctions Will Backfire, Hurt U.S. Energy Majors

August 3, 2017

NIZHNEBUREISKY, Russia — New U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia will have negative consequences for the United States and backfire on U.S. energy majors, Igor Sechin, chief executive officer of Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft, said on Thursday.

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Igor Sechin, chief executive officer of Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft speaking to Vladimir Putin

U.S. President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, a move Moscow said amounted to a full-scale trade war and an end to hopes for better ties with the Trump administration.

“The sanctions are beginning to backfire on those who are introducing them, which is positive,” Sechin told reporters.

“The powers of the U.S. president are limited, and sometimes it seems to me that sanctions are imposed on him, not us.”

Sechin said in this situation he saw positive consequences for Rosneft. “As for the negative consequences, as I said, they (the U.S. sanctions) are starting to work against our American partners. As for the positive ones, you will learn about them in the next four weeks,” he said, without elaborating.

(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Maria Kiselyova)

Fragile Economy Restricts Putin’s Options in Stand-Off With U.S.

August 1, 2017

MOSCOW — Russian leader Vladimir Putin is unlikely to risk an escalating round of tit-for-tat sanctions with Washington because the only measures that would hurt the United States would also endanger Russia’s fragile economic recovery.

Russia last week ordered Washington to cut 755 of its 1,200 embassy and consular staff and said it was seizing two diplomatic properties, after U.S. lawmakers backed a new round of economic sanctions on Moscow.

Though an eye-catching gesture, Russia’s response does not pack the same punch as the U.S. penalties, which target Russian energy projects, make it harder for U.S. President Donald Trump to ease earlier sanctions, and could further restrict lending to Russia.

That partly reflects the fact that Russia has relatively few ways of hurting the United States, whose economy is around 14 times larger than Russia’s.

It also reflects worries in the Kremlin about the health of the economy ahead of a presidential election in March.

In 2014, when the United States and European Union imposed an earlier round of sanctions over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine, the Kremlin’s main response was to limit Western food imports, a comparatively soft measure.

“It was a case of the head overruling the heart and I expect exactly the same response this time,” said Chris Weafer, senior partner at Macro-Advisory consultancy in Moscow. “Something which will cause some discomfort for the U.S. but which will not derail the Kremlin’s efforts to attract international investors and grow the economy.”

Weafer said Putin would probably take further retaliatory steps against Washington after Trump signs the new sanctions into law but he did not think the Kremlin would target U.S. firms with close ties to Russia.

Putin has not said whether he will fun for a fourth presidential term in 2018, but officials expect him to do so.

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Whereas Putin oversaw several years of growth above 5 percent in his early presidential terms, the Russian economy contracted in 2015 and 2016 and is seen growing only 1.4 percent this year.

Putin needs a strong economy if he is to win a convincing mandate, and the Kremlin has tried to show that Russia is open for foreign business despite tensions with the West.

Domestic Russian investors have only cautiously increased investment as the economy has recovered from recession, making foreign inflows more important.

An adviser to Putin, ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin, told Reuters last week that domestic investors needed certainty that sanctions would not continue to be ratcheted up, otherwise the economic outlook would be weak.


Putin said in an interview aired on state TV on Sunday that Russia could restrict cooperation with Washington in “areas which would be sensitive to the American side” but he did not think that was yet necessary.

“That would not only hurt Russian-American relations, it would also inflict some damage on us,” Putin said.

Analysts cite energy and aviation as two sectors where Russia and the United States work closely and where Russian penalties could affect U.S. firms.

U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil is a partner of Russian oil firm Rosneft in the Sakhalin 1 project off Russia’s far east coast and has agreed to team up with Rosneft in North America and Mozambique.

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Russia’s VSMPO-Avisma, the world’s largest titanium producer, supplies up to 40 percent of U.S. planemaker Boeing’s titanium under long-term contracts, and the two firms have a joint venture in Russia.

In both cases, however, Putin is unlikely to bow to pressure from hawks in his administration and sever business ties.

Russia wants access to the technological know-how of firms like Exxon to help it maintain production of oil, its chief export, close to post-Soviet highs. It is also trying to revive its domestic aviation industry, which Boeing can help.

“What foreign investment does is that it not only brings money, it brings intangible benefits in terms of better management, knowledge, transfers of technology and that helps to raise productivity and living standards,” said William Jackson, senior emerging market economist at Capital Economics.

Putin, who built his high approval ratings on the rapid rise in Russians’ living standards during his first two terms, will be conscious of this when deciding on any further retaliation.

“So far Putin has been a lot more measured in his response than the demands of the nationalists,” Weafer said.

For all his power, Putin “sleeps with one eye on the voters”, Weafer added.

(Additional reporting by Natalia Shurmina and Elena Fabrichnaya; editing by Giles Elgood)

Pakistani lawmakers elect ousted PM Nawaz Sharif’s ally as replacement

August 1, 2017


By Asif Shahzad and Drazen Jorgic

AUGUST 1, 2017 / 3:08 AM

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday elected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, an ally of ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, to replace him and the new premier immediately sought to project an image of stability.

Lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party banged on benches and chanted “Lion, lion Nawaz Sharif” after the vote, standing defiant in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to cut short his third stint in power.

A quick transition may ease fears that the nuclear-armed nation will be plunged into another bout of political turmoil, which could erode economic and security gains since the last poll in 2013.

Sharif resigned on Friday after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a source of income – which the three-time premier disputes receiving. He nominated staunch ally Abbasi as interim leader until his brother, Shahbaz, becomes eligible to take over, probably within two months.

Abbasi was confirmed with 221 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly as the PML-N used its hefty majority to push through his appointment. PML-N officials hugged each other and congratulated Abbasi even before the result was announced.

“Within four days the process of democracy is back on track,” Abbasi told lawmakers after being voted in. “Above all, I’m thankful to Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the people’s prime minister.”

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Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif (R) and his brother Shahbaz. AFP photo

PML-N officials have privately spoken of plans for Sharif to wield huge influence in the party from behind the scenes.

“The prime objective is to give Pakistan stability,” said Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan, a PML-N lawmaker in the national assembly. “As a responsible party we have to take Pakistan ahead.”

But the plan to eventually install Shahbaz has also sparked anger among supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan, who has criticized another bout of dynastic politics, a trend with a long history in Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia.

Khan, who agitated with street protests until the Supreme Court took up a corruption case against Sharif, has called the family a “monarchy” and accused it of trying to turn the country into a personal fiefdom.

Shahbaz, now chief minister of eastern Punjab province that is home to more than half of Pakistan’s 190 million people, will have to resign and fight a parliamentary by-election before he can take over as prime minister.

Aides say he is likely to favor a new personal style of government, while probably continuing his brother’s focus on huge infrastructure projects and policies favoring business.

Interim Leader

Western-educated Abbasi, who started his career as a businessman, has spent most of his political life by Sharif’s side. He was jailed after Pakistan’s powerful military staged a coup in 1999 to topple a previous Sharif government.

As minister of petroleum and natural resources in Sharif’s last cabinet, he championed a push to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure and alleviate energy shortages.

The effort has attracted foreign companies, who now see Pakistan as one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. Growth will increase fivefold, Abbasi told Reuters last month.

The opposition has also accused Abbasi of corruption over the bidding for an LNG deal in southern Karachi, citing a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry case filed in 2015 that alleges procurement irregularities.

The NAB case has made little progress and Abbasi has denied wrongdoing, with PML-N allies saying the opposition wants to detract from the success of the LNG effort.

In Pakistan’s rough-and-tumble politics, charges of corruption against leading politicians are common and several figures, including opposition leader Khan, face court cases.

Besides ordering Sharif’s removal, the Supreme Court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family, as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Gulf crisis to increase Qatar’s budget deficit

July 30, 2017


Jude Vincy/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s efforts to ensure the ongoing blockade doesn’t affect residents is having a big impact on its budget, according to BMI Research.

In a new report this week, BMI forecasted a larger-than-projected deficit for 2017 due to the costs of the action against Qatar.

In its report, the group said this is because Doha will likely continue to foot the bill for rising prices of food and medicine “in order to maintain support for its authority among the Qatari population.”


Construction on Al Bayt Al Khor stadium site

It also forecast that the government will postpone plans to lower public sector wages and decrease subsidies for now, while moving forward with spending on big projects like World Cup preparations.

This will put even more pressure on spending in the coming months.

However, Qatar should be able to absorb the extra expenditure without risking its stability due to its “large foreign reserves and undisrupted hydrocarbon exports,” the report added.

Budget planning

Earlier this month, Qatar’s foreign minister said the country now pays 10 times as much money to import food and medicine into the country due to the blockade.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani added that the government was covering the “extra costs” for residents and that “Qatar has the resources to do that.”

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

That said, the boycott has put a big damper on Qatar’s budget planning, which has become more meticulous over the years.

In December, Qatar’s Emir approved a budget that slightly cut spending to help manage a forecasted QR28.3 billion ($7.8bn) deficit.

However, this figure was much smaller than the QR46.5 billion estimate Qatar made for 2016, when it saw its first deficit in 15 years.


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Whether 2017’s deficit is smaller than last year’s remains to be seen. BMI does not provide any actual figures in its forecast.

But it did say that Qatar will continue to fund any fiscal shortfalls by borrowing money, leaving its sovereign wealth fund untouched.

And it forecast that revenue growth should stay steady thanks to Qatar’s natural gas reserves and rebounding oil prices.


German businesses call for reprisals if U.S. sanctions hit them

July 27, 2017

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Europe must be prepared to respond in kind if the United States’ proposed new sanctions against Russia end up hurting its companies, an influential German industry association said on Thursday.

The German Committee on East European Economic Relations also said the measures passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives seemed designed to boost America’s own energy exports to Europe.

The European Union fears new U.S. restrictions could be an obstacle to its companies doing business with Russia and threaten the bloc’s energy supply lines but the 28-country bloc is divided over how to respond.

Germany’s economy minister meanwhile said Washington had abandoned the common line it had with Europe over Russia, which has already had sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Anger is growing in Germany at the tougher sanctions backed last week by U.S. lawmakers seeking to punish Moscow for allegedly meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

However, two sources in Brussels told Reuters last week that Germany is urging the EU to add up to four more Russian nationals and companies to its sanctions blacklist over Siemens SIEGn.DE gas turbines delivered to Moscow-annexed Crimea.

At a news conference, the head of the German Committee on East European Economic Relations, Michael Harms, said potential damage to European energy sector companies with business interests in Russia could justify counter-sanctions against the United States.

“That is naturally the very last thing we want,” he said in Berlin. “But we must keep the option open.”

German business leaders warn that new sanctions passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives could prevent German companies from working on pipeline projects that they say are essential to Germany’s energy security.

Unlike the United States, whose growing production of shale gas has slashed its reliance on energy imports, much of Central Europe depends on imports of Russian gas through a vast latticework of pipelines.

Despite tensions over alleged sanctions-busting, Moscow’s backing for separatists in Ukraine, and allegations that its spies meddle in elections all over the West, Russia remains a crucial business partner for Germany.

On Thursday, the Committee raised to 20 percent its forecast for growth in German exports to Russia in 2017, compared to 10 percent in its previous forecast.

Earlier, German economics minister Brigitte Zypries said the United States “has abandoned the common line it had with Europe for sanctions against Russia”.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt and Gernot Heller; Editing by Arno Schuetze

Washington, Berlin and the Problem With Russia’s New Pipeline — US and EU on collision course

July 25, 2017

Some Europeans worry about possible sanctions hurting Nord Stream 2, but America is right to be suspicious of the project.


The Wall Street Journal

July 24, 2017 3:33 p.m. ET

Amid allegations that Washington is using the cover of sanctions to advance its own commercial interests, Germany has been furiously lobbying against a Russian sanctions bill that passed the U.S. Senate and goes to vote in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

In a recent joint statement, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern blasted the Senate version of the bill as aimed at “selling American liquid natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European…


US and EU on collision course over Russia pipeline sanctions


raft of top European companies will be forced to pull out of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia or face crippling sanctions under draconian legislation racing through the US Congress.

Berlin and Brussels have threatened retaliation if Washington presses ahead with penalties on anything like the suggested terms, marking a dramatic escalation in the simmering trans-Atlantic showdown over America’s extra-territorial police powers.

A consortium of Shell, Engie, Wintershall, Uniper, and Austria’s OMV is providing half the €9.5bn (£8.5bn) funding for the 760-mile pipeline through the Baltic Sea to Germany. “This is a spectacular interference in internal European affairs,” said Isabelle Kocher, the director-general of Engie in France.

The wording of the US legislation is so broad that it could sweep up dozens of firms in different ways. “The measures could impact a potentially…

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From July 7, 2017

Authored by Pepe Escobar via,

The Russia sanctions bill that passed the US Senate by 98:2 on June 15 is a bombshell; it directly demonizes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, under the Baltic Sea, which is bound to double Gazprom’s energy capacity to supply gas to Europe.

The 9.5 billion euro pipeline is being financed by five companies; Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall; Austria’s OMV; France’s Engie; and Anglo-Dutch Shell. All these majors operate in Russia, and have, or will establish, pipeline contracts with Gazprom.

In a joint statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern stressed that, “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America”; “instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests”; and the whole thing heralds a “new and very negative quality in European-American relations”.

An oil trader in the Gulf bluntly told me, “the new sanctions against Russia basically amount to telling the EU to buy expensive US gas instead of cheap Russian gas. So the Germans and the Austrians basically told the Americans to buzz off.”

A top US intel source, Middle East-based and a dissident to the Beltway consensus, stresses how, “the United States Senate by a nearly unanimous vote have decided to declare war on Russia (sanctions are war) and Germany has threatened retaliation against the United States if it initiates sanctions.

Germany accused the United States of trying to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline of Russia to the EU so that the US can export their liquid natural gas to the EU, making the EU dependent on the United States.”
But then, there’s a possible game-changing aftermath; “That would spell the end of NATO if a trade war between the EU and the United States takes place.”

The usual Brexiteer suspects obviously are falling like a ton of bricks over the “Molotov-Ribbentrop 2 pipeline” – another trademark expression of paranoia by Poland.

They are even demonizing Germany for daring to do business with Russia, “undermining the security and economic interests of Eastern and Central Europe” and – yes, roars of laughter are in order — undermining “American emotional backing for NATO.”

So much pent-up “emotion” even leads to a nasty accusation of betrayal; “We know which side Poland is on. Which side is Germany on?”

What’s really unforgivable though is that Nord Stream 2, in practice, buries for good failed state Ukraine’s $2 billion in revenue from pipeline fees.

Nord Stream 2 is opposed by all the usual suspects; Poland; the Baltic states; Washington; but also the Nordic states. The top official argument is that it “harms EU energy security”. That in itself embeds a massive joke, as the EU has been harming itself in interminable “energy security” discussions in Brussels for over a decade.

Lucrative creative destruction, anyone?

Analyst Peter G. Spengler qualifies the US Senate bill as a “declared, but not yet executed act of warfare, an act of (sanctions) war against Germany and Austria directly, possible recipients within the EU indirectly.”

Spengler draws attention to the reminder of the FRG/USSR Agreement on Economic Cooperation of 1978 with a 25 years duration 1978 Agreement of Economic Cooperation between the then Federal Republic of Germany and the USSR, designed to last for 25 years; “This agreement together with all the foregoing treaties between West Germany and the Soviet Union were the basis on which [Helmut] Kohl could build his ‘Haus Europa’ with the Soviet Union/Russia from the summer of 1989 in Bonn onwards.”
Crucially, this agreement also included a gas transportation triangle between Moscow, Teheran and Bonn, and was “fiercely but completely clandestinely embattled by the Carter administration, among so many silent wars against the Federal Republic of Germany in those years.”

And guess who was trying to sabotage the agreement 24/7; recently deceased Polish “Grand Chessboarder” Zbigniew Brzezinski.

So nothing much changed since the late 1970s; Washington demonizing both Tehran and Moscow. The section of the US Senate bill related to Russia is some sort of after thought to yet another hardcore package against Iran, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (which includes the Russia sanctions.)

It’s not an accident that the US Senate sanctions bill targets energy; this is a sub-product of a fierce energy war. But what is the US Senate really up to? Call it creative (lucrative) destruction.
The US Senate is convinced that Nord Stream 2 “would compete with US exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe”. Thus the US government “should prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs, help United States allies and partners, and strengthen United States foreign policy”.

Yet this has absolutely nothing to do with helping “allies and partners”; it’s rather a case of US energy majors getting a little help from their friends/puppets in the Senate. It’s in the public domain how US energy majors donated over $50 million in 2015/2016 to get these people elected.

Compared to the US Senate, the role of the European Commission (EC) in the saga remained somewhat murky, until it became clear it will interfere via a “mandate”. This “mandate” will have to be approved by a “reinforced qualified majority” vote by member states, a higher than usual threshold of 72 percent of EU states representing 65 per cent of the population.

Spengler observes how, “the commission’s continued attempts to get a legal foot in the contracts between European companies and Gazprom would be much more detrimental and potentially efficient than even a President’s signing of the Senate (and House) sanctions law.”

So where will this all lead? Arguably towards an extremely messy clash “between the European Commission/Court of Justice and German/Austrian (plus Russian) jurisdiction.”

The Senate bill will have to be backed by a veto-proof majority in the House; that vote won’t happen before the G-20 in Hamburg.Then it would become law – assuming President Trump won’t squash it.

The key, “nuclear” issue is a non-mandatory clause for the US Treasury to sanction those five Western firms involved in Nord Stream 2. If the law is approved, the White House better ignore it. Otherwise Germany, Austria and France will definitely interpret it as a declaration of war.

Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel will definitely be on a collision course at the G-20, with Merkel emphasizing discussions on climate change, refugees and no trade protectionism, much to Trump’s disgust. The Russia sanctions bill just adds to the unholy mess. Expect a lot of fireworks “celebrating” those bilaterals in Hamburg.

Suicide Bomber Wounds Five Soldiers in Yemen Attack: Local Official

July 17, 2017

ADEN — A suicide car bomber wounded five soldiers outside a government army compound in eastern Yemen on Monday, said a local security official who blamed the attack on militant group al Qaeda.

The attack in the Ain BaMaabad area was the second by al Qaeda in two days in Shabwa province, where Yemen’s liquefied natural gas plant and export facilities are located.

Five soldiers were killed and four were wounded in a raid on Sunday when suspected al Qaeda militants attacked an army outpost guarding a gas pipeline which transports LNG from Marib to the export facility at Balhaf.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited a civil war between the Western-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Iran-aligned Houthis to try to expand its influence in Yemen.

Australia buys back farmland sold to China for coal exploitation

July 12, 2017

CANBERRA, Australia — A state government says it will buy back most of a Chinese mining company’s coal exploration license for 262 million Australian dollars ($201 million) to help protect some of Australia’s most fertile farmland.

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Harvesters process corn on the Liverpool Plains

The New South Wales state government said on Wednesday it will buy back 51.4 percent of state-owned China Shenhua Energy’s license covering the Liverpool Plains, northwest of Sydney.

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Liverpool Plains

Australian subsidiary Shenhua Watermark Coal paid the government AU$300 million in 2008 for exploration rights over the prime farmland, angering local farmers and agriculture advocates.

Resources Minister Don Harwin says Shenhua will be left to explore the mountain ridges that border the flatland.

Shenhua said in a statement it has “expressed its disappointment,” but will continue with plans to mine the smaller area.


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he Long Paddock, Liverpool Plains Australia

Opportunities for oil and gas despite demand worry: Total CEO

July 11, 2017


© AFP/File | Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said climate policies and electric cars would affect demand for oil in the next three decades

ISTANBUL (AFP) – The oil industry must accept that global demand for crude may fall by 2050 but rich potential remains in hydrocarbons, especially gas, the head of French energy giant Total said Tuesday.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said climate policies and electric cars would affect demand for oil in the next three decades.

“It is possible that by 2040-2050 oil demand will not be as high as it is today,” he told the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul.

“It is a scenario that is possible” if the targets of the 2015 Paris climate accord are implemented, he said.

But Pouyanne insisted there would remain a demand for oil, even if electric cars prove a success, as there is no substitute in sight for fossil fuels in heavy trucks and planes.

“I urge the industry to be responsible as there is plenty of opportunity for all of us,” he said.

“We have to have competitive oil assets to face demand that may not be as high as we expected.”

He described gas as the “ideal carbon of the future” that could be used alongside renewables.

“We have to bet on gas,” he said

Pouyanne described the fall in the oil price over the last years from highs of 145 dollars a barrel in 2008 to around 45 dollars now as “traumatic” but said the industry had shown a capacity to change.

As well as showing greater efficiencies, energy majors could still show what he described as a “pioneer spirit”, he said, pointing to his own company’s return to Iran.

Total on July 3 defied US pressure by signing a multi-billion-dollar gas deal with Iran, the first by a European firm in more than a decade.