Representatives from the global petroleum sector on Monday focused on the future of energy in the face of a growing population on the planet in the decades to come.
"Today we have around 7.5 billion people on the planet and by 2100 we can expect about 11.2 billion," Ben van Beurden, CEO of the Royal Dutch Shell, told the 22nd World Petroleum Congress that kicked off on Sunday evening in Istanbul.
Recent projections suggest that the population in Asia alone would increase by 750 million by the middle of the century, with its energy demand increasing by around half, noted Van Beurden.
"But more than anything, this is a story about Africa," he stressed. "We can expect 3.6 billion extra people to be living on this planet by the end of the century and 3.2 billion of them will be in Africa, with the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa."
In his view, there is often too much focus on energy-transition policies in Europe and North America instead of the fast-growing developing countries.
"What happens in England is important, but what happens in Ethiopia is at least as important," the chief executive said, adding that "From Denmark to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the U.S. to Uganda, to India, to China there is a lot of work to do."
Sector representatives mostly stressed that the demand for conventional and unconventional oil and gas would continue to increase and remain critical to the changing energy mix in the face of the population's rapid growth.
According to Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, unconventional shale oil and alternative energy resources are important factors to help meet future demand.
"But it is premature to assume that they can be developed quickly to replace oil and gas," he added.
For Nasser, a sharp decline in investments and a lack of fresh conventional discoveries might lead as well to a shortage of oil supply. "The picture is becoming increasingly worrying," he remarked.
Saudi Aramco plans to invest more than 300 U.S. billion dollars in the next decade to pursue a large exploration to maintain its oil capacity, while the Dutch Shell is set to spend one billion dollars a year on its New Energies division as of 2020.
Wang Yilin, chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), said his company would focus on improving business layout and structures, innovation of technologies, business and management models, green development and win-win cooperation in the foreseeable future.
As the largest oil and gas producer and supplier in China as well as one of the world's major oilfield service providers, CNPC stressed the need to build "large corridors, large markets and large industries" to promote cooperation in the oil and gas sector, Wang said.
"It is important to jointly put in place a transportation network of railways, roads, pipelines, ports and other supporting facilities, an integrated market featuring open information, linked submarkets, reserve sharing, connected transactions and joint development of rules, as well as an upgraded version of cooperation, covering the oil and gas full value chain," he added.
Addressing the congress, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prioritized the so-called Southern Gas Corridor, a system of mega-pipelines meant to bring gas from the Caspian region to Turkey and Europe.
The World Petroleum Congress is organized every three years by the London-based World Petroleum Council and includes 65 member countries from around the world, representing over 96 percent of the global oil and gas production and consumption.