Baker Hughes CEO sees bright future for natural gas

Published on: 

Turbomachinery International has been a regular visitor to the Baker Hughes Annual Meeting (AM) in Florence, Italy. But this year, a virtual format had to suffice.

Lorenzo Simonelli, Chairman & CEO of Baker Hughes, kicked things off by explaining the “Energy Forward” conference theme. He emphasized that energy is, and will continue to be, the foundation for the world’s progress.

“There are people who believe hydrocarbons should be relegated to the history books, that economic progress is at odds with environmental stewardship,” said Simonelli. “I think that is short sighted; we can be the positive agents of change.”

His argument centered around the fact that the peak of oil production and consumption could occur in the next ten years. Yet energy demand will continue to rise. There are nearly a billion people without access to electricity. As a result, it will be difficult to counter the demand for coal in the developing world.

“There is no scenario where hydrocarbons disappear so efficiency matters and we must work on reducing emissions,” said Simonelli. “Hydrogen generation, CCUS (carbon capture, utilization and storage), and energy storage must become more cost competitive and scalable.”


He then outlined what his company is doing on these fronts. This included the acquisition of a carbon capture company and successfully testing its NovaLT gas turbines operating on 100% hydrogen.

“Renewables will not scale fast enough to displace energy demand in the coming years so we must learn to consume hydrocarbons in a better way,” said Simonelli. “Natural gas should serve as both a transition and a destination fuel; its efficiency is compelling.”

He ended by making the case that liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a favorable option for countries that lack home-grown resources. Baker Hughes is working to improve LNG’s emissions profile, as well as addressing methane venting, fugitive emissions and flaring, which Simonelli regards as a bigger opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) than CO2.