If the World Gas Conference is the Olympics of the international gas sector – an analogy frequently tossed around on the event’s opening day on Monday – then the Kuala Lumpur edition is the equivalent of China’s Olympics.
The 25th World Gas Conference kicked off with great fanfare and flare, studded with traditional Malaysian dancers, fluttery white chandeliers lighting the evening gala and midnight fireworks reaching about halfway up the striking Petronas Towers.
With tall, slender Malaysian women welcoming and directing delegates into the dinner, dancers parading down the middle of the long room in perfectly synchronised steps and a band whose playlist ranged from local music to Adele, the whole affair was reminiscent of China’s opening ceremony in 2008 – albeit a little smaller.
“They’ve been setting this up for more than three months,” one taxi driver told Wildcat, pointing to the expansive white tents virtually connecting the Kuala Lumpur Conference Centre to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with air conditioned cover - a necessary feature for a city where humidity hovers at around 80%.
“But Kuala Lumpur isn’t built for so much traffic,” the taxi driver added, sitting idle in a long line of taxis leaving the day’s events to prepare for the gala.
Still, taxi bottlenecks aside, the opening day highlighted the fact that this is Malaysia’s – and Asia’s – chance to shine. State-owned Petronas started the week with the ceremonial launch of its first LNG regasifier, for the first time allowing the company to import LNG while continuing to export.
In their keynote addresses on Tuesday morning, Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser and ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson stressed their companies’ focus on the Asian region as a destination for both exports and imports. Describing Qatar’s role in driving the LNG market’s growth over the past decade, Voser told delegates: “This is great news for Asia, as about 40% of that LNG from Qatar is reserved for the Asian market.”
Also illustrating the allure of Malaysia to gas heavyweights, one Australian delegate toldWildcat: “There’s about 500 of us here from Australia. At the last one there were about 10 of us.” The last World Gas Conference was held in Argentina in 2009.
As the Chinese Olympics have done for the London 2012 event, Kuala Lumpur’s show will likely put pressure on the next host, France, to up the ante in 2015. SS