June 02, 2023

Petronas’ Japan chief Ezhar tells of net-zero path

Natural gas plays an integral role in the energy transition of Malaysia

Kerry Furukawa Contributing writer

  • Name: Ezhar Yazid Jaafar
  • Title: Petronas Chief Representative (Japan)
  • URL: https://www.petronas.com/
  • Hometown: Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia
  • Years in Japan: 3

When Ezhar Yazid retires in two years, the chief representative of the Japan office of Petronas (Petroliam Nasional Berhad) wants to return to the banks of the river in the northern Malaysian state of Perak where he spent many days as a boy. Back then, he would splash around in its crystal-clear waters, his exhilarated shrieks shooting up to the mountains.

In Ezhar’s current role, he is tasked with being the face of Petronas in Japan, managing the company’s businesses in the country, ranging from liquefied natural gas (LNG), crude oil, petrochemicals and lubricants as well as in the clean energy space, such as hydrogen and renewable energy.

“Japan is a very important market for Petronas where LNG makes up the largest portion of our business. In 2022, Petronas supplied 12 million metric tons of LNG to Japan, while for crude and petroleum products 1.7 million barrels, petrochemicals 345,000 tons, lubricants 3.5 million liters.

“Through Petronas’ LNG production facilities, Malaysia is the second-largest LNG exporter into Japan, supplying approximately 17% of Japan’s total LNG imports in 2022.”

Ezhar has had a 30-year career at Malaysia’s state-owned multinational petroleum corporation, first as an engineer, then as an administrator. His work has solidified for him the importance of sustainable development.

When Ezhar was young he had no TV, but magazines made him dream of traveling to other places in the world. | COSUFI

“Even before going to school, I remember going swimming in clean, fresh water with a nice sandy beach, and in the river, too. Those are things that the future generation, probably my children, will not have the same experience as I did. The things that we take for granted today, if we don’t look after them, one day they will be gone. And then, being an engineer, I remember even my first job to develop something, the environmental impact assessment was a very big thing that we had to do properly.”

Ezhar’s relationship with Petronas goes back to before he became an employee at the age of 25. In high school, he received a monthly educational grant from the company, and he studied engineering in Australia on a full Petronas scholarship. It is no wonder, then, that his ideals are closely linked to the company’s sustainability goals.

In 2020, Petronas joined several organizations and countries, including Japan, in pledging net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Toward that goal, the company has established significant energy transition and security agreements with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

“Petronas commended the position of the Japanese government on pragmatic and realistic energy transition. That means moving into cleaner energy, but in a realistic way — looking at each country in the world and where they are at, what kind of resources they have, the kind of standard of living that they have, and the economic level. We are very supportive of the Japanese government’s active leadership on that.”

Last year, the Japanese government set up the Asian Zero Energy Community, which Ezhar hailed as an important step toward energy transition and security, particularly as Japan has few natural resources. The memorandum of agreement signed between Petronas and the Japanese government will see the company and its partners working on clean energy initiatives, with the government’s support.


“At the same time, we believe that LNG will continue to remain important in this transition to cleaner energy.” Additionally, “we are also undertaking multiple studies with our partners in the space of clean energy such as hydrogen, as well as in carbon capture and storage. Our efforts in the hydrogen space with Eneos had also received partial funding from Japan’s Green Innovation Fund,” Ezhar said.

As part of its own pathway toward net-zero emissions, Petronas plans to build a carbon-capture facility capable of storing 3 million tons of carbon dioxide in Malaysia. This will be the first facility of its kind in Asia. The company’s other sustainability efforts include reforestation and mangrove rehabilitation projects, in addition to funding many students at the Petronas University of Technology in Malaysia.

Ezhar said he is very “emotional” about sustainability and intends to carry that passion into retirement. He also hopes to become involved in charities that support underprivileged communities. There is one personal thing, however, that having no fixed hours will give him the freedom to do: travel. Ezhar has been to more than 40 countries, but a lifetime of wanderlust means there are at least 20 more places he hopes to cross off his list.

“I think maybe what triggered it was because I read a lot when I was young. I remember when I grew up, there was no TV in my house, but there were plenty of magazines, things to read. So a lot of my time I spent on reading, and some of what I read were geography books, and that made me think, ‘Wow, there’s so many places in the world.’ I always dreamed that one day maybe I would manage to travel to those parts of the world.”

Ezhar speaks fondly of that time in his life when he was either buried in books or exploring the outdoors.

“It wasn’t YouTube then, it wasn’t TikTok during my days. Of course, I lost some opportunities like the kids today — maybe they are losing something too. But all in all, looking at the difference between my childhood and my kids now, maybe I prefer my path: swimming in the river, a real river, rather than just looking at TikTok. Swimming in the river — that was my joy.”


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