The Oil And Gas Industry’s Net-Zero Initiatives22 Sep, 20215:08
As a recent report published by the International Energy Agency states, ...
As a recent report published by the International Energy Agency states, the energy industry holds the key to responding to the world’s climate challenge. Oil and Gas currently represents the largest part of the global energy mix, meaning it has a fundamental role to play within the energy transition and finding a pathway towards net-zero.
Recently, many of the oil and gas majors have been asserting their commitment towards reaching carbon neutrality. So, here are some of the initiatives launched by the Oil and Gas industry to help the planet reach net-zero.
Investing in Renewable Energy
Oil and gas companies have been investing a lot of money and effort over the past few years into renewable energy, as they aim to diversify their portfolios and transition towards more sustainable energy sources.
BP was the first major oil and gas company to commit significant numbers towards renewables, back in the 1980s. Although it sold a lot of its renewable energy assets in the early 2010s, the company still has over two thousand megawatts of installed wind capacity in the United States and has started to re-invest in renewables over recent years.
For example, back in 2017, BP purchased a 43% stake (worth 200 million USD) in the largest solar energy project developer in Europe, Lightsource (now known as Lightsource BP). With a current installed capacity of 3.3 GW as of the end of 2020, BP aims to develop 20 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2025 and 50 GW by 2030.
Total Energies (previously Total) have also set ambitious targets when it comes to renewables, pledging to instal 35 GW of new renewable energy production capacity online by 2025, and 100 GW by 2030, mainly through wind and solar energy. In a recent statement, they announced their wish to become one of the top five renewable energy companies within a decade.
Since 2016, Total Energies have spent 8 billion USD on renewable energy, increasing their renewable energy production capacity to 7 GW. They have made several strategic acquisitions over the past few years, worth billions of dollars, such as the French battery manufacturer Saft Batteries (1.1 billion USD), a 60% stake in the American solar company SunPower (1.4 billion USD), and the French electricity retailer Direct Energie (the initial purchase of a 74% stake in the company back in 2018 was worth 1.7 billion USD).
Meanwhile, Eni has placed a particular focus on wind energy, entering partnerships with GE Renewable Energy and Equinor. Although the company currently only has about 1 GW of capacity installed as of 2020, it aims to have 5 GW of installed capacity by 2025 and 60 GW by 2050.
Research and development in carbon capture technology
CCS (carbon capture and storage) is seen by many within the oil and gas industry as one of the main ways to reach carbon neutrality. Although the technology is still relatively expensive, new, and has sparked some scepticism amongst stakeholders and investors, there is much hope for CCS technology.
Currently, the US accounts for 50% of global operating capacity, with 38 commercial facilities that are at different stages of development. The facilities currently process 83 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The US also has the largest network of CO2 pipelines in the world, which spans about 5,150 miles (8,300 km). There is a lot of interest in CCS technology in the US and capacity is set to increase there in the next few years, with 11 more projects expected to be in operation by 2030.
CCUS (carbon capture, utilisation, and storage) technology has also seen some traction in Europe, which currently has 13 commercial operations, capturing a total of 21 million tonnes annually.
Amongst oil and gas giants, ExxonMobil is the leader when it comes to backing CCS technology. Indeed, as of January 2020, the company held about a third of global capacity. It also recently announced the creation of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, a new business that aims to commercialise and deploy emission-reduction technologies. The business will initially focus on CCS technology. As part of this, it has put forward plans for more than 20 new carbon capture projects worldwide.
ExxonMobil has been a trailblazer when it comes to carbon capture, being the first company to capture more than 120 million metric tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to over 25 million cars for a year).
They are currently working in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, on the development of a new material called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which, if commercialised, could capture a majority of the CO2 produced by natural gas power plants to generate electricity.
Although carbon capture needs to see a lot more investment and support from policymakers and investors to effectively support net-zero efforts, there is a lot of movement within the field and projects that will require both manpower and expertise.
Adopting digital transformation to make oil and gas processes more efficient
Decarbonisation of the oil and gas industry will require a huge shift in the way companies function, as well as how they source, use and think about feedstocks and energy. Digitalisation is seen by many as a key element of the oil and gas industry’s transition towards net zero.
Incorporating technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) into existing and new processes are going to be fundamental to furthering carbon neutrality efforts within the industry.
According to research done by Minsait, which surveyed 263 energy professionals at senior executive and management level from all around the world, oil and gas companies are mainly investing time and money into IoT and cloud/mobility technologies. It’s expected that these two technologies will remain the favourites for the next few years.
Luis Abril, Head of Energy, Industry, Mass Market and Business Management Solutions at Minsait, a global technology and consulting company, explains that
“thanks to the growing use of remote sensors, enormous amounts of operational data are available to analyse in real time, enabling enterprises to improve. Digital technologies enable companies to extract more value from data, using new platforms to share data with the entire organization, as well as with suppliers, contractors and partners.
The real-time visualization of the data helps optimize decision-making. It can also automate and simplify the value chain to obtain higher levels of efficiency and to optimize production and logistics, while achieving greater autonomy, efficiency and flexibility through intelligent infrastructures, as well as improving safety and security levels during operation.”
As stated by Peace Bello in his paper “The Role of Digitalization in Decarbonizing the Oil and Gas Industry” areas where transformative technologies are having the biggest impact are
Exploitation at greater depths
Operations and maintenance
Dan Jeavons, General Manager for Data Science at Shell supports these views. He explains that digital technologies enable the design and operation of completely novel energy systems at all different scales, from device straight through to plant and regional scales, thus completely changing the way the carbon footprint of industrial processes is managed. In his words,
“Digital technologies can provide the tools and mechanisms for optimising the energy efficiency of operations and enabling the sharing economy; they can enable more accurate greenhouse gas emissions tracking and transparent reporting across supply chains and can also enable more effective monitoring of carbon offsets.”
For example, Shell has been collecting data sets from their processes for years, building a deep understanding of their industrial processes. This data has been collected into cloud-based data stores, making it possible to then use this data to improve their processes.
For one of their LNG facilities, they were able to demonstrate that using optimisation technology could reduce the facility’s CO2 emissions by as much as 130 kilotons per year (equivalent to taking 28,000 US cars off the road for a year).
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