Editor's comment: Reducing carbon footprint in the oil and gas industry

Most of the oil and gas companies often do not disclose how they intend to practically cut greenhouse gases

Martin Menachery is the editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery is the editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

There is a surge in the advocacy from the oil and gas companies around the world in propagating their plans for emissions reduction targets. While the move itself is noteworthy, the latest environmental activism of these companies is originating from the rising force from activists, regulators and investors to reveal environmental risks related to the production and use of fossil fuels. At the same time, it is important to note that most of these companies often do not disclose how they intend to practically cut greenhouse gases (GHG).

I would like to mention here a report in The Guardian on 9 October 2019, titled ‘Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions’, by Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts. The report is based on an analysis by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in the US, a leading authority on big oil’s role in the escalating climate emergency, which evaluates what the global corporations have extracted from the ground, and the subsequent emissions these fossil fuels are responsible for since 1965 – the point at which experts say the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by both industry leaders and politicians.

The report by Taylor and Watts lists the top 20 companies, which have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965. From a Middle Eastern perspective, Saudi Aramco topped this list with a contribution of 59.26bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. There are four more oil and gas companies from the Middle East in this list – National Iranian Oil Company (5th position) with 35.66GtCO2e, ADNOC (14th) accounting for 13.84GtCO2e, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (15th) responsible for 13.48GtCO2e, and Iraq National Oil Company (16th) adding 12.60GtCO2e. Interestingly, all these five companies are state-owned.

Nevertheless, I would like to point out that majority of the companies in the list have come out with plans for reducing their GHG emissions intensity. For example, ADNOC group CEO Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, while speaking at the opening ceremony of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week recently, announced that ADNOC plans to decrease its GHG emissions intensity by 25% by 2030, strengthening its position as one of the least carbon-intensive oil and gas companies in the world. ADNOC has also committed to limit its freshwater consumption ratio to below 0.5% of total water use. Similar initiatives are in place with most of the oil and gas companies listed in the report by Taylor and Watts. The need of the hour is a whole-hearted and speedy implementation of these action plans by the world’s oil and gas conglomerates so that we can minimise the chances for a climate catastrophe.

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