Climate: Gulf oil giants bet on CO2 capture

Pointed out for their impact on the environment, the Gulf oil giants are counting on start-ups capturing carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, to help them reduce their emissions.

The Saudi national company Aramco, the world’s leading exporter of crude, or the Emirati ADNOC are taking a close interest in this still fledgling and very expensive industry.

Long perceived as marginal, CO2 elimination measures are now considered a necessary tool in the fight against climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“For industry and countries too, it is impossible to achieve net zero emissions by 2050” without the adoption of these technologies, explains to AFP the head of decarbonization programs at ADNOC. , Musabbeh Al Kaabi.

“I would like to see more wind and solar power, but to be practical and transparent, that won’t solve the problem,” he adds.

As a sign of the interest aroused by these technologies, many start-ups specializing in this field took part last week in a conference in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the oil country which will host the next UN conference on climate, COP28.

“Partnerships with the oil and gas sectors help us to act quickly” in the face of the climate emergency, said Talal Hassan, founder of the Omani start-up 44.01.

Earthshot Prize winner in the UK, 44.01 has partnered with ADNOC to launch a pilot project to capture carbon dioxide and sequester it in a rock prevalent in the Gulf, peridotite.

“With the rocks of this region, we can potentially mineralize trillions of tons of CO2,” he explained.

The general manager of the Emirati oil company ADNOC, Sultan al-Jaber, during the “UAE Climate Tech” conference, on May 10, 2023 in Abu Dhabi (AFP/Archives – Karim SAHIB)

In addition to the capture and storage of CO2 produced by existing installations (CCS), the more recent technology of direct air capture (DAC) is also attracting the interest of companies.

For Talal Hassan, players in this field have every interest in joining forces with those in fossil fuels because “we use largely the same equipment, the same infrastructure and the same resources”. “It will help us scale up faster.”

– Challenge of COP28 –

Many experts believe, however, that these emerging technologies cannot replace environmental policies aimed at phasing out hydrocarbons. The head of the NGO Greenpeace in the Middle East, Julien Jreissati, called CO2 capture technologies a “distraction”.

Carbon capture and storage (AFP/Archives - INFOGRAPHY, jfs/slr/fh)
Carbon capture and storage (AFP/Archives – INFOGRAPHY, jfs/slr/fh)

This debate promises to be one of the main challenges of the COP28 scheduled for November and December in the emirate of Dubai.

ADNOC boss Sultan al-Jaber, who will lead the talks, called last week for a “serious look” at CO2 capture, calling on governments to encourage the sector.

For Musabbeh Al Kaabi, the hydrocarbon giants have the technical and financial means necessary to advance climate technologies.

“The world has two options: we can let the smaller players do it or have the bigger players accelerate decarbonization,” he said.

In 2016, ADNOC launched the region’s first commercial-scale CO2 capture project, Al-Reyadah, capable of removing 800,000 tonnes per year.

– “The big fire” –

The Saudi giant Aramco has invested in the British company Carbon Clean.

The company, whose CCS technology has been adopted by 49 sites around the world, will develop its first project in the Middle East this year, in the Emirates.

Aniruddha Sharma, CEO of the British company Carbon Clean Solutions, during an interview at the UAE Climate Tech forum, May 10, 2023 in Abu Dhabi ( - Karim SAHIB)
Aniruddha Sharma, CEO of the British company Carbon Clean Solutions, during an interview at the UAE Climate Tech forum, May 10, 2023 in Abu Dhabi ( – Karim SAHIB)

“Companies in the region are very supportive of carbon capture solutions,” according to its CEO, Aniruddha Sharma.

It is part of a “wider movement in the Gulf region, not only in the oil and gas industry, but also in the cement industry, aluminum and even waste management”, he added.

Asked about the relevance of working with the big oil companies, Aniruddha Sharma retorted: “If I was a firefighter and there was a fire – a big fire and a small fire – where would I go first? Obviously, the great fire”.

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