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Which Oil Major Is Winning The Race To Net Zero Emissions?

The supermajors are racing to go green, but five companies top the list when it comes to the carbon footprint reverse in this leg of the race.   It is largely a given at this point as oil and gas companies come under increasing pressure from shareholders, activists, and local governments to measure and reduce their carbon emissions in a way that goes beyond mere “green-washing”. 

In July, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), a CEO-led voluntary alliance of some of the world’s biggest energy companies, announced that it would aim to reduce the collective average carbon intensity of member companies’ aggregated upstream oil and gas operations to between 20 kg and 21 kg carbon dioxide equivalent per barrel of oil equivalent (CO2e/boe) by 2025. That figure starts from a baseline (collectively speaking) of 23 kg CO2e/boe in 2017.

The initiative’s members include BP, Chevron, CNPC, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Occidental, Petrobras, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Shell, and Total. Altogether, those companies account for over 30% of the world’s oil and gas production.

But it is not just shareholders, activists, and governments who are ramping up the pressure: Big banks are in on it, and whoever refuses to play could find themselves cut off from funding. 

Last year, some 130 banks (or about one-third of the world’s banks) with combined assets of $47 trillion committed to aligning their business to the Paris Climate Agreement. It was the grandest climate pledge ever to come out of the banking sector, which tends to follow the money first and foremost. But now it smells like risk, not money, so Paris is looking increasingly inviting. 

Many banks, especially in Europe, in recent years have faced intensifying public and activist pressure to stop funding fossil fuel projects. Again, that means risk. Some of those banks have said they would stop providing project-specific financing for coal-fired power plants or exploration and production of oil sands and oil in the Arctic. 

A few months ago, Morgan Stanley became the first U.S. bank to start measuring the emissions generated by the businesses it lends to and invests in. The bank is the fifth-largest funder of fossil fuels in the United States and has provided $92 billion in funding for the industry in the last four years.

Related: The Start Of A New Oil Market Supercycle

Some of the companies, especially the European majors, have individual targets for cutting emissions. Some have even pledged to become net-zero energy companies by 2050. Stateside, though, US supermajors Exxon and Chevron were slower to follow suit.

 Exxon, in particular, has been criticized for its lack of progressive targets and for failing to take climate change into account in its accounting practices and commodity price assumptions.

While both Exxon and Chevron have set goals to reduce emissions, the targets fall dismally short compared to their European counterparts. To wit: Exxon says it will cut emissions by 10% in its oil sands operation by 2023, and Chevron has committed to a 5% to 10% reduction in carbon intensity in its oil operations.

With that in mind, here is the Top 5 list of oil and gas companies with the lowest carbon footprint plans, which doesn’t necessarily mean they have the lowest carbon footprints--yet. 

#1 Eni

Italian ENI announced its plan to become carbon neutral back in 2018, making it the first pledge by a major oil company to commit to a net-zero carbon footprint.  The plan was updated several times, and according to the latest one from this year, Eni will slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.

Source: Eni

 #2 Equinor

In February, Norway’s Equinor unveiled a plan to reduce the net carbon intensity, from initial production to final consumption, of energy produced by at least 50 percent by 2050.  The company is planning the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from its domestic offshore oil and gas field operations and onshore plants in Norway by 40% by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels, by 70% by 2040, and to ‘near-zero’ by 2050. However, the reduction target does not cover the company’s exploration operations outside Norway. Starting with the next decade, the strategy will also require solutions based on offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and green hydrogen, which are currently being tested by the company.

Source: Equinor

#3 Royal Dutch Shell

Shell tops the list of “best” and “worst” when it comes to carbon footprint, coming in after Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, Exxon, and the National Iranian Oil Co. But it has big plans, apparently. 

Source: The Guardian

In April, Shell said it envisioned cutting its carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. The company also aims to cut the carbon emission footprint from the energy products it sells by 30% by 2035 and by around 65% by 2050.

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It has been a long, winding road to this point. In 2018, Shell’s shareholders voted down a proposal by an activist group to set binding emissions targets to limit global warming. Before then, the company was aiming for a 20% reduction by 2035 compared with its 2016 level.


As an industry first, the Spanish Repsol last December unveiled its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It also said that it would take a $5.3-billion hit to the value of its oil and gas assets in the process. 


The company said it could reach at least 70% of its goal using technology that was already developed or nearly mature. 

As another part of its emissions elimination efforts, Repsol has revised up its plans for low-emission power generation capacity, as it calls it, from 4.5 GW to 7.5 GW by 2025. 

Source: Repsol

#5 BP

UK-based BP is another one that fared poorly on the worst carbon footprint list put out by The Guardian. But times have changed, and the pressure is on. Now, BP aims to reduce 3.5 million tons of annual CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions throughout its businesses by 2025.

BP is essentially targeting zero net growth in operational emissions to 2025 as a way to keep its carbon footprint from growing along with the business. 

The broader plan is to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint across BP’s operations on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner. The oil major also aims to halve the carbon intensity of the products it sells by 2050 or sooner.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Bill Mal on September 11 2020 said:
    Along with the carbon these companies contributed to the livelihoods for millions of people, provided food, shelter and the foundation of our civilized existence.

    Now, they are being demonized for providing the very thing society demanded from them.

    Moving to a greener future is great but it should be done in partnership with the companies that are providing the energy needs we demand or society will be in for a rude awakening.

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