While the IEA and environmentalists around the world push for decarbonization and the shift to renewable alternatives, not enough is being done to improve carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, vital in a transition period in which oil and gas remain in high demand and industry still cannot survive without CO2. A 2021 analysis of oil demand by the IEA expects emerging and developing economies underpinned by rising populations and incomes, particularly in Asia, to dominate international oil demand, continuing to grow well into the next decade.
As populations continue to increase, renewable alternatives simply cannot meet the demand of large states such as India and China in their present levels of production. Despite pressure from the IEA to make investments in the diversification of energy production, Big Oil is all too aware that the world will still depend on oil and gas for years to come.
In addition, staple industries such as cement production simply cannot happen without the production of CO2 as a by-product. At present, the cement industry accounts for 5 percent of the total global CO2 emissions, over double that of the aviation industry. In a world that uses 4.2 trillion kg of cement annually, we are unlikely to escape the challenge of CO2 emissions any time soon.
So, as carbon is a clear by-product of oil, gas, and manufacturing which we cannot get rid of any time soon, why are environmentalists pushing so hard for alternatives instead of tackling the issue at hand? Greater investment and research into new CCS technologies could help decarbonize the world at a much faster rate, while we bridge the gap between demand and renewable energy production.
Many have bashed CCS technologies for being unproven or nascent, despite their long-standing use in the oil and gas industry as well as other core industries. In fact, CCS has been in commercial use for 50 years, now capturing over 35 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
Related: Shell Reports $5.5 Billion Net Profit And Hikes Dividends Of course, we’re all rooting for Big Oil to develop wind, solar, hydrogen, and other renewable forms of energy, but in the meantime is enough being done to deal with the vast amounts of carbon being released into the atmosphere every day?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has modeled hundreds of potential scenarios to achieve the climate goals set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by the mid-century, and the one that continually came out on top was CCS.
Critics speak of CSS failures and the substantial investment it would take to transform small-scale CCS projects to capture the billions of tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere every year. But for every failure, there are more and more successful examples of CCS being seen, such as Norwegian oil giant Equinor’s more than 25 years of operations injecting carbon into a saline aquifer.
But as pretty much all of the oil supermajors signal major CCS projects in response to the IEA’s 2021 push to decarbonize, we continue to see significant underinvestment from the public sector in necessary new CCS technologies.
Brad Page, CEO of the Global CCS Institute explains “What happens in the next decade will be crucial in enabling CCS to reach necessary scale in time to limit the impacts of global warming.”
“The necessary investment far exceeds what governments are willing to provide, particularly within a short timeframe. Governments have a key role to play in creating an enabling environment for very large-scale private sector capital allocation through climate policies which place a value on CO2 emissions reductions.”
As Big Oil looks to invest more heavily in CCS in response to the call to decarbonize much of the world by 2050, public investment will have to follow if we hope to scale up the technology being used in line with the anticipated ongoing carbon emissions from industry over the next few decades.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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