Carbon-free Solutions It’s Time to Decarbonise the Oil and Gas Industry

Author / Editor: Ahlam Rais* / Ahlam Rais

Stablising climate change is more important than ever and oil & gas companies are up for the challenge. Innovative processes and efficient technologies capable of decarbonising industrial processes and delivering net-zero emissions are being used by the industry to reduce their carbon footprint.

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CO2 captured from power and industrial facilities in 2019 was 35 million tonnes, states an IEA report.
CO2 captured from power and industrial facilities in 2019 was 35 million tonnes, states an IEA report.
(Source: Deposit Photos)

“No energy company will be unaffected by clean energy transitions. Every part of the industry needs to consider how to respond. Doing nothing is simply not an option,” states Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a recent release. This warning is a sign that the world is rapidly moving towards cleaner forms of energy and industries will have to adopt greener forms of energy if they want to survive in the long run.

The oil and gas sector, one of the major contributors of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is also transforming and incorporating efficient technologies and processes to decarbonise its operations. Let’s explore some of them…

Green Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is expected to be the clean fuel of the future and many countries are actively looking to invest in it. The cost-effective ‘green hydrogen’ is produced through electrolysis which is powered by renewable energy and then supplied to refineries in order to reduce their CO2 emissions.

For instance, the world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis plant – Refhyne is being constructed on the site of Shell Rheinland’s refinery in Wesseling, Germany. Funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU), the 10 MW plant will produce 1,300 tonnes of green hydrogen per year via an electrolysis process using renewable energy sources. The core component of this unit is the ‘Polymer Electrolyte Membrane’ (PEM) electrolyser which has been developed byITM Power, one of the partners of this project. The unique PEM technology has been implemented for the very first time on such a massive industrial scale. Initially, green hydrogen will replace around 1 % of the total hydrogen demand (180,000 tonnes every year) of the refinery and Shell will use it to process and upgrade its products.

Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS)

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is considered as an important technology for reducing emissions. According to a report by IEA, CO2 captured from power and industrial facilities in 2019 was 35 million tonnes. Oil and gas leaders are now keen on surpassing this figure and hence, many of them are setting up new CCUS plants inorder to reduce their industrial emissions.

One of the most recent CCUS-based developments is UK’s ‘Net-Zero Teesside’ project which aims at developing the country’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster. Spearheaded by five oil & gas heavyweights including BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total, the project is located in Teesside and intends to capture up to 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from local carbon-intensive industries, which accounts to 5.6 % of industrial emissions in the UK, compress it and then store it in the southern North Sea in a reservoir with a storage capacity of more than a gigaton.

The carbon capture technology will be incorporated in a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) unit. The ‘Net-Zero Teesside’ project expects to fully decarbonise a cluster of industries in the area by 2030, this move is line with the UK Government’s goal of bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

CO2-EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery)

As the pressure to use and produce sustainable oil and gas accelerates, the oil and gas industry may turn to the already existing technology – CO2-EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) for assistance. Most of the leading players are already capturing CO2 via CCUS projects and hence, this technology makes sense. This process enables the industry to obtain less carbon-intensive oil as compared to the traditional extracting method and also helps to permanently store CO2. Some of the leading companies that undertake this process include BP, Chevron, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, and many others.

De-carbonised Gases

De-carbonised gases are also the need of the hour. Green and blue hydrogen are already being explored, similarly, renewable methane including biogas and bio-methane also prove to be effective. One such example is the new Indy High BTU renewable natural gas facility in Indiana, USA which converts landfill methane gas into 8 million gallons of high quality bio-methane or renewable natural gas (RNG) each year. The RNG is then supplied to the energy firm Kinetrex Energy, the leading inter-state LNG firm in the US, which utilises it to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) which is supplied to transportation fleets such as the global shipping company UPS.

The renewable natural gas unit is expected to reduce methane emissions by approximately 17,000 tonnes per year, and carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 41,000 tonnes per year which is equal to emissions from almost 47 million gallons of gasoline consumption. This enables the LNG firm to decarbonise its fuel and significantly reduce the emission of methane and other greenhouse gases.

With diverse processes and technologies used in numerous upcoming projects, the oil and gas industry makes sure that its activities are in line with the global energy transition, thus, positioning itself better for the future.

The Green Impact

• UK-based ‘Humber Zero’ project: Aims to decarbonise up to 5m/t CO2 per annum of industrial activity in Humber region, a hybrid CCUS and hydrogen CHP project

• Enhance Energy’s Alberta Carbon Trunk Line system; world’s newest large-scale CCUS project in Canada is now fully operational

• OMV, Lafarge, Verbund and Borealis to develop carbon capture plant – ‘Carbon2ProductAustria’ project – in Austria by 2030.

• Chevron invests in Carbon Engineering to advance Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology

• Saipem acquires CO2 capture technology from CO2 Solutions (CSI). Technology lowers cost barrier to post-combustion Carbon Capture enabling Sequestration and Utilisation.

• Adnoc, Eni explore opportunities in CCUS and R&D across oil and gas value chain

• 21 million dollar project: Tata Chemicals Europe to build first large-scale CCU project of its kind in UK

• Consortium: Gasunie, Groningen Seaports and Shell Nederland to launch ‘NortH2 project’ in Netherlands for producing 800,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year by 2040

• Air Products, Acwa Power and Neom to build green hydrogen-based ammonia production facility in Saudi Arabia

• Air Liquide, Durance, Luberon, DLVA and Engie to develop ‘Hygreen Provence’ project in France to produce 650 tonnes of carbon-free hydrogen per day

* The author is an editor at PROCESS Worldwide. Contact: