Saudi Aramco to make huge bet on carbon storage

Saudi Aramco office in Houston, Source: iStock

Saudi Aramco plans to begin permanently storing carbon dioxide from 2026 in one of the largest facilities of its kind, as the state oil giant seeks to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The company is looking to capture carbon dioxide emitted by processes that convert natural gas into hydrogen, among other industrial activities, and permanently store the pollutant deep underground in a reservoir that previously produced oil and gas.

The first phase of the project near the industrial city of Jubail, on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, will be able to store between 5 million and 9 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, Aramco’s vice president of chemicals, Olivier Thorel, said in an interview. This is equivalent to the emissions from about 1 to 2 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven over a year.

The project is part of Aramco’s larger vision to become a leader in producing hydrogen, a gas seen as key to the global energy transition since it produces zero emissions when burned. Yet, it will need massive carbon capture and carbon storage facilities to do this in a truly planet friendly way. The process of converting natural gas to hydrogen emits carbon dioxide, but these emissions can be trapped — resulting in what’s known as blue hydrogen. This hydrogen can be used to make blue ammonia — a compound that’s much easier to ship than hydrogen.  The blue ammonia can later be converted back into hydrogen.

Aramco wants to show that “on a life-cycle ‘well to gate’ basis we have one of the lowest carbon-intensity ammonia available for export to the various markets — whether it’s for chemical, fertilizer or energy purposes,” said Thorel.

“I think it’s a way for us to properly get credit for the investment we’ve made to manage CO2 in a well-integrated way — but that’s not the end game,” he said. “The end game is to invest in a dedicated facility for carbon sequestration.”

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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