Friday 14 May 2021 - 11:32:26 pm

Carbon capture, technology transfer successful energy transition mechanisms in UAE, say experts

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By Nour Salman ABU DHABI, 11th January, 2020 (WAM) -- The global energy sector’s transition towards attaining climate change mitigation and adaptation is often deemed as a controversial and expensive process.

However, according to experts attending the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum, the UAE has proven its ability to rise as a sustainable energy leader employing Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage, CCUS, as a means to cut carbon emissions to meet with the Paris Agreement 2030 pledge.

Carbon capture is the process involving the collection of CO2 produced from gas facilities and injecting it in oil reservoirs to enhance crude recovery while storing emissions underground.

The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, UNFCCC, sees CCUS adoption as a critical technology for the decarbonisation of the energy sector in the long term. Interestingly, many European nations have taken a step back in this area.

The high cost of the technology fears over the safety of storing CO2 underground, and the perception that CCUS is a way to prolong fossil-fuel use, means that it has mostly failed to get off the ground in Europe. In 2015, the UK pulled $1.5 billion in funding initially earmarked for the development of a large-scale CCS project.

The above, however, did not halt the GCC region’s ambitions for the sustainable energy industry. The UAE has proven the successful emergence of the CCUS sector and the existence of a supportive regulatory and policy-driven environment for the future energy transition.

Key players in the country’s bid towards attaining a sustainable, forward-thinking energy industry are Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, and Masdar, a Mubadala renewable energy company.

Mussabeh Al Kaabi, CEO of Petroleum and Petrochemicals at Mubadala Investment Company, noted that there are "significant technological challenges that can help facilitate the energy transition."

"We will require all energy resources, including both hydrocarbons and renewables, to meet future global energy demand," he stressed.

"The key is to ensure these are deployed with maximum efficiency," Al Kaabi continued, adding, "and we fully explore the opportunities to capture emissions to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint."

ADNOC began its carbon capture programme in 2009, spearheading the region’s plans to inject CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. In 2016, ADNOC and Masdar teamed up to launch Al Reyadah, a commercial-scale CCUS facility that captures 0.8 million tonnes of CO2 from Emirates Steel Plant.

In 2019, ADNOC announced further ambitions to develop its second CCUS facility in the country that will capture between 1.9 and 2.3 Mtpa of CO2 from its gas processing for enhanced oil recovery.

"The World Bank tells us that we need something around US$70 per tonne of CO2 or more if we have any shot of meeting the Paris Agreement," said David Livingston, Atlantic Council Deputy Director for Climate and Advanced Energy.

Livingston told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, that to meet targets like that of the World Bank and the Paris Agreement, carbon capture is essential. "It makes the most sense," because it's going to help identify the existing assets within natural gas generation, or production facilities in the aluminium and cement industries, he added.

Commenting on UAE efforts to utilise CCUS technologies, Livingston said, "You see things being driven by forward-looking companies that really want to make sure they're developing the technologies of tomorrow."

According to the Global CCS Institute, the UAE’s CCUS adoption has proved successful, wherein 2017, the cost of CO2 avoided (US$/tonne CO2) reached $140 for the cement industry, while for natural gas and iron and steel totalling $97 and $90 respectively. The figures refer to the cost and performance of facilities fitted with CCUS technologies, including transport and storage.

But it does not stop there. In the next decade, ADNOC aims to scale-up CCUS deployment six-fold, capturing five million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.

John Roberts, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that the GCC region, particularly the UAE, is a "fascinating region" to study internal energy diversification strategies. "You can see the possibilities of looking beyond fossil fuel energy."

"The two places that have managed to bank their fossil fuel revenues so that they can move to a post-fossil fuel era are Norway and the GCC region," he noted.

Roberts added that within the UAE, there is "great confidence" in looking towards a post-fossil fuel dependent energy industry.

The Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum is an international gathering of government, industry, and thought leaders to set the energy agenda for the year.

Taking place in the UAE capital ‪from 10th to 12th January, the 2020 iteration of the forum will focus on three key themes: the role of the oil and gas industry in the energy transition, financing the future of energy and interconnections in a new era of geopolitics.