LAST week, Stabroek Block operator ExxonMobil announced ambitions to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This announcement builds off of previous 2030 emission-reduction plans, but significantly increases the company’s focus on investments in ‘green’ technologies that reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
This announcement puts Exxon in line with other major oil companies which have publicly committed, over the past few years, to curb planet-warming emissions over the next few decades. “ExxonMobil is committed to playing a leading role in the energy transition,” said Darren Woods, its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
In addition to being aligned with Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), ExxonMobil’s plan is aligned with the international Paris Treaty’s net-zero goals, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 Special Report; the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050 scenario; the U.S. and European Union’s Global Methane Pledge; and the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.
International groups were cautiously optimistic about the announcement. Andrew Logan, a senior director at Ceres, a nonprofit that pushes corporations to focus on climate change issues, said that the plan is “a step forward to a more ambitious approach to addressing climate change,” while cautioning that much more work will be needed to actually meet goals.
This plan is part of a larger global push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and find new ways to make much-needed energy production more environmentally-friendly. ExxonMobil’s detailed emission-reduction roadmap will focus on emissions from exploration, production and development as a start, but also includes $15 billion in planned investment over the next five years into promising new technologies like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), hydrogen, and biofuels.
The plan is not likely to significantly impact ExxonMobil’s operations in Guyana immediately. As a very new oil-and- gas producer, the technologies used in Guyana for exploration, discovery, and extraction are already lower-emitting, and more environmentally-friendly than those used in many areas. The plan primarily focuses on emissions reductions in the Permian Basin in the Southern United States, where the company has extensive operations, as well as older production operations globally.
But the pledge helps signal that becoming a major oil producer is not completely incompatible with Guyana’s long-term sustainability ambitions. For example, the Liza Unity floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, which recently arrived in Guyana’s waters, and is the country’s second FSPO, uses state-of-the-art technologies that avoid all long-term routine flaring.
It is also the first FPSO in the world to receive the American Bureau for Shipping’s (ABS) SUSTAIN-1 notation. This is one of the most prestigious sustainability awards that the organisation offers, and denotes the vessel’s alignment with key elements of the Environmental, Social and Governance requirements outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
More environmentally-friendly FPSOs will be vital to helping Guyana meet sustainability goals, with special attention to pollution and waste, coastal and marine ecosystems, energy-efficiency and performance monitoring, low-carbon fuels, human-centered design, and asset recycling. Guyana already has two additional planned FPSOs that will incorporate the same state-of-the-art emissions reductions technologies as the Unity.
Eventually, Guyana may play an even greater role through technologies like carbon capture, that could help further limit the damage of climate change. Exxon recently signed a memorandum with Pertamina, the State-oil company of Indonesia, to evaluate potential large-scale carbon capture and storage projects in their country.
As Guyana continues to develop, the government should stay vigilant for opportunities like these to pursue low- carbon and environmentally-friendly practices that satisfy global emission reduction goals, and keep companies honest and accountable for obeying international best practices for sustainability.