Offshore oil rig

Exxon, Aramco, and fellow oil giants agree climate pledge

Image credit: Dreamstime

A group of the world’s largest oil companies, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), has set out a joint pledge to reduce the carbon intensity of its upstream oil and gas operations.

The OGCI was established in 2014 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector. Its 12 members include BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, and Shell and account for over 30 per cent of the world’s oil and gas production. The group is largely concerned with reducing the carbon footprint of the sector – such as through carbon capture and storage – rather than switching to renewable sources of energy.

According to a Reuters report, the OGCI has agreed to reduce the average carbon intensity of upstream oil and gas operations to 20-21kg of CO2 equivalent per barrel by 2025. This is a reduction from a baseline of 23kg in 2017. Many OGCI members have already reduced their upstream carbon intensity far below 20kg; for instance, Saudi Aramco had an upstream carbon intensity of 10.1kg per barrel in 2019. It is also significantly higher than the carbon intensity of 18kg per barrel averaged by members of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers.

“It is a significant measure, it is not the end of the work, it is a near-term target […] and we’ll keep calibrating as we go forward,” OGBI chair and former BP CEO Bob Dudley told Reuters. Dudley said that achieving the target will remove up to 52 million tons of carbon per year.

The group’s collective carbon intensity will be reported every year.

The target is unlikely to satisfy climate activists applying pressure to the oil and gas sector, particularly as it will allow for absolute carbon emissions to increase as production ramps up even if the oil is “cleaner” on a per barrel basis. Many of the OGCI’s individual members – including BP and Shell – have set more ambitious carbon reduction targets of their own, although other members such as ExxonMobil and Chevron have strongly resisted pressure to cut carbon emissions.

While environmental think tank Carbon Tracker said that “having some targets to reduce carbon pollution is better than none”, it dismissed the OGCI’s claim that the targets are aligned with the Paris Agreement, which aims to mitigate climate change such that global average temperature rises are kept below 2°C.

Carbon Tracker head of fossil fuels Andrew Grant commented: “The industry can never consider itself 'aligned' with the Paris goals when the business plans assume steady investment in fossil fuel production on a planet with absolute limits.”

Earlier this week, presumptive Democratic  nominee Joe Biden announced plans to invest $2bn (£1.6tn) over four years in green energy infrastructure and other climate measures. Biden promised to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation to zero within 15 years if elected US president.

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