The issue is no longer about renewable energy versus fossil fuels. All energy sources are needed to meet the future demand. However, much of the world’s energy is consumed in sectors that are hard to decarbonize, such as the steel, cement and chemicals industries. The path toward carbon balance inevitably includes hydrocarbons — meaning that we have to find solutions for carbon emissions.
Deep reductions in these emissions can be achieved through a new suite of technologies known as Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS). These technologies significantly mitigate the impact of emissions by capturing them before they enter the atmosphere. We at Aramco are testing this technology at a large gas plant in Saudi Arabia. The plant captures 800,000 tons of CO2 per year by compressing it and injecting it into an oil field. Aramco is also testing mobile CCUS technologies and has recently pioneered a heavy-duty truck that captures 45% of its own carbon dioxide emissions and stores it on board the vehicle.
More work is needed to make carbon capture technology commercially viable for the private sector. This is especially important because CCUS offers much more than capturing emissions alone. Aramco has invested in a conversion technology that uses captured CO2 to create useful polymers, such as plastics, with just one-third the carbon footprint of conventional polymers. We have also developed a technology that uses CO2 instead of air to cure concrete — storing up to 20% carbon dioxide within the most ubiquitous construction material.
Our projects show that carbon emissions can be reused and recycled. That means carbon capture technology could create a circular system in which carbon is no longer a waste product, but rather an important feedstock and energy carrier for useful products. Adoption of CCUS technologies by carbon intensive industries around the world would enable a circular carbon economy in which emissions are captured and transformed into useful products. With that potential, carbon capture technology could significantly contribute to a clean and sustainable future.