How do major oil and gas companies reduce their emissions?

According to a recent report, more than 200 oil and gas projects planned for the next three years will add 8.6 gigatonnes to the global carbon budget, equivalent to a quarter of global emissions in 2020.

Despite pledges to cut emissions, eight of the world’s largest oil and gas producers are moving ahead with more than 200 new fossil fuel projects over the next three years, according to a new report.

The resulting emissions, according to the Big Oil Reality Check study published on Tuesday, would add 8.6 gigatonnes to the global carbon budget, equivalent to a quarter of global emissions in 2020.

Among the projects that will continue are dozens of so-called “carbon bombs” – megaprojects which, in Canada, include the Cold Lake tar sands project and Bay du Nord’s plan to drill deep into the the ocean floor off Newfoundland and Labrador, according to David Tong, report author and researcher at Oil Change International.

Together, Tong estimates that the planned production from these two projects alone could add up to 210 megatonnes of carbon equivalent emissions. In a country like Poland, which has roughly the same population as Canada, this equates to about half of all emissions produced in a year.

“Our analysis shows that these eight companies’ climate promises and plans are grossly insufficient,” Tong wrote.

A recent survey by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper came to similar conclusions: “Canada and Australia are among the countries with the biggest expansion plans and the most carbon bombs.”

Meanwhile, independent research shared with the British newspaper found that Canada, along with the United States and Australia, “also provides some of the world’s largest per capita fossil fuel subsidies.”

Tong’s analysis also relied on data from Norwegian energy research and business intelligence firm Rystad Energy.

This time, focusing on publicly traded companies, he found that of the world’s “superbig” oil and gas companies, ExxonMobil and Chevron had the least effective climate plans.

Its report assesses the climate commitments of major oil companies based on 10 criteria. Even sticking to the 10 steps doesn’t mean a company would do its part to limit warming to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the threshold beyond which scientists say the Earth will face extremes. catastrophic consequences.

These 10 criteria include stopping oil and gas exploration, stopping approval of new extraction projects, and demonstrating a decline in oil and gas production.

Success in any one setting would likely lead to positive spillovers for the entire planet.

Indeed, from 1970 to 2010, fossil fuels and industrial processes accounted for about 78% of the total increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. . Over the past decade, the share of emissions from the production and consumption of coal, oil and gas has only increased, reaching around 86% of the carbon dioxide emissions emitted worldwide.

In 2021, the International Energy Agency, a longstanding political arm that defends the interests of fossil fuel companies, estimated that no new oil and gas projects could be approved from 2022 if the world had a chance of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and staying below 1.5C of warming.

But since that landmark report, several new oil and gas “carbon bombs” have been given the green light by regulators, including a $12 billion Bay du Nord offshore oil project approved by the Canadian government in April 2022.

Located about 500 kilometers off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Equinor ASA project – one of the Big Eight – is now the subject of a lawsuit after two environmental groups filed a lawsuit to revoke its approval.

The report also assessed whether each oil and gas company has set explicit goals to phase out long-term oil and gas extraction, ended lobbying and advertisements that get in the way of climate solutions, and engaged money to help workers move on to other jobs.

“Only three companies plan to cut production by 2030, and not one of those companies anticipates production cuts even close to those needed for 1.5C,” Tong wrote in the May 24 report. .

“As this analysis shows, none of the oil and gas majors’ commitments pass the basic test of being considered a serious climate plan.”

Companies deny claims climate plan failed

Glacier Media contacted the eight companies analyzed in the report. Only two had returned a request for comment on its findings at the time of publication.

In a statement, ExxonMobil spokesman Casey Norton said the company is “committed to meeting the essential needs of modern life, including solutions to address the risks of climate change and the reduction of emissions”.

In the Permian Basin, which stretches from West Texas to the Southwest United States, Norton said ExxonMobil plans to net direct operations to zero by 2030 – which it says will will apply to its operations worldwide by 2050.

“In doing so, we strive to strike the right balance – investing to help society achieve its ambition of a net zero future while meeting today’s need for affordable and reliable energy,” he said.

ExxonMobil’s net zero plans do not extend to scope 3 emissions.

Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions include direct operations, Scope 2 energy purchased to power operations, and Scope 3 a variety of emissions produced and used in downstream, including, among others, the combustion of fossil fuels. World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Meanwhile, a BP spokesperson pointed to the company’s net zero annual report from March 2022, in which CEO Bernard Looney described BP as “unique among our peers in aiming to be net zero in operations, production and sales”.

Looney added that together the company’s goals are “in line with Paris Agreement goals” to keep temperature rise below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The spokesperson also said Oil Change International’s report failed to take into account that BP’s emissions reduction targets did not include the company’s stake in Rosneft – the Russian oil giant and BP gas is divesting from its invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, the report misrepresents BP’s reduction targets, the spokesperson said, adding that the company had “stopped advertising about the company’s reputation”.

Canadian companies ‘among the worst’

Tong told Glacier Media that his latest report underestimates the oil and gas expansion his organization is planning in Canada.

“We haven’t fully priced in shale expansion in Canada,” he said, adding, “Most of the expansion in Canada is not coming from the companies we’ve assessed in these reports”.

The report comes six months after Tong conducted a similar analysis on the ambition, integrity and transition planning of Canada’s eight largest oil and gas producers.

In November 2021, the results were even more “catastrophic”, found the researcher. In almost all parameters, the plans of the oil and gas companies were “grossly inadequate”.

Only two companies deviated from failure on each metric.

Shell Canada said it expects its oil production to decline 1-2% per year through 2030. But as the company has sold much of its stake in the oil sands of Alberta, it also plans to increase its investment in natural gas extraction, which could ultimately offset its oil divestment, Tong’s Canadian analysis noted.

On a global level, Oil Change International’s latest report says the transition to natural gas as a so-called “bridge fuel” would eventually “take the world well beyond safe climate limits”.

Suncor Energy, meanwhile, was the only major Canadian-based company with a plan that even referred to Scope 3 emissions, which include greenhouse gases emitted from the direct combustion of oil and gas as fuel and their use as a raw material in the production of plastic or fertilizer. .

However, the company’s net zero goal in 2050 does not account for these sources, “even though they represent 80% of the company’s emissions”, according to the report.

As Tong put it in November, “this research shows that the eight major Canadian companies studied are among the worst in the world, despite all their net zero rhetoric.”

Using the data he has collected, Tong says Canadian oil and gas producers are on track to expand their operations by 30% by 2030. This, he added, will lead to a 25% increase in their emissions.

His message to Canadians: “Net zero oil and gas production does not exist. When companies or governments say there is, they are hiding something.

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