Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil exporting company, is exploring opportunities to develop and increase the use of new fuels as it looks to support cleaner economic growth, its chief executive said.
“For everyone around the world, 2020 has been a tough year. A great deal of uncertainty still lies ahead,” Amin Nasser said in his keynote address at the China Development Forum. “It has also reminded the world of an unavoidable truth: that reliable, affordable and sustainable energy systems are mission-critical to delivering economic prosperity.”
There are also “exciting” opportunities to collaborate in the development and use of "future fuels such as hydrogen and other chemicals-type clean fuels”, he said at the summit, which was held online due to Covid-19.
However, while new energy technologies "slowly grow their contribution to an evolving energy mix, existing energy sources will continue to play a key role for decades to come", Mr Nasser said.
"Improving their carbon footprint is now a key worldwide economic and environmental imperative,” he said.
Aramco’s interest in new, cleaner fuels follows Abu Dhabi’s Adnoc’s announcement earlier this week that it is exploring the potential of new fuels as it moves to reduce its carbon intensity over the next decade.
“We all have a role to play and we as an industry can do more on climate change,” Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Adnoc group chief executive and Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology said at the annual Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference on November 9.
Adnoc is already one of the least carbon intensive producers in the world and over the next 10 years, the company plans to reduce its greenhouse gas intensity by about 25 per cent, he said.
The pandemic has upended global trade and severely disrupted the travel and tourism sector, which has tipped the global economy into its worst recession since the 1930s. The International Monetary Fund expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.4 per cent this year with only a moderate recovery next year. The International Energy Agency is forecasting a 5 per cent drop in global energy demand this year – seven times larger than the decline after the 2008 financial crisis – to 91.7 million barrels per day.
Oil markets have been fluid, trading at five-month lows until they picked up towards the end of last last week. Prices surged on Monday following Pfizer's announcement of a potential vaccine breakthrough and the election of Joe Biden as the new president of the US. Brent crude prices rose above $45 per barrel for the first time in two months on Wednesday.
Mr Nasser said the rest of the world should try to replicate China's determination, as the first country to recover from the pandemic, to create the economic momentum needed for a sustained oil market recovery.
Aramco is at an advanced stage of developing “futuristic technologies" that convert crude oil directly into petrochemicals, including a flagship catalytic crude-to-chemicals process being piloted with Tsinghua University in Beijing, he said.
“We are developing new, cutting-edge, non-metallic materials whose production emits far less carbon, for use in sectors like construction, housing and renewables” that will help growth momentum in China, he said.