Oil and Gas industry relies on the technology that the coal sector is also developing?

Oil and gas use can be consistent with the Paris Accord goals, according to Bob Dudley, delivering BP’s keynote speech at the Oil&Money 2018 conference [1]. Among a number of important statements, with which I mostly agreed, one that stood out was how the fossil fuel divestment movement has driven a wedge between the oil and gas industry and the reality of the many millions across the world that will still require conventional fuels.

Another statement, and rather more promising from a climate change mitigation point of view was how the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is working to bring carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) into the mainstream energy business. Ironically, CCUS is a technology that could help reduce the environmental impact of the many new millions of megawatts of coal stations operating in the developing world. Most of Asia is using coal to deliver affordable energy while often using technologies more advanced than anything we’ve ever seen in the UK. Yet, Bob Dudley seems content to drive a wedge between coal and the rest of the energy industry to promote natural gas, despite the fact that CCUS could cut GHG emissions from a coal plant by 90%, while delivering electricity 24/7. This technology has been proven at industrial scale in North America at two subcritical coal power stations. The potential for utility scale CCUS worldwide could massively reduce its costs.

Note the event Bob Dudley presented at was called Oil&Money and not Clean Energy Solutions for Oil. Like all of us, there is a certain element of self-interest, but none so blatant as that exhibited by the oil and gas industry in an effort to destabilise coal investments, but notably and possibly more climate critical is the potential undermining of confidence amongst financial institutions in clean coal technologies [2].

The most recent IPCC report suggests that a 0.5oC difference in global average temperatures (+1.5oC instead of +2oC) will have a huge effect on the climate. Either way both scenarios will require an unprecedented reduction in manmade GHG emissions [3] and all available options will be needed.

If the world’s policy makers are serious about climate, then falling into the trap of ignoring CCUS for coal related activities such as power, cement and steel production will be catastrophic for the climate and future generations.