Saudi Aramco leads fight against methane

Saudi Aramco spends a big proportion of its research and development budget on measures to counter the environmentally damaging effects of the oil and gas business. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 06 January 2020

Saudi Aramco leads fight against methane

  • Saudi company is more efficient in both current emissions and its targets for future reduction

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has emerged as the most effective energy company in the world at mitigating emissions of the atmospheric pollutant methane from natural gas operations, according to consulting firm Thunder Said Energy.

A research survey put Aramco, the world’s biggest listed company, at the top of a table that included all the big energy groups. 

The Saudi company was about six times more efficient than US energy giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron, in both current emissions and targets for future reduction, as a proportion of its gas production.Equinor, the state energy company of environmentally conscious Norway, ranked second in the survey.

Thunder Said’s Rob West, an expert in energy economics, said that controlling methane emissions was a crucial aspect of the move to decarbonize global energy supplies, in which gas is playing an increasingly important role. Methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), is released in the gas production and transportation process.




Saudi Aramco became the world’s most valuable public company this year with a stock offering launch in December. (AP)

“Scaling up natural gas is the largest decarbonization opportunity on the planet. But this requires minimizing methane leaks. Exciting new technologies are emerging,” West said. Global gas demand will treble by 2050 as producers and consumers seek cleaner alternatives to coal and oil.

Aramco, the biggest oil exporter, has huge quantities of natural gas, which it has identified as a key area of expansion for domestic supply and export in the form of liquified natural gas. “We basically look at natural gas as an area for growth for the company,” Khalid Al-Dabbagh, Aramco’s chief financial officer, said in an investor call in the run-up to its successful IPO this year.

Aramco spends a big proportion of its research and development budget on measures to counter the environmentally damaging effects of the oil and gas business, including advanced technology to reduce pollutants in energy products.

Although most environmentalists have focused their attention on CO2 as the main contributor to global warming, and hence to damaging climate change, some experts regard methane as a far more serious threat.

There is far more CO2 in the atmosphere, but methane is up to 120 times more powerful as a warming agent and takes longer to leave Earth’s atmosphere. “Methane accounts for around 25 to 30 percent of all the warming occurring on the planet,” West said, while around a quarter comes from fossil fuel production.

“Mitigating methane emissions is becoming crucial for tackling net emissions.” 

While methane leaks at all stages of the natural gas production process, almost half is emitted during the upstream phase. Sensors, drones and even satellites are being increasingly used to detect these emissions. Aramco stopped “flaring” gas years ago.

“The world will need superior methods to mitigate methane. In the developed world, this will be necessary for operators wishing to demonstrate low carbon credentials, and preserve their access to customers and capital markets,” West said. “The other way for investors to lower methane emissions may be to favor companies with low methane emissions and targets to improve.”

Decoder

Methane

A much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), methane is released in the gas production and transportation process.


Cyprus sets stage for tourism recovery as airports reopen

Updated 07 June 2020

Cyprus sets stage for tourism recovery as airports reopen

  • Mediterranean holiday island tempts visitors with bold hospitality package that includes medical care

NICOSIA: Cyprus will reopen for international tourism on Tuesday, with airports welcoming visitors after an almost three-month shutdown, and a bold plan to cover health-care costs for visitors.

But with arrivals expected to be down by 70 percent this year due to the chaos brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a leap of faith for the small Mediterranean holiday island.

“Nobody here is expecting to make any money this year,” Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said. “We are setting the stage for the beginning of our recovery in 2021.”

The divided island’s tourism sector normally accounts for around 15 percent of gross domestic product, but has dried up in past months amid global measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Cyprus saw a record 3.97 million arrivals in 2019, with more than half its market made up of British and Russian visitors.

But even if the island’s airports in Larnaca and Paphos open up to arrivals on Tuesday, with the first flight due to arrive from Athens around noon, neither Britain or Russia are among the 19 countries allowed to land there.

The list of permitted countries, which also include Bulgaria, Germany and Malta, have been chosen based on epidemiological data and split into two categories.

Initially all travellers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test undertaken within 72 hours of travel, but from June 20, only those arriving from six countries in the second category, such as Poland and Romania, will need to do so.

The government says the lists will be revised weekly and more countries can be added.

Cyprus will also cover accommodation, dining and medical care for any tourists who fall ill with the COVID-19 illness during their stay, as well as accommodation and meals for their families and close contacts.

“What we offer and what we sell is not the sun and the sea, it’s hospitality, and this is an extension of our hospitality,” Perdios said.

The government has designated a 100-bed COVID-19 hospital for tourists that Perdios said would be located in the Larnaca region, while 112 ICU units have been allocated for visitors.

Perdios said several four-star hotels would provide 500 quarantine rooms for close contacts of those who fall ill.

A raft of other health measures, including disinfection protocols and temperature checks at border controls, aim to protect travellers and locals alike.

“We’ve gone to big lengths to think ahead of things that could go wrong and try to devise plan Bs and Cs”, Perdios said.

The Republic of Cyprus, in the south of the island, has registered 960 novel coronavirus cases and 17 deaths.

Perdios expressed hope that British tourists could be welcomed “sometime after mid-July”, with Russia “slightly later, maybe by a couple of weeks.”

A recently announced deal with Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air to open a base in Cyprus from July was also an important step towards expanding and diversifying the island’s tourist markets, he said.

While no date has been set to allow international tourists to visit the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognised by Ankara, the health-care commitment would still apply to those visiting the north during their stay once the crossings are reopened.

“I am very confident that not only will we be able to continue providing our citizens with protection, but also caring for everybody who comes to the island on holiday”, he said.

“If we are coming out with a scheme like this, it’s because we can afford it, but most importantly, because we feel that it’s the right thing to do.”