World energy supply must be sustainable, says Aramco officer

Saudi Aramco’s Wasit Gas Plant. Experts believe that Hydrogen could help the world reduce CO2 by making conventional hydrocarbon fuels sustainable. Aramco recently completed a blue ammonia supply chain demonstration. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 18 November 2020

World energy supply must be sustainable, says Aramco officer

  • Sector has been a ‘force for good’ amid the chaos of the coronavirus disease pandemic

JEDDAH: Any successful vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) would rely on the global energy sector for its mass production, said Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, chief technology officer at Saudi Aramco, on Tuesday.

“Fortunately, we have an energy system in place that can power the manufacture, transportation and storage of the billions of doses (of vaccine) required to defeat the virus,” he said.

This came during a media briefing on meeting the dual global energy and climate challenges as part of the G20 Riyadh Summit, where Al-Khowaiter talked of how the world’s energy supply, though it had been “a force for good” and was reliable and affordable, needed to be more sustainable.

“The question is not if we reduce our emissions, but how? And for me, that starts with a fundamental rethink,” he added. “We must stop thinking of the global energy system as a linear economy of infinite resources and limitless capacity to absorb waste. Instead, taking our inspiration from nature, we must treat it as a circular system.

“Each year, as part of the natural carbon cycle, the Earth recycles 20 times as much C02 as humans emit, locking it away in trees or plankton, where it becomes energy for other organisms, a source of life and growth, rather than a source of harm,” he added.

The energy system must be designed to do the same, he said. “That is what is meant by the circular carbon economy concept championed by Saudi Arabia during the presidency of the G20. Instead of take, make and throw away, we must increasingly reduce, recycle and reuse.”

He quoted the Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, when he said: “We don’t believe in a low carbon economy. We believe in a low emissions economy. That is what matters to the future of the planet.”

Al-Khowaiter noted that hydrogen could help the world reduce CO2 by making conventional hydrocarbon fuels sustainable. “It could allow us to recycle CO2 through synthetic fuels, and crucially, if we combine it with carbon capture, we can remove the CO2 associated with the hydrogen production process. In addition, hydrogen is sustainable through renewable generation.”

To prove the concept of carbon capture during the production of low or zero carbon products, the official said that Aramco recently completed a low CO2 ammonia or blue ammonia supply chain demonstration.

“We took natural gas, converted it to hydrogen, then to ammonia and then captured the CO2 that resulted and sequestered it in our enhanced oil recovery project. (The blue ammonia) was shipped from Saudi Arabia to our partners in Japan, where it is now being used in zero-carbon power generation. This is just one example of what is possible under a circular carbon economy approach,” he explained.

He added that as important as renewals are and as much progress as they have made in so many recent years, renewables will not achieve the Paris Agreement aim of greenhouse gas balance in the second half of this century on their own.

Aramco is investing in all relevant technologies and more, said Al-Khowaiter, but technology alone is not the whole solution, as the right policy is also needed. “That means supporting our growing carbon and hydrogen markets just as wind and solar were back in their early days, with clear incentives for companies at every stage from production, to capture, to transport, to storage and reuse.”

With real determination and realistic optimism about the world’s shared interests, humans can face the challenges together, he concluded.


US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

Updated 3 min 25 sec ago

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

  • Four companies accused of ‘transferring sensitive technology and items’ to missile program

LONDON: The US has slapped economic sanctions on four Chinese and Russian companies that Washington claims helped to support Iran’s missile program.

The four were accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program” and will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions, imposed on Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia’s Nilco Group and joint stock company Elecon.

“These measures are part of our response to Iran’s malign activities,” said Pompeo. “These determinations underscore the continuing need for all countries to remain vigilant to efforts by Iran to advance its missile program. We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran.”

The Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, when the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was also discussed.

“I want to thank Kuwait for its support of the maximum pressure campaign. Together, we are denying Tehran money, resources, wealth, weapons with which they would be able to commit terror acts all across the region,” he said.

It is not yet clear how the incoming administration of Joe Biden will deal with Tehran and whether it wants to revive the nuclear deal which would be key reviving the country’s battered economy. The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value this year against the dollar, fueling inflation and deepening the damage to the economy.

Iran’s economy would grow as much as 4.4 percent next year if sanctions were lifted, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said last week. 

The economy is expected to contract by about 6.1 percent in 2020 according to IIF estimates.