How Saudi Arabia could become a leader in carbon capture on the road to net-zero emissions

Special How Saudi Arabia could become a leader in carbon capture on the road to net-zero emissions
Carbon emissions must be cut but industrial processes and energy needs mean fossil fuels can’t be ditched overnight. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 13 March 2023

How Saudi Arabia could become a leader in carbon capture on the road to net-zero emissions

How Saudi Arabia could become a leader in carbon capture on the road to net-zero emissions
  • Carbon capture can achieve 14 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed by 2050
  • The Kingdom has set the bar high, with a carbon capture target of 44 million tons annually by 2035

RIYADH: As nations step up their efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emission goals and mitigate the effects of climate change, oil and gas-producing countries in particular are under tremendous pressure to make a swift transition to green energy sources and leave their petroleum assets underground.

This is no small challenge. Carbon-capture technologies could therefore prove be a vital lifeline for the energy industries of these countries, and Saudi Arabia is well-placed to emerge as a global leader in the carbon-capture sector.

Carbon capture utilization and storage, or CCUS, technologies have been in use for decades to remove and sequester carbon dioxide emissions, and improve the quality of natural gas. Carbon capture achieves several goals, simultaneously reducing emission levels while also ensuring fossil fuels meet the world’s pressing energy needs and providing a mechanism to help meet net-zero goals by 2050.

According to Bloomberg, global investment in carbon capture and storage projects will reach $6.4 billion this year.

The most natural method of carbon capture is as old as time itself: Photosynthesis, the process through which trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into oxygen and energy.

Saudi authorities have launched a number of afforestation initiatives, including the Saudi Green and the Middle East Green initiatives, with the aim of planting 50 billion trees in the Kingdom and the wider region as part of the Middle East Green Initiative, in partnership with the countries. Still, this alone is not enough and other methods are desperately needed to reduce carbon emissions as efficiently possible.

According to the International Energy Agency, effective CCUS technologies capture emissions at source or directly from the air. The carbon dioxide collected in this way can then be stored deep underground or processed to convert it into valuable products.

The IEA is aware of more than 300 carbon-capture facilities being developed worldwide, including the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project in Australia; two capture facilities linked to the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line in Canada; the first large-scale bioenergy and carbon-capture project in Japan; capture facilities at the Sinopec chemical plant and at the Guohua Jinjie coal-fired power plant in China; and Saudi Aramco’s Uthmaniyah project and Hawiyah gas plant.

Saudi Arabia has set the bar high in its efforts to cut emissions, announcing a carbon-capture target of 44 million tons a year by 2035. Aramco is working with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy to establish a hub in Jubail with a storage capacity of up to 9 million tons a year by 2027.

In mid-January, meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company teamed up with the Fujairah Natural Resources Corporation, UAE-based clean energy company Masdar, and Emirati decarbonization company 44.01 for a project to remove carbon dioxide from the air by “mineralizing” it into rock formations in Fujairah emirate.

According to Vikas Dhole, general manager for Sustainability Solution Strategy and Enablement with AspenTech, a provider of software and services for process industries, the Middle East as a whole is in an ideal position to take the lead in carbon-mitigation efforts, thanks to its vast subsurface formations, which have the capacity to store a highly significant proportion of the world’s target for carbon removal.

“These two initiatives from Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi will have a big impact, regionally and globally,” he told Arab News. “The Middle East can pair that with the region’s ideal geography to generate massive solar power. These together allow carbon removal powered by green energy.”

Middle East is well placed to be a world leader in carbon capture. (AFP)

Aramco recently announced a partnership with AspenTech to make carbon-capture software developed by Aramco available to other companies globally, so that new technology will have an effect far beyond the Kingdom.

Dhole said his company is also working to integrate its software capabilities with a number of businesses to help them predict the long-term outcomes of various carbon dioxide storage strategies, including mineralization.

“In short, the announcements recently made in the region can be anticipated to be very impactful,” he added.

In recent years, the momentum for CCUS has been growing. It is estimated that carbon capture could achieve 14 percent of the global target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and is viewed as the only practical way to achieve deep levels of decarbonization in the industrial sector.

In a report published last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that a drastic reduction in carbon emissions will no longer be sufficient in the battle against climate change; the world now needs Negative Emissions Technologies to keep rising temperatures at bay.

While Dhole believes the world is indeed “late to the game” in terms of the efforts to reduce emissions, he sees it as an opportunity to be seized.

“The opportunity is there to scale this up much faster than ever before by combining the engineering innovation with the digitalization innovation, and the funding resources of players such as (Saudi Arabia) and Abu Dhabi,” he said. “And it is really a profitable opportunity to provide carbon removal and storage services beyond the region.


• 44m Saudi Arabia’s annual carbon capture target by 2035 in tons.

• 50bn Number of trees the Kingdom will plant by 2030 to help capture carbon.

• 9m Annual carbon storage capacity of planned Jubail facility by 2027 in tons.

• 2060 Saudi Arabia’s target year for achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

“Carbon-capture utilization and storage are now proven, technologically, and rapidly improving, economically. They will become one of the key ‘silver bullets,’ if they are funded to the extent that the projects can be done in a completely digital manner, so that the earlier projects will inform future projects to keep improving technology-wise, economics-wise, and speed of execution-wise.

“This all can be done with an end-to-end digital pathway, as AspenTech has introduced to the industry.”

According to Paul Sullivan, a senior research associate at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, carbon-capture technologies, though widely available, are still costly to use and inefficient.

“Things are improving and can be improved more so,” he told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their partners could work together on improving carbon capture, and the uses of that carbon after it is captured. There is no silver bullet.

“Most of the carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans, trees and other natural carbon sinks. However, these are not enough. Also, these additions of carbon to the seas and other water bodies have caused acidification and do damage to coral reefs and more.

“Solving the carbon issues will need a multipronged, long-term, strategic approach, bringing in the energy industries, agriculture, transport and many more sectors. It will require us to work with think tanks, universities and across industries. There should be giant prizes for new inventions to bring the carbon balance more in line. All industries, and others, could be involved with this.”

The consensus seems to be that while the work of companies, engineers and scientists developing carbon-capture technologies has come a long way, a lot remains to be done to effectively utilize these technologies in a manner that can make a significant dent in curbing emissions and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Imbalances in the carbon balances and the carbon cycle are what we need to focus on,” said Paul Sullivan, Energy expert. 

Dhole agrees, saying that in particular, greater innovation is required in the “utilization” of captured carbon. Several chemical companies, including leading businesses in the Middle East, are working to commercialize ideas for the use of carbon dioxide as a chemical building block, for example.

“In this area, modeling combined with industrial AI (artificial intelligence), using a concept called hybrid models, will have a big impact on accelerating the innovation of these new classes of chemicals,” he said.

Over the past 30 years, many industry experts have predicted that CCUS technologies would be required to decarbonize a number of industries, including energy, chemicals, cement, and steel production, yet the CCUS industry is still finding its footing.

A report in October 2022 by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that CCUS uptake needs to increase by a factor of 120 by 2050 if countries are to achieve their net-zero commitments.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement calls for a balance between reductions in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and earthbound carbon sinks, in an effort to reduce the confusion over the relative qualities and benefits of carbon in its various forms.

“Carbon is not always a problem,” said Sullivan. “It is used in photosynthesis to create food for plants and trees, for example. It is used in carbonated beverages and in many important scientific and industrial processes.

“Carbon is not the enemy. Imbalances in the carbon balances and the carbon cycle are what we need to focus on. Balance is the issue with climate change, as with many other issues.”

Saudi authorities seize drugs worth more than $4.7m

Saudi authorities seize drugs worth more than $4.7m
Updated 12 sec ago

Saudi authorities seize drugs worth more than $4.7m

Saudi authorities seize drugs worth more than $4.7m
  • Bids to smuggle Captagon pills through Haditha port foiled
  • Two arrests made following coordination between ZATCA and the General Directorate for Narcotics Control

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority has foiled two separate attempts to smuggle hundreds of thousands of Captagon pills through Haditha port.
The Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday that ZATCA foiled an attempt to smuggle 365,166 Captagon pills hidden in a truck coming through the port, as well as discovering another 101,160 pills hidden in a different vehicle.
The seized drugs had an estimated street value ranging from $4.5 million to $11.25 million according to the International Journal of Addiction Research, which said users pay between $10 and $25 per pill.
Two people were arrested following coordination between ZATCA and the General Directorate for Narcotics Control. A statement from ZATCA said that the authority “spares no effort to tighten its grip over the Kingdom’s imports and exports.”
ZATCA further warned that it would be “extra vigilant” against smugglers to realize its goal of “strengthening security and protecting society against any harm caused by drugs and other contraband.”
Members of the public can report suspected smuggling or other violations of the customs system in strict confidence via email — [email protected] — or through the designated number for security reports: 1910 from within the country, +966114208417 from overseas. A financial reward is offered if the information leads to discovery of a crime.

Green Riyadh reaches its fifth station, Qurtubah neighborhood

Green Riyadh reaches its fifth station, Qurtubah neighborhood
Updated 09 June 2023

Green Riyadh reaches its fifth station, Qurtubah neighborhood

Green Riyadh reaches its fifth station, Qurtubah neighborhood

Riyadh: Urban greening works began in the Qurtubah neighborhood of Riyadh on Thursday, a continuation of a tree planting initiative in the city’s residential neighborhoods within the framework of the Green Riyadh project.

The work in the Qurtubah neighborhood includes planting trees and shrubs and establishing parks and green areas.

The program aims to plant more than 92,000 trees and shrubs in the neighborhood and build 34 gardens. Trees will be planted in the surrounding areas of four schools, 56 mosques, nine parking lots, eight governmental facilities, and along 44 km of roads and streets in Qurtubah.

The types of trees and shrubs to be planted include acacia gerrardii, acacia pruinocarpa, acacia salicina, acacia tortilis spirocarpa, and balanites aegyptiaca, all of which are heat-tolerant and suitable for the Kingdom’s summer climate.

Details of the urban greening works were announced during an interactive event held in Qurtubah, where visitors had the chance to familiarize themselves with the project’s various phases and see what the neighborhood will look like once it is complete.

The exhibition showcasing details of the greening project in Qurtubah is open for one week and includes a space for children to learn about the importance of planting trees and the role they can play in community tree-planting events across the city.

The urban greening works in Qurtubah have wide-ranging environmental, social and economic impacts, reducing temperatures and protecting biological diversity, improving the well-being of the neighborhood’s residents, increasing the global attractiveness of Riyadh, and reducing annual power consumption by 650 GW per hour.

Next on the list of Green Riyadh projects are the neighborhoods of Al-Ghadeer and Al-Nakhil. Contracts have already been signed for the implementation of greening projects in these neighborhoods.

The Green Riyadh program is one of Riyadh’s four megaprojects launched by the Saudi leadership in 2019, contributing to achieving the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Green Riyadh aims to plant over 7.5 million trees in the city of Riyadh, raise the vegetation cover’s proportion to 9.1 percent of the city’s area, and increase the share of green space per individual from 1.7 square meters to 28 square meters per capita, which is 16 times higher than the current share.

Saudi Armed Forces, GCC, US troops conclude military exercises

Saudi Armed Forces, GCC, US troops conclude military exercises
Updated 09 June 2023

Saudi Armed Forces, GCC, US troops conclude military exercises

Saudi Armed Forces, GCC, US troops conclude military exercises
  • ‘Eagle Resolve 23’ drill held to raise combat readiness
  • 8-month project included air, sea, land, cyber operations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Armed Forces have concluded military exercises with GCC countries and the US, the Kingdom’s Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

The “Eagle Resolve 23” drill, which was launched at the Air Warfare Center in the Eastern Province, aimed to raise combat efficiency, achieve operational readiness, and exchange expertise on planning and implementation at all levels.

It was held to demonstrate the depth of strategic and military relations with the GCC countries and the US, the ministry said in a statement.

Over the course of two weeks, the countries participated in various exercises including air and missile combat with live ammunition, defensive counter-air operations, air-to-air refueling, surface-to-naval warfare, electronic warfare, naval incursions, defense against weapons of mass destruction and handling mass casualties.

The closing ceremony was attended by Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Fayyad Al-Ruwaili, the chiefs of staff of the participating countries, Commander of the Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, and a number of senior officers of the Saudi Armed Forces.

Maj. Gen. Fahad bin Hamad Al-Salman, the exercise director, said the drill and its various scenarios took place over more than eight months, during which several conferences and seminars were held in the Kingdom and the US.

The chiefs of staff were briefed on the working groups involved, and attended a “Senior Leaders” symposium, during which issues of common interest were discussed.

As part of the symposium’s activities, the Commander of the Naval Forces at the US Central Command Lt. Gen. Brad Cooper, gave a lecture entitled “Partnerships and Innovation,” while the Saudi side presented two lectures entitled “Air Defense in Joint Operations” and “Information Operations.”

Princess Sara, wife of Saudi crown prince, sponsors Alnahda charity ceremony

Princess Sara, wife of Saudi crown prince, sponsors Alnahda charity ceremony
Updated 09 June 2023

Princess Sara, wife of Saudi crown prince, sponsors Alnahda charity ceremony

Princess Sara, wife of Saudi crown prince, sponsors Alnahda charity ceremony

RIYADH: Princess Sara bint Mashhour, the wife of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sponsored the ceremony of Alnahda Society held in Diriyah, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

The non-profit organization was founded in 1962 to empower Saudi women socially and economically through financial assistance, training and job skill development.

The patronage of Princess Sara is an extension of her efforts to empower others, especially the youth, women and those with disabilities, by enabling them to become active members of society.

The entire proceeds of the ceremony will go toward the organization’s vocational rehabilitation program, which includes academic support and workshops to help people develop personal and social skills. 

During her speech at the ceremony, Princess Moudi bint Khalid bin Abdulaziz, chairwoman of Al-Nahdha, expressed her appreciation to Princess Sara for her charitable work, her passion for social development and the non-profit sector, and her support of youth empowerment projects. 

Solomon Islands PM discusses climate change with Saudi envoy

Solomon Islands PM discusses climate change with Saudi envoy
Updated 09 June 2023

Solomon Islands PM discusses climate change with Saudi envoy

Solomon Islands PM discusses climate change with Saudi envoy

RIYADH: Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare received Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Climate Affairs Envoy Adel Al-Jubeir in the capital, Riyadh, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

During the reception, Al-Jubeir conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and wishes to the government and people of the Solomon Islands for continued stability, progress and prosperity.
They reviewed bilateral relations and ways to develop them in various fields, and the Kingdom’s efforts and initiatives to preserve the environment and limit climate change. 

A number of regional and international issues and developments of common concern were also discussed.

Al-Jubeir met with the Cypriot Foreign Minister Dr. Constantinos Kombos, where they reviewed relations between the two countries, and ways to enhance and develop them in various fields, including the environment and limiting the effects of climate change.

He also held separate talks with Emanuela Claudia Del Re, the EU special representative for the Sahel, to discuss cooperation, and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister, Waleed Al-Khuraiji, held talks with British Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the UN Lord Tariq Ahmad on the sidelines of the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh in Riyadh.

Al-Khuraiji also met Tobias Lindner, minister of state at the German Foreign Office.