Saudi Arabia’s Aramco Plans Direct Air Capture Project

Aramco, the state-owned petroleum and natural gas company of Saudi Arabia, said it is moving forward with a lower-carbon hydrogen, direct air capture (DAC) of carbon dioxide project.

The move aligns with the energy conglomerate’s aim to achieve net-zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions across its assets by 2050. Saudi Arabia also has net-zero ambitions to reach by 2060. 

Carbon Capture Project
Aramco already completed a pilot project in Denmark and is in the process of signing an engineering agreement with Topsoe to construct a lower-carbon hydrogen demonstration plant at the Shaybah Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) recovery plant, in Saudi Arabia. Topsoe is a Danish company that specializes in carbon emission reduction technologies, supplying technology, catalysts, and services for the global energy transition. 

The plant, when completed, is expected to have a production capacity of six tons of hydrogen per day. It will use renewable electricity in electrified steam reforming of hydrocarbons to produce lower-carbon hydrogen for use in power generation, and the resulting carbon is captured and sequestered. 

“These projects highlight just some of the innovative ways that Aramco aims to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change,” Ahmad Al Khowaiter, Aramco executive vice president of technology and innovation, said in a statement. “We are working on multiple fronts, partnering with leaders in a variety of fields, in an effort to advance technology solutions that have the potential to make a real impact. This includes new and groundbreaking approaches that align with our vision of a circular carbon economy, as we strive to meet the world’s energy needs both now and in the future.”

The oil and gas company is also collaborating with Siemens Energy to develop a DAC test unit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The unit has the capacity to capture up to 12 tons of CO2 per year. Aramco’s test unit with Siemens is expected to be completed in 2024 and will pave the way for a larger pilot plant with the carbon capture capacity of 1,250 tons per year.   

Decarbonizing oil and gas
The project comes as the oil and gas industry globally is focusing on reducing its emissions. Carbon capture and storage solutions are one such solution for the hard-to-decarbonize industry. Other solutions that are being explored in the industry include powering oil rigs with renewable energy or hydrogen.

Aramco also said it completed a novel pilot carbon sequestration platform that uses in situ mineralization, where carbon dioxide is dissolved in water and injected into volcanic rocks in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. In the process, CO2 is permanently converted into carbonate rocks. The pilot included representatives from Aramco and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Beyond carbon capture, Aramco is also looking into adding geothermal energy, with three potential areas on the west coast of Saudi Arabia identified and mapped currently being assessed.

Carbon capture has been criticized by some climate experts, and direct air capture is the most expensive method of carbon capture, according to the International Energy Agency. Additionally, DAC machines use a lot of energy that pulls away from the decarbonization they provide. Further, critics have voiced dismay that the solution is attractive to oil and gas companies because they don’t have to reduce their fossil fuel production and can lean on an after-the-fact solution to tout their climate-related changes.

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