Sitting atop the world’s seventh-largest oil and gas reserves, the UAE will long have a leadership role within the global energy sector. This is supported by the world’s continued demand for energy, which will be advantageous for the UAE economy. In addition, most economic forecasts project annual GDP growth to rise at an average rate of 4% over the next few years. With this comes the need for more energy within the UAE: the demand for natural gas in Abu Dhabi alone is set to jump by more than 1bn standard cubic feet per day over the next decade. With these lucrative business and economic opportunities comes responsibility. As the UAE’s economy and energy demand grow simultaneously, we must identify ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions being sent into the planet’s atmosphere. This is equally a priority for our nation’s leaders who agree we must find a way to decarbonise our economy and support climate change mitigation mechanisms. Furthermore, we must find a path to shift Abu Dhabi’s economy away from one solely focused on resource extraction to one of resource enhancement. The exploration and development of new onshore and offshore hydrocarbons deposits are not enough to meet the needs of a rapidly growing world. We must also focus on new technologies to optimise oil and gas production at our current operations facilities. Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technology is one method to reduce the UAE’s carbon emissions, ensure we have plentiful natural gas for our domestic energy needs, and maximise oil and gas production for our long-term economic security. Masdar signed a joint-venture agreement with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to pursue the exploration, development and implementation of future CCUS projects. The joint venture brings together both groups’ strengths in demonstrating the commercial potential of CCUS. ADNOC provides technological expertise in project support for carbon dioxide (CO injection facilities and post-production CO treatment; Masdar complements this venture with its leadership in technology and project support for CO capture, compression and pipeline facilities. The first project of this joint venture will be located at the UAE’s largest steel mill. This project, which will capture 800,000 tonnes of CO annually, is the first step towards the development of a comprehensive CCUS network through Abu Dhabi. The Dh450m ($122.5m) project, targeted for completion in 2016, will demonstrate how the capture, transmission and sequestration of the steel mill’s CO emissions proves CCUS is an important step to ensure the UAE’s energy security and transition to a low-carbon economy.
Traditionally, energy companies have utilised hydrocarbon gases associated with Abu Dhabi’s oil fields for injection into reservoirs to enhance oil production. Such use of natural gas, however, no longer makes economic sense, considering the growing demand for gas and the UAE’s future increased domestic energy requirements. CCUS replaces natural gas, which will be liberated for domestic electricity generation, with CO gas that in the past had been released into the atmosphere. The success of similar projects elsewhere shows that CCUS is a financially viable technology. Since the 1970s, projects in Texas using naturally occurring CO gas for enhanced oil recovery benefitted from increased oil extraction by up to 20%. Matching that success rate in Abu Dhabi will allow us to meet future energy demands and reduce our annual CO emissions to the equivalent of removing 170,000 cars from the road.
Commitment to CCUS technology positions the UAE as a responsible and innovative energy leader. We are ready to show how carbon capture solutions are a critical strategy to tackle climate change and provide clean technology business solutions. Indeed, there are several business opportunities via CCUS, with the International Energy Agency estimating that similar projects will have to mitigate up to 20% of future CO emissions by 2050. By taking leadership on this issue, Abu Dhabi and the UAE are on their way to developing a blueprint on how to ensure the commercial viability of CCUS.
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