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Innovative mindset required as industry aligns with net-zero goals

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Industry leaders urge organizations to go beyond comfort zones and accelerate technology development so they can play bigger roles in energy transition

By Stephen Whitfield, Associate Editor

With the general public mounting increasing demands for low-carbon energy solutions, the oil and gas industry finds itself seeking ways to adapt to a new landscape. This means the industry will have to speed up the commercialization of potentially game-changing technologies, according to Samsudin Miskon, Senior VP of Projects Delivery and Technology at Petronas. This, he said, will be a key step for the industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions goals over the next 30 years.

“The current transition to the low-carbon economy is one of the greatest challenges the traditional oil and gas industry is facing,” Mr Miskon said. “We need to be resilient, and we need to integrate our business model in order to support the path we’ve committed towards net-zero carbon by 2050. There is a need for us to collaborate with various technology providers and partners in order for us to move at the pace we need to move. At the same time, we also have in-house expertise to develop technology on our own, and we need to keep a pulse on the ground for specific technologies.”

Mr Miskon spoke during a panel discussion on new technology and sustainability at Baker Hughes’ 2021 Annual General Meeting on 2 February. He outlined some of the work Petronas has already done to utilize new technologies, as well as future plans. 

A key component of Petronas’ sustainability efforts is hydrogen. The company launched its hydrogen business in October, and it has facilities for producing non-low-carbon grey hydrogen. It is further seeking to grow its green (no carbon emissions) and blue (low carbon emissions) hydrogen business using carbon capture, utilization and storage, as well as other renewable systems. In November, Petronas and Sarawak Energy formalized plans to collaborate on the commercial production of hydrogen and its value supply chain in Asia.

Petronas is also looking to sanction a carbon capture project for the Kasawari gas field by next year, with the project launching by the end of 2025. 

“We are in a position in Malaysia where we have a lot of potential areas to store our carbon and manage it safely in the reservoir, instead of it being emitted into the atmosphere. I think that is part of our contributions to net-zero carbon,” Mr Miskon said. 

Eni also emphasized its confidence in the oil and gas industry being able to play a critical role in low-carbon solutions, with Francesca Zarri, Director of Technology – R&D Digital at Eni, pointing to the “innovation capital” of this business.

The company has a “Digital Factory” where dedicated personnel – like data scientists, scrum masters and designers – focus on digital transformation projects. It has also adopted “open innovation,” a decentralized approach where employees are encouraged to share information and distribute it widely within the company. 

“Within our industry, we have the capabilities, the skills and the intellectual curiosity to be strong in the energy transition, as we always have been in the oil and gas domain,” Ms Zarri said. “We must be ready to abandon our comfort area. The rewards of applying our knowledge to each new frontier are huge. We can set the tone of our participation to the energy transition.” 

Companywide, Eni has more than 1,000 employees working on digital technologies, asset integrity and advanced engineering to garner ideas for new projects, she said.

The company also launched its supercomputer, HPC5, in its Green Data Center last year. The goal is to further accelerate the company’s development of new energy sources, climate- and environmental-focused technologies, as well as their related processes. The system is powered, in part, by a photovoltaic plant. Ms Zarri described it as a system that can speed up the decision-making process as the company explores new technologies. 

“Our supercomputer infrastructure is one of the best in the world,” she said. “It really measures the possibilities that the oil and gas industry has in facing the new challenges for the energy transition.” 

Bruno Chabas, CEO at SBM Offshore, also touted the industry’s knowledge and expertise as an asset in the world’s energy transition. Last year, the company began its “Ambition 2030” initiative to have 25% of its total revenue coming from natural gas and renewable energy by 2030. It also developed the Ocean Code initiative, aimed at developing new solutions for exploiting energy in the future, as well the Fast4Ward and eMission Zero programs, which are both aimed at finding ways of reducing emissions in the production and operation of offshore assets.

Innovation will be key as the company looks to move into the renewable space, Mr Chabas said. “We’re looking at reducing our impact on the environment. We want to have zero net emissions. We want to develop new products and new technologies that help us get there, and we will have to bank on our capacity to innovate in order to get there,” he noted. DC

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