Clear crude? Oil corporations use offsets to assert inexperienced barrels By Reuters



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Gear used to course of carbon dioxide, crude oil and water is seen at an Occidental Petroleum Corp enhanced oil restoration mission in Hobbs


By Timothy Gardner, Nerijus Adomaitis and Rod Nickel

(Reuters) -In January, Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:) introduced it had achieved one thing no oil firm had completed earlier than: It bought a shipload of crude that it mentioned was 100% carbon-neutral.

Whereas the two-million-barrel cargo to India was destined to provide greater than one million tons of planet-warming carbon over its lifecycle, from effectively to tailpipe, the Texas-based driller mentioned it had utterly offset that impression by buying carbon credit beneath a U.N.-sponsored program known as CORSIA.

Carbon credit are monetary devices generated by tasks that cut back or avert greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to mass tree plantings or solar energy farms. The tasks’ homeowners can promote the credit to polluting firms, who then use them to make claims of offsetting their carbon emissions.

Particulars of the Occidental transaction haven’t been beforehand reported. Two sources concerned within the deal informed Reuters that the driller paid about $1.3 million for the credit – or about 65 cents per barrel. Oil at present sells for greater than $60 a barrel.

Occidental and the U.N. program say such credit make the two-million-barrel cargo carbon-neutral as a result of they characterize an equal quantity of greenhouse gasoline faraway from the environment by the tasks producing the credit.

The association displays a rising development. Oil-and-gas firms worldwide are more and more attempting to market their merchandise as cleaner utilizing a variety of controversial strategies, together with shopping for credit, powering drilling operations with renewable energy and investing in costly and commercially unproven expertise to seize and retailer emissions.

The strikes are designed to safe a future for the fossil gasoline business in a world the place traders, activists and regulators demand motion to cease local weather change. In some circumstances they’re additionally designed for revenue: Corporations have begun in search of a premium worth for what they name cleaner petroleum merchandise.

Though carbon credit do nothing to scale back the air pollution from a given barrel of oil, proponents of offset packages argue that credit score purchases assist finance clean-energy efforts that in any other case wouldn’t be worthwhile.

Critics blast such packages as smoke-and-mirrors public relations efforts that enable polluters to clean their picture whereas they proceed to revenue from local weather injury.

Oil firm claims of fresh fuels by way of offseting are like “a tobacco firm saying they promote nicotine-free cigarettes as a result of they paid another person to promote some chewing gum,” mentioned David Turnbull, a spokesman for Washington-based Oil Change Worldwide, an advocacy group opposing fossil fuels.


Carbon credit score packages vary from nationwide efforts to world ones just like the Carbon Offsetting and Discount Scheme for Worldwide Aviation run by the United Nations.

Corporations and nonprofit organizations equivalent to VERRA and SustainCERT are charged with issuing and verifying credit beneath these packages. They certify that the tasks producing credit are resulting in the promised quantity of diminished emissions and wouldn’t have been constructed with out the credit score earnings.

However there are not any uniform requirements for learn how to calculate the complete local weather impression of fossil fuels, or learn how to correctly offset it with environmental tasks, business consultants say. Corporations shopping for credit are additionally not obliged to reveal their value or origin – an issue as a result of they’ll differ extensively in worth and high quality.

In Occidental’s case, the credit have been generated between 2016 and 2019 by photo voltaic, wind and different clean-energy tasks in rising economies equivalent to India, Thailand and Turkey, and have been verified by VERRA.

“The credit they issued are legitimate and have environmental integrity,” mentioned VERRA spokeswoman Anne Thiel.

VERRA and different verifiers, nonetheless, have since stopped approving renewable power tasks in these nations to generate offsets after concluding final 12 months that that they had change into aggressive sufficient to be constructed even with out offset credit score income.

Occidental defended the deal, saying it may kick off a brand new marketplace for oil offset with credit that directs cash to green-energy tasks. “We is usually a massive a part of the worldwide answer,” mentioned Richard Jackson, Occidental’s president of operations for onshore sources and carbon administration.


Occidental and the cargo’s purchaser, India’s Reliance Industries, didn’t touch upon whether or not Reliance paid a premium for the cargo.

However different oil-and-gas firms are desperate to create a market the place local weather credentials enable them to command larger costs. That would enable them to recoup the complete value – or extra – of credit or different measures that enable for the low-carbon labeling.

Lundin Power, an unbiased driller with operations in Norway, is without doubt one of the firms that sees a market alternative in crude with a low-carbon designation.

The corporate plans to spend $35 million to plant 8 million timber in northern Spain and Ghana – one thing it says will enable it to generate its personal credit to offset greenhouse gasoline emissions from its fossil fuels.

Lundin was the primary oil firm on the earth final 12 months to obtain unbiased certification it was producing low-carbon oil based mostly on its discount of emissions in producing oil from its Edvard Grieg area in Norway. It additionally goals to certify low-carbon oil from the Sverdrup area, additionally in Norway – Western Europe’s greatest – which Lundin co-owns with a consortium of companions.

Cleaner drilling operations, nonetheless, have a restricted environmental profit. At the very least 80% of greenhouse gases from oil are emitted after extraction from the bottom, in response to consultancy IHS Markit.

Alex Budden, Lundin’s Vice-President, mentioned if consumers paid a 1% premium for lower-carbon barrels, it will increase the corporate’s annual oil income by $10 million to $20 million. That may enable it to get better the prices of its offset and effectivity efforts and ultimately revenue from them.

To date there have been no takers. “However it is going to occur,” Budden mentioned.


Throughout the Atlantic, Canadian producers within the oil sands have an even bigger problem. Producers there emit three to 5 instances extra carbon than the worldwide common as a result of extra power is required to extract the oil, in response to Rystad Power, a worldwide consultancy. Its producers are hoping to vary that.

Suncor Power (NYSE:), for instance, has pledged to chop the quantity of carbon it emits per barrel produced 30% from 2014 ranges by 2030 to contribute to Canada’s local weather targets and deal with shareholder stress to scale back its emissions.

It should accomplish that by enhancing power effectivity and investing in renewable power applied sciences, equivalent to wind farms, mentioned Chief Sustainability Officer Martha Corridor Findlay. She mentioned Suncor will contemplate certifying these lower-carbon barrels.

“There is not any query carbon is our Achilles heel within the oil sands,” she mentioned.

Liquefied producers are additionally more and more advertising and marketing carbon-neutral LNG. In contrast to within the oil market, some LNG consumers are already paying a premium for such cargoes.

In March, for instance, Shell (LON:) introduced it had taken supply of Europe’s first ever carbon-neutral cargo of LNG from Russian provider Gazprom (MCX:). Gazprom offered the gasoline and each firms chipped in for the offsets, mentioned Mehdi Chennoufi, Shell’s head of LNG Origination and Enterprise Improvement.

Shell mentioned the credit got here from tasks that defend biodiversity or restore land, however it will not disclose the associated fee.

Patrons in Spain, Japan, Taiwan and China have additionally purchased LNG licensed as carbon-neutral, a development that has led the Worldwide Group of LNG Importers, an affiliation of huge world LNG firms, to start out engaged on standardized methodology.

“Immediately there’s a variety of discuss carbon-neutral LNG, however there is no such thing as a common definition,” mentioned Vincent Demoury, the group’s Deputy Common Delegate.

Local weather activist Andy Gheorghiu mentioned the notion of carbon-neutral liquefied pure gasoline is like “vegan pork sausage.”

“It is simply nonsense,” he mentioned.

Different firms are turning to carbon-capture expertise – regardless of its historical past of excessive prices and operational difficulties – to offset their merchandise’ local weather impression.

Qatar, the world’s greatest LNG producer, introduced in February that it’s constructing a carbon-capture mission at its North Subject enlargement mission within the Persian Gulf.

Occidental can also be growing the largest-ever direct-air-capture facility, to drag 500,000 tonnes per 12 months of carbon dioxide out of the open air close to a few of its Texas oil fields, utilizing followers and chemical reactions. That is equal to the annual emissions from almost 110,000 U.S. vehicles.

Environmentalists criticize such tasks as a result of they may prolong the lifetime of the fossil gasoline business.

If Occidental’s mission works, for instance, the corporate plans to pump the carbon again into the Texas oil fields, elevating reservoir stress to extract extra crude.

Occidental says it hopes to market produced on this means because the feedstock for refining jet and marine gasoline – offering a means for these industries to assert they’ve offset their emissions.

Marion Verles, Chief Government Officer at SustainCERT, the credit score verifier, mentioned such offset schemes may help cut back general greenhouse-gas emissions – however may additionally backfire.

Telling customers they’ll eat carbon-neutral fossil fuels sends the message, she mentioned, that “behavioral change is not wanted.”

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