Oil giant admits it needs a ‘magic wand’ to keep green pledges

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By Ben Webster



An ExxonMobil boss has admitted the oil giant would need a “magic wand” to deliver the climate pledges it boasts about to customers.

The company’s UK lead, Paul Greenwood, told openDemocracy a carbon capture project at its Fawley oil refinery in Hampshire would only meet its target to be operational by 2030 if it receives taxpayer subsidies.

Yet Exxon is still using the promise of the Fawley scheme to help it sell petrol and diesel under its Esso brand. It suggests in its “thoughtful driving” campaign that drivers can “fill up with less impact” at Esso stations because the company is “reducing our own emissions”, citing the as-yet unrealised Fawley carbon capture project as an example of this.

Exxon has so far refused to commit its own money to build it and has instead focused investment on increasing diesel production at the refinery, spending £800m to produce an extra 6 million litres a day.

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Experts say the firm is using a well-worn fossil fuel industry strategy – making ambitious but vague claims about future climate plans to avoid criticism of its oil and gas profits.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves isolating and trapping CO2 emissions where they are produced – such as at a power station, refinery or incinerator. The captured gas can either be used to make products, such as synthetic fuel or fizzy drinks, or it can be transported by pipeline or ship to a permanent storage site deep under the seabed.

But the technology has developed “at a snail’s pace” according to analysts. There were just 41 CCS plants operating globally by the end of last year, none of them in the UK. Collectively, they captured about 0.1% of annual global CO2 emissions.

Last year, the global energy watchdog International Energy Agency called on oil and gas companies to let go of “the illusion that implausibly large amounts of carbon capture are the solution”.

Exxon’s plans for Fawley would see the company build a new “blue hydrogen” plant. This would make hydrogen from natural gas – and capture 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 each year from the process. A report funded by the company claims it could “begin operations” in 2030.

CONTINUE READING ON OPEN DEMOCRACY WEB: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oil-firm-exxonmobil-greenwashing-carbon...

Ben Webster works on investigations for openDemocracy into climate, environment and biodiversity issues. Ben spent 24 years at The Times, 11 of them as environment editor

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