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Gulf oil giants turn to startups in carbon-capture bid

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Faced with mounting pressure over planet-heating pollution, Gulf Arab energy giants are turning to humble tech start-ups as they search for ways to remove emissions while keeping oil flowing.

Oil producers have for years touted capturing carbon before it goes into the atmosphere as a potential global warming solution, against criticism from climate experts who say it risks distracting from the urgent goal of slashing fossil fuel pollution. With little investment and few projects in operation around the world so far, the technology is currently nowhere near the scale needed to make a difference in global emissions.

Now major players from Saudi Aramco to the United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) said that is about to change, as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts climate negotiations this year with a message of cutting emissions rather than fossil fuels.

“For the industry and for countries as well to achieve net zero by 2050, I don’t see us achieving this without embracing carbon capture,” ADNOC’s Executive Director of low-carbon solutions Musabbeh Al Kaabi told AFP.

“I would love to see more wind and solar energy, but to be practical and transparent, it’s not going to solve the problem,” he added.

Carbon capture was a hot topic at a recent climate tech conference in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, home of ADNOC.

Start-ups displayed their advances in carbon capture and storage (CCS) which removes carbon dioxide as it is pumped from power plants and heavy industry. There were also firms presenting their plans for direct air capture (DAC), a newer technology that extracts carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

The United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the existing fossil fuel infrastructure – without the use of carbon capture – will push the world beyond the Paris deal’s safer global warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Carbon capture was a hot topic at the climate tech conference in United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi. PHOTO: AFP
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