Coronavirus gave the environment a break. Pollution levels in many cities in lockdown fell dramatically as people and flights were grounded.
As the world now wakes up again, many hope it will be business as usual. Others, like Chris Stark, CEO of The Committee on Climate Change, don’t.
But he is not blind to the needs of the chemical industry and views it as part of the solution, not the problem. And that’s how INEOS sees its role too.
INEOS is already heavily involved in scores of ambitious projects that could bring about huge benefits for the environment – without compromising the needs of society. It has started to explore whether huge volumes of carbon dioxide could be stored in depleted oil fields in the North Sea as part of a plan that would slash greenhouse gas emissions.
It has also joined a powerful consortium to investigate plans to produce sustainable methanol, a chemical widely used as a raw material in everything from clothing to fuel. If successful, that too would cut CO2 emissions.
And it is part of an alliance which believes hydrogen is a workable, economically-viable alternative to fossil fuels. All three projects are exciting and could pave the way for a brave, new world.
INEOS has started to explore whether huge volumes of CO2 could be stored in depleted oil fields as part of a plan that would slash greenhouse gas emissions.
It is currently testing whether the rock from one of its underground sandstone reservoirs in the North Sea is suitable to store carbon dioxide.
"We know that oil has been down there, and the seal can hold it,” said Johan Byskov Svendsen, Business Development Manager at INEOS Oil & Gas Denmark.
“We also know how oil and water stream through the reservoir. That's how we also have a fair idea about how CO2 will act underground."
The first results of INEOS Oil & Gas’ tests should be known later this year.
Ultimately, the project – to capture and store carbon dioxide underground – could make the largest, single contribution to cutting Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“No other company operating in Denmark has made it as far with a project like this as INEOS and its consortium partners,” said Johan.
But there is still a long way to go and carbon capture and storage is still in its infancy. One of the key challenges is securing investment to perfect the technology so that it can be widely used.
“By being innovative and joining the right partnerships, we strive to bring down the cost of storing CO2,” said Johan.
“Storing CO2 is also a critical technology to meet the ambition for a zero emission economy in 2050. We can make a business and at the same time be an important player in the green transition.”
Johan said governments needed to treat carbon capture and storage in a similar way to wind turbines about 40 years ago.
“When the wind industry was in its infancy, there was a significant amount of national funding, to secure innovative solutions and commercialisation,” he said. “That’s where we are today. The CCS technologies are still immature and the investment is risky.”
At its peak INEOS’ Siri oil platform was producing 50,000 barrels of oil every day. Now it is one of the four depleted reservoirs that INEOS says could potentially be used for storing CO2 – and, in turn, give those North Sea assets a second life.
Once the gas has been pumped underground, it would be stored in three ways. Most would be stored as a liquid and in an easily accessible place, should there be a market need for it.
Another part would end up mixing with the water underground, and become trapped in this watery solution.
And the third way would involve trapping the CO2 in the minerals of the reservoir. Denmark wants to lead the world on climate change – and politicians see carbon capture and storage as one of the best ways to achieve a green economy.
The Danish Council on Climate believes carbon capture could begin in 2025 and that storage could have a real influence in 2030.
“That's also our target,” said Johan. “We're working from the assumption that it will be possible to store CO2 from the second half of the '20s.”
INEOS explores whether CO2 can be stored in old oil fields
“Storing CO2 is also a critical technology to meet the ambition for a zero emission economy in 2050” – Johan Byskov Svendsen, Business Development Manager at INEOS Oil & Gas Denmark