My grandparents emigrated from Japan to Canada without speaking a word of English and started working as labourers, picking fruits and vegetables in the fields where they were paid per kilo collected. It was backbreaking work, but my grandmother had always been a visionary. She saved every penny to make sure her son – my father – could go to university. And he did. He became a mechanical engineer and passed on his passion for education, engineering and technology to his own children. This was the source of my own belief in the power these three things have to help solve societal challenges and improve living standards.
Today, society faces a dual challenge as it pursues an ambition of net-zero emissions by the second half of this century: to provide reliable and affordable energy to a growing population while reducing environmental impacts, including the risks of climate change. Achieving this ambition will rely on deploying groundbreaking technologies, as well as existing ones like carbon capture and storage (CCS) – one of the critical solutions required for society to achieve net-zero emissions and the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
What is CCS?
CCS can potentially capture more than 90% of the CO2 emissions from an industrial facility – and I’m not the only one who is excited by that. Dr. Faith Birol, executive director of the IEA, has said, “Without CCS as part of the solution, meeting global climate goals will be practically impossible.”
Let me briefly explain how carbon capture and storage works. CCS involves capturing CO₂ from the exhaust of an industrial facility or power plant before the CO2 reaches the atmosphere. Once captured, the CO₂ is stored deep underground in natural geological formations. CCS can also be used to enable the production of low-carbon hydrogen at scale, which in turn can support emissions reduction for hard-to-decarbonise applications, such as industrial heating and heavy-duty transportation.
ExxonMobil at the forefront of CCS innovation
Since 2000, ExxonMobil has invested more than $10 billion to research, develop and deploy lower-emission energy solutions, including CCS. We work with more than 80 universities around the world, numerous industry partners and government research facilities.
ExxonMobil is a leader in CCS, with a working interest in approximately one-fifth of the world’s total carbon capture capacity – about 9 million tonnes of CO₂ per year – equivalent to the annual emissions of around 2 million passenger vehicles.
We recently announced that we are one of 11 companies that have expressed interest in large-scale deployment of CCS in the large industrial area near Houston, Texas. It’s an immense undertaking that will require collaboration among industry, government, academia and the community.
What is needed to help further develop CCS?
At the end of the day, I believe we should all try to be visionaries in whatever we do and aim to always look one step ahead. The conversation around CCS technology has come a long way over the past couple of decades, and I’ve been lucky enough to have witnessed a substantial part of that journey.
ExxonMobil believes in the great potential of CCS-related projects as a key to a lower-emission industrial future, but no company or industry can solve this challenge alone. If you stood on the moon and looked at the Earth, you would notice there are no country boundaries. Managing climate change is a global issue, and it will take a global effort.
Collaboration is the only way to find, develop and deploy solutions for the future. Industry plays a major part in this, but so do policy makers. By providing the right regulatory framework – with durable and stable incentives to deploy these proven technological breakthroughs at a larger scale – government can enable industry to help lower emissions globally while continuing to provide the world with the energy it needs to keep moving forward.