Equinor sets 2050 net-zero target, says ‘peak oil’ is likely in 2030

The firm has made several major climate announcements since Anders Opedal took over as chief executive

The firm announced its new target late on Monday (2 November) and confirmed that it will cover emissions from both upstream production and final consumption – the largest sources of Scope 3 (indirect) emissions for the fossil fuel sector.

Equinor said in a statement that the new target “sets a clear strategic direction” amid the backdrop of the net-zero transition and the Covid-19 pandemic, which have reduced global oil demand. The business had previously committed to reach net-zero operational emissions by 2030 and to bring absolute emissions from North Sea operations to “near-zero”.  While the first of these targets still stands, the second will shift.

In a drive to meet the previous “near-zero” commitment, Equinor’s new chief executive Anders Opedal recently unveiled plans to grow the business’ renewable energy generation capacity tenfold over the next six years and to increase investments in carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS).

Opedal said in a statement this week that Equinor is preparing for oil and gas production growth to average 3% per year until 2026. However, it believes that the world will reach peak oil demand in around 2030 and is planning to produce less oil and gas in the long term than it did in 2019.

“Climate change is a shared challenge,” Opedal’s statement reads.

“The combined efforts of governments, industries, investors and consumers are crucial to reaching net-zero emissions, for Equinor and for society. Together, we can overcome technological and commercial challenges, cut emissions, and develop CCS and zero-emission value chains for a net-zero future.”

As with other fossil fuel majors like Shell and BP, Equinor can expect scepticism and criticism from green groups until it outlines detailed plans for meeting its target. The industry has faced criticism for failing to clamp down on Scope 3 emissions and for failing to align investment pathways with green commitments. Equinor will outline an updated long-term company strategy in June 2021, at its Capital Markets Day event.

CCUS progress

The announcement from Equinor comes shortly after it formally opened the world’s largest test facility for transporting captured carbon. Based at Equinor’s facility in Porsgunn, Norway, the facility will enable R&D staff to fine-tune processes for transporting carbon dioxide as a gas and a liquid.

In the UK, Equinor is one of the key partners of the net-zero industrial cluster project in the Humber. Its proposed H2H Saltend project will be the world’s largest plant capable of converting natural gas to hydrogen and will be co-located with CCUS technology. A demonstration should be online by 2025.

Other partners in the project include Drax and National Grid.

The UK Government has committed to fully decarbonising at least one industrial cluster by 2040. This has spurred a race between clusters in the North West, Teesside, Humberside, Grangemouth, South Wales and Southampton to become the first to do so.

However, a recent advisory report to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) warned that policymakers, researchers and the private sector must do more to bring “dispersed” CCUS sites – those that aren’t located in industrial clusters – online in the coming years.

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Sarah George

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