ExxonMobil, LafargeHolcim and Elon Musk: The corporate giants placing their faith in CCS

Over the last couple of days, the world's largest cement manufacturer, one of the world's largest fossil fuel firms and the founder of the biggest electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer have all unveiled strategic efforts to commercialise carbon capture and storage projects.

CCS is viewed as a crucial technology in reaching net-zero emissions

CCS is viewed as a crucial technology in reaching net-zero emissions

The International Energy Agency has said that CCS is “virtually the only technology solution for deep emissions reductions from cement production” if the world is to deliver net-zero emissions by mid-century and alleviate the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

The total global capacity of CCS facilities operating and under development saw a 33% year-on-year increase in 2020. In the early days of 2021, it seems this trajectory will continue with LafargeHolcim, ExxonMobil and a new venture from Elon Musk all set to explore and uncover routes to commercialisation for CCS technology.

LafargeHolcim

The world's largest cement manufacturer, LafargeHolcim, has unveiled a new strategic partnership with Schlumberger New Energy to explore the development of CCS solutions in a bid to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

The two companies will study CCS feasibility at two LafargeHolcim cement plants, based in Europe and North America. The partnership will explore the viability of Schlumberger’s carbon sequestration technologies in industrial applications.

LafargeHolcim’s chief sustainability officer Magali Anderson said: “Today’s announcement is further proof of LafargeHolcim’s environmental leadership and commitment to pioneer new solutions to reduce carbon emissions on our journey to become a net-zero company. Our partnership with Schlumberger, the world’s leading provider of technology to the global energy industry, will bring new advances in storage that could be replicated at scale across our sites.”

LafargeHolcim is currently piloting more than 20 CCS projects across Europe and North America. It is hoped CCS will enable the company to opening and operating its first net-zero carbon cement production facility in the future.

Late last year, the company priced an €850m bond linked to the company's sustainability targets.

LafargeHolcim’s €850m sustainability-linked bond comes with a “coupon bond” – a debt obligation representing interest payments – of 0.5% that matures in 2031. Investors into the bond will access a higher coupon yield if the company is unable to meet the sustainability targets tied to the bond, including an aim to reduce emissions to 475 kg net CO2 per tonne of cementitious material by 2030. The CO2 target was recently unveiled by the company as part of a new set of decarbonisation goals.

LafargeHolcim has committed to becoming the first global building materials company to have targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The company has joined the SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C, committing to science-based targets aligned to the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement, with a long-term trajectory of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Intermediate targets have been set for 2030 to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions by 21% per tonne of cementitious materials against a 2018 baseline. This target will see scope 1 emissions reduced by 17.5% and scope 2 emissions by 65% in the same timeframe. LafargeHolcim will reduce its transportation and fuel-related emissions by 20%. All of these targets have been approved by the SBTi.

XPrize

The announcement comes in the same week that Tesla co-founder Elon Musk pledged to provide $100m for CCS solutions that remove atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions.

A total of 15 solutions will be selected for the competition, which is expected to last until 2025. Selected innovations will each receive $1m to assist in project development, but the first-place prize of $50m is also available. Full competition guidelines will be published on 22 April, but it has been reported that technologies must be able to remove one tonne of CO2 per day.

“This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level,” Musk said.

ExxonMobil

Finally, ExxonMobil has confirmed the creation of a “Low-Carbon Solutions” arm that will invest $3bn in low-emission solutions through to 2025, with an initial focus on CCS.

ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions plans to develop more than 20 CCS opportunities globally and will be led by Joe Blommaert, who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry.

While the company is one of the world’s largest emitters, it also claims that it has an equity share in about 20% of global CO2 capture capacity and has captured approximately 40% of all the captured anthropogenic CO2 in the world.

“With our demonstrated leadership in carbon capture and emissions reduction technologies, ExxonMobil is committed to meeting the demand for affordable energy while reducing emissions and managing the risks of climate change,” the company’s chief executive Darren Woods said.

“We are focused on proprietary projects and commercial partnerships that will have a demonstrably positive impact on our own emissions as well as those from the industrial, power generation and commercial transportation sectors, which together account for 80% of global CO2 emissions. We have the expertise that can help bring technologies to market and make a meaningful difference.”

Matt Mace



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