World energy supply has been ‘force for good,’ must also be sustainable: Aramco CTO

Saudi man looks at the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)

The world’s energy supply has been “a force for good” and may be reliable and affordable, but it must also be sustainable, Saudi Aramco’s Chief Technology Officer Ahmed al-Khowaiter said on Tuesday, during a G20 Riyadh Summit live broadcast.

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He gave an example of a successful COVID-19 vaccine needing to be mass produced.

“Fortunately, we have an energy system in place that can power the manufacture, transportation and safe storage of the billions of doses that are required to defeat the virus,” al-Khowaiter said.


However, he also said that reduction of emissions is needed sooner rather than later, and it is not a question of “if” but “how,” in order to meet dual global energy and climate challenges.

“The question is not if we reduce our emissions but how. For me, that starts with a fundamental rethink. We must stop thinking of the global energy system as a linear economy of infinite resource and limitless capacity to absorb waste,” al-Khowaiter said.

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He suggested inspiration for sustainability and emission reduction be taken from nature and have it be treated as a “circular system” instead of a linear one.

“Each year as part of the natural carbon cycle, the earth recycles 20 times as much C02 as humans emit, locking it away in trees or plankton, where it becomes energy for other organisms, a source of life and growth, rather than a source of harm,” the CTO said during his live address.

He also suggested a long-term sustained investment in science and technology as an “all of the above approach that moves us to a circular system.”

Read also: Science, technology, innovation crucial to oil industry, Aramco Chairman says

Such an investment would include energy efficiency, more renewables with energy storage, low emission fuel engine systems, e-fuels, mobile carbon capture, and converting C02 to valuable products like polymers, according to al-Khowaiter.

“We need them all, and I’m proud that Aramco, my company, is investing in all of these technologies and more,” al-Khowaiter said.

In recent months, Aramco has highlighted the low volume of greenhouse gases emitted from pumping Saudi crude, programs to boost gas production and plans to grow carbon-absorbing mangroves, according to Bloomberg.

Read also: Saudi Arabia sends world-first shipment of blue ammonia to Japan

Despite these significant steps, “technology alone is not the whole solution,” according to al-Khowaiter.

“Having the right attitude, not despairing that this problem is too complex or difficult, not complacently assuming that some future generation will solve it on our behalf but real determination and realistic optimism about our shared capacity to face this challenge together.”

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Last Update: Tuesday, 17 November 2020 KSA 17:33 - GMT 14:33
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