Energy & Technology

Decarbonization in the Oil and Gas Industry: Upstream and Downstream Sectors


The world’s leading oil and gas companies has come to the realization that carbon emissions have to be put off to the least in the fight to meet the climate change goals and curb global warming. Research has it that the oil and gas industry is responsible for 9 percent of all humanmade GHG – greenhouse gas emissions and that amount to 33 percent of global emissions.

What exactly is Decarbonization?

Decarbonization is a concept aimed at creating a global economy free of carbon through the technological reduction of emissions across value chains. The process of decarbonization takes many forms – from sustainable working practices to carbon offset practices, alternative fuels and renewable energy.

Decarbonization has slowly grown from being an option to being a necessity and must be taken seriously now more than ever. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions by at least 3.4 gigatons of carbon-dioxide yearly by 2050 and some companies are already on it. Most oil and gas companies with the sole directive of decarbonization has sustainably begun to decarbonize operations for example improved maintenance routines, reduced flaring, reduced methane leaks etcetera.

Options for decarbonization of the Oil and Gas Sector

The question we hope to answer here is the big question on how the oil and gas sector – both upstream and downstream can be decarbonized successfully. There are quite a number of options to do so and we will be looking at them here.



Changing on-site power sources

Changing on-site power sources to renewable energy sources during the oil and gas production process has proven to be a cost effective and sustainable alternative to diesel. This not only reduces carbon footprint but also proves to reduce cost. Apart from the use of renewables, the power source for production can be gotten from the power-grid. If all producers electrified their production process, imagine how much the industry would be decarbonized. According to statistics, 40% of CO2 emissions can be reduced globally if smart electric grid technologies are applied.  

Reducing Methane Emissions

Decarbonization can be significantly achieved if methane leaks were checkmated by upstream producers. How can methane emissions be reduced? Simple. Monitor the process for leaks using LDAR – leak detection and repair. Use double mechanical seals on pumps, dry gas seals on compressors etc. The producers can even replace the seals in pressure – safety valves to prevent methane leaks.

Utilizing Electricity

Electrical equipment can be used on the field to carry out production. For example, a company replaced the use of gas boilers with electric steam – production systems. This replaces gas use with steam thereby encouraging decarbonization further encouraging decarbonization.

Reducing non-routine gas flaring

Due to poor maintenance and poor reliability, there is usually a high rate of unplanned gas flaring and gas emissions mostly from equipment such as Chiller compressor, recovery compressor, gas injection compressor etc. Improving reliability, maintenance cultures and replacing damaged equipment did not only reduce gas flaring in some companies but also raised production.

Reducing Routine Flaring

Routine flaring has been a huge problem in most countries and can be substantially reduced by keeping and accurate inventory of flaring activities, introducing designing systems that do not release waste gases into the atmosphere, introducing gas processing infrastructures on site for processing of waste gases, carry out injection of waste gases (CCUS), introducing waste gas gathering and transport infrastructure.

Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS)

Carbon Capture, Utilization and storage, (CCUS) is a set of technologies that are introduced in the capturing of Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at source preventing entrance into the atmosphere. This captured CO­2 is then transported for reuse, or storage in the appropriate facilities or underground. Some of the applications of captured CO2 includes Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) for petroleum production, feedstock for hydrogen production, fertilizer, and lots more. There are different oil and gas companies looking to accelerate CCUS development in an attempt to promote decarbonization of the oil and gas processes.


Energy Efficiency

Using energy efficient technologies downstream can push to achieve the net zero goal in no time. It is a cost-effective method of addressing the decarbonization topic and reducing global warming. Increasing energy efficiency reduces demand for fossil fuels and in turn reduces direct emissions from fossil fuel combustion or consumption, and even indirect emissions from electricity generation. For example, Waste-heat-recovery technology can be introduced, as well as medium-temperature heat pumps.

Green Hydrogen

green hydrogen and ammonia
green hydrogen and ammonia

Hydrogen can be easily collected from electrolysis of water instead of the usual method of steam reforming of methane. Steam reforming of methane has over the years been known to be a major source of CO2 emissions but the green hydrogen process has no emissions at all and so should be encouraged. Hydrogen can be used as a source of fuel (alternative / renewable energy) in electric cars, although it is difficult to transport or store.

High-temperature electric cracking

As earlier mentioned the replacement of fossil fuels with electricity on site has proved to reduce emissions and save cost. Steam cracking has over the years been known to emit five megatons of CO2 annually. High-temperature electric cracking utilizes electric coils instead of fuel gas for the steam cracking of light hydrocarbon. One technological approach to achieving this focus is by retrofitting existing steam crackers and replacing gas-powered burners with electric heating systems.

Sustainable business practices

Use business-wide working practices to reduce waste and improve efficiencies in the sector.

Decarbonization and the net-zero goal has been emphasized so much even to the developing countries and we are beginning to action. This emphasis on the topic has led to Nigeria pushing forward the Nigerian Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.

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