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02 December 2023

Abu Dhabi carbon project to clean air, boost oil output


By Nadim Kawach

More than one million people in Abu Dhabi will bask in a much cleaner and healthier atmosphere when a major carbon clearing project in the emirate is commissioned within five years, the project manager said yesterday.

The venture, which could cost more than $1 billion (Dh3.67bn), is expected to remove in excess of five million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year from the emirate's air and push them back where they came from underground.

By sending such immense CO2 quantities back into oil reservoirs deep underneath the emirate's desert, the emirate's main onshore oil producing company will be able to increase recovery rates from its hydrocarbon wells.

The Abu Dhabi Carbon Capture and Storage Project is the first major CO2 hunting in the world and will allow the country to sharply reduce its carbon emission rates, already among the world's highest relative to per capita.

"Abu Dhabi is a major oil and gas producer and is heavily reliant on these fossil energy sources to produce its electricity and operate its factories… hence it felt there is a need to reduce emissions," said Yves Rey, Senior Project Manager a the Carbon Management Unit.

"This is the first large project of its kind in the region and the whole world. It will contribute to largely reducing CO2 emission in the emirate as it will capture in excess of five million tonnes a year in the first phase," he told Emirates Business in an interview at the just-concluded World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Rey said the project, which has been initiated by the Abu Dhabi-based Masdar Initiative, has been in the design stages and that a contract for its construction could be awarded late this year. He could not elaborate on exact investments but said costs of such projects could exceed $1bn.

The project involves the construction of two carbon capture plants near the main power facilities in Taweela north of Abu Dhabi city and at the Emirates Aluminium Company (Emal) in Musaffah just at the eastern entrance of the capital.

"The construction of the plants will be completed in 2015 but there will be a second stage afterwards. The locations were selected because of the large rate of consumption of oil and gas at those sites," Rey said.

"Carbon and other gases will be captured at those sites. Those gas will be separated from CO2 and released into air as they are not harmful to the atmosphere. CO2 will then be kept in compressors, where water is separated and removed. Afterwards, CO2 will be transferred via a 500km high-pressure pipeline network and sent back into oil reservoirs underground.

For this reason, the project will have a dual effect: it will largely reduce CO2 emission in the atmosphere and at the same time help push crude oil out of the reservoir. This means it will enhance the oilfield's recovery rate."

Rey said the first stage of the project would involve only the emirate's onshore oilfields, most of which are run by the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (Adco), one of the largest oil firms in the world.

"This is a crucial project as the UAE has one of the highest per capita carbon emission rates in the world given its massive use of fossil fuels and its large hydrocarbon resources. It is the first such project in the Middle East and the world's first major carbon capture venture. Developed countries do not have such a project because it is an environmental rather than a commercial venture."

Abu Dhabi is the main oil producer in the UAE, pumping around 2.3 million barrels per day. It controls nearly 92 billion barrels of proven crude reserves and 6.5 trillion cubic metres of natural gas, accounting for nearly eight per cent and five per cent of the world's oil and gas wealth respectively.

According to the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, the UAE's oil and gas consumption grew by as fast as eight per cent annually during 2000-2008, with gas demand soaring from around 31 billion cubic metres to 58 billion cubic metres. Oil consumption surged from around 255,000 bpd to 467,000 bpd.


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