PETRONAS champions low-carbon energy production with CCUS

End-to-end carbon-reducing solution a key enabler in meeting the targeted NZCE by 2050


THE Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technologies are crucial in clean energy transitions. According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, reaching net zero will be virtually impossible without CCUS.

Encouragingly, a new momentum is building behind CCUS again globally after years of slow progress and insufficient investment. PETRONAS, having declared its aspiration to achieve net zero carbon emissions (NZCE) by 2050 in October 2020, is part of this global effort adopting and developing CCUS for sustainability.

PETRONAS leverages cutting-edge innovations in its holistic approach towards NZCE by 2050, with CCUS identified as one of the core enablers. The energy company is accelerating the development of CCUS technologies for its operations, while various other decarbonisation initiatives including digitalisation, automation, renewables, and circular economy are well under way.

The company’s push towards this goal is steered by a solid Sustainability Agenda encompassing the lenses of environment, social impact, value creation and governance. As part of its commitment to sustainability, the company also became an official member of the World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Methane Guiding Principle (MGP) in 2020.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) speaks to PETRONAS Head of R&D for Gas Sustainability Technology, Dr Norfaizah Abd Manan (picture) on CCUS towards achieving its aspiration for NZCE by 2050.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR): What is CCUS? Dr. Norfaizah: CCUS is a process that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from sources, such as natural gas fields, refineries, factories, and power plants, then stored or reused, so it would not enter the atmosphere. This is an effective and safe method for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.

It is going to be the main component, and a key enabler, in meeting the targeted NZCE by 2050 or earlier.

TMR: How does CCUS work? Dr. Norfaizah: The CCUS involves four main steps. The first step, Capture, is removing CO2 from the source, then the second step involves transporting it to the storage sites via pipelines, ships, or trucks.

The third step is Storage, the CO2 is injected into rock formations several kilometres below the surface, and is permanently stored at identified underground locations safely. This process is almost identical to how oil and gas is naturally stored underground.

For the final step, Utilisation, refers to utilising the remaining amount of CO2 by converting it into useful chemicals and fuels among others, or for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

CCUS is one of PETRONAS’ key initiatives to reduce carbon emissions from their operations

TMR: What stage is PETRONAS at with CCUS? Dr. Norfaizah: CCUS comprises a suite of technologies and at PETRONAS, we are currently developing, testing and piloting a number of them at our onshore and offshore facilities. These are to be applied at our first CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) landmark project, which once comes onstream in 2025, will be the biggest offshore CCS project in the SEA region, based on the amount of CO2 injected into offshore sites per year. Apart from that, CCUS will also be incorporated at the design stage of our high CO2 field developments.

TMR: Would you say the CCUS is sustainable, and what, if any, are the challenges? Dr. Norfaizah: Yes, the main aim of CCUS is to provide an end-to-end solution for O&G operations to safeguard the environment and the people through minimising emissions. All of its technologies support sustainability across the entire O&G value chain, alongside our other technology-digital initiatives including automation, online monitoring, and prediction.

The implementation of CCUS entails seamless integration of subsurface and surface technologies from the reservoir to the topside of the offshore facilities, this not only optimises operational results but also supports sustainability goals. Meanwhile, the CO2 utilisation programme onshore enables us to derive value out of waste through technology.

Economics are crucial in making any project viable, therefore, we need to ensure it is technically efficient, meets the threshold cost while adhering to the targets and purposes of the CCUS application.

TMR: Should other regions consider implementation of CCUS? Dr. Norfaizah: Yes, widespread collaborative efforts to encourage deployment of CCUS across the industry, including industry players in other regions, are vital in meeting various global carbon emission reduction targets.

We are encouraged by the fact that plans for more than 30 commercial facilities, in different parts of the world, have been announced in the last three years. Storage areas and capabilities as well as other supporting infrastructure can be more readily available if CCUS is implemented on larger scales. An extensive adoption of this solution can create a positive technical and economics ecosystem for implementation of CCUS across industries.

Additionally, recent trends on investment in O&G projects show an emphasis on sustainability and decarbonisation efforts. CCUS might be a part of any future O&G projects, and therefore countries and corporations are encouraged to work together for further development of the collaborative model, which in turn can attract investors.

Meanwhile, PETRONAS is also passionate about discovering opportunities in tandem with our Moving Forward Together (MFT50.30.0) targets, which essentially aim for Value Creation, Growth on Non-Traditional Business and Sustainability towards NZCE by 2050.

One of the technologies used in CCUS for separation of CO2.

TMR: What are some of the opportunities PETRONAS sees for the future? Dr. Norfaizah: Apart from CCUS, we are also applying and developing other low-carbon technology solutions targeted to be deployed from 2025. This includes our Facilities of the

Future and Remote Autonomous Operation programmes, which basically bring together digitalisation, automation, robotics, and machine learning, to heighten operational efficiency while taking our workforce off inherently risky, repetitive duties to focus on value-adding tasks. There are a number of other sustainability innovations under these programmes, including advanced materials that minimise pipeline corrosion, and offshore wind turbines to reduce need for gas turbines.

Apart from that, PETRONAS also taps bioresources to deliver energy and products for our customers. Projects under our bio-agenda include converting bio-based materials into high-value chemicals, specialty surfactants and sustainable aviation fuel.

From new energy perspective, we see potential of hydrogen, when combined with clean electricity, as the new source of fuel in the future. Our technology developments are working towards achieving competitive costs in the production of hydrogen, and we have built our green hydrogen production testing facility under this effort.

On top of all these, we have also identified forest-based carbon offsets as a viable and feasible solution to push towards our NZCE by 2050 aspiration.

In conclusion, as steered by our Sustainability Agenda, we believe these concurrent efforts under a holistic approach will enable us to create new and inclusive opportunities that contribute towards a more just socio-economic development.

A technologist passionate about sustainability

Dr. Norfaizah Ab Manan is a chemical engineer heading the R&D for Gas Sustainability Technology in PETRONAS Group Research and Technology. She is also a Chartered Chemical Engineer of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), and a member of the International Gas Union’ R&D and Innovation committee.

A passionate process technologist, Dr Norfaizah not only works with a team of researchers and engineers on technologies for gas monetisation and CCUS; but she also oversees the growth and capability development of chemical engineers in the organisation.

Dr. Norfaizah obtained her Ph.D from Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB), United Kingdom (UK) in the area of thermodynamics and phase behaviour. She joined PETRONAS in 2001 upon graduating from University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), UK, and has been hands-on in several key R&D projects including development of the first process simulation software in PETRONAS, Contaminants Removal programmes and CO2 Management programme.