Environmental stewardship

Environmental protection and sustainability remain critical as we contribute to the growth of the Kingdom’s economy — the protection of Saudi Arabia’s air, water, and land resources is a high priority. Searching for ways to make petroleum energy more sustainable is embedded in all our activities, as is the protection and preservation of our natural environment for future generations.

Domestically, the Kingdom is home to a diversity of unique and ecologically sensitive habitats that require careful stewardship. Internationally, our offices and operations are located in a variety of environments. The protection and preservation of the natural environment for future generations is vital to our success, and to the continued quality of life for us all. 

A local and global commitment

Our long-term direction is a powerful combination of increased energy efficiency, more gas, ultra-clean oil fuels, advanced technologies and renewables.

Our strategy for carbon management

How do we help meet the world’s energy needs while managing greenhouse gas emissions? We plan to answer this question with a comprehensive carbon management strategy, based on four pillars:

  • Shrinking our carbon footprint
  • Harnessing the power of R&D
  • Transforming emissions into value
  • Participating in impactful collaborations.

Raising energy efficiency, reducing emissions

We recognize that the quality of life for future generations will depend on how well we manage energy consumption today. Accordingly, the first pillar of our carbon management strategy consists of concerted efforts to shrink our carbon footprint, including working closely with the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program, growing the contribution of renewables in the energy mix, and expanding gas supplies with a plan to increase the share of clean gas in power generation.

In 2017, Saudi Aramco flaring intensity remained at less than 1% of our annual gas production and we continued progress toward our eventual goal of zero routine flaring. As part of our Flaring Minimization Program, we completed the installation of multiple flare gas recovery systems, including at our onshore Safaniyah facilities.

In line with our efforts to boost energy efficiency, our Energy-to-the-Kingdom (E2K) initiative contributed to the Kingdom raising its utility sector efficiency to 37.9% by year-end, an improvement of nearly 6 percentage points since 2013.

Our Peak Summer Production Program provided additional volumes of nonassociated gas to reduce the use of liquids in power generation during the summer. In 2017, we displaced 11.5 million barrels of crude oil equivalent, freeing up higher value liquids while reducing emissions. We also continued our collaboration with the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program to promote energy efficiency practices through awareness campaigns. 

Solar panels on the parking structures at our Midra Tower in Dhahran gather energy during the day to help power the office building.

New energy from renewables

Over the last three years, we have built technical, planning, and commercial capabilities in renewables, including evaluating more than 380 project locations; surveying 75 local and 131 global manufacturers; and assembling an international team of renewables experts.

We also continued to participate in the Kingdom’s renewable program, advancing efforts to introduce new fuels and renewable resources to the Kingdom’s utility mix. This effort included our support for the Kingdom’s drive to become a solar powerhouse:

A new agreement to conduct a joint feasibility study (under the auspices of the National Industrial Cluster Development Program) with Showa Shell, a public company in which we are an indirect shareholder, and its subsidiary, Solar Frontier, for the development of a solar photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia.

We produced a low cost technology to mitigate the negative impact of dust on solar panel productivity. A dust storm can lead to a 40% reduction in efficiency of solar panels, and dust accumulation can lead to an efficiency reduction of 2% per week or more. After two years of research and prototype testing, the solution offered by the technology is a robotic, dry cleaning technology that is fully automated to run on schedule or on command. The technology has multiple patents pending and discussions are underway to commercialize the technology and bring the product to market.

We partnered with GE to erect the Kingdom’s first wind turbine at our Turaif Bulk Plant. Conceived as a demonstration project to highlight the viability of wind power, the turbine, installed in January 2017, is capable of generating 2.75 megawatts of power and will reduce the use of liquids for power generation at the bulk plant, saving roughly 19,000 barrels of oil equivalent per year.

Our state-of-the-art Detroit Research Center enables researchers to collaborate with engine designers and major automakers to explore new fuels technology.

Fuelling innovation

The second pillar of our carbon management strategy is harnessing the power of R&D to make game-changing advances in legacy fuels and new transport technologies.

More information on our explorations into this area can be found in our Innovation area.

The polyol technology combines waste CO2 with hydrocarbon feedstocks to create high performance polyols for use in a variety of everyday applications.

Creating value from emissions

The third pillar of our carbon management strategy is converting emissions into value by turning carbon dioxide into beneficial products. Our acquisition of CONVERGE®, a polyol technology, from U.S.-based Novomer, demonstrates the seriousness of our intent. This technology combines CO2 with hydrocarbon feedstocks to create high performance polyols for use in everyday applications such as adhesives, sealants, and elastomer applications, covering a broad spectrum from automobile seats to building insulation panels.

Compared to conventional polyols, CONVERGE® polyols have approximately one-third the carbon footprint and demonstrate superior performance, including increased strength; improved resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and weather; better adhesion, hardness, and tear-strength; and greater load-bearing capacity.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin H. Nasser (third from left) joins fellow CEOs of major oil and gas companies as part of Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, OGCI, in London, on November 4, 2016.

Collaborating to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The fourth pillar of our carbon management strategy is participation in impactful collaborations, such as the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), a CEO led initiative composed of 10 global oil and gas companies committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through technology.

We are a founding member of the OGCI, whose member companies together account for one-fifth of the world’s oil and gas production. The OGCI is committed to deliver technology on a scale that will create a step change to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while still meeting the world’s energy needs.

Over the next decade, a majority of the original OGCI members have each pledged an investment of $100 million to develop and accelerate the commercial deployment of innovative, low-emission technologies. The OGCI Climate Investments Initiative will also identify ways to cut the energy intensity of both transport and industry, and work with like-minded initiatives across all stakeholder groups and sectors to multiply the impact of its emission reduction efforts.

Carbon dioxide is captured at our Hawiyah NGL plant, compressed and piped to the 'Uthmaniyah oil field where it is injected into the oil reservoir, sequestering the gas while also helping to maintain pressure in the reservoir to recover more oil.

Achieving self-sufficiency in power generation

Achieving self-sufficiency in electrical power for our operating plants through cogeneration is a key element of our energy management efforts. By utilizing the waste heat from our facilities, we generate electricity to run our operations, lower emissions, and reduce our impact on the nation’s power grid.

During 2016, we brought 984 megawatts of new power capacity online by completing a suite of cogeneration projects, including the expansion of facilities at Shaybah, completion of facilities at Wasit Gas Plant, and the construction of joint venture facilities with the Power Cogeneration Project Company at Hawiyah, Abqaiq, and Ras Tanura.

Environmental stewardship in Kingdom

In addition to deploying technology and practices across our operations to reduce our environmental footprint, we also support positive environmental stewardship in the Kingdom.

  • Our Environmental Education Program is designed to instill the values of conservation and stewardship in young people. More than 1,800 schools have been reached and 1,100 Friends of the Environment clubs have been established kingdomwide.
  • We have always strived to protect the Kingdom’s water resources, including maximizing wastewater reuse and promoting sustainable alternatives to groundwater. Today, we reuse more than 75% of our sanitary wastewater and over 80% of our produced water (water produced with oil from a well) — among the highest reuse rates in the region.

Our Shaybah wildlife sanctuary protects reintroduced native species such as the Arabian oryx, Arabian sand gazelles and ostriches.