During the past 12 months, CO2 has taken center stage in global political debates and climate-change dialogues. Countries and companies are coming under intense pressure to find sustainable solutions to address the issue of carbon footprint by reducing CO2 emissions.

In May of last year, 2019 SPE President Sami Alnuaim wrote a JPT article on the circular economy. The essence was on sustainability through efficiency, conservation, recycling, and reusing to minimize our impacts. While he was addressing the broader picture, I want to focus this article on the circular carbon economy. The circular carbon economy, which is not new, is a framework in which emissions of carbon from all sectors of the economy (including oil and gas) can be addressed through the four R pillars: reduce, recycle, reuse, and remove.

We in the oil and gas industry can work collaboratively with governments, companies, academia, and other organizations on these four pillars. For example, energy efficiency can be improved across the entire chain of operations, flaring can be reduced to near zero, and investments can be made into high-efficiency technologies that reduce the carbon footprint.

For the recycle and reduce pillars, CO2 can be converted into useful products such as methanol or used for well stimulation or conformance control, for example. And the biggest impact can be made with the removal of CO2 permanently from the atmosphere by capturing and storing it. Two examples are storage in subterranean formations and mineralization in cements, rocks, or other materials. We need to look for (or create) appropriate business opportunities that will reduce our impact on the environment and reduce our carbon footprint and intensity.

The papers that follow are examples of these four R pillars. One describes some promising pathways to lower atmospheric carbon through a practical and holistic approach. Another is the harvesting of energy from waste heat (improving efficiency) during oil and gas operations using supercritical CO2. The third is an example of using CO2 in place of water for fracturing operations. Many other opportunities can be adopted, and a business case can be made for them. What the industry needs at this stage is a willingness to work together, share best practices, conduct innovative research, and focus on technologies that lower cost of capture and make our operations more sustainable.

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