ExxonMobil on Wednesday laid out its vision for a
future with a
focus on capturing CO2 while continuing to pump full, a project that leaves some activists skeptical pushing the oil giant to go greener .
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The American company, which launched a subsidiary dedicated to less polluting energies in early February,
“will initially focus”
on carbon capture and storage technologies.
These consist of capturing the CO2 produced by industrial activities and reinjecting it into sealed geological reservoirs for permanent storage.
ExxonMobil has been working on this for decades and
rates it as “much lower”
than other emission reduction technologies.
Always with a view to achieving the objectives of the Paris agreement to limit the increase in temperature, ExxonMobil also wants to bet on hydrogen.
Negotiating the turning point of climate change imperatives, ExxonMobil had already announced a reduction of 15% to 20% in the intensity of emissions from its oil exploration and exploitation activities by 2025 compared to 2016. The group on Monday also appointed Jeffrey Ubben, co-founder of an investment company that promotes practices that take more into account the environment, to its board of directors.
Introduce a carbon price
ExxonMobil plans a total of $ 3 billion to invest in solutions to lower emissions by 2025. This remains very far from the amounts promised by other giants of the sector, such as the British BP which wants to multiply by 10 its investments in low-carbon energies by 2030, to reach $ 5 billion per year.
This sum is also a far cry from the $ 20 to 25 billion in total that the group plans to spend each year between 2022 and 2025 to fuel its growth, mainly through new oil and gas exploration projects.
ExxonMobil officials also insisted on Wednesday that the development of technologies to fight climate change would depend on financial incentives offered by governments.
“We don't yet know how to achieve carbon neutrality
ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods told reporters.
“But once certain innovations have been made, we will be able to engage more frankly,”
Above all, establishing a carbon price is in his view
to allow the market
"to allocate resources efficiently in order to reduce CO2 emissions at the lowest possible cost for society"
Some groups were freshly welcoming ExxonMobil announcements.
Engine N ° 1, a shareholder who campaigns for the oil major to consider alternative energies more seriously, deplored in a press release
"the lack of serious diversification efforts"
"the hope that carbon capture will allow the company to avoid having to evolve in the long term ”
Carbon capture and storage techniques still face many technical and financial obstacles.
Environmental NGOs have long been skeptical about the risks of leaking stored CO2 or the fact that this justifies continued emissions.
The "United Coalition for a Responsible Exxon", a group of NGOs, pension funds and foundations, also estimated on Wednesday that the oil company should
"commit to a deeper and longer-term turn in its capital allocation strategy ”
to focus on the most profitable assets and reduce emissions.
There are still a lot of questions about how ExxonMobil can really scale up carbon capture and hydrogen, which the company has paid little attention to so far, also points out Peter McNally, analyst for Third Bridge.
The group, which lost $ 22 billion in 2020 to the collapse in oil prices, also
"made it clear (Wednesday) that the excess cash flow would go to debt reduction and not portfolio investment. additional ”
, in oil or renewable energies, he noted.
At least ExxonMobil seems to have stopped targeting at all costs a long-term increase in hydrocarbon production, notes Andrew Logan of the NGO Ceres.
"even if Exxon evolves"
on the issue of the environment,
"the gap between its action and that of its competitors is growing"
, he believes.