China’s oil giant eyes hydrogen and clean energy

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China’s largest oil and gas producer intends to convert 50 percent of its output to hydrogen, geothermal energy, and renewable power by 2050, in line with the country’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions.

China National Petroleum Corp. mentioned the goal in its environmental protection report, which it published on its website on Wednesday, stating that oil and gas would continue to account for the other half of its output by then. The corporation is the parent of PetroChina Co., which stated in its March annual report that it wants to generate 50 percent of its output from renewable sources by 2050.

Until now, the company has spent less on its energy transformation than European oil majors. In 2021, PetroChina spent 2.2 billion yuan ($330 million) on new energy, with intentions to quadruple that amount in 2022, compared to annual expenditures ranging from $2 billion to $3 billion. Shell Plc states that it plans to invest.

In response to China’s 2060 carbon neutrality objective, oil companies PetroChina and Sinopec seek to achieve net-zero emissions from their own operations by 2050, while Cnooc Ltd. aims to attain net-zero emissions ten years later. The majority of their carbon footprints stem from the fuels they sell, which are not included in these standards.

The firms are now concentrating on increasing production of cleaner-burning natural gas, while Sinopec intends to expand its hydrogen business and Cnooc expands into offshore wind.

CNPC also wants to prolong its efforts to reduce methane emissions through 2035. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas with a significantly greater ability to trap heat in the short term than carbon dioxide.

The corporation has already committed to halving its methane intensity, or emissions per unit of output value, by 2025 compared to its 2019 levels. In a study released on Wednesday, the government stated its intention to further reduce intensity, targeting a 20 percent drop from 2025 levels by 2035.

Nedim Husomanovic

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