Keynote Address by HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy

Delivered by HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, at the International Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (ICCUS) Conference, 25 February 2020, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the International Carbon Capture and Utilization Conference here in Riyadh, the first of its kind held in the Middle East.  This two-day event is a landmark gathering on a topic of critical importance to the Kingdom and the entire world, and it is wonderful to see such a large number of distinguished participants.

My friends, although the task of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is challenging, we are not starting from scratch.  Past work in this area has been considerable, and we should applaud those efforts, acknowledge the benefits they have achieved over the years, and seek to build on their foundation.

However, we must also recognize that the current scope, scale and speed of such efforts will not be sufficient for the global community to address the issue of climate change, or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels that must be achieved in the desired time frame. 

We must also acknowledge that while alternative energy sources are expanding, the world continues to rely upon fossil fuels for the overwhelming share of its overall energy needs—a situation that will not change for many decades to come.  At the same time, the world’s total energy demand will continue to grow, given our planet’s increasing population and rising living standards in the developing world. 

Given that energy is a key input for both economic and social development, we also need to develop and deploy energy solutions that effectively address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions while also powering prosperity now and in the future.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, we must accelerate the adoption of high-impact solutions such as Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage—and do so urgently.

I strongly believe that CCUS can and will serve as a cornerstone for the global energy and environmental systems of tomorrow, because it is a tried and tested technology today.  Far from being a “magic bullet” solution that exists only as a concept, a lab-bench prototype, or a pilot demonstration program, CCUS is already making a positive difference, and is ready to be deployed at a greater scale.

At the same time, the considerable progress that continues to be made in the research, development, demonstration and global deployment of CCUS is extremely encouraging, and underscores the tremendous future promise of this proven technology. 

That’s important, because according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, our global climate goals may not be achieved without utilizing CCS—in part because there are entire sectors such as cement, steel and chemicals where alternative, non-carbon options don’t exist in the way they do for power generation.  CCUS, though, has the capacity to reduce emissions across various sectors, can be tied in with the increasing focus on hydrogen, and just as importantly is able to transform carbon into a useful, economically beneficial commodity.

In fact, CCUS really comes into its own as part of a much broader Circular Carbon Economy concept, which will be at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of the G20 this year.  The Circular Carbon Economy serves as a platform to address energy issues in a holistic and inclusive manner—and CCUS plays a central role in this approach.

The 4Rs of the Circular Carbon Economy

  • Reduce: Minimizing the amount of carbon entering the system by utilizing energy efficiency, renewables, and nuclear power;
  • Reuse & Recycle: Using carbon emissions in useful products or applications, such as CO2 to chemicals and materials;
  • Remove: Eliminating carbon from the system through CCS and Direct Air Capture.

So, as you can see, CCUS is front and center in two of the four Rs—making its accelerated and expanded adoption even more vital, since it is the linchpin of a much larger effort to reduce and redirect carbon emissions.  And again, let me stress that within the Circular Carbon Economy framework, CCUS will deliver economic as well as environmental benefits, helping us to achieve objectives in both areas concurrently.

For its part, the Kingdom is already investing in the development of new technology for clean energy solutions including utilization of CCUS. 

Some of those investments are already in place, and are making a tangible difference.  For example, Saudi Aramco demonstrated the Gulf region’s first world-scale CO2 enhanced oil recovery project in 2015, which captures 800,000 tons of CO2 annually, while SABIC built one of the world’s largest CO2 capture and purification plants to provide carbon dioxide as a feedstock for chemicals, using 500,000 tons of CO2 per year. 

And of course, for some four decades the Kingdom’s Master Gas System has been capturing gas that was once flared and turning it into a valuable, clean fuel and feedstock and making it the foundation of an entirely new domestic industrial sector.  The economic and environmental benefits have been enormous, and the Master Gas System continues to serve as proof-of-concept when it comes to integrating economic viability with environmental protection.

The Kingdom is also an active and responsible member of the international community in various climate change initiatives.  In 2015, the Kingdom joined the “Mission Innovation” and the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), co-leading the CCUS challenge with the United Kingdom and Mexico.  That same year, the Kingdom joined the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), where the Kingdom co-led the CCUS initiative with United States, the United Kingdom and Norway.

Now, the time has come for all of us to redouble our efforts in the area of CCUS—which is what brings us together today.  Without a doubt, technology development will play a pivotal role in finding effective solutions to the carbon emissions challenge, as well as supplying clean fuels and creating valuable feedstocks and ultimately useful products.  But for those CCUS technologies and systems to be sustainable and quickly scalable, we must work together to create opportunities and remove barriers for private sector investment. 

That means working together to drive down the costs and aggressively accelerate the pace of implementing CCUS at a global scale, including the construction of necessary infrastructure.  At the same time, we need to look ahead to collectively identify new commercial models and strategies that will enable the research, development and deployment of the next generation of CCUS technology.  And we need to encourage greater cooperation and collaboration among various countries, industries, R&D disciplines, and the public and private sectors.

None of that will be easy, none of that will be simple, and none of that is assured of ultimate success—but all of it is vital for our countries and our communities.  Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, [and] difficulty.”  There can be no doubt that CCUS is worth doing, and I strongly believe that collectively we have the clarity of vision, the technological capability, and the depth of determination required to meet the carbon emissions challenge, and to realize the full potential of Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage. 

Thank you for your attention.

HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy

HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy

The ICCUS Conference in Riyadh is part of the Kingdom’s preparations for November’s G20 Summit

The ICCUS Conference in Riyadh is part of the Kingdom’s preparations for November’s G20 Summit