Petrobras Sizes Up Emissions Challenge

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Petrobras’ drive to achieve net-zero operational emissions will be especially challenging given the state oil company's production ramp-up planned for the next five years and beyond, executives said.

Petrobras plans to start up 15 floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels by 2026, with more expected to commence operation in the second half of the decade, as the company looks to boost output from its huge offshore pre-salt reservoirs.

“We still aim at continuing to improve our efficiency ... [now that] the low-hanging fruit is gone," said Viviana Coelho, Petrobras' climate change executive manager, during a virtual event put on by the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) earlier in the week.

Coelho said that Petrobras' emissions intensity has roughly halved since 2009, when its average was 30 kilograms per barrel of oil equivalent, while its production has grown by 40%. The company's short-term goal is to move the needle even further to 15 kg/boe by 2025 while continuing to grow production.

Petrobras adopted a net-zero operational emissions goal last year in parallel with a broader commitment by members of the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative.

Petrobras Emissions Progress
 2015 (Baseline)201920202021Goal
Total GHG emissions (tCO2e)78 million60 million56 million62 million25% reduction by 2030 (2015 baseline)
E&P Carbon Intensity (kgCO2e/boe2)--17.315.815.715 kgCO2e/boe in 2025, maintained until 2030
Refining carbon intensity (kgCO2e/CWT33)--42.540.239.736 kgCO2e/CWT in 2025 and of 30 kgCO2e/CWT in 2030.
Direct methane emissions (mil tCH4)150129.0102.079.0Reduction of 40% in methane intensity by 2025 (2015 baseline)

Engineering Challenge

Petrobras has earmarked $2.8 billion in its 2022-26 business plan for decarbonization efforts, largely focused on operational emissions as well as next-generation biofuels and research and development of profitable clean energy opportunities.

That includes $1.8 billion allocated for decarbonizing operations such as CO2 separation, methane detection systems, the commissioning of closed flare technology, subsea separation technology and projects to reduce carbon in refineries, among others, according to the company's annual report.

Petrobras identified flaring reductions and carbon capture as key policies that have helped it reduce its carbon intensity in recent years, particularly in its large pre-salt fields, where emissions intensity is now down to around 10 kg/boe.

Fabricio Soares, general manager of surface systems engineering, is working to get that number even lower for the next generation of FPSOs that will be deployed toward the end of the decade.

Power generation typically represents some 70% of the carbon emissions from an FPSO, Soares explained during the OTC event. Petrobras' plans for an all-electric FPSO concept would aim to reduce those emissions by an additional 30%.

Brazil recently changed its offshore regulations that limited the size of natural-gas fired power systems. Allowing companies to install larger power systems enables power generation functions on offshore facilities to be centralized, which requires less use of less-efficient turbo compression. The concept would also utilize seawater intake for its cooling functions.

Petrobras is also evaluating efficiency options for combined-cycle power involving both natural gas and steam. A “net-zero” option that could reduce emissions even further could capture carbon from turbomachinery exhaust and import power from onshore facilities.

Emissions Challenge

Petrobras’ overall emissions ticked up to 62 million tons of CO2 equivalent in 2021 from 56 million tCO2e a year earlier, according to data from the company’s annual report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Despite that uptick, however, the larger trend is still in line with the company’s goal to cut total emissions by 25% by 2030 from its 2015 baseline of 78 million tCO2e.

Petrobras' emissions have also trended downward when the use of thermal power in Brazil is omitted, Coelho explained. Brazil needed more than its usual contributions from conventional power generation in 2021 to compensate for lower hydroelectric power due to drought.

The company's emissions without thermoelectricity included fell to 46.5 million tCO2e in 2021 from 56.5 tCO2e in 2015, according to the presentation.

NOCs, ESG, CO2 Emissions, Carbon Capture (CCS), Corporate Strategy
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