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The potential and limitations of decarbonizing the Oil Industry | Edgar Yáñez Angarita

A case study
Edgar Yanez Angarita
Edgar Yanez Angarita

Field | Discipline



According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the greenhouses-gas emissions (GHG) associated with energy production and use accounts for about two-thirds of the global emissions (IEA 2015) . This means a real challenge for deploying pledges on the energy sector that were made at the COP21. These pledges must bring deep emissions reductions while yet sustaining the growth of the world economy, offer a guarantee of energy security, and increase quality of life to the billions of people around the world who need it.

As estimated by the IEA 2015 for a near-term strategy to move the energy world towards a path consistent to achieve a long-term commitment of a max temp rise of 2 ° C (Bridge Scenario) in 2030, the total renewable energy (including bio and Hydro), should increase up to 63% in relation to 2013 levels. However, on the same scenario its share in total energy primary demand will increase just from 12% to 19% in 2030 in relation with 2013. Even though, and based on the same estimations, the total energy primary demand considering oil and gas, will remain the most relevant share with around 52% of total, with an increase only around 10% by 2030. The share of oil and gas in the total energy related emission will increase from 56% to 62% in 2030. [1] Based on an estimated of the IEA for the Bridge Scenario, oil will remain as dominant energy source in transport, with a slow decreasing rate from 93% in 2013 to around 87% in 2030. However, oil used for transport remains constant in its share of the Total Final Consumption with around 25% [2] .

(McGlade and Ekins 2014) , indicate that considering a wide deployment of CCS, which is consider as a main alternative to reduce oil and gas related emissions, in a scenario aiming to a low carbon global energy system, at least 500 billion barrels of existing 2P oil reserves must remain unused by 2035. For a scenario where CCS is unavailable, this increases to around 600 billion barrels. Moreover, the widespread development of unconventional oil resources is incompatible with a decarbonized energy system and only CCS deployment, besides a fast decarbonization process of the energy inputs, would allow increasing the production of bitumen and heavy oil from current levels.

In order to reach the climate change target of 2 ° C, it is necessary to develop an integral strategy, which includes as many as possible alternatives that can assure the 450ppm scenario in 2050. This strategy would be an integral decarbonizing process for the O&G industry, that would allow to assure the achievement of this target and also to boost an energy transition pathway that can support a fast and consistent deployment of RES.

This thesis proposal aims to determine the techno-economic and environmental potential of a decarbonization strategy for the crude oil Industry. It will consider relevant alternatives throughout the value chain such as Energy Efficiency Measurements (EEM), Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Enhanced Oil Recovery using CO2 (CO2-EOR) and Biomass based alternatives, using the Colombia oil sector as case study.

This aim will be addressed by the following sub-questions:

a) What are the energy efficiency opportunities that could be implemented in the short and medium term in the value chain of the Colombia oil industry?
b) Can CCS and CO2-EOR play a significant role into a decarbonization strategy for the Oil Industry, with the potential to reduce significantly the process related GHG emissions of the final energy carrier?
c) What would be the potential role of biomass into a decarbonization strategy in the Colombia Oil Industry?

[1] Based on IEA data from Energy and climate change 2015 © OECD/IEA 2015, IEA Publishing; modified by the authors.

[2] Based on IEA data from Energy and climate change 2015 © OECD/IEA 2015, IEA Publishing; modified by the authors

Supervision by

  • Promotor: Prof. dr. A.P.C. Faaij | Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society - IREES | ESRIG, University of Groningen.
  • Co-promotor: Prof. dr. Andrea Ramirez | Utrecht University-Copernicus Institute.
  • Co-promotor: Dr. J.C (Hans) Meerman | Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society - IREES | ESRIG, University of Groningen.
  • Co-promotor: Dr. Edgar Castillo | Ecopetrol
Last modified:11 April 2023 11.36 a.m.