Finding the right formula for a net-zero future

By Dr David Horsup, ChampionX

Dr David Horsup, ChampionX vice president, external technology & strategy
Dr David Horsup, ChampionX vice president, external technology & strategy (photo: ChampionX)

As world leaders descend on Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this month, the topic of net-zero goals has never been higher on the global agenda.

As someone who has worked in the energy industry for more 25 years, I have seen the sector evolve drastically, but no change has been quite as powerful as the energy transition movement of the past few years. The transition is providing the oil and gas industry with a crucial opportunity to develop innovative solutions and lead the world in building a more sustainable future.

A digital and cultural shift
Digital technology is inherently linked with creating a more sustainable future and can help reduce CO2 emissions through specific applications. We often hear of the “race to be second” within in the oil and gas sector. But while many businesses can be reluctant to take the gamble on novel or enhanced digital technologies for fear of a costly risk or the consequence of failure, time is running out for unnecessary reticence.

Digital applications are essential to create more energy-efficient operations. The industry must be willing to adopt new ways of working. As part of this process, we must also be more willing to share lessons learned. While we are always eager to shout about successes, often, more is to be learned from failures. By having more open dialogues, we can have a greater collective understanding of how to improve and deliver solutions that work.

A culture shift is also essential to accelerate the drive towards net zero. Sustainability must be embedded into day-to-day operations and not just be seen as a message from the C-suite. There is often a degree of uncertainty around the future of the conventional oil and gas industry, so it’s important that the people in the sector right now are passionate and open to this push towards net zero. The entrenched abilities and knowledge gleaned from working on complex international projects, for example, are highly transferrable and valuable for the sectors that are enabling the energy transition, such as wind, hydrogen and carbon capture.

Assessing carbon footprint
When businesses look to reduce costs, expenditures are reviewed in detail so the highest-impact opportunities for reductions can be identified and executed upon. Reducing carbon footprint should follow the same approach. By having a clear understanding of the total impact across existing operations, a business can devise a focused improvement plan, which tackles its overall emissions.

Last year, ChampionX Corporation (ChampionX), a global leader in chemistry solutions and highly engineered equipment and technologies that help companies drill for and produce oil and gas safely and efficiently around the world, developed an internal methodology to calculate the carbon footprint for our chemical offerings, from manufacturing to logistics and transportation. This type of step-by-step carbon-counting journey is now more commonly requested by customers as they look to gain a greater understanding of their impact on the environment and create significant opportunities for improvement.

The ChampionX technology centre in Aberdeen, UK
The ChampionX technology centre in Aberdeen, UK (photo: ChampionX)

The internal methodology was implemented globally, including embedding carbon footprint awareness into new product development at our R&D laboratory in Aberdeen. The facility currently employs 50 scientists who work on developing and testing chemical solutions, which are deployed to deliver more sustainable and efficient operations for our customers. Recently, the team developed a new CEFAS gold-rated corrosion inhibitor technology, which enables E&P companies to economically extend the life of their assets in a sustainable way without sacrificing efficiency.

ChampionX has recently secured several large contracts to deploy the new corrosion inhibitors at two major operators’ North Sea assets. The products use active components that are biodegradable, thereby significantly reducing their impact on aquatic life whilst delivering superior corrosion protection, ensuring assets can operate safely for years to come with a reduced environmental impact.

Accelerating towards a net-zero future
By actively working together across all levels of the industry, net-zero goals are achievable, but it will require substantial commitment from operators and throughout the entire supply chain. There is no doubt the outcomes from COP26 will significantly influence future actions, and we will all need to accelerate progress to ensure a sustainable future.

Dr David Horsup is vice president, external technology & strategy, at ChampionX.