Meet the excellence behind Saudi Aramco’s low carbon intensity

Actions and outcomes achieving ‘best-in-class management’ since 1933

  • Decades of “best-in-class” operational practices has Saudi Aramco’s carbon intensity ranked second lowest among 50 countries
  • 0.06% methane intensity is among the lowest in the industry
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution Center provides real-time analysis of all operations

Janet E. Pinheiro |

About 70% of Saudi Aramco's 70,000 employees work at the frontline of our business — operating and maintaining the company's world leading processing, production, and distribution facilities. Science Magazine published a research finding in 2018 that the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with each upstream barrel Saudi Aramco produces ranked as the second lowest among the 50 countries analyzed.

As Saudi Aramco goes about meeting the growing demand for ample, reliable, and affordable energy, the company has a commitment to reduce emissions. The low carbon intensity of Saudi Arabian crude oil is a result of multiple factors, including the company's continuous implementation of best-in-class reservoir management practices, flare minimization, energy efficiency, GHG emissions management, and the methane leak detection and repair program.

Behind Saudi Aramco’s low carbon intensity

Thoughtful reservoir management
World leading flare minimization
Meticulous methane leak detection and repair
Wise energy efficiency
Greenhouse gas management

Chief engineer Jamil J. Al-Bagawi explains that for decades, Saudi Aramco has known that carefully managing its fields, minimizing flaring and GHG, stopping leaks, and limiting energy use is a win-win for both sustainability and profitability.

“Our large and productive oil reservoirs have low per barrel gas flaring rates, ” said Al-Bagawi. “Low carbon intensity is not an intrinsic gift; it is how we carefully manage this gift.”

"Low carbon intensity is not an intrinsic gift; it is how we carefully manage this gift."

Chief engineer Jamil J. Al-Bagawi
‘Uthmaniyah’s gas-oil separation plant No. 7 is a special place, and it is where Mohammed M. Alrashdi has worked for two years. The plant is the center of one of the Middle East’s largest carbon enhanced oil recovery initiatives, which sees carbon dioxide (CO2) captured and reinjected back into an oil reservoir. While examining the product level of one of the project’s tanks, Alrashdi explains that the project is a “win-win” for the environment and the company. “Reinjecting CO2 reduces its emission into our environment, and improves oil recovery,” says the outside operator.
Wasit Gas Plant outside operator Naser M. Alotabi prepares for the startup of the Flare Gas Recovery System. Part of the Saudi Aramco team for eight years, Alotabi explains how his team works diligently to ensure flaring is minimized by sustaining continuous operation of the Flare Gas Recovery System.“Although flaring is essential for safety of the people and plant equipment during emergencies, eliminating routine daily gas flaring is a common objective at Wasit to protect the environment from emissions, including carbon dioxide,” said Alotabi.

Thoughtful reservoir management

Since 1951, we have meticulously managed production from the world’s largest conventional oil field — Ghawar Field. Instead of the typical industry practice of maximizing production rates per field, we manage all our amazing fields by carefully balancing production from across our portfolio.

When required, we tap into our newer reservoirs, thoughtfully choosing how much to produce from where, and we can do this because of the staggering size of our portfolio. By using seawater injection as our main recovery mechanism, we maintain reservoir pressure and maximize reservoir sweep.

World leading flare minimization

No Saudi Aramco flaring event happens without justification. As far back as the 1970s, we, significantly reduced the amount of gas we flare. Our flaring intensity remains at less than 1% of our gas production, and the World Economic Forum has recognized this impressive leadership.

Although flaring is a critical part of ensuring safety in the oil and gas industry, we are not slowing down our efforts. Our ambitious target is to achieve and sustain best-in-class status among industry peers by reducing routine flaring down to an absolute minimum. At the heart of achieving reduction are production and processing facilities designed to reduce the need to flare.

Wasit Gas Plant outside operator Hussain A. Al-Salem checks the operating parameters of the cogeneration unit, explaining that his role involves manning the area, and communicating with console operators to check plant parameters. Al-Salem says his work helps to maintain optimum operation of the cogeneration unit. “This unit makes use of the heat from the steam to power the operation of the whole plant, achieving maximum utilization of the energy from the gas, enabling wise utilization of this valuable resource.”

Wise energy efficiency

Rigorous commitment to low energy consumption is a key part of low carbon intensity. Being careful about the power we use helps the environment. In 2019 alone, Saudi Aramco implemented more than 200 energy efficiency initiatives to get the best energy performance from our operating facilities and residential communities.

Since 2000, the amount of cumulative energy saved is 239 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, representing 25 million tons of CO2 reduction — equivalent to 20% of Saudi Vision 2030 commitments. Our cogeneration program gives a purposeful use for steam production. From electricity generation, we balance operational conditions, supply, and demand — and always lookout for new ways to save energy.

Meticulous methane leak detection and repair

Amazing engineering components such as valves, pumps, compressors, and pipes go into oil and gas processing plants, but without checks and maintenance, they have the potential to leak. Methane gas is 80 times more harmful to global warming in the first two decades after its release when compared with CO2. 

We monitor and measure methane emissions from our operating facilities’ equipment, and with a 2018 methane intensity of 0.06%, Saudi Aramco’s methane emissions are among the lowest in the industry.

Saudi Aramco’s Fourth Industrial Revolution Center provides comprehensive digital insights into the health of the company’s key assets, such as the live monitoring of energy efficiency, flaring or GHGs.

GHG management

Across a giant blue curved wall inside Saudi Aramco's Dhahran headquarters, operational analytics and insights cover one of the world's largest digital screens.

Connected to more than 3 million data points, the massive display within Saudi Aramco's Fourth Industrial Revolution Center is a crisp, real-time analysis of all operations — from the wellhead to terminals. With a digital finger on the company's emissions, product quality, energy efficiency, and much more, data is being translated into meaningful results, and potential issues are detected before they happen.

Study shows record low carbon intensity of Saudi crude oil

In one of the most comprehensive oil field carbon intensity (CI) studies ever published, a global team led by Stanford University has calculated the CI of the world's active oil fields — with significant results for Saudi Arabia.

The scientists analyzed the CI of 8,966 of the world's active oil fields across 90 countries, representing 98% of the world's 2015 global crude oil and condensate production.