Shell Confirms its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rose in 2017

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Shell’s global greenhouse gas emissions increased last year due to increased fossil fuel output in some of its key markets, according to its latest sustainability report,

Published yesterday, the report shows Shell’s direct emissions rose from 70 million tonnes in 2016 to 73 million last year, while its indirect emissions from the energy it purchased also ticked up from 11 million to 12 million tonnes.

The oil giant blamed the rises on the inclusion in its emissions data of facilities previously operated by its Motiva joint venture, the reopening of previously shut down units in Singapore, and a rise in production from its QGC joint venture refineries in Australia.

However, it said the increases were partly offset by a number of divestments last year as well as reduced production at its Peal gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar.

Overall, half of Shell’s direct emissions came from its refineries and chemical plants, according to the report, while 45 per cent resulted from its oil, gas and gas-to-liquid products and another two per cent came from its shipping activities.

In total, the use of Shell’s natural gas products and refineries by others amounted to 579 million tonnes of emissions in 2017, representing less than two per cent of the world’s total, the report estimates.

The update underscores the scale of the challenge faced by the oil major as it seeks to deliver on its pledge to halve the carbon footprint of the energy it sells by 2050.

The rise in emissions also comes despite a commitment to increase its spend on low carbon innovation to $2bn a year and as recent acquisitions of electric vehicle charger firm NewMotion and energy supplier First Utility.

The report comes just days after the company published a new scenario that sketched out how the goal’s of the Paris Agreement could be met through the deep decarbonisation of the global economy. However, it also follows news the company is currently facing court action in the Netherlands from green groups in a bid to push Shell to step up its efforts to comply with the Paris Agreement.

The report, which was evaluated using external review panels, states that the firm “fully supports” the work of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to increase transparency of the risks and opportunities presented by climate change.

“We believe that companies should be clear about how they plan to be resilient in the energy transition,” it states. “Therefore, we are working with the TCFD to develop guidance on effective disclosures which, where commercially possible, will be most relevant and useful to investors.”

In his introduction to the report, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden also said the firm planned to “produce more natural gas, the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon, and make it a priority to reduce leakage of the potent greenhouse gas methane from our gas operations”.

However, he also highlighted a continued focus on clean tech innovation, underlining the “huge opportunities to break new ground in low carbon energy solutions and technologies”.

“We, at Shell, think long and hard about our role in the transition to a cleaner energy future and the steps needed to create a sustainable world economy,” van Beurden wrote. “We continue to put respect for people, their safety, communities and the environment at the heart of our approach.”

The oil major recently made headlines by releasing a potential pathway for the world to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement of keeping temperature increases ‘well below’ 2C by the end of the century. It argued that while it was still technically, industrially, and economically possible to meet the Paris targets, doing so would require a major increase in efforts from private and public actors, as well as a focus on developing carbon capture technologies.