How Saudi Arabia could become a leader in carbon capture on the road to net-zero emissions

Carbon emissions must be cut but industrial processes and energy needs mean fossil fuels can’t be ditched overnight. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 13 March 2023
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How Saudi Arabia could become a leader in carbon capture on the road to net-zero emissions

  • Carbon capture can achieve 14 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed by 2050
  • The Kingdom has set the bar high, with a carbon capture target of 44 million tons annually by 2035

RIYADH: As nations step up their efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emission goals and mitigate the effects of climate change, oil and gas-producing countries in particular are under tremendous pressure to make a swift transition to green energy sources and leave their petroleum assets underground.

This is no small challenge. Carbon-capture technologies could therefore prove be a vital lifeline for the energy industries of these countries, and Saudi Arabia is well-placed to emerge as a global leader in the carbon-capture sector.

Carbon capture utilization and storage, or CCUS, technologies have been in use for decades to remove and sequester carbon dioxide emissions, and improve the quality of natural gas. Carbon capture achieves several goals, simultaneously reducing emission levels while also ensuring fossil fuels meet the world’s pressing energy needs and providing a mechanism to help meet net-zero goals by 2050.

According to Bloomberg, global investment in carbon capture and storage projects will reach $6.4 billion this year.

The most natural method of carbon capture is as old as time itself: Photosynthesis, the process through which trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it into oxygen and energy.

Saudi authorities have launched a number of afforestation initiatives, including the Saudi Green and the Middle East Green initiatives, with the aim of planting 50 billion trees in the Kingdom and the wider region as part of the Middle East Green Initiative, in partnership with the countries. Still, this alone is not enough and other methods are desperately needed to reduce carbon emissions as efficiently possible.

According to the International Energy Agency, effective CCUS technologies capture emissions at source or directly from the air. The carbon dioxide collected in this way can then be stored deep underground or processed to convert it into valuable products.

The IEA is aware of more than 300 carbon-capture facilities being developed worldwide, including the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project in Australia; two capture facilities linked to the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line in Canada; the first large-scale bioenergy and carbon-capture project in Japan; capture facilities at the Sinopec chemical plant and at the Guohua Jinjie coal-fired power plant in China; and Saudi Aramco’s Uthmaniyah project and Hawiyah gas plant.

Saudi Arabia has set the bar high in its efforts to cut emissions, announcing a carbon-capture target of 44 million tons a year by 2035. Aramco is working with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy to establish a hub in Jubail with a storage capacity of up to 9 million tons a year by 2027.

In mid-January, meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company teamed up with the Fujairah Natural Resources Corporation, UAE-based clean energy company Masdar, and Emirati decarbonization company 44.01 for a project to remove carbon dioxide from the air by “mineralizing” it into rock formations in Fujairah emirate.

According to Vikas Dhole, general manager for Sustainability Solution Strategy and Enablement with AspenTech, a provider of software and services for process industries, the Middle East as a whole is in an ideal position to take the lead in carbon-mitigation efforts, thanks to its vast subsurface formations, which have the capacity to store a highly significant proportion of the world’s target for carbon removal.

“These two initiatives from Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi will have a big impact, regionally and globally,” he told Arab News. “The Middle East can pair that with the region’s ideal geography to generate massive solar power. These together allow carbon removal powered by green energy.”




Middle East is well placed to be a world leader in carbon capture. (AFP)

Aramco recently announced a partnership with AspenTech to make carbon-capture software developed by Aramco available to other companies globally, so that new technology will have an effect far beyond the Kingdom.

Dhole said his company is also working to integrate its software capabilities with a number of businesses to help them predict the long-term outcomes of various carbon dioxide storage strategies, including mineralization.

“In short, the announcements recently made in the region can be anticipated to be very impactful,” he added.

In recent years, the momentum for CCUS has been growing. It is estimated that carbon capture could achieve 14 percent of the global target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and is viewed as the only practical way to achieve deep levels of decarbonization in the industrial sector.

In a report published last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that a drastic reduction in carbon emissions will no longer be sufficient in the battle against climate change; the world now needs Negative Emissions Technologies to keep rising temperatures at bay.

While Dhole believes the world is indeed “late to the game” in terms of the efforts to reduce emissions, he sees it as an opportunity to be seized.

“The opportunity is there to scale this up much faster than ever before by combining the engineering innovation with the digitalization innovation, and the funding resources of players such as (Saudi Arabia) and Abu Dhabi,” he said. “And it is really a profitable opportunity to provide carbon removal and storage services beyond the region.

INNUMBERS

• 44m Saudi Arabia’s annual carbon capture target by 2035 in tons.

• 50bn Number of trees the Kingdom will plant by 2030 to help capture carbon.

• 9m Annual carbon storage capacity of planned Jubail facility by 2027 in tons.

• 2060 Saudi Arabia’s target year for achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

“Carbon-capture utilization and storage are now proven, technologically, and rapidly improving, economically. They will become one of the key ‘silver bullets,’ if they are funded to the extent that the projects can be done in a completely digital manner, so that the earlier projects will inform future projects to keep improving technology-wise, economics-wise, and speed of execution-wise.

“This all can be done with an end-to-end digital pathway, as AspenTech has introduced to the industry.”

According to Paul Sullivan, a senior research associate at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, carbon-capture technologies, though widely available, are still costly to use and inefficient.

“Things are improving and can be improved more so,” he told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their partners could work together on improving carbon capture, and the uses of that carbon after it is captured. There is no silver bullet.

“Most of the carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans, trees and other natural carbon sinks. However, these are not enough. Also, these additions of carbon to the seas and other water bodies have caused acidification and do damage to coral reefs and more.

“Solving the carbon issues will need a multipronged, long-term, strategic approach, bringing in the energy industries, agriculture, transport and many more sectors. It will require us to work with think tanks, universities and across industries. There should be giant prizes for new inventions to bring the carbon balance more in line. All industries, and others, could be involved with this.”

The consensus seems to be that while the work of companies, engineers and scientists developing carbon-capture technologies has come a long way, a lot remains to be done to effectively utilize these technologies in a manner that can make a significant dent in curbing emissions and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.




Imbalances in the carbon balances and the carbon cycle are what we need to focus on,” said Paul Sullivan, Energy expert. 

Dhole agrees, saying that in particular, greater innovation is required in the “utilization” of captured carbon. Several chemical companies, including leading businesses in the Middle East, are working to commercialize ideas for the use of carbon dioxide as a chemical building block, for example.

“In this area, modeling combined with industrial AI (artificial intelligence), using a concept called hybrid models, will have a big impact on accelerating the innovation of these new classes of chemicals,” he said.

Over the past 30 years, many industry experts have predicted that CCUS technologies would be required to decarbonize a number of industries, including energy, chemicals, cement, and steel production, yet the CCUS industry is still finding its footing.

A report in October 2022 by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that CCUS uptake needs to increase by a factor of 120 by 2050 if countries are to achieve their net-zero commitments.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement calls for a balance between reductions in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and earthbound carbon sinks, in an effort to reduce the confusion over the relative qualities and benefits of carbon in its various forms.

“Carbon is not always a problem,” said Sullivan. “It is used in photosynthesis to create food for plants and trees, for example. It is used in carbonated beverages and in many important scientific and industrial processes.

“Carbon is not the enemy. Imbalances in the carbon balances and the carbon cycle are what we need to focus on. Balance is the issue with climate change, as with many other issues.”


Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.


Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Updated 20 June 2024
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Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

  • Saudi organizers deliver their first progress report to event bureau chiefs in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on target to deliver an Expo 2030 “by the world, for the world,” organizers have told event chiefs in Paris in their first progress report since Riyadh was chosen as host city.

Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, led the Saudi delegation at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in the French capital.

Efforts were fully underway for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event, he told the bureau.

Riyadh was chosen to host the event at the bureau’s last general assembly in November 2023. The expo will take place  from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, when the Saudi capital will host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future.

Preparations are underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development, legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans.


Classic meat dish returns to Jazan tables

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. (Supplied/
Updated 19 June 2024
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Classic meat dish returns to Jazan tables

  • In the past, locals prepared mahshoosh to preserve sacrificial meat in the absence of refrigeration

MAKKAH: The arrival of Eid Al-Adha signals the return of mahshoosh, or Al-Humais — a traditional dish beloved by Jazan locals that is deeply rooted in the region’s cultural heritage.

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. Its preparation is seen as a revival of an age-old tradition dating back to a time when there was no refrigeration. Local people relied on this dish to preserve the meat from their Eid Al-Adha sacrifices.

Once the meat and fat are cut up, the fat is slowly melted and meat added gradually. (Supplied/Visit Saudi)

While the dish is most associated with Eid Al-Adha, it can be savored throughout the year. Its name stems from the method of preparation, which involves finely chopping meat and fat into small pieces, a process referred to as “Al-Hash” in the local dialect.

The recipe for mahshoosh has been passed down through generations, with women in Jazan taking great pride in preparing it. Once the meat and fat are cut up, the fat is slowly melted and meat added gradually. After the addition of spices, the dish is then left to simmer for several hours with occasional stirring.

HIGHLIGHTS

• While mahshoosh is most associated with Eid Al-Adha, it can be savored throughout the year.

• Its name stems from the method of preparation, which involves finely chopping meat and fat into small pieces, a process referred to as ‘Al-Hash’ in the local dialect.

Finally, the cooked mixture is transferred to a clay container, where it solidifies and can be preserved for several months without losing its flavor.

Lard and meat are chopped up and cooked together to create the rich delicacy. (SPA)

Chef Ahmed Issa Shetifi from the Sabya governorate said mahshoosh was invented out of necessity when people had no means of preserving their food. Cooking it with lard extended the shelf life of the meat.

Preparation methods varied from one household to another, with some families adding only onions while others would include spices such as cardamom and cinnamon.

According to Shetifi, proper preparation involves roasting the lard before the meat is added. The lard pieces should be large, as they dissolve faster.

He added: “This custom continued even after people had refrigerators to store meat and food. In fact, some families still store mahshoosh in rooms or under their beds, where it lasts for a week or ten days before being consumed.

“Later generations began storing it in pots in the refrigerator while others use designated bags, each containing one meal, and keep them in the freezer.”

Mahshoosh is very high in calories and is typically served only during Eid Al-Adha, he said: “Some families dedicate the entire Eid sacrifice to preparing mahshoosh. While it can be enjoyed in moderation, eating it in excess poses a risk of high cholesterol due to its high-calorie content.”

Mahshoosh is typically served with bread, although some people prefer to eat it with rice. It is also part of the traditional Jazan dinner.

 


Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts

Updated 19 June 2024
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Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts

  • Model and actress Maria Eduarda spoke to Arab News about her stay: “Everything was great! The food, the room service, and in-villa dining were amazing … The structure inside the villa is amazing … I loved it — one of the best stops ever”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia boasts a plethora of novel natural reserves and resorts that champion the nourishment of the mind, body, and soul.

From lush mountain ranges to glistening blue waters, the well-preserved environments have become must-visit spots for those looking to discover the Kingdom’s hidden gems and reconnect with nature.

Situated on a pristine private island, the newly opened Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve marks the brand's debut in the Middle East, featuring coral reefs beneath the water’s surface and a clear view of the night stars, which inspired the name ‘Nujuma’. (Supplied)

Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Red Sea

Situated on a private island, the newly opened Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve marks the brand’s debut in the Middle East, featuring coral reefs beneath the water’s surface and a clear view of the night stars, inspiring its name.

Model and actress Maria Eduarda spoke to Arab News about her stay: “Everything was great! The food, the room service, and in-villa dining were amazing … The structure inside the villa is amazing … I loved it — one of the best stops ever.”

Aseel Resort is a one-of-a-kind family experience that merges nature, heritage and luxury. (Supplied)

The resort features 63 one-to-four-bedroom water and beach villas, designed to blend in with the unspoiled natural environment. Guests can indulge in a lavish spa, swimming pools, a range of restaurants, and a retail area.

The Neyrah Spa offers relaxation with a touch of regional ingredients like oud and moringa peregrina tree oil. The wellness services include guided breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, and sound healing therapy.

The relaxing Nofa Riyadh features luxury villas complete with private gardens and swimming pools, surrounded by green lawns, sand dunes and mountains. (Supplied)

The on-site Conservation House is an ode to nomadic exploration, providing a space for guests to get creative, expand their knowledge, and foster a sense of community through resident sustainability, environmental, and cultural experts.

Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Ahsa

Boasting natural springs and lush greenery, Al-Ahsa Oasis is the perfect spot for a family getaway. Home to one of the biggest oases in the world and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the limestone hills of Al-Qarah and Al-Ahsa National Park are just a few of the attractions.

For those looking to discover Saudi’s regional flora and fauna, Shada mountain is just an hour and a half drive fromAl-Baha city in the Jabal Shada Nature Reserve. (SPA)

The historical region in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia is filled with potential recreational activities, including water fountain light shows, a football stadium, mazes, and a theater at King Abdullah Environment Park.

Asfar Lake, or Yellow Lake, is an unforgettable site from over the sand dunes, while Souq Al-Qaisariya is one of the oldest markets in the Kingdom for memorable souvenirs.

The Sharaan Nature Reserve spans 1,500 square kilometers, showcasing stunning red-rock canyons, valleys, and desert landscapes. (AN photo by Zaid Khashogji)

Jabal Shada, Baha

For those looking to discover Saudi Arabia’s regional flora and fauna, Jabal Shada is just an hour-and-a-half drive from Baha in the Jabal Shada Nature Reserve. Marked with unusual rock formations, the area is home to unique geological cave formations, reportedly dating back 763 million years and engraved with Thamudic writings and drawings that date back 3,000 years.

Tours are available to book through Akam Aljazerah’s website, and modern stays nearby are equipped with kitchens, balconies, and breathtaking views.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the gastronomic arts by enrolling in a cooking school to master healthy recipes and techniques. (Supplied)

Sharaan Nature Reserve, AlUla

Sharaan Nature Reserve spans 1,500 sq. km, showcasing stunning red-rock canyons, valleys, and desert landscapes.

Safari Sharaan’s guided 4x4 adventures allow guests to explore wildlife like red-necked ostriches and Arabian ibex, and discover ancient rock carvings.

Saudi Arabia has played a crucial role by establishing specialized breeding centers and veterinary facilities for the Arabian oryx. (SPA)

Guests can relax at Habitas AlUla, featuring Thuraya Wellness’ yoga, fitness, and personalized treatment offerings with local oils and teas, or stay in wellness-focused villas like Celestial and Alcove at Habitas.

The Banyan Tree’s tented villas and spa blend Asian and Saudi traditions for unique wellness experiences. Enjoy a secluded rock pool amid mountains, ideal for a refreshing swim and memorable moments.

Nofa Riyadh, Riyadh

The relaxing Nofa Riyadh features luxury villas complete with private gardens and swimming pools, surrounded by green lawns, sand dunes and mountains.

Dareen Al-Rajeh, a senior project associate, said about her stay there: “I liked how it was clean and comfortable with a generous welcome from the staff. The villa has a unique style with your own swimming pool … Walking around the resort, you will pass by a lot of animals, which makes you feel connected to nature … The resort has a spa, a children’s playground, multiple restaurants, and a small lake and boats.”

Guests are encouraged to experience nature on a whole new level at the resort’s incredible Wildlife Park where Asian elephants, Grevy’s zebras, Arabian oryx, and giraffes can be spotted.

Nofa’s on-site 39-seat theater is the place to unwind in style and enjoy daily movie screenings at your leisure or have a family competition at the Nofa Bowling Alley. Younger children can enjoy the Kids’ Adventure Park, an exciting indoor park with action-packed games and a playground.

Aseel Resort, Diriyah

Aseel Resort is a family experience that merges nature, heritage, and luxury. Nestled in the birthplace of the Kingdom, Diriyah, the resort was created as an ode to Saudi history and Najd’s beautiful artistry.

The resort allows anywhere from six to 75 guests, with six farms to choose from. Each one is decorated with ornate art by local creatives. Whether you take a dip in the farm’s private pool or enjoy game nights with your family at the indoor majlis, it’s a space to create lifetime memories.

Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea

Set against the dramatic backdrop of desert plains and the Hijaz Mountains, Six Senses Southern Dunes pays homage to Nabataean architectural heritage and its majestic desert surroundings.

The resort offers 36 guest rooms and 40 pool villas, while the spa offers a traditional hammam experience, meditative yoga sessions, and other tailored wellness treatments and.  

From Al-Sarab to Merkaz, Bariya, and beyond, the flavors of Saudi culinary heritage are endless, crafted with ingredients sourced from the chef’s garden or local suppliers.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the gastronomic arts by enrolling in a cooking school to master healthy recipes and techniques.

 


Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance in the Makkah region is distributing gifts to pilgrims departing the Kingdom after completing Hajj.

The gifts, which include 646,652 copies of the Qur’an and a translation of its meanings, are being distributed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the Jeddah Islamic Port and Taif International Airport, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The departing pilgrims thanked the Saudi government for the facilities and services provided to them, saying that the reception and farewell ceremonies are part of the Kingdom’s generosity to pilgrims and visitors.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, which began on Friday, concluded on Wednesday with more than 2 million Muslims taking part this year.