Innovation, collaboration and expertise: Irtiza Sayyed on Asia's low carbon energy potential

Innovation, collaboration and expertise. Those are the three elements shaping ExxonMobil’s approach to expanding low-carbon solutions for the Asia Pacific region.
Irtiza Sayyed

Irtiza Sayyed

Asia Pacific's Low Carbon Solutions president

We spoke to Irtiza Sayyed, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific’s Low Carbon Solutions president, to find out how these factors can help build a low carbon future for the region.

ExxonMobil is utilizing its innovation capabilities, low-carbon solutions expertise, and the ability to collaboratively develop solutions to help Asia’s energy transition.

Ahead of the Future Energy Asia Summit in Thailand, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Low Carbon Solutions president Irtiza Sayyed spoke about the trends impacting Asia’s energy sector, like potential growth in carbon capture and storage (CCS), the importance of collaboration among industry and government in creating enabling policies, and how ExxonMobil is working to help the region build a path forward with low carbon solutions.

Energy Factor (EF): With global exponential growth for low carbon solutions expected in the years ahead, what opportunities lie ahead for Asia Pacific?

Irtiza Sayyed (IS): Asia Pacific is a unique market. Around 50% of the world’s population lives in the region and GDP growth is projected to be the highest in the world over the next 20 years; the ingredients are all there for low-carbon solutions to really take hold and help reduce carbon emissions while meeting the growing energy demand, as long as the right policies are in place.

carbon capture and storage infographic explaining the capture, transport and subsequent storage of carbon emissions
How carbon capture and storage works

One of the biggest areas of opportunity in the emissions-reduction space is for carbon capture and storage, CCS. We believe Southeast Asia has the ability to offer CCS hub locations where millions, even billions, of tonnes of CO2 from multiple, heavy-emitting sources can be stored, permanently, right in this region.

We also see low-carbon fuels like hydrogen and ammonia able to replace higher emissions fuels like coal.

EF: How critical are CCS technologies and low-carbon fuels like hydrogen in advancing the energy transition in Asia Pacific? 

IS: One of the primary reasons ExxonMobil is focused on CCS, hydrogen and ammonia is that these technologies address issues of the hard-to-decarbonize sectors, like heavy industry – cement, and steelmaking, where the majority of global industrial emissions come from.

These industries require extremely high temperatures to manufacture their products, and the only way they can achieve these high temperatures is using hydrocarbons or nuclear power, and if we assume they’re more likely to use hydrocarbons, then only solution for decarbonization in these industries is either the use of CCS or hydrogen.

Carbon captured from these industries can be transported to locations where it would be permanently stored, safely reducing emissions before they enter the atmosphere.

When coupled with CCS, hydrogen could play a critical role in a low-carbon energy system and has huge potential when it comes to decarbonizing heavy-emitting sectors – like those that make steel and cement, which are difficult to electrify.

infographic identifying the Asia Pacific countries with carbon capture and storage activities in process

EF: With so many opportunities what are some of the challenges CCS faces in Asia Pacific?

IS: Asia Pacific is a very geographically diverse region with different levels of economic development. We have many unconnected landmasses, which means we’ll be reliant on utilizing shipping solutions. How we solve these geographic challenges in Asia Pacific will be very different to how it’s done in North America or Europe. We need to have bespoke approaches for the region.

When it comes to policy, many countries may look to the U.S., at policies such as the Inflation Reduction Act and associated taxes, but only parts of it can be replicated in this region.

The reality is such a structure won’t be as effective and constructive in encouraging policies in emerging markets, but we can put in place more bespoke, collaborative, and enabling policies that provide the right framework for CO2 to be stored in this region. Once in place they will allow for the flow of CO2 from emitters to sequestration locations and effectively connect that value chain.

EF:  What is needed to overcome these challenges and advance CCS and low-carbon technologies in Asia Pacific? And how will ExxonMobil help accelerate the path to decarbonization?

IS: One critical component is understanding the subsurface, understanding how pore spaces work. At our core, we’re a technology company that manages and transforms molecules at scale.  Our deep knowledge of reservoir characteristics and other subsurface expertise needed to design projects to inject CO2 underground safely, securely and permanently are going to be a unique advantage.

Also, CCS is not something new to us, we’ve been doing it for nearly 30 years. To date, of all man-made CO2 captured, nearly 40% has been captured by ExxonMobil. And over this time we have been further perfecting how to do that.

Image Working with industry, government, and academia in countries like Singapore is helping to accelerate lower-carbon solutions in APAC.
Working with industry, government, and academia in countries like Singapore is helping to accelerate lower-carbon solutions in APAC.

When it comes to regional CCS, we’re talking tens of millions of tonnes of CO2 that need to be captured and stored, which requires significant project management and execution capabilities. We have the expertise to bring technologies to scale and also the capability to build large, complex projects. And we’re ready to take a leadership position in decarbonizing the Asia Pacific region.

Another aspect is developing cross-border policy – bespoke policy – that works for Asia Pacific.  With extensive global experience, ExxonMobil has a unique advantage in that it can play a role in supporting policy development for accelerating integrated low-carbon value chains – from CCS to hydrogen solutions. We have taken a lot of global learnings and experience with policy – understanding what works, what doesn’t, and what’s required to make them work. We’re continuing to share our experience and learnings with governments as we work together to build decarbonization pathways for the region.

EF: What else is needed to support CCS and other low-carbon solutions in Asia Pacific?

IS: Collaboration is key to achieving decarbonization in Asia Pacific. There is that inter-dependency between nations in Asia Pacific that other regions don’t have, so that inter-dependency is going to be critical in understanding how to implement CCS and other low-carbon solutions, what we all need to do together to succeed, and the policies that can enable it.

Cross-country collaboration among governments, businesses and communities is required, especially at this early stage, to get things kick-started and to develop supportive policies, including frameworks for CO2 storage. Well-designed policies and regulatory frameworks are critical to enabling deployment of key technologies, such as CCS, hydrogen and ammonia, at the pace and scale required to support a low-carbon future.

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