Lukoil suggests reducing CO2 emissions through forestry

The European Union is seriously concerned about carbon emissions. Last week, it unveiled legislation binding the bloc to lower emissions to “net-zero” by 2050. The idea is to reduce emissions as much as possible and make up for the rest of CO2 by sucking it out of the atmosphere. Russia, which has formally joined the Paris Agreement in September, believes its vast forest areas are “a crucial factor in this effort”.

Russia’s vast forests and marshes may play an important role in decarbonisation efforts, says EURACTIV citing Lukoil’s energy outlook for 2035. The report presented last week in Brussels pays attention to climate considerations with a particular focus on how future emissions could be abated through forestry. With current climate policies and existing fuel-efficiency programmes, the demand for liquid hydrocarbons will continue to grow until 2035, the outlook predicts. However, the peak demand for liquid hydrocarbons may occur before 2030 in case of additional environmental restrictions.

The oil major is looking at the gradual transformation from an oil company to an integrated energy company, said Lukoil’s vice-president for strategic development Leonid Fedun pointing out that the company is now number one in Russia for hydropower generation.

Lukoil’s “climate” scenario that meets the Paris Agreement goal assumes active use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies and an increase in the scale of reforestation. Forest cover is currently stable in Russia, but the scenario expects it to start increasing significantly in 2025 through reforestation. Net neutrality can be reached around 2065, with around 28 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions made up for by CCUS and forestry, which will take an equal amount of carbon out of the atmosphere, the outlook reads.

According to Fedun, afforestation is an important area for reducing CO2 emissions. The company intends to plant 33 million Paulownia trees in the Lower Volga flood plain in order to pull 1 million tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. “Planting paulownia trees near our Volgograd refinery would capture up to 30t/ha of CO2 per year and produce valuable wood, feed and biofuels,” he said adding that there was scepticism about this topic in the EU.

Carlos Calvo Ambel from European environmental campaign group Transport & Environment agreed that the forestry vision could play a role in the climate solution but added that the company should shift more toward alternative fuels earlier. “Oil majors potentially have the main role to play in decarbonising transport, but they have to take it seriously,” he said. “We can’t be choosing between planting trees and reducing emissions,” claimed Calvo Ambel. According to last year’s report by Carbon Tracker think tank, oil companies need to reduce their output by up to 50% by 2040 to protect shareholder value.

“Any new investment should go into renewables and energy efficiency,” considers Finnish Member of the European Parliament Ville Niinistö. “Now we need to make a big programme of development into renewables, energy efficiency and new forms of sustainable fuels like hydrogen and biofuels. This is a big shift they have to do, and still a lot of the investment is going in the wrong direction,” he said.

By Anna Litvina

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