EnergyNewsSupply ChainsSustainability

Viewpoint: ExxonMobil is building a low-carbon business

Are big players in oil industry sincere or cynical?

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

Change is afoot in the energy industry, but in the oil and gas industry especially.

President Joe Biden is hosting the Leaders Summit on Climate this Thursday and Friday. The event will bring together 40 world leaders to “underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action.”

In a related development, ExxonMobil is forming a new business unit to commercialize its portfolio of low-carbon technologies. In a press release issued Feb. 1, the company said, “The new business, ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, will initially focus on carbon capture and storage, one of the critical technologies required to achieve net zero emissions and the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.”

Furthermore, on Monday, the Financial Times reported that ExxonMobil is pitching a plan that it says “could attract $100bn in investment if the Biden administration put a price on the greenhouse gas.”

Will the oil majors dominate renewables too?

According to the Feb. 1 release, ExxonMobil has more than 30 years of experience developing carbon capture and storage technology. The company claims to be the first to have captured carbon dioxide “equivalent to the emissions of more than 25 million cars for one year.”

According to an article published by WorldOil on Jan. 26 and based on a survey of more than 1000 senior oil and gas professionals, two-thirds of those professionals say “their organization is actively adapting to a less carbon-intensive energy mix in 2021, up from just 44% in 2018. Some 57% plan to increase investment in renewables, up from 44% last year; about half expect to increase investment in green or decarbonized gas.”

At the same time, the International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Review 2021 reports that “Global energy-related CO2 emissions are heading for their second-largest annual increase ever.” It adds that demand for all fossil fuels is growing significantly, with demand for coal increasing more than demand for all renewables combined by 60%. The increase in demand for coal is concentrated in Asia, specifically in China — which is expected to account for 50% of global growth. Demand for coal is also increasing in Europe and the United States.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that the United Mine Workers of America will accept Biden’s plan to move away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy if that transition provides jobs to replace those that are lost. The statement was made by Cecil Roberts, president of the union, in an appearance with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The United Mine Workers of America is the largest union of coal miners in the U.S. 

What will energy supply chains look like in the future: Will the oil majors make the transition to become dominant producers of renewable energy and other climate change technology, or will new entrants supplant them?

According to an article published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis on Tuesday, a new bill in Colorado will require the state’s employee retirement fund to divest itself of investments in fossil fuels within a year of the bill’s passage. This is part of a trend of large investors divesting away from fossil fuels and into other investment sectors because fossil fuels no longer offer the potential for returns that they once did. 

In the not-too-distant future, will we see a situation in which fossil fuel companies make money from their traditional fossil fuel value chains but then also make money by selling carbon capture and storage solutions to their customers and to the public? Could a trucking company expect to have to pay ExxonMobil to capture enough carbon dioxide to offset the trucking company’s total emissions from its fleet? 

What do you think? Is this a sincere effort by the oil majors to become part of finding a solution to the climate crisis, or is this a cynical ploy to buy themselves more time to keep operating in business-as-usual mode?

If you are a team working on innovations that you believe have the potential to significantly refashion global supply chains we’d love to tell your story in FreightWaves. I am easy to reach on LinkedIn and Twitter. Alternatively, you can reach out to any member of the editorial team at FreightWaves at

Author’s disclosure: I am not an investor in any early-stage startups mentioned in this article, either personally or through REFASHIOND Ventures. I have no other financial relationship with any entities mentioned in this article.

Brian Aoaeh

Brian Laung Aoaeh writes about the reinvention of global supply chains, from the perspective of an early-stage technology venture capitalist. He is the co-founder of REFASHIOND Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund that is being built to invest in startups creating innovations to refashion global supply chain networks. He is also the co-founder of The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation (The New York Supply Chain Meetup). His background covers the gamut from scientific research, data and statistical analysis, corporate development and investing for a single-family office, and then building an early stage venture fund from scratch - immediately prior to REFASHIOND. Brian holds an MBA in General Management, with a specialization in Financial Instruments and Markets, from NYU’s Stern School of Business. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics & Physics from Connecticut College. Brian is a charter holding member of the CFA Institute. He is also an adjunct professor of operations management in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation at the New York University School of Engineering.