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Adnoc, Emirates Global Aluminium and the outlook for net zero

An EGA employee looks out over its Al Taweelah facility in Abu Dhabi. The electricity used in aluminium smelting makes up 60% of its carbon footprint EGA
An EGA employee looks out over its Al Taweelah facility in Abu Dhabi. The electricity used in aluminium smelting makes up 60% of its carbon footprint
  • Sustainability chiefs interviewed
  • Adnoc ‘on track’ for 2045 target
  • EGA turns to green electricity

It is a tall order. The UAE is striving to develop its industrial capacity while also decarbonising in a world that needs a 40 percent-plus reduction in emissions by the end of the decade to avoid devastating climate change.

Two of the country’s biggest state-owned enterprises – Adnoc and Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) – are among its largest carbon emitters.

Both are betting on research and new technologies as they pursue their own net zero targets, their chief sustainability officers have told AGBI.

From 1965 to 2020 Adnoc was the world’s 13th largest carbon emitter, according to the Climate Accountability Institute. Its emissions from upstream operations – oil and gas production and processing – were about 24 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2022. 

But last July the national oil company brought forward its net zero emissions target to 2045 from 2050. 

“We believe that technology will enable us to achieve the sustainability target,” says Ibrahim Al Zu’bi, Adnoc’s chief sustainability officer.

In January it pledged to spend an extra $8 billion on decarbonisation projects by 2027, taking its total budget to $23 billion.



Adnoc is investing in carbon capture and storage and plans to have 10 million tonnes of annual capacity by 2030.

It has also dedicated part of the budget to renewables and is aiming for 100 gigawatts of clean energy capacity by the end of the decade, although this includes acquisitions by Masdar, in which Adnoc owns a stake.

Artificial intelligence is playing a role too. Adnoc has deployed more than 30 AI tools across its value chain and says they helped to reduce emissions by 1 million tonnes last year.

The company has committed to zero methane emissions by 2030 and Al Zu’bi says it is deploying satellites and UAE-made drones to detect leaks of the potent greenhouse gas.

It is also working to reduce the carbon intensity of its upstream operations by 25 percent from 2019. 

Adnoc’s Murban onshore crude has a carbon intensity of 7 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per barrel of oil equivalent, which is less than half the global average, according to Al Zu’bi.

Offshore, the company is working on a $3.8 billion scheme called Project Lightning, which will connect its operations to the electricity grid via subsea cables, reducing their carbon footprint.

“We are on track in our net zero journey,” says Al Zu’bi.

Aluminium and the energy transition

EGA’s journey looks a little different. It has committed to net zero emissions from its operations and supply chain by 2050, though it does not disclose the amounts it is investing to reach its target.

The company produces about 2.7 million tonnes of aluminium a year – one in every 25 tonnes of the metal made worldwide – and ships it to more than 50 countries. EGA aluminium is the biggest made-in-the-UAE export after oil and gas.

More than 60 percent of the aluminium industry’s emissions come from the electricity consumed during the smelting process, so EGA is seeking to minimise those emissions at its gas-powered power plants.

Workers install solar panels. Aluminium is a key component of photovoltaic cellsOriental Image via Reuters Connect
Workers install solar panels. Aluminium is a key component of photovoltaic cells

Salman Dawood Salman Abdulla, EGA’s vice president for ESG and sustainability, says its total emissions are 41 percent lower than the global industry average – and its smelting emissions are 94 percent lower.

It is phasing out gas-powered plants and has started using power from Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to produce aluminium with a 60 percent lower carbon footprint.

The amount of aluminium produced with solar power – about 60,000 tonnes in 2023 – is still small, however.

The metal itself is important for decarbonisation across the economy. Aluminium is used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. 

Moreover, “the metal is infinitely recyclable,” says Abdulla. An estimated 75 percent of all aluminium ever produced is still in circulation.

Carbon capture and storage is another area of interest. EGA has formed a partnership with the University of New South Wales in Australia to reduce emissions of perfluorocarbon, a byproduct of aluminium production that has thousands of times more global warming potential than CO2. 

It has also patented a new type of soil that uses bauxite residues – another manufacturing byproduct – and absorbs 10 times as much CO2 than normal soil.

“We still have a long way to go,” says Abdulla. “While green electricity is a question of choice, technologies to decarbonise refining and smelting don’t exist yet.”

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