By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

It is no secret that the oil and gas industry still has a lot of work to do on the public relations front.

Commercials that have aired on U.S. television stations promoting the benefits that the industry brings to daily lives have been a positive. Some of the industry’s largest companies, along with associations representing the industry, have touted the importance of technology, the growth and benefits of natural gas and the industry’s efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiates and encourage young people to pursue careers in such areas. This should be applauded.

But campaigns, including one that pushes to keep oil and gas in the ground, are still garnering attention. While speaking Feb. 23 during IHS CERAWeek in Houston, Ali al-Naimi, minister of petroleum and mineral resources for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, pointed out the real problem. It’s been said before, but it is worth repeating: the problem is not with fossil fuels, which everyone relies on whether in the form of plastics, other products or fueling vehicles or powering electronics. The problem is with harmful emissions.

“The answer is not to leave the world’s greatest, most plentiful and economic energy resource in the ground. The solution is to work on technology that minimizes, and ultimately eradicates, harmful emissions,” al-Naimi said. “Some don’t accept this view, but I have faith in technology. It is already happening on a small scale and over the decades, the world has made progress, but much more work and collaboration is required.”

Among the efforts to lower emissions is Saudi Aramco’s carbon capture and EOR pilot project. As part of the pilot project, the company said it will capture 40 million standard cubic feet per day of CO2 at the Hawiyah NGL plant and then transport it via an 85-km pipeline to the Uthmaniyah Field. Here, it will be injected under high pressure to enhance oil recovery.

Similar efforts are also underway in the U.S., where in 2014 NRG Energy marked the ceremonial groundbreaking for its $1 billion Petro Nova project. NRG’s WA Parish plant in Fort Bend County, Texas, is being retrofitted to funnel captured CO2 to Hilcorp Energy-operated West Ranch oil field in Vanderbilt, Texas, where it will be used for EOR. The project is a joint venture between NRG and Japan’s JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration.

Petro Nova CO2-EOR Concept Could Expand To Other Areas

“Saudi Arabia, the United States, Europe and many other nations are built on energy from fossil fuels. The products derived from oil are essential parts of our daily lives,” al-Naimi said. “As an industry, we should be celebrating that fact, and better explaining the vital importance of these precious natural resources. We should not be apologizing. And we must not ignore the misguided campaign to ‘keep it in the ground’ and hope it will go away.

“For too long the oil industry has been portrayed as the Dark Side, but it is not. It is a force, yes, but a force for good,” al-Naimi said.

But that does not necessarily mean that fossil fuels are the only solution. Renewable energy can and should have a vital role in meeting the world’s current and future energy needs.

“I am a big supporter of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar. For Saudi Arabia and Texas, solar will be a great source of energy for future generations,” al-Naimi said. “But I believe a mix of sources is the best and most secure way forward.”

Velda Addison can be reached at