Call to halt oil and gas expansion or miss climate target

There are new warnings that the increase in new oil and gas projects are now in danger or pushing the aim of limiting global warming out of reach.

A new report has warned that there has been a fourfold increase in new oil and gas fields to pushing the world’s climate further from the 1.5°C pathway.

US NGO Global Energy Monitor found that globally last year, oil and gas producers sanctioned and discovered the equivalent of all the proven oil reserves in Europe.

It added they aim to quadruple the amount sanctioned by the end of the decade, despite scientific consensus that any new field developments are incompatible with scenarios to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C.

Data in the Global Oil and Gas Extraction Tracker show at least 20 fields reached final investment decision in 2023, sanctioning the extraction of eight billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe). By the end of the decade, companies are aiming to sanction nearly four times that amount — 31.2 billion boe across 64 additional fields. In addition, 19 new fields containing roughly 7.7 boe were discovered in 2023.

The report finds that, since the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a warning in 2021 that no new oil and gas fields were needed to stay within a 1.5°C scenario, oil and gas producers sanctioned a total of at least 16 billion boe across 45 projects and discovered at least 20.3 billion boe across 50 projects.

“Despite this contradiction, the oil and gas industry remains steadfast in its plans to continue developing new fields, as the majority of the top producing countries anticipate increasing their production through the end of the decade,” it added.

South America and Africa are global hotspots for new oil and gas projects, while four countries that previously had little to no production — Cyprus, Guyana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe — account for over a third of the volumes producers are hoping to exploit.

The report warned that that many countries have been quick to seek to justify the new projects.

“Some amount of oil and gas production is still included in the IEA’s NZE (for hydrogen and petrochemicals),” the outlook stated. “However, this amount of production is quite small, and as recognition increases that most proposed projects cannot be justified, many different approaches to justify continued exploration and extraction are taking shape as each producer wants that last bit of production to be their production.

“Therefore, a myriad of arguments are being put forth, such as lowering costs, ensuring diversity of supply, reducing emissions, and fostering economic development. While Norway, the US, and the UAE have justified their continued extraction based on low production emissions, other arguments abound.

“For example, when Rosebank was approved and reached FID in 2023, the UK government welcomed the decision, with a minister saying it makes sense to approve new projects allowing for ‘greater energy independence, making us more secure against tyrants like (Vladimir) Putin’.

“In the United States, senator Lisa Murkowski supported ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil field, arguing that the Alaskan oil and gas industry has a ‘better environmental track record’, and not approving the project ‘impoverish[es] Alaska Natives and blame them for changes in the climate that they did not cause’.

“Similarly, the Africa Energy Chamber (AEC) urged ‘African countries to reject any and all anti-fossil fuel policy that may arise’ at COP28, arguing, among other things, that doing so would be ‘abandoning any chances of economic growth’.

“The IEA examined the trade-offs of these cases and aims to find a middle ground between them. It concludes that ‘increases in one part of the world must be matched by faster declines elsewhere’. In all cases, the IEA warns that any new projects are likely to face major commercial risks.”

Scott Zimmerman, project manager for the Global Oil and Gas Extraction Tracker, said, “Oil and gas producers have given all kinds of reasons for continuing to discover and develop new fields, but none of these hold water. The science is clear: No new oil and gas fields, or the planet gets pushed past what it can handle.”

Data in the Global Oil and Gas Extraction Tracker show at least 20 fields reached final investment decision in 2023, sanctioning the extraction of eight billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe). By the end of the decade, companies are aiming to sanction nearly four times that amount — 31.2 billion boe across 64 additional fields.

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