Dec 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Oil giant Occidental is betting on becoming a "carbon management company"

Illustration of an oil barrel seen double in psychedelic colors.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of America's biggest oil producers, Occidental Petroleum, has a new term to describe how it hopes to evolve in response to climate change.

What they're saying: “Ultimately, I don’t know how many years from now, Occidental becomes a carbon management company and our oil and gas would be a support business unit for the management of that carbon," Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub told IHS Markit's Daniel Yergin in an interview.

Why it matters: It's arguably the most concrete example of how one U.S. oil company plans to — eventually — transform as the world moves to cleaner energy.

The intrigue: Occidental is betting on CO2 capture tech, which it uses now to extract oil from the ground, to stay in the oil business by offsetting those emissions.

  • European oil companies are pursuing a different path by investing in technologies outside the core oil and gas space, like renewables and electricity.

Driving the news: Occidental last month set a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its operations to net-zero by 2040. 

  • In a report this week, the Texas-based producer said it has a 2050 goal of zeroing out virtually all emissions associated with its fuels, including end-use products.

Yes, but: The vague “I don’t know how many years from now,” indicates Occidental’s shift will be very (very) slow. And don't forget that last year it paid tens of billions to buy rival producer Anadarko.

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