Fossil-fuelled future?

News in Brief

Despite the severity of the climate crisis, oil and gas companies around the world are still on a massive expansion course.

That’s the conclusion of the latest authoritative GOGEL survey of oil and gas exploration and development, in a report launched on 10 November at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt.

GOGEL (the Global Oil and Gas Exit List) is a public database maintained by 51 respected NGOs including Urgewald of Germany.

GOGEL monitors the activities of 901 companies responsible for 

95 percent of the world’s oil and gas production.

Most of these are ‘upstream’ – exploration and production companies who find fossil fuel deposits, drill wells, and extract oil and gas from underground.

Out of the 685 upstream companies on the GOGEL list, 655 (96 percent) have plans to expand their production or develop new resources.

According to the 2021 International Energy Agency (IEA) report, Net Zero by 2050: ‘No fossil fuel exploration is required in the NZE [net-zero emissions scenario] as no new oil and natural gas fields are required beyond those that have already been approved for development.’

Instead, the industry is still exploring for new oil and gas deposits and developing new fields on a large scale.

Since the last GOGEL update in 2021, the industry’s short-term expansion plans have increased by 20 percent.

‘The result of our calculations is really startling: 51.6 percent of the short-term expansion plans of oil and gas companies do not correspond to the net-zero emissions path of the IEA,’ says Fiona Hauke, senior oil and gas researcher at Urgewald. ‘To be able to meet the 1.5 degree limit, it is imperative that these oil and gas resources remain underground.’

According to the GOGEL monitoring group, 512 oil and gas companies are taking active steps to bring the equivalent of 230bn barrels of oil from undeveloped resources into production within the next one to seven years.

The extraction and burning of these resources will release about 115 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) into the atmosphere.

That’s 30 times the EU’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Even if the oil and gas industry were to hold off on these expansion plans, and held steady at its 2021 production level of 56bn barrels, this alone would exhaust the world’s remaining CO2e budget by 2039, according to GOGEL researchers.

GOGEL researchers warn that the planned construction of new fossil-fuel infrastructure with a lifespan of decades (such as the massive Trans-Sahara liquified natural gas pipeline) could lock the world into a high-emissions path for the long term.