When most people think of green energy supporters, fossil fuel companies rarely spring to mind. It is no secret that there is huge money in oil, and coupled with its complex role in international politics, few are surprised by the desire of energy companies to maintain the status quo. However, warnings regarding climate change and so-called “peak oil” have not fallen on deaf ears, and as a result at least one major oil and gas corporation is pursuing green energy projects.
Exxon Mobil, the largest of the world’s oil companies by a wide margin, revealed that it is dedicating at least $1 billion each year towards alternative energy projects. The massive pool of funding is shared among over a hundred different research and development projects, ranging from converting emissions into electricity to breeding synthetic algae that generate sustainable biofuels.
Vijay Swarup, the Vice President of Research and Development and Exxon, said that while there are a wide range of projects, the company is focusing on five to ten key areas in the world of eco-friendly technologies. Swarup said the company is focusing on scalable solutions that can be implemented on a global level, which is unsurprising given Exxon’s role as a major oil and gas supplier on the world’s six populated continents. The company isn’t alone in its efforts, either. Statoil ASA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and the France-based Total SA are running their own projects, but it is hard to imagine they will have the same potential for success as Exxon given the sheer quantity of resources they have access to.
Last year alone the company approached $200 billion in revenue, larger than Kuwait and Qatar’s economies combined. Beyond finances, Exxon has also forged several key partnerships to help fuel its projects in pursuit of green energy tech. The company has partnered with several smaller companies and 80 or so colleges and universities, tapping the academic community for scientific input. Vice President Swarup has stressed Exxon’s focus on scientific research in pursuit of its green energy goals, so participation with leading academics makes sense.
Exxon already has a number of interesting projects under way. In one partnership, they are working towards converting agricultural waste into biodiesel . In another, Exxon is working towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its process of refining crude oil into plastics, showing that the company isn’t just concerned with finding a replacement for oil, but also reducing emissions in the short term. Overall, Exxon’s large financial commitment and varied approach offers plenty of promise for the future of sustainable energy.