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DRILL BELLA DRILL

The latest climate commitment from an oil company calls for more drilling

Eni oil field in Libya
Ismail Zetouni/Reuters
The Bouri oilfield, Libya’s biggest offshore field, is a joint venture with Italy’s Eni. Eni plans to increase its production of fossil fuels until 2025.
  • Tim McDonnell
By Tim McDonnell

Climate reporter

The latest climate commitment from a major oil and gas company was released on Feb. 28. It’s one of the most detailed to date—and it calls for another five years of ramping up fossil fuel production. 

Eni, a $40 billion Italian company that’s among the world’s largest oil and gas producers, announced an ambition to slash its carbon footprint 80% by 2050. The plan is unique among the slate of recent climate commitments from oil and gas companies in its level of near-term specificity—BP’s recent announcement, for example, was sparse on details and mostly aimed at the distant future in 2050. 

Eni’s, meanwhile, lays out the intermediate steps for reaching that goal, including shifting most of the company’s business from oil to lower-carbon natural gas, diversifying more from drilling into energy services like gas stations and electricity production, and investing billions in renewable energy. 

But first, the company plans a detour: Ramping up oil and gas production 3.5% per year until 2025, after which production will “plateau” for an unspecified period of time, and then start to drop off. A comprehensive strategy document shared with the company’s investors shows plans to open more than a dozen major new production sites in the next few years, mostly offshore gas wells in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. 

It’s not surprising that Eni plans to carry on drilling for now: The latest estimate from Bloomberg New Energy Finance doesn’t show a peak in global oil demand until 2030; BP’s most recent energy outlook projects growth in oil demand well into the 2030s. But Eni’s plan makes clear that business is still proceeding as usual.

“We were disappointed in Eni’s plan,” said Ben Ratner, a senior director at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It sends a mixed signal: ‘We care about the climate crisis, but in the short term the plan is just more oil and gas’.” 

But Andrew Logan, senior director for oil and gas with the investor advocacy nonprofit Ceres, lauded Eni’s decision to include so-called “scope 3” emissions, those created when customers burn the company’s fuel, in its 2050 target (BP’s scope 3 target dealt only with carbon intensity, or emissions per unit of production; Eni’s is for total net carbon emissions). And by committing to a near-term peak production year—especially one that will likely arrive before peak demand—Eni’s outlook sets a new bar for the industry’s climate aspirations, he said.

“While we welcome the long-term vision of carbon neutrality,” Logan said, “there’s an increasing focus from investors on the road map of where we need to get in the next three to seven years.”

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