Billionaire Mukesh Ambani—who is a graduate in chemical engineering—is going back to his academic roots to turn his hydrocarbon and petrochemicals business to carbon neutral. According to sources, Reliance O2C Ltd is investing substantially in research in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology to meet the emission reduction targets set by Ambani.

Ambani, chairman and MD, Reliance Industries (RIL), recently announced an investment of ₹75,000 crore in its renewable energy business to achieve his dream of net-zero carbon emission by 2035. It will partially help RIL to offset the carbon emission from its 68MT petroleum refinery, adjacent petrochemical units and hydrocarbon assets in the KG basin. The Jamnagar manufacturing division is the world's largest refining hub.

"Since CCUS is in the evolving phase, the group is emphasising the importance of internal research. It will require substantial investments to achieve the target," said an executive. The idea of CCUS involves the capture of CO2 from large point sources at industrial facilities, which operate on fossil fuels or biomass energy. The CO2 can also be captured directly from the atmosphere. The captured CO2 will be compressed and transported by pipeline, ship, rail or truck.

It can be used in a range of applications or injected into deep geological formations—including depleted oil and gas reservoirs or saline formations. CO2 is injected to enhance the production of fuel-producing reservoirs as well as to revive the non-producing reservoirs.

To reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, RIL has initiated the transition from transportation fuels to chemical building blocks. The company will eventually reduce fuel production and switch to 70% output to chemicals. Besides, the high-value chemicals business enjoys a better margin than fuels.

The major focus areas of RIL in achieving the carbon targets include the transition from fossil fuels to renewable for captive energy demand and maximising the use of biofuels. RIL is maximising circularity—reduce, reuse, and recycle—across value chains. The company collects, sorts and recycles plastics as part of this exercise.

It has installed rooftop solar panels, conducted trials of co-firing biomass with coal and invested in alternative energy solutions such as fuel cells and biofuels. RIL reduces freshwater dependency through recycling and reusing of water. Treated effluents are reused in the cooling towers, for horticulture activities and in firewater networks. It has a huge desalination unit at the Jamnagar facility.

Ambani said, at the last annual general meeting (AGM), that he wanted to reduce CO2 emissions by adopting technologies to convert greenhouse gas into new products and chemicals. The refining-to-telecom major has made substantial progress on photosynthetic biological pathways to convert the CO2 emissions at Jamnagar into high-value proteins, nutraceuticals, advanced materials and fuels.

He also said that RIL was also developing next-gen carbon capture technologies. According to Ambani, they are also evaluating novel catalytic and electrochemical transformations to use CO2 as a feedstock.

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