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Chris Ashton

06 November 2023

How does Worley position itself in relation to the global objective to reach net-zero emissions by 2050?

The path of Worley was marked by the acquisition it made in April 2019 of Jacobs’ Energy, Chemicals and Resource (ECR) division, which merged two complementary companies operating in the ECR sector—while our strength at Worley was Resources, Jacobs’ was Chemicals. After becoming CEO in early 2020, my aim was to bring these two organizations together by forming an operational platform with a simple yet transformational strategy. This strategy involved re-examining the ECR sector through the lens of sustainability with the following questions in mind: what is the sector going to look like in five to 20 years from now, as the world transitions to a low-carbon future? What other service offerings should Worley deliver or develop that would support our customers on their journey to a low carbon future? 

In August 2021, we announced $100-million investment service offerings for our customer-base. However, we must put this into perspective. There is an investment of $120 trillion needed between now and 2050 to reach global net-zero. The world is presently investing around $1 trillion a year, or a quarter of what is needed. Although there is variability depending on jurisdiction and industry, for us this realization is crucial since 80% of Worley’s customers have net-zero goals.

There are very few people who do not believe in the necessity of transitioning to a low carbon future. The source of the difficulty is not lack of agreement on the objective – the problem concerns the pace and scale of the transformation. It is time to make the shift from thinking in terms of plans and estimations to putting steel in the ground. What benefited Worley thus far is that we started early on in the transition, we have been bold and have moved quickly. As a result, we are now in a great position to help our customers who are moving along their own energy transition journeys.

What are the most promising projects that Worley is working on presently?

There are several areas where we have been gaining traction on, including battery materials processing, low carbon hydrogen, low carbon fuels—especially with regards to the aviation industry—and finally, carbon capture. The latter is an area that is crucial for the world’s net-zero future, since we need to both reduce the rate through which carbon gets into the atmosphere, as well as remove the carbon that is already in it. 


To exemplify, we are now collaborating with Occidental for delivering the world’s largest direct carbon capture facility in West Texas; in South Texas, we are working on a direct capture hub.


In Canada, we are designing ways to take CO2 strings, concentrate them, and redirect them into new chemical processes. We have a project in Malaysia, called Kasawari, which will be the world’s largest carbon capture facility. Additionally, we have projects in Oman and in the UK—all working on developing carbon solutions. We do not get involved in solar energy due to the simplicity of its processes. We focus on complex process technology challenges. When it comes to hydrogen, we are working with Shell’s facility in Rotterdam.

How can the transition towards net-zero be thought of in terms of economic benefits rather than costs? 

One must bear in mind that the technology cost curve always comes down. So, as we do more and more projects, we will move away from tailor-made and costly designs, to more standardized operations, with increased levels of data and digitalization, which will inevitably bring the cost down. 

The U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is there to kick-start the economics of the early phase of capital investment. And the U.S. is not the only country to facilitate investment through transformative public policy. The employment opportunity is vast, since these developments require building, rating and maintaining facilities. The supply chains, additionally, will be forced to transform. Accordingly, the necessary skills will be reconfigured. Finally, we must realize that economic value will be generated within the communities where these facilities will be embedded.

What is the main challenge the ECR industry should overcome?

There are players within the industry who wish to shut down gas and coal facilities tomorrow. There is no common and balanced narrative across the sector concerning the pace of change by which the transition will be executed without upsetting affordability or security. Due to the Ukraine War, for example, energy prices spiked because the security of supply chains was lost. So we need more cohesion as an industry.

What is your brief message of motivation?

We are embarking on a collaborative effort that will require us all to move in the same direction to deliver what the world needs - not only with the same objective in mind, but with a common pace and scale.

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