ExxonMobil At The Crossroads | CNBC Documentary
i'll put in a flight plan we got a flight plan ready to go after five thousand accelerate mile and a half continue around more than a thousand feet long and anchored off the coast of south america this is the latest entrant in the global race to secure oil hope you enjoyed the flight it is a monstrous piece of equipment we've now been producing oiling gas for about 78 days it's operated by exxon mobil a globe-trotting behemoth that's changed the history of our planet for more than a hundred years the company's oil and gas have fueled our commutes taken our goods all over the world and been converted into chemicals that go into our everyday products this is what's used for your milk jug for my milkshake but now we're paying the price for our insatiable energy consumption we've been seeing the wildfires out in the western united states we see the consequences of climate change bearing down on us if we don't lean ourselves off fossil fuels if we don't fix climate change it will fix us exxonmobil has been seen by many as a ringleader of climate change denial they're the ones who knew back in the 70s and 80s that the burning of fossil fuels is going to affect the climate and in 2021 experienced a seismic event when it faced a shareholder rebellion we begin with some breaking news this hour on exxon activist firm engine one has obtained at least two board seats following a vote at exxon's shareholder meeting with unprecedented access to company executives workers and facilities well we could take you up there put a hard hat on you some gloves we'll take you where you want to go this is very light crude this would be another form of blue hydrogen i'm actually third generation exxon mobil we're examining whether exxon mobil is serious about lowering its carbon emissions you say you want to be a leader do you really think you are that exxon mobil is a leader in that area i think we will be absolutely and finding out whether its investors are willing to pay for a faster energy transition i'm talking to shareholders this week and you just don't get the mandate what would get you there these guys need to be punched in the face breaking news under attack but as events threaten the pivot gas prices are they're killing us we'll lower carbon future with calls for energy companies to keep pumping for the good of your country the good of the world to invest in immediate production exxon mobil and in some sense america itself stands at a crossroads [Music] three hours from the mexican border lies a land of paradox admired by naturalists for its scenic beauty and coveted by capitalists for the rich resources trapped deep beneath the surface it's known as the permian basin an area about the size of nebraska that stretches across west texas and southeast new mexico the permian once thought to be in decline has instead become the beating heart of american energy pumping out more than 40 percent of u.s oil and roughly 15 of america's natural gas this is our country's most productive geographic location yeah certainly that's that's true and certainly the permian gets a lot of the headlines bart care is a 28-year veteran of exxon mobil and president of its subsidiary xto energy he's in charge of developing the company's resources here including this massive processing plant on a route to turning this into an eight hundred thousand barrel a day asset eight hundred thousand barrels i wanna just start from it that is a huge amount of production i mean we're talking in the country we do around 10 11 million now a day is that yeah i think the us is around 12. but still as a percentage of overall daily production that's a pretty big number this asset provides us an opportunity to really demonstrate what we're about and the capabilities that are unique to us that we can bring to bear since it's still a work in progress the complex currently produces only a fraction of its potential but exxon says the facility is an essential part of the company's plan to multiply its output the permian in particular which obviously has been drilled for a hundred years now though was thought to be perhaps kind of on its last legs right yeah well a lot of the reservoirs and the permeable original conventional reservoirs were shallower and now we're developing the the shale or the the sandstones that were are considered unconventional extracting from unconventional reservoirs requires a process you've no doubt heard of called fracking we're gonna have more fracking more american energy crack baby frack while exxon didn't invent the process it's been working to improve the method which starts by drilling straight down to prevent hazardous leaks steel casings are added and cemented along the vertical shaft that runs about two miles deep then the well is curved and drilled horizontally two to four miles through a layer of rock often shale special equipment perforates the rock and a mixture of sand chemicals and water is pumped in to fracture it the sand keeps the cracks open allowing the oil and gas to escape the shale revolution which is founded on a combination of technologies has been a sea change for our industry exxon was actually late to the game buying its way into fracking at the end of 2009 by acquiring xto energy a deal valued at 41 billion dollars it's been widely criticized i think they overpaid exxon unfortunately made it just a very bad move the worst deal ever was when exxon bought xdo when natural gas was incredibly high and natural gas just hit an all-time low but exxon considers its permian operations a crown jewel fracking itself has fueled an astonishing turnaround story transforming a declining u.s fossil fuel
industry in the early 2000s into the world's top producer of natural gas and oil surpassing saudi arabia and russia not everyone has been cheering for the revolution as america's dominance in the oil and gas industry has been bubbling up so too have environmental concerns over the production and use of all fossil fuels seventy-five percent of the observed warming of the planet is due to burning coal gas and oil catherine hayhoe is the chief scientist for the nature conservancy and a professor at texas tech university she's something of a climate science ambassador appearing on late night television to get the message out and that's why the book's called saving us the planet will still be here the question is will we climate change is loading the weather dice against us it's taking naturally occurring weather events from heat waves and hurricanes to wildfires and droughts and it's making them stronger bigger and more dangerous but recently calls for a clean energy future have been drowned out by inflation russia's invasion of ukraine and the news of exxon's profits which soared to 23 billion dollars in 2021. exxon is the top performer reported the highest quarterly free cash flow in more than a decade with the prospect of much higher returns in 2022 the company has become a punching bag for some politicians exxon made more money than god this year one thing i want to say about the oil companies they're not drilling why aren't they drilling there are no switches that people can flip to bring production on the pressure to respond to the world's appetite for energy is a job that falls to this man exxon ceo darren woods an engineer by training the 30-year veteran of the company was thrust into the top position in 2017 after his predecessor rex tillerson was tapped to become u.s secretary of state my profound thanks to president trump the unflappable woods has faced the seemingly opposing priorities of increasing production and lowering the company's greenhouse gas emissions all while pleasing shareholders including some who may not favor aggressive spending to pursue a low-carbon future capital pushes back though i mean your shareholders may not want you to move that quickly you know they're happy you're watching enormous cash flows translate into share buybacks or dividend increases you know i don't know why the world has gotten to a point where it's kind of an either or equation the political dynamic that we see out there has kind of filtered into just about every aspect of our life it's either it's black or it's white it's you know it's wrong or it's right it's this or it's that frankly my view is we can do both woods says exxon mobil is taking climate change into account when it drills in the permian a journey down dusty back roads leads inside a sliver of exxon mobil's nearly 2 million acres here we're getting rare access to see how the company says it's making these operations more environmentally responsible and efficient this rig actually slides across and it walks back and forth so we can drill several wells in batches production manager enrique garcia who's been with the company 23 years explains that the process works like an assembly line how many wells conceivably will come off this rig so this particular pad will eventually have between 24 and 36 wells to reduce the company's carbon footprint some of the equipment producing fossil fuel here is no longer entirely powered by it this is part of the electrification effort that's correct we're taking power from the grid that's allowing us to drill these wells it's replaced how much in diesel fuel almost 10 million gallons of diesel across our fleet across the permit but it's got a ways to go right now only 40 percent of the power here comes from carbon neutral sources growing up in this region there's always been oil and gas to an extent 2018 2019 is really when you know you could see that this was an oil boom town kaylee shupe lives in carlsbad new mexico a city about 45 miles from where we met garcia she's become an activist trying to raise awareness about environmental concerns caused by the oil and gas industry we're not season activists but we are community members forced to take action by the impacts of living with oil and gas we like to inform the public what is the risk of living near an oil and gas site one of her concerns involves a highly explosive naturally occurring gas that is released during fracking methane it's so abundant it can be an engineering challenge to capture it all so it's often flared or burned so if you don't burn it all of that methane gets released into the atmosphere where it is more than 30 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide if you burn it it then releases carbon dioxide so it's kind of a lose-lose it's an invisible greenhouse gas that can also leak from facilities shupe has seen it with special equipment and that was just really harrowing to sit back and be like oh my gosh this is happening every day and no one's seeing it you can't see it you can't smell it you can't taste it and so out of sight out of mind mark brownstein of the environmental defense fund says for decades we've had no clear picture of how much methane the industry has been emitting his organization set out to change that when they would assert that they didn't have a methane emissions problem we said where's your data well there's there is no data it's all engineering calculations and so we started a set of peer-reviewed field studies which actually then showed us that in the united states for example emissions are sixty six zero percent higher in actuality than what's being reported to the federal government today by industry i give great credit to the environmental defense fund that we have very progressive research and high quality science matt kolasar exxon mobil's chief environmental scientist says the company has been making strides to reduce its methane emissions i think industry fell behind on getting some of that infrastructure in place to take the gas out of the basin we as a company set up a program now four years ago that said i will not start up this unit until i am sure i have the right infrastructure to get that gas to market and i don't have to flare it enter exxon's ambitious cowboy plant a sprawling complex that wrangles and separates oil and natural gas from roughly 400 wells in the facility's nerve center the barrel count quickly adds up what's it 143 000 barrels a day i'm seeing there that's bringing the cash register to two degree the company says now when a new site starts producing the gas along with the oil can be reliably captured sent to cowboy and sold out in the field exxon monitors methane with special gas imaging cameras overhead flights and new technologies at certain sites so we got sight sound sort of a digital smell we're trying all sorts of applications of technology surround the problems surround the problem and ultimately those sources are pretty easy to fix brownstein says it's only a start i'll know we're making progress when they can show me the field monitored data that shows that in fact yes their emissions have gone down and that they can show me year after year that that is in fact the case the company's commitment to lower its greenhouse gas emissions comes straight from the top darren woods thank you today we announced plans to achieve net zero emissions in our permian basin operations by 2030.
that means darren woods is promising the company will reduce its carbon footprint from its own operations and processing in the permian even as it's increasing production there but it has nothing to do with the emissions that come from burning the product it produces the critics would say well yeah okay but you're still producing taking carbon out of the ground and then it's going to be burned and go into the air and that's the real problem and that comes back to the demand equation and what alternatives people have to meet their needs you know until you have good solutions to address that demand those emissions will will be generated while exxon mobil's environmental efforts in the permian are noteworthy some fear the company is prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels and delaying progress of an essential shift towards sustainable renewable energy like wind and solar areas the oil giant is not pursuing exxon's a a challenging topic why well for over 30 years they really led or one of the leaders of the movement to deny climate science to obfuscate the facts recognize mr khanna who is the chairman of the subcommittee on the environment now congress is investigating big oil's role in what some call the climate change misinformation campaign it was a mistake it's a mistake i thought you would just say it's a mistake then and now have they really turned a corner are they going to say look we understand the climate's important and we're going to have a different attitude we're going to take accountability [Music] exxon mobil is a vast global organization of 63 000 employees on six continents but it was made in america pulitzer prize-winning journalist steve cole who wrote a seminal book on the company says its story is the story of oil they attract a lot of attention they did right from the beginning in the first part of the 20th century and i think for many americans they are big oil the first commercial oil well was drilled in 1859 a decade later a 30 year old john d rockefeller founded standard oil and in so doing created one of the biggest fortunes in american history john d rockefeller was a perfectionist he was ruthless absolutely determined to succeed in business by the 1880s rockefeller's company controlled 90 percent of domestic oil refining back then kerosene used for lighting was the money maker gasoline was a byproduct virtually useless it was thrown away if you go back to the very history of standard oil it was not obvious that that you know oil and petroleum was going to be the thing that powered the world economy rest of the economy built up around it as they innovated with the arrival of the automobile a car comes off the end of the line every 10 seconds a market for gasoline finally came of age the company grew so powerful that the supreme court ruled it was a monopoly the court ordered its breakup standard oil became 34 separate companies in 1926 the biggest descendant standard oil of new jersey created a new blend of fuel called esso the company expanded dramatically over the next decades in the u.s and overseas and in 1972 it changed its name ushering in the modern era of exxon then a crisis with a name that has become synonymous with environmental disaster the exxon valdez the worst oil spill in north american history the tanker the exxon valdez had just loaded more than a million barrels of alaskan crude the spill killed wildlife in greater numbers than previously reported after the valdez there was a sense that exxon needed to get its house in order the man assigned to that task was lee r raymond a chemical engineer by training he was appointed chairman and ceo in 1993. he was a man of enormous self-confidence and he was a believer in financial and and operating discipline above all else there is a lot of reflection on discipline and safety and in 1998 raymond engineered a more than 75 billion dollar merger with mobile creating the largest oil company in the world and reuniting the two largest descendants of the standard oil breakup the new company will be known as exxon mobil and will retain both strong brands at the close of the 20th century exxonmobil was one of the most valuable companies in the world but today its history and actions in the discussion around climate change have come under scrutiny did any of your executives at any point mislead the american public ro connam a democratic congressman from california chairs the house oversight subcommittee on the environment in the fall of 2021 kana helped launch high profile hearings we're going through all the documents because they've produced tremendous amount of documents to uncover what the big oil companies knew about climate change and when he cited a document written by exxon scientists back in the seventies exxon had a report that said quote there's general scientific agreement that most likely the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate change is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels but kana said that in 2002 lee raymond exxon's then ceo was still casting doubt on those conclusions he said quote there he does not believe quote that the science establishes the linkage between fossil fuels and warming i assume you would acknowledge that mr raymond's statement was a mistake and the company regrets it correct i think mr raymond's statement was consistent with the science i i don't even argue that mr mr woods i don't even want to argue that here's what disappointed me darren woods did not distance himself from a single comment that past exxon ceos or executives made but why does it matter why does it matter it was 20 years ago because it matters what the culture of that company is is the company going to still hunker down and do everything possible to make maximum profits without really tackling climate or have they really turned a corner have they really gotten some religion do you think you pay a price not throwing your predecessor overboard for lack of a better term or at least just somehow meeting the objections that some of these legislators have in terms of taking you as a really trusted partner i would say judge us on the work that we're doing and what we're doing going forward and we've got to focus on how we're going to address this problem we're doing work today and advancing very large scale projects on those needed technologies we're engaged with governments all around the world to reduce emissions while at the same time uh providing reliable and affordable energy which is so critical to people's standards of living all around the world darren woods has been facing pressure not just from politicians but from exxon's own shareholders first d e shaw a giant hedge fund got two new directors installed on the board in march of 2021. this after activists started to get involved d.e shaw which we've been reporting on for some time took a sizable position in the company during that same spring a little-known activist pushed the company to embrace the energy transition and mounted an audacious campaign to get four new members on exxon's 12-member board it appears that they have elected two shareholders have elected two of the dissidents candidates for that board and from what i understand a third director nominated from by engine one will actually join the board this is either the most appalling intrusion into a company's business imaginable on one side or it's about time something happened in the end the shareholders voted in three out of the four candidates exxon is nothing if not realistic and their uh experience of this proxy fight has surely gotten their attention they've got three people on their board who they didn't want to be there and so they've got to learn to you know navigate in a in a different kind of conversation change is good uh almost always and the change here happened you know faster than otherwise would have i think everybody's benefiting from a room that's got more new thinkers jeff uben a leading activist investor is the founder of inclusive capital partners which focuses on sustainable investing he was one of the two members who joined the exxon board due to the pressure from d.e
shaw it's a good board you've got an environmental activist in the room he kind of anchors the conversation over here and it makes other people like me look reasonable you know no but that that's what a board should have you know i'm curious about what you've learned about the oil and gas industry that may be different from your beliefs before you joined the board the only way we're going to fix a problem is to go into the problem you can't run away from the problem we can determine our future we can carve out our future because of this climate imperative since the changes in its boardroom exxon has made a number of announcements one of the biggest its ambition to make its global operations net zero by 2050. it was the last oil major to make the pledge of capturing or removing as much greenhouse gases as it emitted the fact that exxon is modeling net zero in is comfortable with its role in a zero carbon economy in 2050 that's one year change that's in one year we've done that that's fascinating right so i think it's roughly a year ago or so you you lost that proxy fight what if anything have you changed in terms of whether it's your transparency whether it's the way you communicate with shareholders as a result of that event yeah i think you've touched on two important ones for all these things all these challenges in our job is to learn from those and make sure that we're responding to why did we get the votes against us so you will see today we've become much more transparent so that people can get an idea of how we expect to manage this business as we move into this certain future you know the houston hub is a great example of that [Music] joe nice to see you thank you joe blomart was the first head of a new business at exxon called low carbon solutions should we go let's do it shortly before announcing his retirement blowmart showed us where the company is developing one of its biggest projects located around its massive baytown complex the houston hub is a proposed ccs or carbon capture and sequestration network and will include other industrial facilities in the area when you talk about carbon capture and sequestration and the project that you're beginning how does this fit in most of the facilities here david emit carbon dioxide and what carbon capture and sequestration does it captures that carbon dioxide prior to releasing it to the air and then it transported and deep underground sequestered that in a safe and secure manner this is actually an excellent location to do that and then in close proximity of the u.s gulf coast for instance where there is a unique storage amount of storage of co2 possible exxon mobil is moving forward as fast as i've seen them move which is pretty fast steve davis is a geologist and researcher affiliated with stanford university he was a 22-year veteran of exxon mobil who worked on ccs projects and left the company in 2020 he says the houston hub will be expensive for several reasons including the need for new infrastructure oil and gasoline pipelines are very low pressure systems relative to what we have to transport co2 so the existing pipeline system we have to the extent that we might hope to repurpose it to transport co2 is not going to work probably not co2 if it gets any exposure to water will react with water to create carbonic acid which is corrosive to steel for a spec built co2 pipeline that you're going to be looking at something around 300 000 per inch mile so that means for every inch in diameter that mile would cost 300 000 to build all of a sudden you're way up in the millions to 10 million dollars per mile for that pipeline you're talking multi-billion dollar projects huge the cost of these pipelines comes up a lot joe if we were to really do this nationally or internationally will be very expensive this is not new co2 is actually being used already for quite some time the industry understands how to transport co2 through a pipeline the corrosion aspects can be managed the use case for carbon capture is we just need to get that scale going like that once we get the scale going great things will happen we'll go down this cost curve edf's mark brownstein agrees that large-scale ccs projects are needed to lower carbon emissions but he doesn't see real progress on the houston hub it is in fact visionary so good for them okay but what's missing underneath that are any of the business plans any of the engineering plans i mean this is a company that does its homework i would say it's a mischaracterization we have done our homework and frankly we've announced a project in baytown which is a starter project for that hub and so we've got a project and works hydrogen carbon capture and storage reducing emissions at our site a viable project that's been advanced so it's real it's happening there's more work to be done no doubt about that but uh you know the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step and we're taking several first steps and one of the crucial pieces exxon says it needs is a price on carbon of at least one hundred dollars a ton that price may influence another project that exxon touts at its research and development facility in central new jersey the company is testing materials that could be made into something called biofuels b.j swarup is the vice president of r d welcome david to our biology lab we do a variety of things here we want to turn this and we won't put this into your tank we're going to turn this into jet fuel biologist kelsey mcnealy is looking into different organic materials from algae to wood chips so what did this come from originally though this was this was wood so this it was it started looking like that and i like to think about it basically as liquefied wood you basically just cook cook that sawdust under the right conditions and it liquefies and then we can upgrade that into a drop in fuel we want to understand down to the dna level what is actually going on in the biology so in this lab we have the ability to sequence dna you can tailor the biology to be able to get the products the feeds you want to make the fuels that society wants with the lower carbon intensity a lower carbon intensity because biofuel is potentially a carbon neutral fuel so we actually account for the carbon dioxide that plants pull out of the air and the energy that you have to put into farming those plants and then the energy to process and finally the emissions associated with using it as a fuel and carbon neutral basically just means that that accounting comes out as zero or close to zero they've talked for years for example about you know advanced biofuels and it's a great talking point and they're right we need sustainable aviation fuels if we're going to continue to be able to fly for pleasure or for business but how many years can you talk about your intention to develop them before after a while it begins to wear thin this is not a one company activity or endeavor it requires policy it requires market incentives as the policy gets put in place as the market contenders develop then you'll see us move into that space you're in a position right now given where oil prices are that you're generating massive amounts of cash flow cash flows could be deployed in any number of ways but your shareholders may just want you to buy back stock um how do you respond to sort of their desires when you think about what you need to do in terms of positioning the company for the future we've got a very long-term horizon we've been around for 135 years our expectations to be around for the next 135 years when we first started out we were we were basically making kerosene to replace well for lighting the electric light came on we went moving into gasoline we've moved into chemicals our company has been evolving since its inception and we will continue to do that if exxonmobil is trying to change direction the question remains how fast can it turn and to those critics of exxon mobil who say that their efforts are nothing more than green washing what do you say um could be you do think it could be the core business of exxonmobil is to produce and refine hydrocarbons and in order to move away from that would require a very large shift in just about the entire culture of the company could happen but it's going to be generational if you move too fast you leave a whole lot of the country and people in the world behind and so there's a very delicate balance a delicate balance especially when you have a global economy still powered largely by fossil fuels and when gas prices skyrocket across the nation prompting politicians to ask big oil to pump more the energy transition ends up taking a back seat to the need to find more oil for exxon one of those places is a tiny country south of the us mainland [Music] gas prices and airfare soaring oil and natural gas prices are spiking new record highs at the pump gas prices jumping five cents in a single day climate scientists have been warning for years the burning of fossil fuels has warmed our planet as the poles melt and glaciers retreat the seas are rising and threatening coastal cities like this one on the northeast coast of south america georgetown guyana according to climate research group climate central georgetown is one of nine global cities with areas that could be underwater by 2030.
we suffer greatly from the threats of climate change our coastline is below sea level where more than 85 percent of the population reside dr mohammed irfan ali is guyana's president he's leading a desperate race to keep the nation's capital area where most of the country's roughly 800 000 people live from literally being washed away so we have been continuously investing in adaptation and mitigation to build the sea walls the dykes to ensure that we protect our land and yet this ecologically pristine country 85 covered in lush forests and staring down the barrel of a changing climate is on the verge of a radical transformation guyana is about to become a major oil producer [Music] massive oil fields off the coast promise to deliver immense riches to a country in which more than 40 percent of the population lives on less than six dollars a day for decades guyana invited companies to search for oil and gas believed to be under its seabed one of those was exxon mobil multiple wells were drilled here in the 60s through the early 2000s with no success and we saw something that others didn't see and many others looked liam allen is president of upstream operations over nearly four decades in the industry he's gone to the ends of the earth in the hunt for oil how many countries have you worked in china malaysia australia nigeria the us scotland england i haven't probably traveled to every country on the planet but damn near i would assume that over that 38 years the way you go about doing what you just described has changed a bit when i started deep water which we will see here in guyana was considered to be two to three hundred meters to be able to develop today it's two to three thousand meters that's nearly two miles the technology to drill this deep has brought previously inaccessible fields all across the globe within reach bringing in fresh supplies of oil exxon estimates guyana has nearly 11 billion barrels but getting added still isn't easy or cheap you can get a sense of just how remote that oil is by taking a trek to see exxon's offshore operations 120 miles more than an hour by helicopter straight out into the open ocean floats one of exxon's fpsos or floating production storage and offloading vessels viewed from above it emerges like a hundred thousand ton steel mirage in the otherwise empty ocean this one is called the lisa unity we're sitting in about a mile depth of water so we're floating here we have mooring lines that connect us to the sea floor travis townsend is the lisa unity's asset manager he's been with the company since 2006. what is actually happening with all of this equipment we bring up a co-mingled stream from the reservoir and within that we essentially separate the oil to put onto the tankers to sell around the world we separate the gas that we recompress and eject in their reservoir at 340 meters long roughly the length of three us football fields the fpso has the capacity to hold up to 2 million barrels of oil which it offloads to tankers for transport at the moment we're about half production capacity of the facility and we've got more wells to bring on and get us up to full production what is full production capacity for this facility yes so we usually reference about kbd and that's usually an average for the year but on any given day we can go as high as 230 and just depending on some of the conditions we can actually even go a little higher than that 230 000 barrels a day correct this is a 24 7 operation manned by a staff of up to 120 people from 19 countries working 28 day shifts on board are many of the comforts of home it's almost easy to forget what's happening outside and below as our flow lines come from here down to the sea floor and go out to our drill centers some of our flow lines are about 11 kilometers long the wells can then from the sea floor be up to seven kilometers below the sea floor so that oil is traveling a long way it is though it has junior partners here the american oil company hesse and china own sea nook exxon mobil is the lead operator it is a massive investment depending on the flight plan for home an offshore operation that also requires an enormous amount of support on shore alistair rutledge is exxon mobil's lead country manager in guyana before the end of the decade we anticipate that we'll reach a million barrels a day of production which is a major headline for more than one barrel for every person who lives in the country yes it's hugely significant exxon says that at a million barrels a day guyana will be one of the top 20 producing spots in the world since 2015 more than 11 of the conventional oil discovered in the world has been found right here it's an oil windfall that has made this tiny country one of the fastest growing economies on the planet and raised hopes for a desperately needed wave of prosperity [Music] but not all that glitters is black gold journalist steve cole says that a sudden influx of oil wealth can bring what some call a resource curse doesn't end up funding development and it doesn't create a cycle of investment and indigenous growth that you would associate with the transformation of poor countries to wealthy countries president ali says that won't happen here oil and gas gives us this excellent opportunity to advance the development of guyana the transformation of guyana the human transformation the social transformation economic transformation not everyone in guyana sees this as an opportunity activist shirlena nagir spent 20 years living in the u.s and holds a master's degree in public health from emory university you know i think it's it's it's really backwards thinking to think that you know oil and fossil fuels is the way to go in 2022 with all that we know all these signs is clear if you had your way so to speak or you were able to dictate policy would you have all oil development stop yes you would yes nagir believes exxon's local subsidiary esso is causing environmental harm she's suing her country's own epa over offshore flaring specific to guyana though what things have you done differently to sort of address emissions in a way that you might not have previously with this development well first of all you know all of our developments you know are designed to have zero routine flaring we had an early issue on the first boat with it with a compressor which we hope to have resolved here in the coming months completely second boat is on basically zero flare and future developments uh will continue to have zero routine flaring so it's really the whole industry and the extractive nature of it it's destructive in the long term and the negatives in the long term outweigh whatever positives might be reaped in the short term you know am i in the minority in guyana maybe is that shifting in the rest of the world i think so i think the scientific consensus is pretty clear about you know extractive industries and oil and fossil fuels and climate change so i feel like i'm part of that majority najir is one of many who question whether guyana in a time of climate crisis should be developing oil at all it's an argument president ali rejects out of hand we face issue food security when we had a coven 19 pandemic we had to struggle to get vaccines those are our circumstances every single day and we have an opportunity to change that and we're not going to lose that opportunity in changing that [Music] in a country on the front line of climate change many of those who are already feeling its effects are willing to accept the double-edged sword of oil development [Music] 51 year old johnny rafiq ali is a third generation fisherman who lives 24 miles east of georgetown but fishing here isn't what it used to be whether because of climate change or overfishing ollie isn't catching what he used to well it gets more tough now it's tougher now everything is double the price and the catch is smaller ali says if this continues he may have to get out of the fishing business and yet despite all that he welcomes the oil development as a little baby as a little boy i heard that the country will not move forward today they are saying we hit the jackpot with the oil and now we're going to see changes do you think about that at all balance between what you're doing and how much it helps this country and the fact that it is sort of in one of those zones that makes it endangered as a result of climate change so as you say it creates an interesting juxtaposition between a country that's always been net negative carbon it's sequestered more carbon than has been produced its entire existence and here comes this opportunity for the country to participate and to get a leg up in the world to accelerate the development but even as exxon mobil provides some of that development it must contend with those demanding guyana be protected from climate change from the permian to guyana and other places in between exxonmobil's profit engine still relies on the oil and gas it pumps out of the ground and refines but it also earns billions of dollars from one of its less well-known businesses chemicals just outside corpus christi the company's newest chemical plant rises from the marshy flats of the texas gulf coast it opened in early 2022 taking in natural gas from just down the proverbial road the feed from the permian is is what drives this plant so you got a price advantage you got transportation advantage so that's a huge piece of the equation here and so is there a pipeline coming directly here from the from the fermi area yeah to get a sense of the size and scope of the place unfortunately we can't get up there i'll put a hard hat on you some gloves we'll take you where you want to go all right you need to go up for a bird's-eye view [Music] does the ceo of a plant like this what are you looking for if anything what's sort of catching your eyes important when i do a plant visit i'll walk out and talk to the operators doing a job i mean one of the critical factors to successfully managing safety is making sure people keep their head in the game the whole time and then it gives me a chance to talk to people who are doing real work and at the end of the day this is where the money's made this plant spread over a thousand acres is a joint venture between exxon and the saudi company sabic people sometimes forget i mean chemicals i think was 7.8
billion dollars in earnings last year for exxon mobil that's it was a good year last year was a yeah people forget too you know they think about us as being an energy company in fact you know we are one of the largest chemical companies in the world [Music] one of the chemicals polyethylene that exxon produces here is used in making plastic and demand is skyrocketing hello at exxon's giant baytown complex engineer adriana silva shows off the lab where different polyethylenes are researched so these are product technology labs tested and made is this what we start with here what are we looking at we make powder that's what comes out of our reactor this is polyethylene powder to use on a lot of the equipment you see here we need this finished form we need pellets we go from this here where we add additives that we need for performance typically and then we make these little beads like a chef with a recipe she changes the additives to make these basic building blocks of plastic so you design for a lot of different characteristics do different things this is polyethylene and now run your hand through this one it even sounds different oh yeah look at that so this is what's used for your milk jug for my milk and for if you buy cereal for the cereal liner the bag yeah this is what's inside that cereal bag that you use to glue it closed okay and one of the major differences between this material and this material it's only the density and basically the crystallinity the pellets can be made into plastic films that you see at your local supermarket this is one of the films that is put together with other films to make something like your stand-up pouch it needs to be able to stand up hold the liquid and all that something that is designed to hold meat and cheese you need different materials to give you more what we call barrier barrier to oxygen barrier to moisture and surprisingly these materials are allowing exxon to cash in on the exploding popularity of electric vehicles karen mckee who oversees the chemical business explains how that's possible for an electric vehicle the amount of plastic that you want to put into that vehicle is much higher because you've got to overcome rolling resistance and so in order to get that battery to to give you the longest um distance between recharges you've got to get the weight down you've got to get the weight down you've also got to get the this is a bizarre thing but you've actually got to have much better sound proofing in your vehicle because today you've got the engine noise it's kind of a white noise that takes out all the bumps of the road and all of that that's all gone electric vehicle so you need much better sound barrier protection plastics and and other polymers are solutions to that in an ironic twist exxon's chemical business is benefiting from the rise of evs even as gasoline sales are threatened by it how confident are you in terms of understanding the use of electric vehicles in this world what that's going to look like in terms of the ramp up and therefore the reduction potentially in gasoline products as a result we did some work very early on they said let's just make the assumption that ultimately every car in the world that's sold is electric and that ultimately i think we got to by 2040 that every vehicle in the world is electric and so you don't have gasoline cells and frankly at the time that we did that we projected oil demand would be what it was back in 2013 2014 time frame we were pretty successful business in 2013 and 2014. so our our view was look that will that change will come at some pace but that's not going to make or break this this business or this industry quite frankly it seems hard to imagine in a way darren that you can sit here and tell me exxon mobil is not going to really take a hit so to speak from a vast reduction in the use of gasoline on the planet if you look going forward where the the demand for oil what's driving the growth in demand for oil is into chemical products which play a really important role in people's lives today consumers are propelling that demand in 2021 more than 3 billion packages were shipped during the holiday season alone a lot of them encased in plastic a rising tide that edf's mark brownstein says the oil and gas industry often markets as a solution instead of a problem one of the ways in which you know the industry continues to create obfuscation is kind of like these all or nothing choices well you're either going to have all sorts of plastics or you're going to have no plastics that's not what anyone is saying i think plastics will continue to play an important role in our economy they help lightweight vehicles they help lightweight ships they help lightweight aircraft they okay they can they can and will play a role the question is is are we going to continue to live in a world where everyone gets their chinese food in a plastic container and throws it out at the end of the at the end of the meal okay single-use plastics not a sustainable behavior with less than 10 percent of the world's discarded plastic currently being recycled there are increasing calls for more scrutiny of the industry's role in the plastic pollution crisis i want you to respond to that and to those who believe that exxon mobil is part of the so-called plastic problem obviously we have a huge waste problem in the world you know there is a challenge in that space that needs to be addressed and we're trying to work constructively to address the plastic waste problem while you look at addressing the plastic waste problem you also have to keep in keep in mind in consideration the benefits that plastic bring to society society's life the standards of living i mean think about the medical equipment or any medical procedure you have today the role that plastics play in today's uh health care system so you've got to kind of consider that and then address how do you deal with the plastic waste system and and how do you make sure that that plastic that's used is bringing benefit then gets recycled and brought back into the product and we're frankly we're doing a lot of work in that space and we think again technology is going to help solve that problem the technology exxon is working on is called advanced recycling which the company says breaks used plastic down to its molecular components but that project is still in development is the company 20 or 30 years from now going to be relying on carbon capture and sequestration and advanced recycling and things of this nature as a key part of its profit engine absolutely where do we deliver our competitive advantages and competencies carbon capture and sequestration is a great example advanced recycling is a great example wind we're not seeing that as obvious you know others participate in that space and they you know i i'm really happy that they do and i'm really really happy that i get to sell chemicals into the into their businesses and and we will also work on the parts of the energy transition that we are much more capable of delivering shareholder value in right now exxon is keeping its shareholders happy raking in 23 billion dollars in profits in two thousand twenty one yet over the next six years it's only investing an average of two and a half billion annually on lowering greenhouse gas emissions board member jeff evan blames shareholders for keeping the company from spending more on the energy transition you just don't get the mandate you don't what would change the conversation that you're having with those shareholders neurolagger goes underwater palm beach is gone i mean i i'm i'm i'm not i'm serious these guys need to be punched in the face this is these are money guys that you know they have all right you're not making me feel optimistic though no no you've got to find the the angle of attack so to speak that gives you an advantage that allows you to generate a return while meeting these other objectives that's been the journey we've been on that's been the work that i've done for the five years here in reshaping the organization because i recognize i got to do both i don't have the luxury of picking this or that and when you don't have that luxury necessity is the mother of invention so find a way to do both and i come back to how are we going to do that rely on these advantages that we've developed over the past 100 plus years the current management has a lot to prove you seem to still want to have an open mind in terms of whether they are a real partner so to speak the energy transition is a truly an all hands on deck moment particularly that because we don't have huge amounts of time i'm willing to work with just about anybody who demonstrates that they're sincerely engaged in wanting to solve this problem do we want to lead the transition and do we want to speculate for lack of a better word on carbon on the carbon economy or do we want to wait for it to happen that is the conversation we have for four five six times a year you know we used to always say within exxon mobil that we're a technology company i have every hope technology will unlock additional opportunities both in the oil and gas space as well as other spaces i would tell you that the investments we're making now in low-carbon solutions are generating returns and they're making significant reductions and uh co2 emissions so i'm right now the work that we're doing now that portfolio of projects that we've got today are going to do that they're going to lower emissions and we're going to generate returns so i'm going to satisfy both my shareholders and my stakeholders they're going to have to change their business and if they can find a way to change their business and really commit to it they'll be able to communicate about that and people will listen [Music]