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Saudi oil giant Aramco was found to be using Google Cloud for the “efficient” transportation of methane gas, which, when burned as fuel, becomes the primary source of carbon emissions, as reported by The Intercept on 17 February.
Google asserts that its joint venture with Saudi Aramco is environmentally friendly, but this assertion has drawn criticism and skepticism.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Thomas Kurian, head of the cloud computing division, denied all claims of greenwashing while simultaneously admitting to working with Big Oil “but to the environmentally clean or green parts of these companies.” He continued, “We have said repeatedly that we don’t work with the oil and gas division within Aramco.”
In a statement to The Intercept, Google Spokesperson Ted Ladd defended and further denied the collaboration, claiming it was helping Aramco “protect the ecosystem.”
“This is entirely consistent with the type of work Google Cloud does with energy companies — in this case, helping them track emissions and gas leaks to protect the environment,” Ladd said, adding, “We are not doing work in the exploration and production business with energy firms.”
Aramco’s so-called green energy narrative, which helped it grow to be a $6.7 trillion business, is frequently criticized by climate scientists.
According to a New York Times report, Aramco builds its credibility by reducing methane leaks and uses rhetoric to draw customers and keep the world interested in Saudi oil.
Saudi Aramco spent more on gas and oil projects than any other energy company, according to a 2022 report published by Oil Change International last year, as it battles for third place globally in oil and gas operations through 2025.
A now-deleted section on Google’s website from before 2019 detailed ways in which Google assisted firms like Aramco pump more oil, specifically Chevron, by using “Google’s AutoML Vision Al tools to parse Chevron’s vast data sets and revisit potential subsurface deposits that were previously passed over due to inconclusive or difficult to parse data.”
A 2020 Greenpeace investigation criticized Google for “helping Big Oil profit from climate destruction.”
Although Google later stated that it would no longer use custom AI for drilling, it is still a part of the energy and technology consortium known as Open Subsurface Data Universe, which uses data to improve oil and gas extraction.