The downstream oil sector can play a major role in helping the UK realise its net-zero climate ambitions, according to a report released by the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA).

The ‘Future Vision’ report outlines the opportunities across the sector – from the refinery to the forecourt – that can help companies decarbonise their operations, provide a new generation of low-carbon liquid fuels to consumers and ensure that the industry continues to be a major contributor to the UK economy.

Conclusions from the report include:

• by 2050 demand for liquid fuels will change, but they will still be needed;

• the fuels we use today could be made low-carbon on a lifecycle basis, efficiently using existing distribution infrastructure and without having to wait for a new car fleet;

• many opportunities exist for the downstream oil sector to work with other industries – particularly in industrial clusters – to achieve at-scale decarbonisation, especially thanks to energy efficiency improvements and new technologies such as carbon capture; and

• refineries of the future can be research and development hubs for low-carbon liquid fuels, which can help society realise its climate change ambitions as well as offering opportunity to increase exports of low-carbon products and expertise.

The report calls for a technology neutral investment climate that will further incentivise the downstream oil industry to make the changes to operate in a low-carbon world.

UKPIA director-general Stephen Marcos Jones said: “Achieving the enormously challenging targets of reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050, recently put into law by the UK Government, will require a complete transformation of the UK energy system.

“The downstream oil sector has a major opportunity to be an enabler for this transition to a low-carbon economy. However, it will require pragmatic and supportive policymaking to encourage companies to make the investments of time, personnel, capital and business leadership necessary to achieve these goals.”

Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA commented: “In terms of how petrol forecourts will change, we are already seeing the building blocks of the Forecourt of the Future. A diversifying transport energy mix is emerging, offering liquid fuels incorporating Bio fuels content, Ad blue for the latest diesel vehicles, electric vehicle charging and hydrogen.

“In addition to this, many PRA members are investing in building larger shops, cafes, car washes and differentiating their offer by supplying a range of services including Post Offices, butchers, Bakers and fresh food to go.

“The PRA supports the vision and urges the Government to work with our industry to meet the challenges of climate change. While protecting the substantial financial contribution the downstream oil sector contributes to UK GDP, it also safeguards the 120,000 direct and 300,000 indirect jobs the industry supports.”