Oil & Gas Producers, Texas Leads the Way In Tackling Methane Emissions

Thu, June 10, 2021

Under almost every scenario of the future global energy mix, oil and natural gas will continue to power the world for at least another 50 years. As policymakers and global leaders aim to create a sustainable future amid tomorrow’s energy mix, oil and gas producers also understand the need for less carbon intensive fuels and are taking a long-term approach to emissions mitigation.

Though underreported and often met with unfair skepticism, the oil and gas industry has seriously committed to reducing emissions through voluntary actions, industry best practices and ongoing investment in greenhouse gas mitigation technologies.

Moreover, it’s Texas producers who are charting the path toward a cleaner energy future.

Formed in 2020 with the aim of reducing methane emissions from production and the entire value chain, the Texas Methane & Flaring Coalition boasts membership of more than 40 Texas operators and several trade organizations, including the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO). Since its formation, the coalition has pushed to elevate the industry standard– most recently, it aligned itself with the World Bank’s goal of reaching zero routine flaring by 2030. Similarly, ONE Future, comprising 37 energy companies, outlined a goal of reducing methane emissions to 1 percent or less by 2025 – a goal which its member companies, including Permian operators like Apache and Kinder Morgan, have already surpassed.

Beyond working with other producers, Texas operators are also working alongside environmental organizations and academic institutions on breakthrough technologies to meet climate goals. Currently, the University of Texas and Environmental Defense Fund are helping two of the largest Permian producers process large amounts of emissions data, verify its accuracy, and certify successful mitigation efforts through an ambitious collaboration called Project Astra.

The entire industry is putting serious money behind emissions reductions innovations; global oil and gas producers have invested more than $300 billion in greenhouse gas mitigation technology over the past 20 years. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil announced it would invest $3 billion over the next five years in carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. Occidental Petroleum, Chevron and BHP have invested more than $68 million in Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company innovating technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

Energy operators are also undertaking considerable efforts to monitor emissions across the supply chain.

GHGSat has partnered with both Shell and Exxon to monitor its production sites to ensure the accuracy of documented emissions, reduce methane leakage from equipment and calculate their overall carbon footprint. Chevron, Chesapeake Energy, Kinder Morgan and others have placed contracts with Project Canary, a real-time emissions monitoring program that will certify whether an operator has adopted best practices. “Eyes in the sky” don’t frighten the oil and gas industry; they are an important tool in the monitoring toolbox, along with ground sensors, drones and fixed-based sensors that help producers see and address emissions in operations.

Ultimately, the progress Texas producers have made thanks to their compounded efforts is remarkable. Methane intensity in the Permian Basin is down more than 70 percent in the last eight years. Nationally, methane emissions from U.S. energy production have declined 17 percent between 1990-2019, while oil and natural gas production has grown 66 and 96 percent, respectively. In 2019, the Permian’s flaring intensity was far below any other oil and gas producing nation, despite being one of the most prolific producing basins in the world.

Challenges still remain, but the industry’s efforts and collaborations are steadily delivering results. Texas producers are proactively responding to the growing desire from communities, policymakers, investors and consumers to produce energy cleaner and more responsibly. Emissions will always be a challenge, but it’s one that Texas’ oil and gas producers are already undertaking.

This op-ed, from Ed Longanecker, spokesperson for Texans for Natural Gas and president for Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO), originally appeared in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.