The Bright Future of the Permian Basin: Setting the Gold Standard for Oil and Gas Production

Fri, June 02, 2023

Oil and gas naysayers have been quick to predict the end of the industry, but the reality is that the future of oil and gas is far from bleak. In fact, one shale basin stands out as a beacon of progress, and a as a testament to the promising future of oil and gas: the Permian Basin.

The history of the oil and gas industry has been one of constant transformation, evolution, and innovation, and the Permian Basin has exemplified this story like no other. Through this lens, the Permian Basin serves as the perfect backdrop for the next era of oil and gas production.

The current and projected production of oil and gas in the Permian Basin would have been considered unimaginable just a decade ago, but the region has enormous production potential, even after years of shattering previous production record. Despite previous declarations of "peak oil," the EIA now predicts that crude oil production in the Permian will reach a record high of 350,000 barrels per day in 2024. The ever-increasing activity in the Permian Basin is expected to contribute to the rise of U.S. natural gas production, with estimates reaching 42.1 trillion cubic feet by 2050.

The region is entering its next act, characterized by producers' unwavering efforts to minimize their environmental footprint. Significant strides have been made in reducing emissions associated with production in the Permian Basin. From 2011 to 2021, methane intensity in the region fell by over 76 percent, while flaring intensity decreased by more than 34 percent from 2020 to 2021. These impressive reductions extend beyond the Permian Basin, as the state of Texas reduced its flaring intensity by 60 percent in the same period.

In other words: Permian producers have been able to make significant strides in emissions reductions while simultaneously hitting unforeseen production numbers.

As Chevron CEO Mike Wirth noted in a recent interview with the Midland Reporter Telegram: “The Permian Basin has the lowest carbon oil and high security. It is absolutely needed and economic at a time when prices are creating pressure on economies and consumers, it’s lower carbon and secure.”

Despite the already remarkable progress, Permian producers continue to set ambitious emissions reduction targets. Apache, for instance, eliminated routine flaring in its onshore U.S. operations in 2021. In January of this year, ExxonMobil announced it would be halting all routine gas flaring in the Permian, and will begin launching satellites to track greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Chevron plans to minimize routine flaring by 2023 and eliminate it entirely by 2030. Pioneer Natural Resources has committed to ending routine flaring by 2025, five years ahead of their previous 2030 target. Occidental has set a goal to achieve net-zero emissions in their operations and energy use before 2040, along with eliminating routine flaring by 2030, and EOG Resources aims to achieve zero routine flaring by 2025.

To meet these impressive goals, industry leaders like Exxon and Diamondback Energy have made substantial operational investments to reduce their emissions footprint. For example, Exxon established the Center for Operations and Methane Emissions Tracking (COMET), a facility that monitors sensors across their operations in the Permian Basin 24/7. Meanwhile, Diamondback Energy invested $20 million in Verde Clean Fuels, a renewable energy company that specializes in capturing and transforming wasted natural gas from flaring into gasoline.

Collaboration will also play a crucial role in setting new industry standards and advancing emissions reductions in both Texas and the Permian Basin. The Texas Methane and Flaring Coalition has brought together operators committed to developing natural resources while improving environmental performance. And initiatives like the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 and Project Astra, which involve leading operators, environmental organizations, and academic institutions, aim to develop innovative technologies and methodologies for reducing methane emissions.

The Permian Basin's next act is a testament to the relentless dedication of producers to operate responsibly and achieve remarkable results. They are setting the gold standard for oil and gas production by embracing emissions reduction efforts, technological advancements, and efficient resource utilization. The Permian Basin serves as a shining example of how the industry can evolve and thrive in a changing world.