The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Reducing Methane Emissions as a Core Industry Value

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 28, 2018

When one speaker at the World Gas Conference talked about methane emissions from natural gas as the “elephant in the room” that industry isn’t talking about – I didn’t know what they were talking about! Everywhere at WGC2018, people are talking about reducing methane emissions.

That’s because natural gas and oil companies have been reducing emissions and are focused on continuing that progress in the future. No one is more focused on capturing methane – the key component in natural gas – than companies that sell natural gas.

But it’s more than a business priority. It’s right for the environment and improving air quality – which is everyone’s business.

A couple of key data points:

EPA cleanest air chart

That’s the backdrop for the recent launch of The Environmental Partnership – 43 companies committed to voluntarily advancing progress in reducing methane emissions from natural gas production through technologies, leak detection and improving processes. It’s a landmark partnership, one built on shared learning and information and collaboration to cut methane emissions.

As noted above, it feels like practically everyone at WGC2018 is talking about reducing methane emissions. ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods opened the conversation at the conference’s start, detailing industry’s “dual challenge” – delivering needed energy all over the world in a way that “safeguards our environment” and addresses climate change. Woods said natural gas is “a big part of the solution.”

The discussion was deepened during a panel discussion of strategies to address methane emissions. BP’s Bernard Looney called methane reduction the key to winning the argument for natural gas. He said increasing transparency is vital to winning. “If we win, gas will be a big part of the future,” Looney said, “a part gas deserves.”

Reduced Methane Panel

Technology advances will continue to make labor-intensive efforts to reduce emissions more efficient, including drones, data from satellites and spectral imaging devices that provide 24/7 on-site monitoring. “Technology is going to continue to evolve, and we need it to continue to evolve,” he said.

Shell’s Greg Guidry said his company said discipline, tightening technology and efficiency is critically important to continued methane reduction. Guidry said Shell is focused on the entire natural gas and oil value chain, leveraging capabilities industry already has.

Voluntary initiatives such as The Environmental Partnership are integral to progress, Guidry said, because regulation in many cases can’t match the speed of technology-driven changes in industry. The Partnership shares information and best practices to all members. Voluntary action by industry members can have a positive, “disproportionate impact,” he said. Industry supports smart and efficient regulation, yet there’s also a role for rapidly evolving conditions in the field. Guidry:

“I’m a firm believer that substantial improvement can be made.”

SouthWestern Energy’s Jennifer Stewart said methane reduction is more than technologies, inspections and programs:

“It’s culture and it’s leadership. We (SouthWestern) have a leadership that says reducing methane intensity is a core value.”

Indeed, as natural gas and oil companies look to the future and the benefits of abundant energy that can help societies meet great challenges, reducing emissions is a core value across all of industry.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.