As a nation, the United States produces a lot more oil and natural gas today than we did roughly a quarter-century ago, thanks to the hydraulic fracturing revolution. In 2016 we produced 71 percent more oil compared to 1990, and 48 percent more natural gas.
Those increases are extraordinary, especially considering decades of worries about dwindling domestic supplies.
Even more extraordinary is the improvement on the environmental front tied to that production. It turns out that as overall production has soared during that time period, total methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems have declined.
The EPA’s 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory recently showed that overall methane emissions from natural gas systems – everything from producing, processing, transporting and distributing gas – dropped 16 percent between 1990 and 2016.
Another way to look at it is that methane emissions per-unit-of-gas-produced actually fell by 44 percent – which is entirely a tribute to the industry’s efficiencies and improvements; we’re constantly looking to make our processes better.
The same applies in oil production. While overall methane emissions from petroleum systems dropped by a smaller amount over the 1990-2016 time period – about 3 percent, largely due to decreased venting and flaring at well sites – emissions per-barrel-of-oil-produced dropped by an astounding 43 percent.
And we’re not done. Last fall ExxonMobil offered detailed plans to cut methane emissions even further. We’re proud of the progress we have made so far, but we believe we can do more.