Moving forward on methane - Energy Factor
Perspectives blog

Moving forward on methane

Sara Ortwein - 09/25/2017

Today ExxonMobil and the subsidiary I lead – XTO Energy Inc. – announced an enhanced program to further reduce methane emissions from our oil and natural gas operations across the United States.

It’s worth noting that the oil and gas industry has made tremendous strides in recent years. As natural gas production has soared 50 percent from 1990 to 2015 (thanks to the shale revolution), total methane emissions from the natural gas industry actually fell by a substantial amount.

That’s extraordinary, a testament to our industry’s relentless efforts to improve operations.

But we’re not satisfied. We know we can always improve. And the program we announced today shows how we plan to do so.

One highlight of this enhanced program is a voluntary phase-out of high-bleed pneumatic equipment across all our operations. These devices control valves and other equipment at a well site.

We will also continue to focus on leak-detection, operational training, and improvements in facility designs. In particular, we’re looking forward to applying this approach to our planned expansion in the Permian Basin in New Mexico and West Texas.

You’ll note I keep using the word “enhanced” as opposed to “new.” Our long track record in managing methane emissions includes a mix of voluntary and applicable regulatory actions, as well as collaboration with academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and government agencies. Today’s announcement builds on that work.

What lights the path on this journey to reducing methane emissions? Research. Advanced research and testing will drive further innovations to help us make adjustments, introduce new and better equipment, and continue to improve how we design facilities.

That’s why we’ve worked closely over the years with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Harvard, Stanford, third-party equipment manufacturers, and others to gather knowledge and improve processes. All told, we’re involved in more than two dozen methane and methane emissions reduction research projects and studies.

We’re fortunate to have a world-class research organization in-house – ExxonMobil’s Upstream Research Company – to take the knowledge from these collaborations and apply it to developing new technologies. In fact, before coming to XTO, I served as president of the Upstream Research Company, so this work is very personal to me.

Today’s announcement is a milestone on the journey I mentioned above. I look forward to giving more updates down the road.

Sara Ortwein is president of XTO Energy.

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