The American Petroleum Institute (API) and 26 natural gas and oil producers on Tuesday announced a partnership to accelerate improvements to environmental performance in their U.S. onshore operations, focusing initially on reducing methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Participating companies including BP plc, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp. and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. committed to begin implementing the voluntary program beginning Jan. 1. A report card on the program is scheduled to be released in 2019.
"This groundbreaking partnership further demonstrates the industry's leadership and commitment to responsibly developing America's energy resources while reducing emissions," said API CEO Jack Gerard. "U.S. methane emissions have fallen over the past decade as domestic natural gas and oil production has increased significantly due to the industry's technology innovation and efforts to increase efficiencies. The Environmental Partnership seeks to accelerate emissions reductions, and we're headed in the right direction."
The initiative targets areas that industry and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies have proven to be most problematic in terms of emissions, said Shell’s Greg Guidry, executive vice president of unconventionals.
"We can learn a lot from this voluntary program and the output that we generate by adopting some of these practices," he said. EPA rules cover only new facilities, while the partnership addresses both new and existing facilities, he said.
The partnership does not overlap with regulations that have already been put in place by EPA, according to API’s Erik Milito, upstream and industry operations group director.
"There might be some overlap with some of the state regulations, but we wanted to create a program that was flexible, allowing companies, whether they're in an area with regulation or in an area without regulation, to be able to implement and deploy these technologies."
The partnership plans to employ three separate environmental performance programs in an effort to meet its goal of reducing air emissions, including methane and VOCs including programs to:
Reduce leaks at gas and oil production sources;
Replace, remove or retrofit high-bleed pneumatic controllers; and
Manual liquids unloading for gas production sources.
Guidry first publicly outlined the program two months ago.
The announcement came just days after eight top global oil and gas producers committed to further reducing methane emissions from their natural gas assets. Six of those producers -- ExxonMobil (through its subsidiary, XTO Energy), BP, Shell, Norway's Statoil ASA, and France's Total SA -- have also signed on to the Environmental Partnership.
Other companies participating in the partnership are Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Apache Corp., BHP Billiton Ltd., Chesapeake Energy Corp., Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., Cimarex Energy Co., ConocoPhillps, CrownQuest, Devon Energy Corp., Encana Corp., EOG Resources Inc., Marathon Oil Corp., Murphy Oil Corp., Newfield Exploration Co., Noble Energy Corp., Occidental Petroleum Corp., Southwestern Energy Corp., and Anadarko subsidiary Western Gas Partners LP.
Environmental groups were unimpressed with the partnership's unveiling.
"This is nothing but a cynical ploy for public goodwill as API continues to work with Donald Trump and [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt to undermine the effective, commonsense methane safeguards that are required by law," said Sierra Club's Kelly Martin.