A model to regulate oil and natural gas methane emissions was unveiled by ExxonMobil on Tuesday, as the supermajor urged the energy industry, stakeholders and policymakers to embrace a comprehensive overhaul to cut emissions from every phase of production.
The model regulatory framework, which precedes ExxonMobil’s annual analyst meeting scheduled for Thursday (March 5), comes as energy operators face increasing pressure from lenders and shareholders to engage in decarbonization by following environmental, social and governance standards.
“ExxonMobil has been applying the principles of this framework to our oil and natural gas operations for several years, resulting in improvements that demonstrate what’s practicable and achievable,” said CEO Darren Woods.
“We offer this blueprint to companies across our industry as they consider how to make improvements to reduce the sector’s methane emissions. Our industry has developed high-tech advances to curb emissions, and we also hope this framework will be helpful for governments as they develop new regulations.”
The new framework announced by ExxonMobil is based on the voluntary methane reduction program initiated by subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. in 2017. XTO’s program prioritizes replacing components with a high-leak potential at production sites, technology enhancements to infrastructure, and data gathering/research.
Since 2016, ExxonMobil estimated that it has reduced methane missions from its Lower 48 unconventional operations by 20% and is on track to reach a target of 15% in reductions across the global businesses.
XTO’s efforts include research conducted with ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. and third-party equipment manufacturers to develop state-of-the-art equipment to detect, quantify and reduce emissions at production sites.
To achieve “meaningful” cuts to methane emissions, ExxonMobil is advocating for regulations to include leak detection and repair programs across oil and gas infrastructure; minimization of venting; operational equipment controls; and recordkeeping/reporting to support enforcement.
ExxonMobil, which has been advocating for several years for a U.S. regulatory standard to manage methane emissions, said it plans to continue to work with stakeholders to develop and implement “cost-effective and reasonable methane-emission regulations.”
Among other things, the producer supports the Methane Guiding Principles to reduce emissions across the natural gas value chain, which were signed in 2017. Principles are being implemented in collaboration with stakeholders that include the Environmental Defense Fund, the International Energy Agency, the International Gas Union, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative Climate Investment Fund, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Sustainable Gas Institute, the Energy and Resources Institute and United Nations Environment.