Williams, which owns one of the largest natural gas pipeline systems in the United States, said it joined forces with technology stalwart Microsoft Corp. to explore new ways to transform its energy infrastructure network as it pursues a net-zero emissions ambition.

Williams natural gas projects

“Williams is committed to helping our customers achieve their sustainability goals while meeting energy demand with the reliability of clean natural gas and renewable energy sources,” CEO Alan Armstrong said in announcing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Microsoft on Thursday.

“This alignment between two forward-looking companies” aims to demonstrate “the environmental and economic benefits that are possible when we work together to achieve reductions in carbon emissions,” Armstrong added.

Among an increasing number of companies across the energy sectors under pressure from investors to minimize pollution, Williams intends to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and move toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Tulsa-based midstream giant, which operates more than 30,000 miles of pipelines led by the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line, aims to achieve a 56% absolute reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 versus 2005 levels en route to its 2050 goal.

Williams said it signed the MOU to explore ways to transform one of the nation’s largest energy infrastructure networks through digital technology and innovation. The partnership expects to:

  • Develop plans for a hydrogen economy, renewable natural gas (RNG) products, carbon capture utilization and storage, and new energy storage possibilities.
  • Identify operational efficiencies through data-driven intelligence.
  • Evaluate ways for Williams to leverage Microsoft services to improve emissions monitoring and reporting.

Microsoft’s Darryl Willis, corporate vice president of energy, said part of the motivation for the pairing with Williams is to develop practices that could be adopted across the evolving energy sector. “Through digital transformation and a focus on a net zero carbon future, we will be able to unlock new business models and untapped value,” he said.

On the path toward its 2030 target, Williams is pursuing methane reduction opportunities through leak detection and repair, equipment upgrades and efficiency improvements at its work sites. The company also is active in RNG and solar energy, among other opportunities.

Williams delivers RNG by partnering with energy companies in several states to transport methane emissions captured from landfills or dairy farms where the methane is a byproduct of the waste decomposition process. The company also in 2020 launched a $400 million solar initiative on property adjacent to existing facilities in nine states. These facilities are expected to be in service later this year.