Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exxon Vows to Cut Methane Leaks from U.S. Shale Oil and Gas Operations

Environmentalists say Exxon's move demonstrates that the entire industry can stop methane emissions that are contributing to climate change.

Exxon subsidiary XTO announced steps to cut methane emissions from oil and gas drilling through better technology. (Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
ExxonMobil said on Monday that it would take a series of steps to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from its U.S. onshore oil and gas production.  The measures will include upgrading equipment and finding and repairing leaks.

The announcement comes as the Trump administration is working to postpone and review federal rules that would require similar steps across the industry.  Oil and gas trade groups sued to block those rules, saying they were too costly.  Now, some environmentalists say Exxon's move undermines that argument.

"At a time when there are some companies making the argument that the sky is going to fall if they're required to take sensible action to reduce methane emissions, you have the nation's largest oil and gas producer simply moving ahead," said Mark Brownstein, vice president for climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund.

"It begins to send a signal to both others in industry and frankly the policymakers that these sorts of things are doable," he said.

Exxon didn't disclose how many tons of methane emissions its voluntary measures might prevent.  But Brownstein said that based on Exxon's announcement, the steps could go even farther than the federal rules require, because they would apply to both new and existing facilities on private lands as well as public lands.
Better Technology, Fewer Emissions
In its announcement, Exxon said that over three years it would phase out the use of "high-bleed" valves, which regulate pressure in equipment by venting gas to the atmosphere, at its subsidiary XTO Energy, which operates its shale and other unconventional drilling.  It also said it would develop new technology to better detect leaks and expand training and the sharing of best practices.

Exxon made no mention of climate change in the announcement and did not give a reason for the moves beyond characterizing them as an expansion of its existing program to reduce emissions "as a matter of safety and environmental responsibility."  XTO Energy President Sara Ortwein wrote that the decision to reduce methane emissions followed years of research and testing.

Brownstein, whose group has worked with Exxon to study methane emissions, said it's in the company's long-term interest to limit emissions.

Read more at Exxon Vows to Cut Methane Leaks from U.S. Shale Oil and Gas Operations

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