Energy Exchange

Industry momentum builds for nationwide methane regulation

Oil and gas companies in the United States are the latest to add their voices to the broad set of stakeholders supporting federal regulation of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector. These companies have a major responsibility to reduce methane emissions, a key step in the energy transition. This week in Houston, at CERAWeek, Shell, ExxonMobil and BP took important steps to support nationwide direct methane regulation, with Shell urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to not deregulate methane emissions and to even tighten standards.

There is more opportunity than ever before to regulate and reduce emissions in ways that work for industry and the environment. As ExxonMobil wrote, federal methane regulation “helps build stakeholder confidence, and provides long-term certainty for industry planning and investment while achieving climate related goals.”

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EDF and ExxonMobil discuss technology and regulation to reduce methane emissions

Since 2017, ExxonMobil has expanded its U.S. methane leak detection program, committed to its first global methane target, supported methane monitoring technology innovation and encouraged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate methane emissions at new and existing sources. Although Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and ExxonMobil are not always aligned on certain important issues, the organizations are working together to understand and reduce methane emissions. Ben Ratner, senior director with EDF+Business, sat down with Matt Kolesar, regulatory manager at ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy affiliate, to discuss the company’s perspective on why methane is such a key issue for the industry and how technology and regulation can accelerate industry’s progress.

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One year after corporate methane advocacy commitments, serious doubts emerge

The credibility of recent industry methane commitments is under the microscope.

One year ago, many of the world’s top oil and gas companies publicly committed to support methane policies and regulations to reduce emissions from the global oil and gas industry. But today, serious doubts are emerging about whether the companies will keep their promise in the face of extreme regulatory rollbacks in the largest oil and gas producing nation in the world—the United States.

Companies with significant U.S. production—like BP, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, and Shell—committed to “advocate sound policy and regulations on methane emissions,” including working “constructively” with governments and others “in the development and implementation of effective methane abatement policies or regulations.” EDF, which worked with industry and others to develop the principles, welcomed the companies’ commitments. We noted that “done right, voluntary action is a way for leaders to raise the bar for industry’s performance, but fair competition and a healthy environment are not possible unless all companies meet the same basic standards that only sensible government regulation can achieve.” The five companies noted above have since joined others in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative in committing to a voluntary methane target. But government regulations are under threat, creating the imperative for an unequivocal industry response.

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What to watch for as methane targets become the new normal

Last October, the 10 CEOs of major oil and gas producers, including BP, China National Petroleum and Saudi Aramco, announced an aspiration to reach near zero methane emissions from their companies’ natural gas value chains. They pledged, as part of their participation in the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), to work together on a target that would deliver on this future by the time they reconvened for their next annual event.

Because that anniversary is right around the corner, it’s timely to revisit an analysis EDF released this year – with support from several leading investors and industry experts –that lends key criteria for companies to craft robust methane targets, and for stakeholders to evaluate them.

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Methane rollbacks create moment of truth for oil and gas executives

How top energy companies engage in the U.S. methane policy debate in the coming weeks may tell us a lot about the future of natural gas.

As these companies have themselves recognized, the role of natural gas in a world that can—and must—decarbonize depends on minimizing harmful emissions of methane from across oil and gas production and the natural gas value chain. But a recent comprehensive study involving dozens of leading academics and companies around the country found that U.S. methane emissions from industry are 60 percent higher than prior estimates—enough to double the climate impact of natural gas.

Such wasteful emissions leak away the potential climate benefits of natural gas, threatening the credibility of executives making the case to institutional investors and society that natural gas can meet what some industry leaders have deemed the “dual challenge” of meeting energy demand while reducing emissions.

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How the conversation changed at this year’s World Gas Conference

For years, conversations at major oil and gas industry conferences focused on one thing: the shale revolution. Excitement about the surge in economical new supply of unconventionally produced oil and gas was palpable, as panelists spoke of the potential for shale to transform everything from the geopolitics of American energy supply to the price of hydrocarbons. With such an unexpected and seismic change, a supply side story carried the day, with a focus on “below ground” drivers of energy abundance.

But today, the shale revolution is simply the new normal and the conversation has changed. “Above ground” factors like increasing competition from renewables, greenhouse gas emissions, and social license to operate will affect demand for natural gas for years. How industry confronts such challenges – both in the United States and internationally – will have a lot to do with industry’s longevity in putting resources to productive use in a changing world demanding cleaner energy.

At last week’s World Gas Conference in Washington, DC, difficult questions swirled about whether industry has done enough to earn society’s trust and prove natural gas has a constructive role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. The biggest buzz of all surrounded one key issue: methane emissions, a core strategic challenge for the oil and gas industry.

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