ExxonMobil has announced a new programme to slash methane emissions from its production and midstream facilities across the US.
The programme will concentrate on sites operated by the super-major’s shale-oriented subsidiary XTO Energy. ExxonMobil did not specify the cost of the programme.
ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world, is facing extensive criticism and a major lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General claiming that the super-major misled investors and the public about the climate risks related to its business.
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas (GHG) than carbon dioxide (CO2). In the US, the oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions.
“We are implementing an enhanced leak detection and repair programme across our production and midstream sites to continually reduce methane emissions, and are also evaluating opportunities to upgrade facilities and improve efficiency at both current and future sites,” said XTO’s president, Sara Ortwein.
“Our comprehensive initiative is underscored by a technology research and testing effort, and includes personnel training, equipment phase-out and facility design improvements,” she added.
The programme includes a commitment to phasing out high-bleed pneumatic devices – often a major source of methane leaks – over three years, extensive personnel training, research and facility design improvements for new operations.
XTO recently completed a pilot project in Texas’ Midland Basin – part of the prolific Permian Basin. The pilot tested new low-emission designs, which use “compressed air instead of natural gas to operate pneumatic equipment that helps regulate conditions such as level, flow, pressure and temperature”.
The region is oil-rich but associated gas production is also booming as shale drillers continue to sharpen their focus on the Permian.
ExxonMobil said the results from the pilot had successfully demonstrated the feasibility of using similar designs for new and existing central tank batteries and satellites to reduce the potential for methane emissions.
XTO’s efforts also include research conducted with ExxonMobil Upstream Research and third-party equipment manufacturers to continue development of more efficient, state-of-the-art equipment to detect, quantify and reduce emissions at production sites. XTO already has over two dozen methane research projects and pilots under way.