June 25–Leading U.S. energy companies Exxon Mobil, Chevron and more said Monday they’ve formed a new methane emissions consortium focused on reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
The new Collaboratory for Advancing Methane Science, nicknamed CAMS, will pursue focus on scientific research and solutions to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas drilling through the refining and petrochemical processes.
Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas that traps considerably more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, helping to accelerate climate change.
The announcement comes less than a week after a new academic research report found that U.S. oil and gas operations are releasing far more methane into the atmosphere than the federal government estimates, causing more harm to the environment and hurting the case for cleaner-burning natural gas as a bridge fuel to a carbon-free future.
The six-year study on methane found that annual emission rates from energy companies are about 60 percent higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports. The Environmental Defense Fund-led study was published in the prominent academic journal Science.
The new CAMS group will be managed by the Illinois-based Gas Technology Institute with the founding participants including Irving-based Exxon Mobil, California’s Chevron, Houston-based Cheniere Energy, Dallas-based Pioneer Natural Resources and Norway’sEquinor, which recently changed its name from Statoil.
“As a leading energy company, we are committed to continually reducing methane emissions,” said Sara Ortwein, president of Exxon Mobil’sU.S. shale subsidiary, XTO Energy. “The right partnerships are critical for success, and participating in CAMS will expand industry learning on solutions that can make a difference.”
Exxon Mobil said it already has reduced its U.S. onshore methane emissions by 9 percent since 2016.
Most of the previously unreported emissions come from infrequent malfunctions at oil and gas wells that release large amounts of methane into the air without detection for prolonged periods of time.
That means the emissions can be reduced or eliminated if companies invest more in methane sensing and capture technologies at oil and gas wells to prevent these leaks or, at least, quickly detect and fix them. The study argued that more stringent state and federal regulations are needed to require these extra measures.
Dramatically reducing methane emissions is considered critical to the energy industry, which is investing billions of dollars in natural gas production and liquefied natural gas processing as it faces tighter climate change rules around the world. Booming U.S. natural gas production is expected to surge by another 60 percent during the next 20 years, according the research firm IHS Markit.
Already, some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies are moving to curb methane emissions. For instance, Exxon Mobil, the nation’s largest natural gas producer, said last fall it would stem its methane emissions from its U.S. onshore activities. In May, it pledged a broader effort to reduce methane emissions by 15 percent worldwide by 2020.
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