Emission management

Exxon Begins Process To Certify Emissions Efforts in the Permian Basin

Amid investor pressure, ExxonMobil taps its Poker Lake facility in New Mexico as the company’s first for natural-gas certification.

Exxon Mobil Headquater in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Credit: Zodebala/Getty Images.

ExxonMobil has signed an agreement with independent, nonprofit validator MiQ to begin the certification process for natural gas produced at its Permian Basin facilities at Poker Lake, New Mexico. The purpose of the certification is to validate the company’s efforts to reduce methane emissions from its upstream operations amid pressure from investors and environmentalists, including activist hedge fund Engine No. 1, which won three seats on Exxon’s board earlier this year.

MiQ, a partnership between RMI, formerly the Rocky Mountain Institute, and global sustainability consultancy SYSTEMIQ, will assess and certify approximately 200 MMcf of natural gas per day from Poker Lake, and Exxon said the certified natural gas could be available to customers by the fourth quarter of 2021.

ExxonMobil selected Poker Lake for its first certification site because of the wide range of technology solutions already in place, scale advantages, proximity to nearby markets, and growth potential as production in New Mexico increases.

The company has expanded its use of aerial light detection and ranging imaging and Scientific Aviation’s Systematic Observations of Facility Intermittent Emissions, or SOOFIE, methane detection technologies in the region and is evaluating additional next-generation applications, including satellites and artificial intelligence, as part of its ongoing initiatives to find smarter and faster ways to detect and mitigate emissions.

MiQ has signed deals similar to the one with ExxonMobil with US shale producers Chesapeake Energy and Northeast Natural Energy. It developed and maintains its MiQ Standard, a framework that assesses and grades methane intensity, enhanced monitoring technology deployment, and operating practices that promote a culture of emissions management and continuous improvement. An MiQ-accredited independent auditor performs the assessment, and MiQ issues tradeable certificates based on the grade achieved.

ExxonMobil said it is considering expanding its certification to include other Permian Basin fields and shale production areas, including Appalachia and Haynesville. The company previously announced plans to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its operations by 2025, compared with 2016 levels. The plans include a 15–20% reduction in greenhouse-gas intensity of upstream operations. The reductions will be supported by a 40–50% reduction in methane intensity and a 35–45% reduction in flaring intensity. The company has said it aims for industry-leading greenhouse-gas performance across its businesses by 2030.