Exxon Halts Routine Gas Flaring in the Permian, Wants Others To Follow

The company plans to launch a satellite to monitor and curb leaks and seeks tougher regulations to "level the playing field."

Source: Illustration by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

ExxonMobil said it has stopped routine flaring of natural gas from production in the top US shale basin and will press for stronger regulations for rivals to do the same, company officials said in an interview.

The largest US oil producer is battling lawsuits that accuse it and other oil companies of contributing to global warming and rising sea levels. At the same time, it has moved to cut its own emissions and supported government efforts to crack down on oil and gas operators to find and fix gas leaks.

Exxon said its embrace of tighter methane regulation is designed to put oil and gas producers on equal footing. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas.

"It levels the playing field," Exxon's chief environmental scientist Matt Kolesar said in an interview. "We need strong regulations so it doesn't matter who owns the facility" or where they operate around the world.

Burning less gas during production is an easy way to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increase gas production, according to consultants Rystad Energy.

Still, Exxon remains opposed to making oil companies responsible for emissions from the use of products sold to consumers. Some oil companies such as Europeans Shell and BP have included emissions by customers in their 2050 net-zero targets.

Exxon counters that focusing on methane, which can be up to 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is a better route to slowing climate change.

"It is by far the most cost effective" decarbonization strategy available in the industry, Kolesar said.

As a next step, Exxon plans to launch a satellite to begin track greenhouse gas emissions in the Permian by year-end, the first of 24 satellites to be deployed globally in the next three years in association with climate monitoring firm Scepter, said David Scott, Exxon's general manager in the basin.

Some changes to its production in the Permian have been minor, such as adding a small compressor to push natural gas to a pipeline. Those costs are more than offset by the value of the gas sold, Scott said.

Exxon is allocating $17 billion through 2027 to lower its greenhouse gas emissions globally. The money will primarily go toward reducing emissions from oil, gas, and chemicals production, including burying CO2 underground.

Read the full story here.