Industry Group Leads Sustainability, Methane-Emission Reduction Effort

More than 60 producers participate in the program designed to reduce wellsite emissions.


An industry group representing US oil and natural gas producers released its first report 30 July, highlighting the success of industry efforts to cut methane emissions voluntarily. The Environmental Partnership, formed by producers and the American Petroleum Institute (API), reported results from three initiatives designed to enhance sustainability of daily oil and gas operations.

Membership in the partnership has grown from just more than 20 producers at its inception to 66 today. Included in the group are major operators such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Occidental, Anadarko, XTO, BP, Equinor, and Pioneer. “What our industry is focused on is not pledges from politicians but progress from this industry,” Mike Sommers, API chief executive officer, said during a conference call discussing the results. “The Environmental Partnership has demonstrated that progress has occurred.”

The report states that US methane emissions relative to total oil and gas production in basins throughout the country have fallen even as output has risen dramatically. The US currently leads the world in natural gas and oil production. In the prolific Permian Basin, for example, output doubled from 2011 to 2017 but methane emissions relative to production dropped nearly 40%. In the Eagle Ford, output rose 130% during the same period but methane emissions relative to production fell approximately 70%.

“Our industry is taking action to reduce methane emissions from our operations,” Sommers said. “Through innovative and action-oriented partnerships like this one, we will continue to take action to protect our environment and safely produce and deliver the energy consumers demand.  The Environmental Partnership places technological innovation; collaboration with academia, engineers, and manufacturers; and industry action at the heart of its mission, and we are proud of its tremendous progress and activity in its first year.”

The Environmental Partnership is focusing initially on three programs to enhance industry sustainability efforts. Companies participating in the program monitor operations and reported 2018 data to a partnership database. The three areas are

  • Implementing leak detection and repair. Operators conducted more than 156,000 surveys across more than 78,000 production sites. Only 0.16% of participant components were in need of repair, according to the report, and 99% of these were repaired within 60 days.
  • Replacing pneumatic controllers. More than 31,000 high-bleed pneumatic controllers were replaced, retrofitted, or removed from service after inspection. Currently, 38 of the participating companies said they no longer use high-bleed pneumatic controllers in operations because more-efficient and newer infrastructure has been put in place.
  • Increased monitoring. Companies monitored more than 132,000 manual liquids “unloading events” in 2018, which helped minimize emissions associated with the removal of liquids and increased the efficiency of each well, according to the report.

“This data collected from the Environmental Partnership, from the majority of the largest natural gas producers in the US, underscores the industry’s commitment to tracking our progress and ensuring that our work together is  reducing our emissions,” said Vanessa Ryan, senior adviser with Chevron and program chair for the partnership, who also spoke at the news conference.
The partnership does not have specific methane emission targets or goals because that could discourage smaller operators from participating in the program, said Matt Todd, the program director for the partnership.

But the partnership serves as a model that could be applied to other industry environmental initiatives. “(The partnership) has more than doubled in participant size, and this growth is a testament to industry’s commitment to its mission, its effective approach, valuable industry workshops, and information sharing and collaboration on technologies and techniques to reduce the industry’s environmental impacts,” he said.

The partnership conducted numerous workshops and meetings last year near the largest US natural gas basins. Participants learned about best practices and advanced technologies and collaborated with industry experts, regulators, researchers, and academics on the innovative ways to develop and manage their own environmental programs, the organization said in a news release.

Find the full report here.