Many of the largest oil and gas drillers operating in the US will voluntarily reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, even as the Trump administration takes steps to to roll back existing environmental regulations targeting those emissions.
Under a voluntary program announced by the American Petroleum Institute, beginning next year 26 companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, Anadarko and EOG Resources would begin implementing new standards that include employing advanced leak detection technology and replacing older equipment prone to leaks across their US operations.
“The industry is proactively doing something to enhance the improvements we’ve already made,” said Greg Guidry, executive vice president for unconventional production at Shell.”There’s no question by targeting the areas that joint industry and EPA studies have shown to be the most problematic for emissions, we can continue to improve.”
The announcement comes as governments in Europe and across much of the world clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to try and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, which scientists say is likely to cause oceans to rise and shifts in weather patterns.
President Donald Trump has bucked against that movement, announcing earlier this year he would pull the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, which was agreed to by almost every other country in the world. At the same time, his administration has worked to roll back climate change regulations put in place by former
President Barack Obama, including an EPA regulation that would force new oil and gas wells to take greater steps to control methane leaks.
Guidry said the voluntary program developed by API would go one step further than the EPA regulation, in that it would include not just new wells but existing wells – something the Obama administration was working on when Trump took office in January.
“There’s a heck of a lot more existing facilities,” he said. “Most companies today, when they’re building new facilities, are already using the latest technology.”
But the announcement did little to assuage criticism of the oil and gas industry for its longstanding fights against climate change regulation, which included fighting the Obama administration’s methane efforts.
“This is nothing but a cynical ploy for public goodwill as API continues to work with Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt to undermine the effective, commonsense methane safeguards that are required by law,” said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s anti-fossil fuel campaign. “This voluntary program falls far short of what is necessary to protect our communities and our climate from the dangers of methane pollution, and API knows it.”
For now at least, the impact of the program will be limited by participation. Even with big names like Exxon on board, the majority of US oil and gas production continues to come from companies that produce less than $5 million worth of oil and gas each year, a group largely absent from the list of names published by API.
Mark Berg, executive vice president of corporate operations at Pioneer Natural Resources, said the hope was this initial group would provide an example to other companies by publishing data on the program and sharing best practices.
“In the year ahead the environmental partnership will be working to build on this sold foundation,” he said. “There continues to be a tremendous amount of focus on methane emissions.”
This first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more click here.