Oil and gas industry leaders in New Mexico’s Permian Basin said they were taking steps to curb air pollution amid tighter regulations from the State of New Mexico and potentially the federal government.
Three of the region’s largest oil and gas producers, Devon Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources and ConocoPhillips announced they were joining an international consortium of companies and government agencies intending to reduce the impacts of air pollution from fossil fuel development.
The Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) 2.0 is made up of energy companies, environmental groups and is supported by the governments of Norway and United Kingdom.
It is intended to see the energy industry collaborate to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, contending the industry could reduce such pollution by 70 million metric tons of methane– the equivalent climate impact of 6 gigatons of carbon dioxide – through better reporting, detection and use of new technologies.
A gigaton is equivalent to 1 million metric tons.
“There are many options for companies to reduce vented emissions, such as electrifying sites or capturing vented gas for fuel use,” read a statement from the partnership’s website.
“Critically, companies should not just address active leaks but also consider the root causes of emissions to identify and address potential sources of high emissions in the future.”
Member companies will adopt emission reporting standards defined by the initiative, per a news release, and receive guidance and suggested practices from other members to reduce their impact on air pollution.
ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said the company hoped, through the initiative, to eliminate its overall emissions from operations around the world by about 2050.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, is an important priority for ConocoPhillips, and we are pleased to join industry members and stakeholders to advance this important area of emissions management,” he said in a statement.
“We believe that applying the rigorous OGMP 2.0 reporting standard across our global assets will be a vital step on our path to net-zero operational emissions by mid-century.”
CEO of Devon Energy Rick Muncrief said his company also planned to move toward “net-zero” methane emissions in the next 30 years, meaning the company would remove an equal amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) from the air as it emits.
“Deployment of advanced methane detection technology and enhanced transparency are key components to Devon’s broader emission reduction strategy, including our aim to achieve net zero GHG emissions for Scopes 1 and 2 by 2050,” he said in a statement.
“We believe that collaboration and collective efforts are needed to advance meaningful change at a fast pace and are excited to be joining OGMP 2.0 with our industry peers that share Devon’s intention of delivering energy to the world while reducing our impact on the environment.”
As a leading operator in the Permian Basin – the U.S.’ most active shale region for oil and a top-producing natural gas basin, Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield said reducing pollution from his company and for producers throughout the region was needed to have an impact.
“Given that we operate in one of the largest oil producing basins in the world, enabling the reduction of methane emissions by utilizing accurate and transparent reporting is imperative for Pioneer as well as other large producers in the Permian Basin,” he said.
Mark Brownstein with the Environmental Defense Fund said the fossil fuel industry was an essential target for stopping environmental damage caused by energy development in the U.S. and around the world.
“All eyes today are on the oil and gas industry. Stakeholders are demanding real, robust emissions data that they can trust,” he said. “Cutting methane emissions is the simplest, fastest way to help meet our energy and climate goals, even as the world moves forward on long term decarbonization.
“Solutions exist for companies to cut emissions quickly and cost-effectively.”
The industry’s redoubled efforts to curb pollution came amid tightening emission restrictions from both state regulators in New Mexico – which shares the Permian Basin with Texas – and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
New Mexico last year enacted requirements at its Oil Conservation Division that banned routine flaring, the burning of excess gas, outlawed spills of liquids or gases, and required operators in the state to capture 98 percent of produced gas by 2026.
Earlier this summer, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) puts its new rules into effect, requiring oil and gas companies reduce their emissions of volatile organic compounds and other pollutants known to form ground-level ozone through increased leak detection, reporting and repair requirements.
The NMED rules focused on the state’s primary oil and gas regions: the southeast Permian Basin and northwest San Juan Basin where ozone levels were already believed to be in excess of federal standards.
That potential exceedance led the EPA to begin investigating the Permian to potentially deem it in violation of air quality standards – a designation that would restrict oil and gas permitting in the region.
To address the industry’s impact on New Mexico’s air, the State in 2021 certified Kairos Aerospace to provide leak detection technology to the oilfield via aircraft.
On Tuesday, the company said the State’s new ozone rules and those at the OCD could help operators avoid the regulatory entanglements of federal action, as it aligned with similar existing requirements at the EPA.
“Overall, this appears to be a savvy move that will hopefully get New Mexico the emission reductions it needs without creating needless complexity for regulated entities,” read a report from Kairos.
For most oil and gas sites, NMED required quarterly leak surveys, potentially lowering that standard to once or twice a year for smaller companies.
For any site, regardless of size, within 1,000 feet of a home or other occupied structure, the rules require quarterly reports.
“That’s a big win for environmental advocates who wanted to see a tougher final rule,” the Kairos report read.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.