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ExxonMobil to cut methane emissions and flaring

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ExxonMobil is introducing greenhouse gas reduction measures designed to improve emissions performance by 2020. Targets include a 15% decrease in methane emissions and a 25% reduction in flaring compared to 2016 levels. The company is also looking to up energy efficiency at its refining and chemical manufacturing facilities.

Flaring has been found to waste up to 3.5% of the world’s natural gas supply and methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas (twenty-five times more potent than CO2 over a century and eighty times as potent over twenty years). Leaks from natural gas-producing facilities undermine its credentials as a cleaner-burning fuel compared to other fossil products. One 2012 study found that if the natural gas system exceeds a 3.2% leakage rate, using natural gas as a power source will be worse for the environment than coal.

XTO Energy’s leak-detection-and-repair efforts and operational improvements at US production and midstream sites have reportedly reduced estimated methane emissions across ExxonMobil operations by 2% in the past year.

The most significant flaring reductions are expected to occur in operations in West Africa and include use of third-party infrastructure. Across its global refining operations, the company says it has achieved a 10% improvement in energy efficiency following an effort launched in 2000.

According to Exxon it has spent more than $9 billion (€7.6 billion) on lower-emission energy solutions since 2000 and is one of eight global energy companies that support guiding principles on methane reduction. Its lower-emission technology investments include cogeneration, flare reduction, energy efficiency, biofuels, and carbon capture and storage.

The company is also a charter member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Public-Private Partnership, which is committed to developing commercial opportunities to reduce flaring. The partnership is comprised of oil-producing countries, international and state-owned oil companies and the World Bank.

ExxonMobil says that it ‘continues to support research that leads to technology breakthroughs and participates in constructive dialogue on policy options.’

The news was welcomed by the Environmental Defense Fund, but the organisation called for greater ambition on the part of the oil giant and for it to ‘virtually eliminate’ its methane emissions. Matt Watson, associate vice president of climate and energy at the organisation said in a statement: “ExxonMobil’s commitment is evidence of growing global momentum to address this urgent climate issue. With increased scrutiny from consumers and investors, setting strong methane targets—and delivering on those reductions in ways that are transparent and verifiable—is simply good business, positioning industry leaders to be more competitive in the transition to a cleaner energy future.”