It’s hard to overstate the importance of the industry’s new environmental initiative launched last week – The Environmental Partnership. “Landmark,” “historic” and “ground-breaking” all describe the partnership. Add to that list “bold” – with 26 natural gas and oil companies agreeing to share scientific information, innovations and best practices while being publicly accountable for progress on further reducing emissions from energy production. This is a big deal. Mark Berg of Pioneer Natural Resources, one of the participating companies:
“We have been able to produce more natural gas while also lowering emissions. But rather than rest on these accomplishments, this industry is seeking to build on them. The Environmental Partnership will help America’s natural gas and oil industry share goals, technologies and best practices that will make our environmental performance even stronger.”
Quick facts about The Environmental Partnership:
- As Berg said, the partnership builds on progress already achieved in reducing methane emissions from energy production. Between 1990 and 2015, emissions from natural gas production declined 16.3 percent, even as natural gas production rose 51.9 percent.
- Initially, the partnership will focus on three of the greatest sources of industry-related emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as identified by research and EPA data. Participants agree to replace, remove or retrofit pneumatic controllers; address emissions associated with manual liquids unloading; and enhance detection and timely repair of leaks from natural gas and oil sources. These will be implemented and phased-in to operations starting Jan. 1.
- Taking action, learning and collaborating are the partnership’s founding principles.
- The partnership is flexible. Companies may implement their own programs and also use new, innovative technologies. During a conference call with reporters, API Upstream Group Director Erik Milito said it’s expected that participants will be involved in all three of the partnership’s programs.
- Participants are committed to annual reporting that tracks progress and provides information that can help guide the partnership in the future. The first reporting will occur in early 2019.
Highlights from the launch conference call that included Berg, Milito and Shell’s Greg Guidry:
Knowledge, Technology and Environmental Progress
“One important aspect of this program is that it’s designed to learn about what’s happening in the field so we can adapt and evolve over time. … Technology advances, industry innovates and we’re able to solve a lot of these problems based upon the industry coming together and doing it through a voluntary approach like this.”
The Partnership and Government Regulation
“[This] is the industry proactively doing something to the improvements that we’ve already made. There’s no question that we can, by targeting the areas that joint industry and EPA studies have proven to be the areas that are the most problematic in terms of emissions, we can continue to improve. … Smart regulation is well founded in science and technically based. It does make sense. This is not anti-regulation. This is doing what we need to do to protect the environment.”
Building on Ongoing Emissions Reductions
“One area I like to highlight is in reduced emissions in [well] completions. This is when you get through drilling, get through stimulation and you’re completing the well you can have emissions there. But the industry came together and developed technologies to eliminate those emissions, and we’ve been doing that for years.”
“… Green completions was a great example of the way that it could very much work as we learn more about the impact of reducing more of the pneumatic controllers, the pace at which we reduced pneumatic controllers, the technologies that we bring in, even newer technologies around ‘no-bleed’ controllers.”
Information Sharing and Shared Progress
“The flexibility of the program to meet the needs of larger-scale operations as well as smaller-scale operations is a very attractive way of bringing in a wide cross-section of the industry. It also allows smaller companies that may not have all of the internal capabilities of developing technology enhancements to manage emissions on a cost-effective basis, to learn from larger peers.”
Again, this is an important step for the industry, establishing programs and mechanisms that will help enhance ongoing efforts and lead to environmental progress in the future. The new partnership illustrates industry’s commitment to safe and responsible energy development, as well as its leadership in following through on that commitment.
By Mark Green