ExxonMobil receives top certification for methane emissions management

By Keefe Borden26 April 2022

ExxonMobil is working to track and reduce methane emissions from its Permian Basin operations. (Photo: ExxonMobil)

About 200 MMcf/d of natural gas produced from ExxonMobil’s Permian Basin facilities at Poker Lake, New Mexico have been independently certified and received the top grade for methane emissions management.

The certification from MiQ helps ExxonMobil meet customer demand for energy produced with fewer emissions, making it the first company to achieve certification for natural gas production associated with oil.

“This certification further validates the steps we have taken to reduce methane emissions, which is part of our plans to achieve net zero Scope 1 & 2 greenhouse emissions in our Permian Basin unconventional operations by 2030,” said Tom Schuessler, senior vice president of unconventional at ExxonMobil. “Certification gives our customers confidence that we are responsibly producing natural gas with best-in-class emission management programs to help them meet their emissions goals.”

MiQ awarded the “A” grade certification because of ExxonMobil’s extensive multi-tiered technology approach to methane monitoring and mitigation at its Poker Lake facilities in New Mexico.

These efforts include a combination of fixed monitoring systems, aerial imaging technology, optical gas imaging cameras, proprietary acoustic sensors, and robust leak detection and repair practices. Responsible Energy Solutions performed ExxonMobil’s assessment using the MiQ Standard.

“It’s widely accepted that it’s now the time to take steps to limit the effects of climate change and reducing methane emissions is one of the most significant actions we can take,” said Georges Tijbosch, CEO of MiQ. “MiQ is pioneering Independently Certified Gas to help accelerate methane reductions from the natural gas industry and, as one of the world’s largest energy companies, ExxonMobil’s expansion of the certification program demonstrates that Independently Certified Gas is rapidly becoming the status quo.”

ExxonMobil submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year to use aerial technology as a new model regulatory framework for detecting methane. The new technology is intended to help the company meet its 2025 greenhouse gas emissions plans, which include reducing methane intensity by 40% to 50% from 2016 levels.

By using sensors attached to planes flying over vast and largely remote fields, like the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, ExxonMobil methane specialists can pinpoint leaks across hundreds of miles. Currently, technicians fan across that same acreage trying to track leaks using handheld cameras in a painstaking process.

The aerial approach, using LiDAR imaging technology developed by Bridger Photonics, will complement a suite of solutions ExxonMobil is already testing – and using – in the field. By investing in the latest technologies, the company will be able to help find, then fix, leaks faster, the company said.

ExxonMobil is expanding the certification process to other operating areas, including Appalachia natural gas operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It is now selling commercial volumes to customers, including Xcel Energy, which plans to use the natural gas to power homes, schools and businesses in southeastern New Mexico with fewer lifecycle emissions than non-certified natural gas.

“Xcel Energy is committed to delivering net-zero energy by 2050 across all the ways our customers use energy, and that includes powering our generating fleet with natural gas purchased only from suppliers with certified low-methane emissions by 2030,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy in New Mexico and Texas. “Fueling our New Mexico power plants with ExxonMobil’s certified natural gas is an important step in that direction and enables us to achieve the cleaner energy future we’re all envisioning.”

ExxonMobil is a founding member of the Methane Guiding Principles, and in 2020 introduced a model regulatory framework for industry-wide methane regulations. ExxonMobil supports the U.S. and European Union’s Global Methane Pledge, the proposed U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions.

Mitigating methane emissions is an important component of ExxonMobil’s plans to achieve net zero Scope 1 & 2 greenhouse gas emissions in the Permian Basin unconventional assets by 2030. Other parts of the plan include electrifying operations using renewable and lower-carbon power sources, eliminating routine flaring by year-end 2022, upgrading equipment and enhancing processes.

Similar GHG emission-reduction road maps are being developed for the company’s major operated upstream, refining and chemicals assets around the world.

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