Dominant Permian producers ConocoPhillips, Devon, Pioneer join global methane partnership – mySA

Three major US oil and gas producers, dominant in the Permian Basin, are joining a global effort to reducing methane emissions and improving transparency in reporting those emissions.

ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy and Pioneer Natural Resources have each joined the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 Initiative. 

“It’s really a matter of improving and growing with the technology as the technology improves,” Mark Berg, executive vice president at Pioneer, told the Reporter-Telegram. “Today all companies are reporting their methane and greenhouse gas emissions in the framework the Environmental Protection Agency put in place 10 years ago.”

That framework involves estimates, and Berg said Pioneer has sought ways to improve the methodology. The OGMP initiative is about actual performance, he said. As the technology improves to identify methane leaks, it’s also important to ensure the public has the confidence that emissions are being addressed, he said.

Dominic Macklon, executive vice president, strategy, sustainability and technology at ConocoPhillips, told the Reporter-Telegram his company identified the OGMP initiative as the only comprehensive measurement-based reporting framework and is emerging as the gold standard for methane emissions measurement and reporting. The three, along with Occidental Petroleum, will now be doing what European-based operators have been doing, he said.

Also, he said, “this is a unique partnership at a time we need partnerships to come together and solve problems. What’s so powerful about this is the (operators’) partnership with the UN Environmental Programme and environmental non-government organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the independent third-party verification.” 

That, Macklon said, will support the kind of trust and transparency that will help reinforce the crucial role the Permian Basin and other key basins will have to play in delivering the most responsible, lowest emission oil and natural gas to meet energy transition pathway demand over the long-term. 

Garrett Jackson, vice president of ESG/ESH at Devon, told the Reporter-Telegram one of the main reasons for joining the initiative was that teaming up with Pioneer and ConocoPhillips, “we hope to establish a leadership position, particularly in the US, to drive improvement in this area and joining with our peers and others in setting a good example.”

Scouting for methane leaks and repairing them is something Pioneer has been working on for at least six or seven years, Berg continued. He said aerial detection and the ability to identify and quantity leaks from flyovers is increasingly better, prompting Pioneer to increase the number of flyovers of its sites to three times a year, with plans to increase that to four times a year in the near future.

Jackson said Devon utilizes what he called three technology buckets to monitor and measure for methane leaks: Different cameras that have been in use for a while; on-site sensors, and third, flyover aerial technology. Currently, he said, Devon has a site in Oklahoma with six different technologies on the same pad so it can compare, contract and study the different technologies.

Ultimately, said Macklon, the goal is to get monitoring from generic source-level emission factors to actual field measurements and then site-level measurements. He said enough progress is being made on development of cameras, sensors and drones that it is achievable in a cost-effective manner. “I see great potential in small, fully automated drones. There’s exciting advances in these drones.”

Another aspect of the large producers teaming up is the ability to scale up and prove the technology, bring the cost down and make it more available to smaller companies, Berg said.

ConocoPhillips has been reviewing various technologies to see if measurement can be done in a cost-effective manner and has come to the conclusion it can be done with new technology and technology under development, said Macklon.

“That should give comfort to smaller companies,” he said. “I hope midstream companies, pipelines, gas processors all that step and consider joining the initiative. We’re well set up to do a lot of knowledge sharing and best practices.”

The initiative’s reporting framework will provide stakeholders with the assurance that this important greenhouse gas is being managed responsibly. In turn, participating companies will be provided with the means to credibly demonstrate that they are contributing to climate mitigation and delivering against their methane improvement objectives and targets. 

Berg, Macklon and Jackson all said joining the partnership demonstrates their companies’ long-term commitment to reducing emissions and to transparency, flexibility and sharing best practices.

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