Flaring: Exx'd Out


Feb 02, 2023

ExxonMobil will no longer flare natural gas from Permian production sites as a standard practice, and is calling for industry-wide regulations to prevent routine flaring. "It levels the playing field" and "It is by far the most cost effective" decarbonization strategy for the industry, said Exxon's chief environmental scientist Matt Kolesar.

Flare Volume

The U.S. is currently the fourth largest country by annual flaring volume of about 8.76 billion m3/year, behind Russia, Iraq, and Iran.

Curbing Permian Basin flaring will cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase gas production, and in conjunction with equipment updates, will reduce organizational Scope 1 and 2 emissions while offsetting costs through greater gas capture.

Scope of Emissions

Along with many other U.S. companies, Exxon opposes holding oil companies responsible for Scope 3 (consumer-produced) emissions once a product is sold. Some EU-based oil companies like Shell and BP have included customer Scope 3 emissions in 2050 net-zero targets. Climate change goals can be achieved by focusing on cutting methane emissions, then managing lower intensity emissions.

Tracking GHG

Exxon will track GHG emissions in the Permian via overhead and satellite monitoring with Scepter, and has budgeted $17 billion through 2027 for reducing its global GHG, and will also implement carbon capture and storage. The company says that reducing methane emissions is the quickest way to lower global temperatures.

Beginning with 700 Permian basin sites, Exxon intends to stop routine flaring globally by 2030. On-site methane monitoring equipment includes acoustic sensors and optical gas imaging cameras. Pipelines are being added as well as technology to shut down operations in the event of a leak. Exxon’s 2022 flaring intensity in the Permian was 0.4%.

Global Goals

Other oil majors Chevron and BP share Exxon’s 2030 goal of zero flaring, while Shell intends to halt global flaring by 2025.

The IEA calculated that the volume of gas flared globally nearly matches pre-sanction amounts of European annual imports from Russia. At pricing of $10/mmBtu, that means $55 billion of uncaptured gas.

The energy transition to solar, wind, and water power is on the global horizon, moving slowly, but cleaner U.S. energy today is right here. Technological advances can provide clear data for decision making, and prioritizing reductions in methane emissions will have a rapid, positive climate impact.