How Oil Companies are Helping to Reduce Emissions

Sixty-two of the hundred biggest oil companies in the world consistently reduced their emissions year after year between 2010 and 2015, with an overall drop of 12 percent during that period, according to a September 2017 report from Bloomberg New energy finance.

Image Credit:Shutterstock/Lukasz Z

Due to the energy sector emitting more emissions than any other industry, even small improvements can have a considerable impact, and the report’s findings show that the international energy industry had begun to conform with climate change initiatives, like those agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

Although some of the emissions reduction is likely a result of reduction in oil prices that started in 2014, leading to lower activity the industry, the five biggest companies have enacted climate and efficiency policies, in addition to anti-pollution steps, the report said.

For example, Exxon Mobil was reported to have spent about $8 billion since 2000 to deploy low-emission energy equipment across its operations. The company is also performing and supporting study on technologies to make further cuts to its emission. The European oil company Shell has announced that it is more intently focused on “good projects” as opposed to being focus mostly on meeting business targets.

Shell Taking Major Steps

In November 2017, Shell announced it would seek to shrink its carbon footprint by one-fifth by 2035 and cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050. The oil company also said it will start revealing how much carbon is released from the energy products it sells.

In an interview with CNBC, Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said an oil company of Shell's scale can significantly cut carbon emissions by becoming more efficient, as well as adding more biofuels and renewable power into its mix of products. Shell has also said it will invest in areas like carbon capture and storage, a growing technology that pulls greenhouse gases from emissions and sequesters them underground.

Furthermore, Shell announced plans to boost its spending on its clean-tech New Energies section to $1 billion to $2 billion annually through 2020. Shell established the unit in 2016 to build up clean energy operations that supplement its legacy fossil fuels business. The New Energies branch generates biofuels like corn-based ethanol and hydrogen fuel. It is also launching initiatives to power some of its legacy operations with solar panels.

Shell has been a producer of wind energy since 2001 and it currently operates six wind farms in the United States and Europe, based on its website. The company is part of a consortium that will build two offshore farms in the Netherlands intended to produce enough energy to power 825,000 Dutch homes.

Cleaner Oil and Natural Gas Production

In December 2017, oil and gas producing companies in the United States signed an agreement to voluntarily work to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry group, recently announced an initiative known as the Environmental Partnership that will focus on reducing methane leaks from wells, pipelines and other US onshore production assets. The plan includes highlighted a focus on detection of leaks, installation of controllers that mitigate releases and the cutting of emissions from natural gas wells that are generating liquids.

Massive international oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell also announced they had signed on to similar “guiding principles” for cutting emissions, in a coalition with multinational agencies and environmental groups.

The API said wants to motivate smaller and medium-sized oil businesses to adopt specific emissions steps, especially the shale industry, which has grown strongly within the last 15 years. However, it has not set goals for reduction.

Reducing leaks of methane into the atmosphere is vital to the oil and gas industry’s push to reduce the risk of climate change. Natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal when used to produce power, but methane, the main component of natural gas, is also a powerful greenhouse gas.

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Brett Smith

Written by

Brett Smith

Brett Smith is an American freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College and has 8 years of experience working in a professional laboratory.


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