Mitigating emissions in our operations
As we seek to increase production of oil and natural gas to meet growing global energy demand, we are committed to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions within our operations.
ExxonMobil has a robust set of processes to improve efficiency, mitigate emissions and contribute to effective long-term solutions to manage climate change risks. These processes include, where appropriate, setting tailored objectives at the business, site and equipment levels, and then stewarding progress toward meeting those objectives. Based on decades of experience, ExxonMobil believes this rigorous bottom-up approach is a more effective and meaningful way to drive efficiency improvement and greenhouse gas emissions reduction than simply setting high-level corporate targets. We also believe that continuing to use this approach will yield further improvements in all sectors of our business.
In the near term, we are working to increase energy efficiency while reducing flaring, venting and fugitive emissions in our operations. In the medium term, we are deploying proven technologies such as cogeneration and carbon capture and storage where technically and economically feasible. Longer term, we are conducting and supporting research to develop breakthrough technologies. Since 2000, ExxonMobil has spent approximately $8 billion to develop lower-emission energy solutions.
Performance and initiatives
In 2016, ExxonMobil’s net equity greenhouse gas emissions were 125 million CO2-equivalent metric tons. Relative to our 2015 performance, our 2016 emissions increased by approximately 3 million CO2-equivalent metric tons. This increase was primarily driven by new facilities in our Upstream operations, such as our Gorgon Jansz liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia.
In 2016, energy used in our operations totaled 1.5 billion gigajoules. Energy utilized in our operations generates more than 80 percent of our direct greenhouse gas emissions and is one of our largest operating costs. As such, we have focused on energy efficiency for many decades. Since 2000, we have used our Global Energy Management System in the Downstream and Chemical businesses, and our Production Operations Energy Management System in our Upstream businesses to identify and act on energy savings opportunities. Through our commitment to energy efficiency, application of structured processes and continued use of a bottom-up approach, we continue to yield industry-leading results.
For example, in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Refining Industry Surveys, ExxonMobil’s global refining operations achieved first quartile energy efficiency performance.*
*The Solomon Survey provides a global benchmarking assessment of the refining industry and is conducted every two years. Results from the 2016 surveys are expected in mid-2017.
Cogeneration technology captures waste heat generated from the production of electricity for use in production, refining and chemical processing operations. Due to its inherent energy efficiency, the use of cogeneration leads to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Our cogeneration facilities enable the avoidance of approximately 6 million metric tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions.
We have interests in approximately 5,300 megawatts of cogeneration capacity in more than 100 installations around the world. This capacity is equivalent to the annual energy needed to power 2.5 million U.S. homes. Over the past decade, we have added more than 1,000 megawatts of cogeneration capacity and continue to develop additional investment opportunities.
Flaring is the process of burning natural gas as an alternative to releasing the gases directly into the atmosphere. Flaring is done for safety reasons or because barriers to the development of gas markets and gas infrastructure prevent natural gas from being used.
ExxonMobil is a charter member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, an initiative of the World Bank that seeks to reduce flaring by increasing the use of natural gas associated with oil production, helping remove technical and regulatory barriers to flaring reduction, conducting research, disseminating best practices and developing regulatory country-specific gas flaring reduction programs. In addition, we put in place our own Upstream Flaring and Venting Reduction Environmental Standard for Projects in 2005. Our goal is to avoid routine flaring in new Upstream projects and to reduce “legacy” flaring in our existing operations.
In 2016, flaring volume from our combined Upstream, Downstream and Chemical operations totaled 5.0 million metric tons. This represents a decrease of 0.3 million metric tons compared with our 2015 performance. The decrease in flaring in 2016 was largely due to changes at our Usan field in Nigeria, where — since assuming operatorship in 2014 — we have implemented a program to eliminate routine flaring.
Venting and fugitive emissions
Venting is the process of releasing methane and other gases into the atmosphere. Fugitive emissions occur when gases or vapors escape from pressurized equipment.
We recognize the importance of reducing these emissions and continue implementing cost-effective methods to reduce methane and other hydrocarbon emissions in our operations. This includes structured leak detection and repair programs in which we use optical gas imaging cameras to identify leaks for prompt repair. Additionally, we continue to replace high-bleed pneumatic devices with lower-emission technology and conduct reduced emissions completions in our ongoing efforts to enhance the environmental performance of our operations.
Our methane emissions in 2016 totaled 7 million CO2-equivalent metric tons, which is similar to our performance over the last several years. Most of our venting and fugitive emissions are methane, which represent approximately 6 percent of our direct greenhouse gas emissions.