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US oil, gas producers join UN-backed methane emissions reporting program

Highlights

Pioneer, Devon, ConocoPhillips sign up

Companies join largely European initiative

A trio of natural gas producers have joined the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 Initiative as methane emissions measurement and reporting takes deeper root in the US upstream energy sector, the companies said July 14.

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Pioneer Natural Resources, Devon Energy and ConocoPhillips will join 80 other oil and gas producing companies in OGMP 2.0, a reporting program aimed at making methane emissions more transparent in the global oil and gas sector. The companies' participation in the predominantly European OGMP program speaks to growing support for decarbonization among US oil and gas companies that have thus far lagged European peers in setting hard-and-fast climate commitments.

"With Pioneer, Devon and ConocoPhillips joining OGMP 2.0, we have significantly increased the participation of U.S.-based companies," OGMP 2.0 manager Giulia Ferrini said. "We hope their membership encourages others to join this global effort aimed at improving methane emissions measurement and transparency, thereby supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Global Methane Pledge."

The OGMP program was originally formed at the UN Secretary General's September 2014 Climate Summit in New York and includes member companies with assets representing some 30% of global oil and gas production. The group includes NGOs, along with government members including the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France and Italy – all significant import markets for US LNG.

Low-hanging lever

Companies and climate advocates often point to methane emissions reductions as one low-hanging solution the upstream sector can pursue in its attempt to decarbonize. Climate advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund — one of OGMP 2.0's backers — has called methane emissions reduction the "fastest opportunity" available to slow climate change. The group last year published research claiming that widespread rollout of presently available methane emissions control technologies could slow global warming over the next few decades by more than 25%.

While estimates of the climate impact of methane emissions cuts can vary, groups such as EDF have championed a number of those emissions control technologies that have started to saturate the industry in recent years. Advanced methane leak detection using drones, infrared imaging and a host of other technologies are key parts of recent decarbonization plans offered by oil and gas producers. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative — another climate-focused consortium of oil and gas majors and independents — is focusing investments in a $1 billion fund on even more cutting-edge emissions control technologies such as satellite monitoring that could help members achieve near-zero methane emissions by 2030.

Transparency push

With companies focusing on new means of emissions measurement, there is a parallel push to increase transparency and consistency of data collected by these technologies. The OGMP plans to help by collecting and verifying emissions data from member companies and periodically comparing that data with members' individual emissions reduction targets, offering some third-party credibility to companies' emissions reduction claims in the process.

The program's three newest members all aim for net zero scope 1 emissions, stemming from directly owned and operated assets, and scope 2 emissions, resulting from power use, by 2050 but will take different routes toward that goal. Devon is focusing on eliminating methane flaring by 2030, a goal that ConocoPhillips intends to achieve by 2025. Pioneer, with its foothold in the Permian Basin of Texas, is placing more emphasis on expanding methane leak detection through aerial and site-level emissions monitoring.

Regardless of the respective methods members use, participation in the OGMP program should entail tighter collaboration and best practice sharing among rivals.

"We believe that collaboration and collective efforts are needed to advance meaningful change at a fast pace and are excited to be joining OGMP 2.0 with our industry peers," Devon Energy CEO Rick Muncrief said in a news release July 14.

Data collected by OGMP 2.0 will contribute to a public dataset of methane emissions that 119 countries, including the US, will use in pursuit of the Global Methane Pledge established at the 2021 COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. That pledge aims to reduce global methane emissions at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.