It’s big news when one in all the world’s largest oil and fuel corporations declares it helps onerous and quick rules to scale back its business’s methane emissions. And it deserves to be, since methane air pollution is supercharging the climate disaster and enforceable, complete rules are the solely confirmed strategy to make a big dent on this downside.
However, go a stage deeper on the Model Regulatory Framework Exxon unveiled this week and it shortly turns into clear that the particular methods it proposes lack the ambition wanted to dramatically cut back oil and fuel methane emissions industrywide. Far from a nationally main set of proposals, if carried out, they’d really be weaker than the methane requirements at present in place in a number of main states in addition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s present necessities.
Leading on leak detection and restore
For instance, Exxon proposes that regulators implement leak detection and repair packages that would come with periodic inspections “at least once per year”. Meanwhile, main states like Colorado, California and Wyoming have put guidelines in place that require quarterly inspections on many sources, and the present EPA guidelines require twice yearly inspections on all new and modified wells.
Annual LDAR is just not a severe proposal and shouldn’t be emulated by regulators trying to craft guidelines to scale back emissions. Frequent LDAR inspections are critically vital on condition that the latest science shows they’re one in all the greatest methods to dramatically cut back methane emissions whereas being extraordinarily cost effective.
Ensuring haste doesn’t make waste
Annual LDAR is only one instance of the shortcomings in the Exxon framework. Flaring is one other, which is an particularly obvious downside in the Permian Basin of West Texas and southeast New Mexico, now the world’s largest oil area.
While some producers there have made strikes to restrict flaring by sensibly timing drilling to make sure pure fuel infrastructure is in place, Exxon has not, and their framework doesn’t embrace the vital instruments to deal with this rising downside.
Regulators ought to take a holistic method to decreasing methane emissions in addition to pure fuel waste by way of flaring by together with sturdy anti-flaring measures as half and parcel of their methane rules.
Raising ambition to attain what’s attainable and vital
Overall, Exxon estimates that implementing its strategies have allowed the firm to scale back its methane emissions by 20%. That’s good, but it falls far wanting the greenhouse fuel reductions that scientists say we have to preserve a secure climate or that main states have dedicated to as part of the Paris Agreement.
To give one instance, New Mexico below Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has shortly begun a race to the high on tackling climate change and methane emissions. The state set an aggressive objective of a 45% discount in total greenhouse fuel emissions by 2030, charting a course towards creating complete, statewide methane guidelines this 12 months. A recent analysis has proven that by implementing a set of nationally main necessities, New Mexico can cut back its methane emissions by 60%. In this context, Exxon’s 20% minimize simply doesn’t minimize it.
A rising group of corporations have dedicated, in concept, to reaching a methane depth of 0.20%, but extra importantly none is demonstrating compliance with that focus on by way of prime quality empirical knowledge and strong disclosure. This is critical for corporations like Exxon making an attempt to encourage confidence of their methane administration and defend their place in a quickly decarbonizing world.
Overall, in an period of federal methane rollbacks, Exxon deserves credit score for advocating for enforceable guidelines to scale back methane emissions. Exxon and different main producers must be acknowledged for doing work to advance progressive options for methane monitoring and mitigation, notably once they exhibit improvements at scale. Regulations ought to make the most of these present and future improvements.
However, state leaders and policymakers might want to dig deeper than Exxon’s present framework as a way to craft the types of guidelines essential to garner the greatest, most cost-effective methane emissions reductions attainable.