Honoring Earth Day 2020
Author: Jessica Lutz, American Petroleum Institute (API)
Earth Day 2020 finds the world in unprecedented circumstances. Despite the once-in-a-lifetime challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, the natural gas and oil industry’s commitment to protect workers, communities and the environment remains fundamental to what we do, every day. This was the message delivered today by API President and CEO Mike Sommers:
“This Earth Day 2020 we reflect on the public health challenge that is impacting many corners of America and across the globe. Yet, we are not taking our eye off driving continued environmental progress, specifically efforts to address climate change, while we deliver the energy the world needs. For our part, the natural gas and oil industry is producing energy cleaner … Today, the U.S. leads the world in emissions reductions, and there’s more work to be done. We’re investing and prioritizing breakthrough technologies to produce, refine and deliver cleaner, reliable and affordable energy and power the world’s economic recovery.”
As American energy workers power through a pandemic to provide reliable energy to the hospitals and families and others who need it most, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day provides us with the opportunity to recognize the ongoing role our industry plays in lowering U.S. emissions, protecting our land and wildlife and supporting coastal resilience across the nation – all while producing the reliable, affordable, cleaner energy American families need.
Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Emissions of carbon dioxide in the U.S. are at their lowest levels in a generation, thanks to increased use of clean natural gas in the power sector and the hard work of companies and individuals. Through technology and innovation, America’s natural gas and oil companies are a critical part of cutting CO2 emissions.
As industry produces the energy we count on every day, it also continues to capture as much methane as possible from that production to help the U.S. meet important climate objectives. We’re deploying technologies and engaged in collaborative initiatives such as The Environmental Partnership, whose 75 members include 33 of the top 40 U.S. producers of natural gas and is in its third year of sharing of knowledge and technologies to further reduce emissions.
The results are impressive. EPA’s latest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory, released just last week, reflects that the US has reduced CO2 emissions more than any other nation since 2000 and that switching to natural gas from higher carbon intensity sources has accounted for 61% of reductions in CO2 emissions in the US electric power sector since 2005.
In addition to industry-wide efforts, energy companies across the nation are investing in GHG-reducing technology and utilizing innovative new ways to reduce emissions. Some companies, for example, are increasingly fueling their own operations with solar power. They include Occidental’s new 120-acre solar facility, which directly powers natural gas and oil operations in Texas. The new solar facility is expected to eliminate more than 20,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.
Companies are also helping to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by investing in carbon capture and sequestration projects – now with more than 60 existing and planned carbon capture and sequestration facilities globally. In partnership with the Canadian government and joint-venture partners, Shell operates the Quest CCS project in Alberta that has captured and safely stored 4 million metric tons of CO2 in less than four years. Shell also recently joined with BP, Equinor and Total to work on a carbon capture project in Teesside, United Kingdom, which has the potential to capture 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year starting in the mid-2020s – the equivalent to the annual energy use of up to 2 million homes in the U.K.
Natural gas and oil companies are also developing new fuels specifically designed to make it possible for cars and planes to travel further on less energy. Phillips 66, for example, recently launched a new line of heavy-duty engine oils that proved through extensive testing to improve fuel economy by 2-3%. Chevron is part of a first-of-its-kind project to accelerate the global transition to sustainable fuels in airplanes, working with the San Francisco International Airport and a group of airlines and fuel producers to expand the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels at the airport, which could reduce GHG emissions by nearly 4.8 million metric tons per year — equivalent to the carbon dioxide captured by over 6 million acres of forest.
Protecting Land and Wildlife
Across the country, natural gas and oil companies are teaming up with governments, nonprofits and each other to protect endangered species and rehabilitate wetlands. Their work helps to balance the need for energy to fuel our modern way of life with our desire to protect our planet.
Royalties and revenues from federal offshore natural gas and oil production fund programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). A fund of more than $4 billion, LWCF has provided grants for over 40,000 projects since 1965, supporting resource management, habitat restoration and outdoor recreation.
In collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the North Slope of Alaska, ConocoPhillips is working to protect grizzly bears in the region, conducting bear den surveys in areas where winter activities are planned, and carefully monitoring the population and adjusting their operations as needed to ensure their safety.
Through a combined effort by a coalition including 105 natural gas and oil companies, 7 million acres have been conserved and more than $66.1 million in funding for conservation programs collected to protect threatened or endangered species, including lesser prairie chicken populations and their native habitat in the southern high plains of the U.S. Today, thanks to their efforts, the recently-threatened population is once again growing.
Supporting Coastal Resilience Across the Nation
For more than two decades, Shell has worked with National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) to protect and restore our nation’s wildlife and habitats. In 2018, Shell worked with NFWF to establish the National Coastal Resilience Fund to invest in conservation projects that restore or expand natural features such as coastal marshes and wetlands, dune and beach systems, oyster and coral reefs, forests, coastal rivers and floodplains, and barrier islands that minimize the impacts of storms and other naturally occurring events on nearby communities while also enhancing habitats for fish and wildlife. In 2019, the Fund awarded 44 new grants totaling more than $29 million. The 44 awards generated nearly $60 million in matches from the grantees, providing a total conservation impact of almost $90 million.
Again, these are challenging times for everyone. Still, the men and women of the U.S. natural gas and oil industry remain focused on both providing affordable and reliable energy while also protecting planet Earth – including providing energy that is lowering CO2 emissions, capturing more and more methane from production, preserving species and their habitat and supporting preservation and conservation.
We’re multi-tasking – investing in the technologies and innovations that provide the energy we all use while protecting our environment now and for generations to come.
About The Author
Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in London, and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.