Energy & Environment

Four companies are top sources of US greenhouse gas, methane emissions: report

Four energy companies — Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Hilcorp and Occidental Petroleum — are the top sources in the U.S. of both greenhouse gas emissions in general and methane emissions, according to a report issued Thursday by environmental groups Ceres and the Clean Air Task Force. 

The report, based on data submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from major oil and gas producers, found wide variation in emissions among companies, with the highest-emitting companies producing methane emissions nearly 24 times more intense than those with the lowest emissions.

Hilcorp led for total methane emissions in 2020, followed by Exxon, Occidental and ConocoPhillips, according to the research. The companies collectively reported more than 300,000 metric tons in methane emissions. 

The report found equipment operation was also a major determinant of emissions intensity. For example, it found companies that practice flaring, or burning off extra natural gas, had more intense carbon dioxide emissions, and those that used pneumatic controllers — which control for factors like pressure and temperature but emit natural gas in the process — comprised 62 percent of methane emissions.

The organizations only analyzed statistics oil and gas companies are required by law to divulge to the EPA. It does not include data on other sources of emissions such as so-called super-emitters, which comprise 8 to 12 percent of methane emissions from the industry. 

Methane emissions have been the subject of increased scrutiny in recent years, as the gas is both more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide in its first 20 years and the source of about 0.5 degrees Celsius in global warming to date. Due to its short atmospheric life relative to other greenhouse gases, climatologists have identified methane reduction as one of the easiest paths to emissions reduction and warming mitigation.  

“This new report makes clear what experts have long known: There are clear steps oil and gas producers can take to reduce their methane and other greenhouse gas emissions,” Lesley Feldman, a senior analyst at the Clean Air Task Force, said in a statement. “Some are taking those steps while others are not, and federal and state regulations are key to ensuring we can standardize best practices across the industry.” 

“The report reflects some of the great progress that we are making to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations. We are actively implementing aggressive plans to further reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse emissions from our operations,” an Exxon spokesperson told The Hill. “ExxonMobil has announced its global ambition to achieve net zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions from major operated assets by 2050.”

In a statement to The Hill, a Hilcorp spokesperson noted that the company’s business model largely involves taking on existing oil and gas properties and that the 2020 data did not reflect emissions reductions it has achieved.

“Our investment has decreased emissions intensity by approximately 37% from 2019 to 2020 and we continue to make significant improvements across our unique asset base. Hilcorp’s production has grown primarily through acquisition,” the spokesperson said. “While we inherit the emission profiles of the assets we acquire, we spend substantial capital optimizing, retrofitting, and refurbishing equipment in order to drive down emissions and intensity from these acquired assets.”

Tags Energy fossil fuel methane emissions natural gas
See all Hill.TV See all Video