For more than a century, our company has shown that it is possible to produce and use energy in ways that are increasingly safe, secure, and environmentally responsible.
To achieve these shared goals for our society, we continue to invest in opportunities that can contribute to economic growth and unlock integrated solutions to manage climate change risks. We have a robust set of processes, technologies, and best practices designed to improve efficiency and reduce emissions across our global operations. Here are just a few.
Investing in natural gas
ExxonMobil projects that by 2040, global electricity demand will increase by about 65 per cent as living standards rise and economies expand around the world. Moreover, we see natural gas as an abundant, reliable, and clean source of energy that can meet growing power-generation needs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions levels. These two fundamental facts about energy needs and natural gas have helped shape ExxonMobil’s investments in recent years – helping the company become the leading natural gas producer in the United States.
Natural gas emits up to 60 per cent less CO2 than coal when used for electricity. For this reason, the abundant supplies of natural gas unearthed by the shale revolution in the United States have contributed to a reduction in U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions to levels not seen since the 1990s as electric utilities have switched from coal to natural gas for power generation. Remarkably, the country has achieved these environmental gains even as the economy has grown by 60 per cent. The abundant supplies of natural gas coming from America’s shale fields are positioning the U.S. to be a net exporter of natural gas, which can mean lower emissions worldwide.
Converting power generation from coal to natural gas is the most rapid and most cost-effective step society can take today to reduce greenhouse emissions. And by providing backup power, which intermittent sources cannot, natural gas is also helping to support alternative low-carbon sources of energy like wind and solar. By leading in natural gas, we are paving the way toward a brighter energy future.
Improving energy efficiency
ExxonMobil is committed to producing and delivering the energy and supplies the world needs, but this business is by nature energy intensive.
Energy consumed in our operations generates more than 80 per cent of our direct greenhouse gas emissions and is one of our largest operating costs. As such, energy efficiency presents a tremendous opportunity to make an impact on both the environment and our bottom line. Improving energy efficiency in our operations helps us to eliminate costs, improve competitiveness, and reduce emissions.
One measure of the success of our efforts to use energy more wisely and responsibly is that despite an increase in the amount of energy required by some advanced technologies and processes in some parts of our business, our global focus on energy efficiency has allowed energy consumption to remain relatively flat over the past five years. A major reason for this achievement is our comprehensive Global Energy Management Systems, which are applied across our upstream production, refining, and chemical operations, helping us to identify and act on important energy-saving opportunities and apply them globally.
Between 2002 and 2012, we improved energy efficiency by more than 10 per cent in our global refining and chemical manufacturing operations. This began as a U.S. refining industry 10-year objective in 2002 as part of an initiative with the American Petroleum Institute, which we expanded to include our global refining and chemical manufacturing operations. The 2012 Solomon Survey confirmed that ExxonMobil is the most energy efficient international refining company.
Another way we are improving our energy efficiency is through the expanded use of cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power.
Cogeneration captures heat generated from the production of electricity for use in production, refining, and chemical processing operations. Making use of heat that would otherwise be lost, such plants can achieve 60 to 80 per cent efficiency. By incorporating cogeneration into many of our facilities, ExxonMobil is able to generate power more efficiently than many local utilities.
ExxonMobil has equity ownership in more than 100 cogeneration units at more than 30 sites with more than 5,500 megawatts of capacity, which is equivalent to the electricity needs of approximately 2.5 million U.S. households. We also have an active pipeline of additional cogeneration projects that are under evaluation and development.
Reducing flaring and venting
ExxonMobil is continuously making improvements to reduce the emissions intensity of its operations, which includes taking action to reduce venting and flaring volumes.
During the extraction of energy, sometimes it becomes necessary to “flare” or “vent” excess gases that rise to the surface. This is done either as a safety measure or as a means of disposal when there is no economical means of capturing and using it. Venting is the release of emissions without flaring. While the emissions released in these processes represent only a minor percentage of our direct GHG emissions, we recognise the importance of taking action to reduce them.
ExxonMobil is a charter member of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative. In addition, we have established our own parameters in a document called Upstream Flaring and Venting Reduction Environmental Standard for Projects. With both of these commitments in mind our goal is to avoid routine flaring and venting of natural gas in new projects and to reduce flaring in our existing operations.
In Nigeria, for instance, between 2007 and 2013, ExxonMobil reduced its rate of flaring by 74 per cent due to significant investments in oil production enhancement projects with flaring-reduction benefits, the implementation of an improved equipment maintenance program, and the application of a senior management-supported Flaring Reduction Protocol. Flaring in Nigeria in 2014 increased with the addition of new operations, but we expect it to decrease again as we apply our operating practices and procedures.
Building on progress
Over the past several years, ExxonMobil’s greenhouse gas emissions have remained relatively flat as a result of efficiency improvements that have offset increases in production intensity. In 2014, our net greenhouse gas emissions totaled 122 CO2-equivalent million metric tonnes, a decrease of 3 million metric tonnes relative to our 2013 performance.
While we have made progress in reducing emissions, we will continue to apply new thinking and new technologies to successfully meet the energy and environmental challenges of the future. We will also continue to explore opportunities to lower our greenhouse gas emissions at every link in the energy chain across our entire business.
One example of this approach is the new steam cracker at our Singapore refining and petrochemical complex. This facility can process an unprecedented range of feedstocks, including crude oil. By converting crude directly into chemicals, we can save energy and reduce emissions by eliminating the refining steps required to produce naphtha.