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Developing solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions for customers

Over the next few decades, population and income growth — and an unprecedented expansion of the global middle class — are expected to create new demands for energy. Meeting these demands will not just require more energy, but will also require energy to be used more efficiently across all sectors.

While ExxonMobil strives to improve efficiency throughout our own operations, we are also delivering solutions that enable our customers to reduce their own emissions and improve their own energy efficiency as well as increase reliability, performance and longevity of the associated products. These solutions can be characterized as: 

  • Expanding the supply of cleaner-burning natural gas to reduce emissions in power generation; 
  • Developing premium, high-efficiency fuels and lubricants; and 
  • Creating innovative chemical materials that can be applied in a range of consumer products.

Cleaner-burning natural gas

One of the greatest opportunities for society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is through the use of natural gas in power generation. Natural gas is a flexible, abundant and low-emissions fuel that is available across the globe. On a life cycle basis, from extraction through electricity consumption, using natural gas emits up to 60 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal. It is also the ideal partner for intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, as it can provide reliable power when these renewable sources are not available. As the world moves toward a lower greenhouse gas emissions-intensive energy mix over the coming decades, natural gas will be one of the most important fuels to enable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2015, the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas released a technical study that compares the differences between life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from power generation fueled by U.S.-exported LNG versus that of coal in Germany, Japan, South Korea, China and India. The study analyzed emissions during each stage of the LNG life cycle process — from wellhead to power generation — and found that life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from coal were about twice as high as emissions from U.S.-produced LNG in these markets, which demonstrates the long-term potential benefits of LNG use in these markets.

Since our merger with XTO Energy in 2010, ExxonMobil has become one of the largest natural gas producers in the world. Coupled with our leadership in the development and production of LNG, ExxonMobil is well-positioned to meet growing demand for this cleaner-burning energy source.

Advances in technology have made it economically viable to ship natural gas all over the world, making it a truly global resource. By converting natural gas into LNG, it can be delivered via tanker from distant production areas to intended markets. Given its flexibility, environmental benefits and large resource base, LNG is a natural choice to help meet the world’s growing energy needs. ExxonMobil’s experience spans across the entire LNG value chain, including Upstream development, pipelines, liquefaction plants, shipping and regasification terminals. Our ability to successfully link these complex elements distinguishes us from our competitors and enables us to provide a reliable gas supply to buyers and end users.

Premium fuels and lubricants

ExxonMobil produces fuels and lubricants that deliver higher vehicle efficiency and lower emissions. In addition, we continue working on research and development of new fuels and lubricants. Our extensive family of high-performance lubricants includes synthetic lubricants that have sustainable customer benefits, such as longer drain intervals than conventional mineral oils, meaning they can be replaced with less frequency, therefore reducing the volume of used oil for disposal or recycle.

In addition, extending lubrication service intervals increases efficiency and lowers maintenance costs while reducing potential risks from worker and machine interactions. There are also specific application advantages for these products, including in wind turbine applications where machinery is several hundreds of feet in the air and exposed to weather. Mobil lubricants are used in more than 40,000 wind turbines worldwide.

Innovative chemical materials

Materials developed by ExxonMobil provide manufacturers with quantifiable benefits in a multitude of consumer applications. These materials include resilient, lightweight plastics that are used by automotive manufacturers to reduce vehicle weight and deliver greater efficiency for drivers. We have also developed advanced tire technologies that help maintain optimal tire pressure, improve rolling resistance and aid fuel efficiency, as around 25 percent of vehicle tires in the United States are underinflated. By addressing this issue, drivers could collectively save up to 1 billion gallons of gasoline per year.

Additionally, our next-generation plastic packaging reduces total product weight and allows more products per shipment, fewer trucks on the road, less gasoline and energy used, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately less material to be reused, recovered or recycled. ExxonMobil plastic products also contribute to safety within the food industry. Plastic packaging is lightweight, durable and flexible, which makes it ideal for preserving food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste each year. Plastic packaging can help reduce spoilage, increase access to food and improve food safety for consumers around the world.

Up Close: Engineering resiliency into our operations

ExxonMobil operates facilities in a wide range of challenging physical environments across the globe, and has done so for many decades. Our extensive design, construction and operating experience provides us great familiarity with the risks associated with different physical environments. The company is aware of the risks posed by extreme weather events and recognizes the risks that climate change could potentially introduce for facilities exposed to changes in extreme weather events over the life of an investment.

When considering weather-related risks, we evaluate the type and location of our current and planned facilities. As an example, offshore facilities could be impacted by changes in wave and wind intensity as well as by ice flow patterns, while onshore facilities could be vulnerable to sea level rise and changes in storm surge. In the Arctic, long-term changes in ice and permafrost could impact the design of structural foundations.

Our facilities are designed, constructed and operated to withstand a variety of extreme climatic and other conditions, with safety factors built in to cover a number of engineering uncertainties, including those associated with wave, wind and current intensity, marine ice flow patterns, permafrost stability, storm surge magnitude, temperature extremes, extreme rainfall events and earthquakes. Our consideration of changing weather conditions and inclusion of safety factors in design cover the engineering uncertainties that climate change and other events may potentially introduce.

After construction of a facility, we monitor and manage ongoing facility integrity, for example through periodic checks on key aspects of the structures. In addition, we regularly participate with major engineering societies and industry groups to assess and update engineering standards to manage the risks of extreme weather.

Once facilities are in operation, the risks of extreme weather are also addressed by disaster preparedness and response and business continuity planning. Detailed, well-practiced and continuously improved emergency response plans tailored to each facility help ExxonMobil prepare for extreme weather events. Regular emergency drills are practiced in partnership with appropriate government agencies to help ensure readiness and minimize the impacts of such events.

While most scientists agree climate change could pose risks related to extreme weather, sea level rise, temperature extremes and precipitation changes, the limited scientific understanding of the likelihood, magnitude, frequency and geographic distribution of these events poses a challenge in facility planning. ExxonMobil’s comprehensive approach and established systems enable us to manage a wide variety of possible outcomes over the coming decades.

Photo — ExxonMobil’s Arkutun-Dagi topside offshore Sakhalin Island, Russia.