We focus on flare reduction, cogeneration of power and steam, and improving energy efficiency as the key levers. In 2012, we invested $330 million to improve energy efficiency, reduce flaring and decrease GHG emissions.
In 2012, ExxonMobil’s net equity GHG emissions1 were 125 million metric tons. Relative to our 2011 performance, this represents a decrease of about 4 million metric tons, or 3 percent.
In 2012, energy used in our operations totaled 1.5 billion gigajoules, which remains unchanged relative to our 2011 energy usage. ExxonMobil pursues a variety of projects to improve energy efficiency. Since 2000, we have used our Global Energy Management System (GEMS) in the Downstream and Chemical business lines to identify and act on energy-savings opportunities. The GEMS equivalent in the Upstream business is the Production Operations Energy Management System (POEMS).
ExxonMobil is developing innovative ways to generate power more efficiently and with less environmental impact compared to purchasing electricity from a local utility. Cogeneration captures heat generated from the production of electricity to use in production, refining, and chemical processing operations.
Flaring and venting
During crude oil extraction, a blend of hydrocarbon gases often accompanies oil to the surface. In certain situations, we flare or vent this gas either as a safety measure or as a means of disposal when there are no economic means of capturing and using it. In order to pursue commercial alternatives for associated gas, we need business environments with the right conditions, including available markets, nearby infrastructure and appropriate regulations.
Venting is the release of methane emissions without flaring. Venting volumes are typically small in our industry and are often associated with protocols to ensure the safety of an operation and our personnel.
Global Climate and Energy Project
ExxonMobil invests in new technologies with transformative potential to increase energy supplies, reduce emissions and improve operational efficiency. Our research efforts involve proprietary in-house research and collaborations with other businesses, as well as research partnerships with universities — such as the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University. This pioneering research program focuses on identifying breakthrough energy technologies ranging from solar fuels to CO2 storage.
At our Upstream, Downstream and Chemical research facilities, we have spent nearly $9 billion on research and development over the past decade, including on technologies specifically related to reducing emissions. Our research portfolio includes a wide range of promising technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, biomass conversion and algae-based biofuels. We continuously monitor the competitive environment for game-changing opportunities.
Carbon capture and storage
After years of research, evaluation and practice, we have concluded that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a technically feasible way to reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. CCS involves capturing, transporting and storing CO2 in underground geologic formations such as saline reservoirs, depleted oil or gas reservoirs, or deep coal beds.
ExxonMobil’s algae biofuels program was announced in 2009. In the early stages of this research effort, we remain focused on understanding the fundamental science of algae growth and harvesting necessary to produce algae-based biofuels. However, there are significant technological hurdles to developing economically competitive fuel from algae. We expect that commercialization, if eventually successful, would take a decade or more.