Developing innovative products and technology

Report Dec. 20, 2019

In this article

Developing innovative products and technology


The world faces a dual challenge: meeting society’s growing demand for energy while also reducing environmental impacts, including the risks of climate change. While all forms of energy are needed— including natural gas and renewables such as wind and solar—new technologies will be required to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

We are conducting scientific research to develop the next generation of energy technologies and products. Our work includes advanced biofuels, carbon capture and storage, natural gas technologies and new energy efficiency processes. In addition to our in-house capabilities, we collaborate with leading research and technology companies, national laboratories and universities, and others involved in breakthrough energy research. ExxonMobil’s Emerging Technologies program brings together executives, scientists and engineers from across our businesses to identify and evaluate long-term, strategic research opportunities. 

2018 performance and initiatives

ExxonMobil invests about $1 billion annually in research and development across our businesses, an ongoing commitment to fundamental science and innovation. ExxonMobil employs more than 20,000 scientists and engineers, including more than 2,200 with Ph.D.s. We collaborate with approximately 80 universities around the world to explore new energy technologies. In particular, we collaborate with broad-based energy centers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Texas and in Singapore at the Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore.

We are also working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and National Energy Technology Laboratory to bring lower-emission technologies to commercial scale. We have agreements with technology companies such as Global Thermostat on advanced carbon capture technologies, and with IBM, where we agreed to jointly research the use of quantum computing to develop next-generation energy and manufacturing technologies. More details are available in the Spotlight below.

We also work with leading technology companies involved in breakthrough energy research. ExxonMobil is the first energy company to join IBM’s Q Network, a worldwide community exploring quantum computing applications across industrial sectors and science. In 2018, we agreed to jointly research the use of quantum computing to develop next-generation energy and manufacturing technologies.


ExxonMobil plans to invest up to $100 million on research and development

ExxonMobil plans to invest up to $100 million over 10 years to research and develop advanced lower-emissions technologies under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and National Energy Technology Laboratory. The agreement is among the largest between the department’s laboratories and the private sector. ExxonMobil’s investment will support research to bring biofuels and carbon capture and storage to commercial scale across the transportation, power generation and industrial sectors. The joint research will also focus on reducing emissions from fuels and petrochemicals production. We anticipate that this agreement will stimulate collaborative projects between ExxonMobil and the two laboratories while facilitating work with other national laboratories, such as the Idaho National Laboratory.

XTO Energy, an ExxonMobil subsidiary, recently partnered with Microsoft to implement cloud technology at our Permian Basin operations. The system is designed to reliably collect real-time data from oil field assets spanning hundreds of miles. Enhanced data will enable XTO Energy to make faster and better decisions on drilling optimization, well completions and prioritization of personnel deployment. Importantly, leak detection and repair response times could be further reduced with enhanced access to emissions data. The application of Microsoft technologies combined with our expertise in oil field technologies, production efficiency and integration are expected to help drive growth in the Permian Basin. 

Natural gas


Natural gas is a versatile, abundant and lower-emission fuel. The use of natural gas in power generation plays an important role in reducing global emissions. When considering lifecycle emissions, natural gas emits up to 60 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions and produces significantly fewer air pollutants than coal for power generation. Natural gas also provides a reliable source of power to supplement renewable energy when wind or solar power is not available.

Jay Mendell, technician, inspects gas storage tanks at the Wink terminal in Midland, Texas.

2018 performance and initiatives

ExxonMobil is one of the largest natural gas producers in the world and a leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology. LNG enables us to transport natural gas from supply centers to customers safely and cost effectively. We are working to expand access to LNG around the world. For example, in 2019, ExxonMobil signed a sales and purchase agreement to supply LNG to Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group in China, which is that company’s first long-term supply deal. Zhejiang Energy Provincial Energy Group will receive 1 million metric tons of LNG a year from ExxonMobil under the 20-year agreement, starting in the early 2020s. For information on methane management associated with our natural gas production, please visit managing climate change risks

Advanced fuels and lubricants


ExxonMobil’s family of high-performance and synthetic lubricants delivers improved vehicle efficiency and helps our customers reduce their emissions. Our synthetic lubricants require less frequent replacement than conventional motor oils. For example, our Mobil 1™ Advanced Fuel Economy synthetic motor oil can improve fuel economy compared to other motor oils. Premium fuels such as Synergy™ gasoline and diesel can also help consumers improve gas mileage.

Daniel Vertucci, senior engineer, tests high-performance lubricant products for motor vehicles at ExxonMobil’s testing grounds in Nevada.

2018 performance and initiatives

ExxonMobil is progressing several multi-billion-dollar refinery expansion projects. For example, at our facility in Singapore, we are working to produce higher-value products and increase production of lubricant base stocks to meet growing demand. Once complete, the project will also produce cleaner marine fuels that will comply with the International Maritime Organization’s 0.50 percent sulfur cap. Engineering, procurement and construction activities have begun, and startup is anticipated in 2023.

Chemical materials


ExxonMobil’s chemical business develops materials that are used to provide a wide range of benefits in many consumer applications. For example, automotive manufacturers use ExxonMobil’s advanced, lightweight plastics to reduce vehicle weight and deliver greater fuel efficiency. For every 10 percent decrease in vehicle weight, fuel economy improves by an estimated 7 percent. Products made from our resins also help extend the shelf life of fresh food by days or even weeks, thereby improving food safety and reducing waste. Visit ExxonMobil’s Energy & Carbon Summary and waste management for more information.

From prosthetics and masks to packaging and sponges, plastics used for medical equipment help save lives every day.

2018 performance and initiatives

ExxonMobil is sponsoring Clemson University’s Deep Orange 11 project, part of the school’s automotive engineering graduate program that is designing and producing an ultra-efficient, lightweight and durable mobility solution. Deep Orange 11 encourages students to push the boundaries of conventional design and engineering, and emphasizes experimental learning that integrates sustainability into the entire product lifecycle. The four key focus areas include recyclable parts for reduced environmental impact, lightweight structures, improved emissions performance and high-durability parts. As part of the project, ExxonMobil engineers help mentor students and provide technical expertise.

Students at Clemson University participate in the Deep Orange 11 project, part of the school’s automotive engineering graduate program.

Advanced biofuels 


ExxonMobil funds a broad portfolio of advanced biofuels research programs. Algae biofuels have the potential to supplement petroleum-based fuels with minimal modifications to current transportation infrastructure. They also have the potential to yield more energy per area of land than other biofuels and can be grown on land considered unsuitable for agriculture. In addition, algae can be grown using only saltwater, unlike traditional ethanol, which requires large volumes of freshwater. ExxonMobil is targeting the technical capability to produce 10,000 barrels of algae biofuels per day by 2025. 

2018 performance and initiatives

ExxonMobil agreed to a limited joint research project with Clariant to evaluate the use of cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste and residues to produce biofuel, expanding on an existing joint research agreement between ExxonMobil and Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG), in which the companies successfully validated the ability of REG technology to convert sugars from cellulosic biomass into biodiesel through a single-step process. The agreement with Clariant enabled ExxonMobil and REG to advance a key stage in the overall cellulosic conversion process, which could potentially lead to the development of scalable biodiesel technology.
ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics, Inc. are conducting a joint algae biofuel research program.

Carbon capture and storage 


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing and injecting CO2 into underground geological formations for permanent storage. This process helps reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Since 1970, ExxonMobil has cumulatively captured more CO2 than any other company, accounting for more than 40 percent of cumulative CO2 captured*. We maintain a working interest in more than one-fifth of the world’s total carbon capture capacity.

*Source: Global CCS Institute. Data updated as of April 2018 and based on cumulative anthropogenic carbon dioxide capture volume. Anthropogenic CO2, for the purposes of this calculation, means CO2 that without carbon capture and storage would have been emitted to the atmosphere, including, but not limited to: reservoir CO2 from gas fields; CO2 emitted during production and CO2 emitted during combustion. It does not include natural CO2 produced solely for enhanced oil recovery.

2018 performance and initiatives

In 2018, we captured approximately 7 million metric tons of CO2 for storage. While already a leader in CCS, we are working toward expanding our capacity and are evaluating multiple opportunities that have the potential to be commercially viable through the convergence of advantaged technologies and a supportive policy environment. Visit ExxonMobil’s Energy & Carbon Summary for more information on ExxonMobil’s efforts on CCS.

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ExxonMobil’s diverse portfolio of projects requires us to work in remote and sensitive environments, including deepwater and biodiverse locations. Our environmental management approach is guided by an understanding of the potential environmental impacts of our operations and a commitment to sustainably develop, maintain and operate projects using appropriate standards that enable us to ‘Protect Tomorrow. Today.’

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