Managing climate change risks

Report Dec. 20, 2019

In this article

Managing climate change risks

Overview

ExxonMobil works to meet the world’s growing demand for energy while reducing environmental impacts and the risks of climate change. To mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from our operations, ExxonMobil focuses on increasing energy efficiency and reducing flaring, venting and other emissions. We deploy proven technologies, such as cogeneration and carbon capture and storage, and we conduct and support research to develop breakthrough, lower-emission technologies.

Since 2000, ExxonMobil has invested nearly $10 billion in projects to research, develop and deploy lower-emission energy solutions.

ExxonMobil also continues to expand collaborative efforts with other companies and academic institutions focused on these areas. Recent additions include a commitment to spend up to $100 million over 10 years on research 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. Others involve agreements with companies, such as Global Thermostat, which is working on technology that pulls CO
2 molecules directly from the air, and Mosaic Materials, which is using porous solids, known as metal-organic frameworks, to separate CO2 from air or flue gas. We also work with more than 80 universities around the world to explore next-generation energy technologies. For more information on our partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, visit developing innovative products and technology

Emissions reduction

While we continue to make progress in finding ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from our operations, emissions may increase or decrease over time as a result of the changing nature of our business. For example, in 2018 ExxonMobil’s net equity greenhouse gas emissions totaled 124 million CO2-equivalent metric tons, which was a slight increase over the previous year, 2017, but lower than 2016 emissions. The slight increase was due to growth in our operations. In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions avoided from ExxonMobil actions equaled 21.5 million metric tons. Over the past 10 years, we have avoided 162 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

We report greenhouse gas emissions on a net equity basis, demonstrating a share of emissions from any facility or operation in which ExxonMobil holds a financial interest, with the share reflecting the equity interest.

Greenhouse gas emissions (net)*

Net equity, CO2-equivalent emissions 

Millions of metric tons

 

  
In 2018, ExxonMobil’s net equity greenhouse gas emissions totaled 124 million CO2-equivalent metric tons. This demonstrates the share of emissions from any facility or operation in which ExxonMobil holds a financial interest, with the share reflecting the equity fractional interest. Relative to our 2017 performance, our 2018 emissions increased by approximately 1 million CO2-equivalent metric tons. We will continue to apply new thinking and new technologies to offset emissions resulting from the implementation of our growth plans.

*Our calculations are based on the guidance provided in American Petroleum Institute’s Compendium of Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimation Methodologies for the Oil and Gas Industry and IPIECA’s Petroleum Industry Guidelines for Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions. We report greenhouse gas emissions on a net equity basis for our business operations, demonstrating a share of emissions from any facility or operation in which ExxonMobil holds a financial interest, with the share reflecting the equity interest. 

Greenhouse gas emissions (normalized)*

Net equity, CO2-equivalent emissions 

Metric tons per 100 metric tons of throughput or production

 

  

Our normalized greenhouse gas emissions (which are the emissions per unit of production or throughput) from our upstream, downstream and chemical operations equaled 24.9 metric tons per 100 metric tons of throughput in 2018. Over the past decade, improvements in our downstream and chemical operations coupled with divestments helped offset increases in upstream emissions.

*Our calculations are based on the guidance provided in American Petroleum Institute’s Compendium of Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimation Methodologies for the Oil and Gas Industry and IPIECA’s Petroleum Industry Guidelines for Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions. We report greenhouse gas emissions on a net equity basis for our business operations, demonstrating a share of emissions from any facility or operation in which ExxonMobil holds a financial interest, with the share reflecting the equity interest. 

ExxonMobil seeks to improve energy efficiency and mitigate emissions in a variety of ways. We also evaluate opportunities to purchase renewable energy for our operations.

spotlight

ExxonMobil becomes a top 10 global corporate purchaser of wind and solar power

ExxonMobil continually strives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations. For example, we evaluate opportunities to purchase renewable energy under long-term contracts with competitive rates. In 2018, we signed 12-year agreements with Lincoln Clean Energy, under which ExxonMobil will purchase 500 megawatts of wind (anticipated startup in 2020) and solar (anticipated startup in 2021) power for operations in Texas. This project will substitute 70 percent of power purchased in the area under the jurisdiction of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas with wind and solar power, and is expected to avoid an estimated 800,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. With these purchases, ExxonMobil was ranked in the top 10 global corporate wind and solar buyers in 2018.

2018 top global corporate wind and solar buyers*

Megawatts

*The data were downloaded from BloombergNEF on December 13, 2018, and are based on total wind and solar power purchase agreements signed in 2018.

We use a risk management framework to identify, manage and address the potential environmental, socioeconomic and health risks associated with our operations before we begin a new development. For example, we assess and manage the risks posed by weather and other natural elements. Based upon our experience operating facilities in a wide range of challenging physical environments, and consistent with industry standards, we design, construct and operate our facilities around the globe to withstand a variety of extreme weather and environmental conditions. Once facilities are in operation, we monitor and manage ongoing facility integrity and maintain disaster preparedness, response and business continuity plans. Visit ExxonMobil’s Energy & Carbon Summary for more information.

Energy efficiency 

Overview

Using energy more efficiently is a powerful tool to reduce emissions and costs. ExxonMobil works to improve efficiency across all its operations. The electricity used in ExxonMobil’s operations in 2018 represents more than 10 percent of our net equity greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Solomon Refining Industry Survey, ExxonMobil is among the world’s most energy-efficient refining companies. 

Cogeneration is a process that improves efficiency by simultaneously producing electricity while capturing useful heat or steam for industrial processes. We have interests in approximately 5,400 megawatts of cogeneration capacity in more than 100 installations around the world. This capacity is equivalent to the annual energy needed to power 4.3 million U.S. homes. 

2018 ExxonMobil-operated greenhouse gas emissions sources

2018 performance and initiatives

We are also working to reduce flaring, venting and fugitive emissions in our operations. Since 2000, we eliminated or captured and stored 400 million metric tons of CO2, equivalent to the energy-related CO2 emissions of about 55 million U.S. homes over the same period, using a variety of technologies.

Yvette Longonje, project manager, at ExxonMobil’s cogeneration facility in Beaumont, Texas.

spotlight

Imperial plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity at oil sands facilities

Imperial's Cold Lake operation in Canada.

ExxonMobil’s Canadian affiliate, Imperial, plans to apply advanced technologies and improvements in efficiency to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of its operated oil sands facilities. 

Imperial’s goal is to achieve a 10 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 2023, using 2016 as a baseline.* The application of next-generation oil recovery technology at its Cold Lake operation and improvements in reliability at its Kearl site are two of the key drivers behind the planned reductions. 

Imperial is also evaluating the first commercial application of a breakthrough cyclic solvent process for producing oil from an oil sands deposit at its Cold Lake site. The process could help eliminate the use of steam and reduce emissions intensity by up to 90 percent in certain areas of the field, compared to existing technology.

*Governmental, legal or regulatory changes could directly or indirectly delay or otherwise impact greenhouse gas emissions intensity-reduction measures.

Methane emissions 

Overview

Fugitive emissions are releases of gases or vapors from pressurized equipment. Venting refers to the release of built-up gases that could present a safety risk if not released. We recognize the importance of reducing emissions and continue to implement cost-effective methods to reduce methane and other hydrocarbon emissions from our operations.

ExxonMobil is taking a leadership role in methane emission reduction efforts. In 2018, we announced our intention to reduce corporate-wide methane emissions by 15 percent by 2020, compared with 2016. As of August 2019, methane emissions from our U.S. unconventional production and midstream operations were down by nearly 20 percent, compared to 2016, and we are on track to meet our company-wide methane reduction commitments by 2020. 

To achieve this progress, we implemented cost-effective methods that included structured leak detection and repair programs, which use optical natural gas imaging cameras to identify leaks for prompt repair, and replacement of high-bleed, pneumatic devices with lower-emission technology. Since 2017, ExxonMobil has replaced more than 80 percent of the approximately 1,250 high-bleed pneumatic devices across our U.S. unconventional operations.  

2018 performance and initiatives

In 2018, methane emissions from our global operations totaled 7 million CO2-equivalent metric tons, which on a company-wide basis was the same as the previous year. Although reductions were achieved in U.S. unconventional production and midstream operations, increases were seen in other areas due to production growth. Overall, the company remains on track to meet its 15 percent methane reduction commitment by 2020.

We support the Methane Guiding Principles for reducing methane emissions across the natural gas value chain, which we signed in 2017. The guiding principles are being implemented in collaboration with many stakeholders, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the International Energy Agency, the International Gas Union, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative Climate Investment Fund, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Sustainable Gas Institute, the Energy and Resources Institute and United Nations Environment. The principles provide a framework for reducing methane emissions, improving accuracy of methane emissions data and advocating for sound policies and regulations on methane emissions.

We have advocated in the United States for a cost-effective, federal regulatory standard to manage methane emissions for both new and existing oil and natural gas facilities. We will continue to work constructively with state and federal regulators, industry and nongovernmental organizations to develop and implement effective methane-emission regulations.

Flaring

Overview

Flaring is the process of burning natural gas as an alternative to releasing it directly into the atmosphere, often as a safety measure to relieve pressure and reduce risk of ignition. For some locations, flaring occurs because infrastructure is not in place to enable beneficial use of the gas.

ExxonMobil is a member of the World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership. This initiative seeks to reduce flaring by exploring new technologies, sharing best practices and supporting development of appropriate, country-specific gas flaring reduction. Our upstream Environmental Standards and Environmental Business Planning processes promote objectives to avoid routine flaring in new upstream projects and reduce flaring in our existing operations.

2018 performance and initiatives

Flaring from our combined upstream, downstream and chemical operations totaled 4.0 million metric tons in 2018, representing an increase of 200,000 metric tons compared with 2017. The increase in 2018 was primarily due to the start-up of growth projects in our upstream business. 2018 flaring was down more than 1 million metric tons, or 19 percent, from 2016. We continue to focus our efforts to reduce flaring associated with oil and natural gas production and processing across ExxonMobil operations to meet our target of 25 percent reduction by 2020, compared with 2016. 

Hydrocarbon flaring performance

Millions of metric tons

In 2018, the volume of hydrocarbons flared from our combined upstream, downstream and chemical operations totaled 4.0 million metric tons. This represents an increase of 0.2 million metric tons compared with our 2017 performance. 

Related content

Environment

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.’

Sustainability Report