Evaluating products with life cycle assessments
A Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, is a methodology for evaluating complex potential environmental impacts across the full life span of a product. This life span begins with the raw materials of a product and ends with the final disposition. At ExxonMobil, we have highly skilled LCA practitioners who conduct these assessments. We utilize the results to develop strategic guidance, to inform our advocacy position, and to properly represent our products to our customers. This enables us to evaluate our potential impact on the environment and society by the production and distribution of our products.
ExxonMobil is committed to helping society reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing the Company’s emissions and developing and deploying emission-reducing technologies and products. Increasing the supply of products with lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions enables the transition from higher-emission alternatives.
Management and applications
To evaluate ExxonMobil’s impact on society’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, including Scope 3 emissions, it is critical to consider society’s essential needs, available alternatives and the emissions created or avoided throughout a product’s life cycle in meeting those needs. This holistic approach provides a better assessment of overall emissions and improves customers, stakeholders and policy makers understanding of ExxonMobil’s efforts to thoughtfully reduce global emissions while meeting society’s essential needs.
ExxonMobil used this approach4 to analyze the change in overall emissions associated with the Company’s business plans. On this basis, ExxonMobil’s full life-cycle absolute greenhouse gas emissions for its oil, natural gas, fuels (including biofuels), chemicals, and lubricants portfolio could decrease by about 12% in 2030 relative to 2016 levels. Similarly, ExxonMobil’s portfolio life-cycle emissions intensity (g CO₂e/MJ) could decrease by about 4% in 2030 relative to 2016. The decrease in absolute emissions and emissions intensity is a result of continued improvement in greenhouse gas performance of existing operations, optimization of the asset portfolio and product mix, with a growth in LNG, chemical products, lubricants, and lower-emissions fuels that help customers reduce their emissions.
For products that lack practical short-term alternatives, constraining ExxonMobil’s production to reduce the Company’s Scope 3 emissions simply transfers that production and associated emissions to another supplier. This would increase overall emissions if production shifts to a less-efficient, higher-emission operator. For more than two decades, ExxonMobil refineries have focused on energy efficiency and lower emissions. As a result, today the emissions intensity (Scope 1 and 2) of ExxonMobil refineries is more than 15% lower on Carbon Emissions Intensity (the equivalent of about 5 million metric tons per year CO₂e based on ExxonMobil refining throughput in 2020) than the global industry average5. ExxonMobil has publicly reported the Company’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions data for many years and more recently began providing Scope 3 estimates (See data table on Page 48).
Reporting Scope 1 emissions data (direct greenhouse gas emissions from Company operations) can provide useful insight into the efficiency and emission-reduction performance of the Company’s operations, portfolio of products, and resource types.
Reporting Scope 2 emissions data (indirect greenhouse gas emissions from energy purchased by the Company) highlights the Company’s choice of electricity purchased to power its operations.
Scope 3 emissions primarily refer to the indirect emissions resulting from society’s need for and use of the Company’s products.
4ExxonMobil’s proprietary portfolio life-cycle model estimates elements of Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions for ExxonMobil’s Upstream, Downstream, and Chemicals businesses. The estimated figures are based on projected 2021 plan volumes for 2030. 5Calculated by Solomon Associates’ proprietary Carbon Emission Index in a 2020 industry survey.