Reducing GHG Emissions
We prioritized methane emissions reductions in recent years, because we believe it will have the highest impact on mitigating the risks of climate change. Methane is estimated to contribute 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Through company-wide investments to continuously improve our air emissions performance, we’ve cut methane intensity 35% and methane emissions as a percent of natural gas produced 38% in the last five years. We use emissions intensity ratings to measure our performance because such measures normalize for changes in activity levels. GHG intensity increased in 2019, partially as a result of gas capture and infrastructure challenges related to our North Dakota Bakken asset. We are diligently taking action to reduce our GHG emissions associated with flaring and other emissions sources.
We’re committed to making further progress as we continue to address the increasing expectations of our investors, communities and other stakeholders. In 2019, we established an Emissions Management Committee charged with identifying high-impact projects across the enterprise to drive down GHG intensity. In addition, our board of directors established a continuous improvement metric in executive compensation calculations and our company scorecard to lower our GHG intensity year-over-year. This ensures that both employees and executives are working toward lower GHG emissions and, more broadly, environmental stewardship. Through our active engagement in The Environmental Partnership, we’re also confronting industry challenges by promoting best practices to reduce flaring volumes and increase gas capture.
Marathon Oil is bringing our top-performing technical and operational expertise to bear to reduce flaring and the associated emissions across our operations. Key operational strategies to reduce flaring include:
- Proactively working with our midstream partners to align infrastructure development with well construction. Currently 99% of our U.S. well pad locations are connected to third-party gas pipelines to reduce flaring and the associated emissions.
- Working with our suppliers to design, construct and complete wells to minimize the need for flaring and venting during well completions and operations.
- Actively monitoring our operations remotely from digital control centers and using data analytics to predict and prevent issues and respond efficiently if needed.
- Deploying best available technologies to reduce emissions and enhance gas capture across our operations. These include ultra-high efficiency flares that reduce emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from flaring, and vapor recovery technologies that capture and bring to market natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) that would otherwise be flared.
Addressing Infrastructure Constraints in the Bakken
We’re particularly focused on mitigating the impacts of ongoing gas capture infrastructure limitations causing increased flaring in our Bakken asset. While industry natural gas production has been increasing in the Bakken, mid-stream gathering and processing service providers continue to build out the necessary infrastructure. Currently 98% of our well pad locations in the Bakken are connected to third-party gas pipelines to reduce flaring and the associated emissions.
In 2019, we took concrete actions to expedite delivery of critical infrastructure to aid gas capture efforts that will reduce flaring in the Bakken. This involved working closely with our third-party midstream providers, including sharing our drilling plans and production forecasts with their senior leaders to encourage timely buildout of the infrastructure. We appointed a company midstream manager in Bakken whose primary focus is securing access to midstream infrastructure. Biweekly technical review meetings with our third-party providers focused on proactively managing our development plans, and we assigned dedicated resources to support our third parties with right-of-way efforts. As we addressed these constraints, Marathon Oil remained in compliance with all applicable state emissions regulations.
In our field operations, we use NGL units to reduce the volumes of gas flared by condensing NGLs from the gas stream that would otherwise be flared due to lack of a gas connection or gas takeaway capacity constraints. In 2019, we processed over 1 BCF of natural gas with NGL units in Bakken. We also developed a gas capture model to ensure we’re integrating gas capture requirements into our future development plans.
While year-over-year raw gas capture in 2019 was down slightly due to the timing of third-party midstream infrastructure projects, we expect to make a step change in our Bakken gas capture to approximately 90% in third quarter of 2020, which would also push our corporate gas capture to about 98%.
Our asset team is evaluating potential future capital projects in parallel with the Emissions Management Committee’s efforts to identify practices, strategies and projects to lower GHG intensity.
Infrastructure and Technology Solutions to Cut Emissions
To reduce flaring in our Permian Basin asset, we’re addressing the emissions source. Through proactive engagement with our midstream partners, we’ve aligned infrastructure development with drilling plans to ensure that the necessary gas capture, storage and pipeline equipment is in place as wells come on stream. This holistic approach reduces – or in some cases eliminates – the need for flaring in the early stages of the well’s operating life. After initiating this approach, flaring emissions in the Permian in the second half of 2019 were lower than the first half of the year. We continue to see improved performance in gas capture in 2020.
In the Eagle Ford, our automated field service management system (FSM) enables us to make flare repairs the highest maintenance priority. When our SCADA system detects a potential unlit or malfunctioning flare, it immediately alerts our digital operations control center (OCC). An OCC operator verifies the alert and if needed, creates a high-priority task in the FSM system, which automatically schedules and dispatches a skilled operator or maintenance technician to perform the repair. We’re expanding this streamlined digital functionality across our assets in 2020 to further expedite repairs that can reduce emissions.
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