Greener thinking

BP forms new partnership to reduce methane emissions

BP has partnered with an environmental nonprofit to reduce emissions of methane. Getty Images

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions in oil and gas, methane is a less talked about, sneakier culprit compared to carbon dioxide. While it remains in the atmosphere for a shorter period than CO2, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 during its first 20 years after being emitted into the air.

BP, which has its North American headquarters in Houston, has set out a strategy to minimize its contributions of methane to the atmosphere. The company made a three-year deal with New York-based Environmental Defense Fund to reduce methane emissions in its global supply chain by incorporating new technologies and practices, which will be identified by the new partnership.

"BP is taking a leading role in addressing methane emissions, and this collaboration with EDF is another important step forward for us and for our industry," says Bernard Looney, BP's upstream chief executive, in a release. "We've made great progress driving down emissions across our own business, including meeting our industry-leading methane intensity target of 0.2 percent, but there is much more work to do and partnering with the committed and capable team at EDF will help us develop and share best practices."

BP and EDF will work with universities and third-party experts in order to identify cutting-edge technology for the new initiative, and the company hopes to serve as a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is no small undertaking, says Fred Krupp, EDF president, in the release.

"The scale of the methane challenge is enormous, but so is the opportunity," Krupp says. "Whether natural gas can play a constructive role in the energy transition depends on aggressive measures to reduce emissions that include methane. BP took such a step today."

EDF, a nonprofit, won't be paid by BP — per EDF's policy —but BP will assist with funding when it comes to employing experts tasked with finding better technologies to minimize emissions.

"EDF and BP don't agree on everything, but we're finding common ground on methane," Krupp says in the release. "BP has shown early ambition to lead on methane technology. We hope to see more as BP delivers on its own stringent methane goal and we work together to spread solutions industrywide."

BP and EDF have identified three key areas the initiative will focus on this year.

New detection technology
BP will grant up to $500,000 to a detection and quantification technology project at Colorado State University. The initiative includes drone technology and stationary monitoring that hopes to speed up methane emission detection time.

"CSU welcomes this support from BP and EDF for this critical research work, and this provides the necessary confidence and momentum for other stakeholders to contribute in a collaborative environment, in which the results and tools will benefit the wider industry," says Dan Zimmerle, senior research associate for Colorado State University's Energy Institute, in the release.

Advances in digital technology
This year, BP and EDF will announce a digitization project for reducing methane emissions. An EDF report, Fueling the Digital Methane Future, which produced with Accenture Strategy, identified solutions such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality as potential pathways to fewer emissions.

Joint ventures
A 2018 EDF report proved that oil and gas companies can team up to reduce emissions together. BP and EDF plan to host a workshop to find best practices for emission reductions on a larger scale.

From Rex Tillerson's thoughts on leadership and politics to Houston's role in the low-carbon energy movement, check out these powerful quotes from the 2020 KPMG Global Energy Conference. Getty Images

As the energy capital of the world, Houston can't get complacent. The oil and gas industry is changing — carbon is out and finding clean energy alternatives is in.

At the 2020 KPMG Global Energy Conference on June 5 and 6, hundreds of energy professionals listened to the O&G elite — even including former Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson — give their two cents about the revolution. Day two of the conference featured the Houston Low Carbon Energy Climate Summit by the Center for Houston's Future.

In case you missed it, here are a few powerful quotes from both days of the program — from Houston's role in the low-carbon energy movement to Tillerson's leadership expertise.

"Texas is one of those places where you can just get stuff done.”

— Cindy Yeilding, senior vice president at BP, says Texans are willing to collaborate on this. In the "Visions of our Energy Future" panel during the Low Carbon Energy Summit on Thursday, June 6, she predicted Houston will be a net zero carbon city by 2040 or 2035.

“One of the things we need to focus on is being able to attract and retain talent.”

— Mary Anne Brelinsky, CEO of EDF Trading, stressing the importance of talent in the effort to keep Houston the energy capital of the world. Brelinsky advocated for corporations and its execs getting involved with local universities. "We're competing against Silicon Valley," she says in the panel.

"You’ve got the source, and you’ve got the sinks. … Houston is going to be one of our focal points.”

— Charlene Olivia Russell, vice president of Low Carbon Strategies at Oxy, on how Houston is set up for success when it comes to staying as a power player in the global low carbon energy platform, but, during the panel, she emphasizes collaboration needs to continue happening.

“When Shell agreed to sponsor this summit, it was pitched as a climate change summit. It was changed to a low-carbon summit because some people in this room are uncomfortable with the phrase 'climate change.'"

— Jason Klein, vice president of U.S. Energy Transition Strategy at Shell, says at the "Energy Transformations" panel during the Low Carbon Energy Summit on Thursday, June 6.

"If we want to be the leader and the energy capital of the world, we need to attract talent, capital investment, and innovation, and if the people are going to do those things think that we don’t even like to talk about those things, then they aren’t going to come here — they’re going to go to San Francisco.”

— Klein continues. The audience responded with a round of applause.

“I think it is important as Americans to remember that our greatest strength and the most important element to our national security has been that we are a nation that has many allies and friends. Our adversaries — Russia, China, North Korea, Iran — have no allies or friends.”

— Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who served as CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016. Tillerson discussed a wide range of topics on Wednesday, June 5, at the 2020 KPMG Global Energy Conference in his fireside chat with Regina Mayor, global sector head and U.S. national sector leader of energy and natural resources at KPMG US. Click here to watch the full interview.

“We’re all a work in progress. You’re never done. I’m not done — I’m still a work in progress. If you have that view and you have that set of values that are never going to change … [then] I can keep developing as a human being.”

— Tillerson says of leadership lessons learned. He's an avid proponent of the Boy Scouts of America organization, and cited many valuable lessons he's learned about himself and about leading people from his involvement in the nonprofit.