ExxonMobil investing heavily in emissions-detecting technology

In addition to navigating new and shifting methane emissions regulations, oil and gas producers are navigating new and shifting emissions detection technology.

“It’s very dynamic, a lot of technology, a lot of start-up companies,” agreed Stefanie Asher, technology integration manager at ExxonMobil.

The industry giant is launching an aggressive campaign to achieve net zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions from its Permian Basin assets by 2030 and company-wide among its operated assets by 2050. To that end, ExxonMobil has established its Center for Operations and Methane Emissions Tracking (COMET) in Houston, which will monitor sensors in the Permian Basin 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

ExxonMobil is embarking on an eight-month project to evaluate 30 emissions-detecting technologies.

“From our perspective, we want proven technology,” Asher said.

As part of the evaluations, the company is installing state-of-the-art technologies across its 1.8 million-acre Permian Basin operations, from satellites and planes to stratospheric balloons to ground-based mobile and fixed-position sensors.

Installing ground sensors was the first step, said Asher, with quantification of emissions the next. That effort is part of the collaboration with Scepter Inc., which will launch a stratospheric balloon early next year to survey ExxonMobil assets as well as satellite and airplane flyovers. The goal is to detect leaks – including “fugitive” methane emissions – and identify potential solutions.

“This is the future of the industry,” Asher stated. “This is not just an Exxon problem, it’s not just an industry problem, it is a global problem.”

She said the company is trying to lead in deploying emissions-detecting technology and doing so through collaboration and sharing best practices. The goal, she added, is to not just deploy technology throughout the oil and gas industry but other industries as well.

One of the main challenges is integration of the data from those various technologies, she said.

“We want to deploy various technologies; we can’t have a single vendor,” she explained. “We also need to integrate the sensor information with operational information. (So) we’re working with partners to develop that platform. We also have proprietary tools that let us monitor emissions. The concept is all the sensors and data are integrated into digital information our center can track.”

Then, she said, the center’s operators can rapidly evaluate and provide meaningful feedback to the operators on the ground to help prioritize operational issues.

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