Fighting Global Warming: How Can the Oil and Gas Sector Help?

Oil pollutant clean up

Global warming is an international problem that’s happening because of the excessive amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. Over the years, the temperature in the atmosphere has kept increasing to dangerous levels. Some parts of the US experience extreme heat waves of up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit.

Several human activities emit GHG, accounting for the most substantial emission globally, but the oil and gas industry also contributes significantly to the crisis. If it continues to worsen, more glaciers will shrink, more ice will melt, and plant and animal ranges will shift due to the warmer temperature.

The Contribution of Oil and Gas to Climate Change

An analysis of the oil and gas industry shows that it offers rewarding investment opportunities. It produces most of the GHGs in the US, however. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says GHG emissions in the country mainly come from burning fuels to use for energy.

Burning fossil fuels, including hydrocarbon gas liquids, coal, natural gas, and petroleum, is the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the transportation sector generates the largest share of GHG emissions with 28.9 percent in 2017. Other contributors include electricity production with 27.5 percent and industrial with 22.2 percent emission.

Apart from CO2 emissions, methane (CH4) is also a GHG that contributes to global warming. It comes from landfills, agriculture, coal mines, and oil and natural gas operations.

Tackling Methane Emission Helps Reduce Impact

A report from the United Nations Environment Programme, the oil and gas industry can help improve climate crisis by tackling methane emissions. The report says methane is responsible for a quarter of global warming. It is also more potent by over 80 times as a warming gas over a 20-year timeframe compared to carbon dioxide.

Additionally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains that methane emission reductions must come by 2030 to increase the chances of meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C global temperature target.

Reducing methane can also have a double benefit because CH4 helps to form ground-level ozone. This is responsible for about one million deaths and the loss of up to 110 million tonnes of crops annually.

What Are the Green Efforts of the Industry?

Men working at an oil factory

Despite the intentions of the U.S. administration to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change, oil companies want to address the issue. Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), for instance, aims to reduce CO2 emissions that drive climate change by doing this solution.

Oxy explains that they chose the oil field of the Permian Basin, a known “tapped out and unprofitable” area a few miles from the Texas border. The company injects carbon dioxide into the field and stores it underground, preventing it from contributing to GHG emissions. Not only will it benefit the environment but also the company’s bottom line.

A TIME report explains that Oxy has been doing this method for years, and now it wants to expand its efforts. The company can store CO2 equivalent to the emissions of a small state. It usually uses natural CO2 instead of man-made.

Carbon-capture technology could be the leading solution for climate change. Oxy emphasizes that this technology has to happen to help reach the 2° temperature goal.

Other big oil companies also take part in addressing climate change. Oxy, ExxonMobil, and Chevron joined a coalition of some of the biggest energy companies in the world in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). They offered $1 billion to fund ventures dedicated to reducing emissions.

Some climate change activists remain skeptic about the industry’s efforts. But solving climate change doesn’t happen overnight. The important thing is to have small initiatives that focus on fighting global warming.

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