The Environmental Partnership's Arc of Progress
Posted September 14, 2021
It’s pretty easy to get lost in the trees of The Environmental Partnership’s newest results data, contained in its new annual report – including the new flare management program’s reported 50% decrease in flare volumes from 2019 to 2020, plus hundreds of thousands of surveys and hundreds of millions of component inspections. Those numbers are important, but there’s another big story behind them.
It’s a story of progress – tangible, beneficial, significant progress by the natural gas and oil industry toward a lower-carbon future and a smaller environmental footprint. The numbers show industry’s steady progress in lowering emissions even as it continues to produce the affordable, reliable energy Americans use every single day.
Thoughtful analysis supports the case we’ve been making, that the U.S. and the world need both.
The energy furnished by natural gas and oil is essential for human progress, and they must be produced with continuously improving environmental protections. Since The Partnership’s launch in 2018, both have been Job 1.
And it is succeeding. When you step back and see the big picture, our industry – with help from initiatives like The Environmental Partnership – is achieving important, individual results that together are building the arc of progress.
“We know we have more work to do,” API President and CEO Mike Sommers said during a reporter briefing on The Partnership’s annual report. Sommers pointed to API’s support for the direct regulation of methane and its efforts to encourage member companies to adopt a policy of no flaring by a certain date. Yet, a strong foundation for progress has been laid. Vanessa Ryan of Chevron, The Partnership’s chair:
“The Environmental Partnership’s scope and implementation continued to grow despite the challenges of the previous year, and we’re confident in the resolve of the industry to implement new technologies and tackle new challenges as we strive to meet the mission of the program and never stop improving.”
When The Partnership was created, some critics doubted its potential. Yet, from the outset the initiative broke important new ground as business competitors worked shoulder-to-shoulder to reduce emissions by sharing experiences, best practices and technological know-how.
The Partnership also has more than tripled in size, from 23 members to more than 90, representing more than 70% of total U.S. onshore and offshore natural gas and oil production. That growth has meant expanded reach, expanded participation and, most importantly, expanded action that has generated beneficial results.
At first, The Partnership focused on three program areas – leaks, pneumatic controllers and manual unloading procedures – but since then has expanded to improve performance on other emissions sources. Indeed, it was expected The Partnership would add performance programs over time to reduce emissions more broadly – again showing industry’s commitment to achieving meaningful results.
The flare management program launched last year fits that strategy. As an industry we’re pleased with the significant decrease in flare volumes from program participants, even as their production remained consistent. Matt Todd, The Partnership’s director, told reporters that in a single year, companies collectively diverted 171 billion cubic feet of gas from being flared, effectively mitigating about 9.4 million metric tons of emissions on a carbon dioxide basis. Todd:
“It’s clear that our industry, through The Partnership’s programs and other industry-led efforts like it, are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and driving our greenhouse gas emissions ever lower. We look forward to growing, learning and making even more improvements together in the coming years.”
As Sommers said, there’s more work ahead. The key is that in The Environmental Partnership, our industry has an effective, maturing initiative that’s helping spearhead progress toward a future of plentiful energy and increasing environmental protection.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.
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