Investments in the Permian basin have been growing steadily. ExxonMobil has invested $6 billion in land across New Mexico. Noble Energy has invested $3 billion around the Texas border.
The University of Texas, which manages 2.1 million acres of Permian Basin land, has seen a substantial increase in methane emissions over the last few years. Methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, as a greenhouse gas, and experts at the University of Texas are calling for emission reductions.
In recent years, key industry players have shown a clear commitment to environmental regulation compliance. ExxonMobil’s recently appointed CEO, Darren Woods has commented, “I believe, and my company believes, that climate risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us – business, governments and consumers – to make meaningful progress.”
If Exxon acts on its promises and commits to implementing methane controls, it will surely become a pioneer. Areas that could greatly benefit from a reduction of methane pollution include Eddy County, NM, the state’s top oil producing region, which has received a failing grade from the American Lung Association for ozone smog pollution.
There have already been successful experiences of sound methane policies in the industry. In Colorado, state methane rules have benefited taxpayers, and companies like Noble Energy have successfully adapted to them. “Working together with Colorado to ensure we have the energy we need, the economy we want, and the environment we value,” is the greeting that welcomes visitors to the Noble Colorado website.
In fact, many companies with Permian Basin operations are currently implementing advanced technologies with environmental issues in mind. In a statement, ConocoPhillips, which is implementing pad drilling in the area, said it plans "to reduce environmental impact through the use of multi-well technology [and] will use horizontal and directional well technology when the technology is compatible with reservoir characteristics to minimize the environmental impact of operations.”
The advantages of this type of multi-well pads include “fewer pieces of surface equipment, less traffic on local roads and reduced infrastructure required to develop an area.” Great Western Drilling, which celebrated 80 years in the Permian oil patch last September, is also adopting pad drilling to reduce its environmental footprint.
As Exxon’s CEO advocates, it is essential to “meet the world’s energy needs and... all of our shared aspirations in an environmentally and socially responsible way.” Our industry must keep evolving and finding creative, high-tech solutions to reduce environmental impact and boost profits at Texas and New Mexico’s bountiful Permian Basin.