ExxonMobil invests heavily in emissions testing technology

In addition to dealing with new and changing methane emissions regulations, oil and gas producers are also dealing with new and changing emissions detection technologies.

“It’s very dynamic, there’s a lot of technology, there’s a lot of startups,” agrees 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 net-zero company-wide from its operating assets by 2050 emission. To that end, ExxonMobil has established the Operations Center and Methane Emissions Tracker (COMET) in Houston, which will monitor sensors in the Permian Basin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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

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

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

Installing ground sensors is the first step, Asher said, and the next step is to quantify emissions. The work is part of a collaboration with Scepter Inc., which will launch a stratospheric balloon early next year to survey ExxonMobil assets as well as satellite and aircraft flybys. The goal is to detect leaks — including “fleeing” methane emissions — and identify potential solutions.

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

The company is trying to lead the deployment of emissions detection technology by collaborating and sharing best practices, she said. She added that our goal is not only to deploy the technology across the oil and gas industry, but other industries as well.

One of the main challenges, she said, is integrating data from these different technologies.

“We want to deploy a variety of technologies; we can’t just have one vendor,” she explained. “We also need to combine sensor information with operational information. (So) we are working with partners to develop the platform. We also have proprietary tools that allow us to monitor emissions. The concept is that all the sensors and data are integrated into our center digital information that can be tracked.”

The center operator can then quickly assess and provide meaningful feedback to field operators to help prioritize operational issues, she said.

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