Conserving the energy and greenhouse gases (GHGs) used to produce oil and gas can make a major contribution to moving the world onto a more sustainable energy path.
Often, the most economical method of reducing GHG emissions is to reduce energy consumed. This is because the easiest emissions to control are the ones never produced. For this reason, Ipieca works with the industry to help reduce emissions with sharing of good practices, tools and through providing opportunities for sharing knowledge.
Ipieca develops industry best practice and the promotion of technological and management solutions to reduce GHGs (for oil and gas this is mainly CO2 and methane) across the production, refining and transportation of oil and gas. For emissions from our operations, management largely means energy conservation or efficiency measures, reducing gas flaring and managing the emissions of methane.
The extraction and transformation of hydrocarbons is a significant energy consumer. Reducing energy losses, and thus energy costs, in refining, processing, transmission and distribution provides financial incentives for efficiency to companies, and reduces costs for consumers. The industry is investing heavily in new technologies and research, including energy efficient design of plants, advanced computer controls, advanced modelling of reservoirs to increase production efficiencies, new extraction and processing methods, and improved technologies for monitoring the efficiency of equipment in the field.
Oil production and refining operations generally use flaring (the burning of released gases) to prevent unplanned emissions into the atmosphere, and to protect equipment from dangerous levels of pressure. Venting (the releasing of gas into the atmosphere) is a less common practice - flaring is safer and achieves lower levels of GHG emissions.
Flaring management guidance for the oil and gas industry
Ipieca supports the aims of the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership’s (GGFR) ‘Zero routine flaring by 2030’ initiative, which brings together governments, oil companies and development institutions who recognize the flaring situation is unsustainable from a resource management and environmental perspective, and who agree to cooperate to eliminate routine flaring no later than 2030.
In February 2022, Ipieca, in collaboration with IOGP and GGFR, released an updated Flaring management guidance, which outlines new developments in flaring management and reduction, and examines industry experiences with eliminating flaring, new technologies, business models, operational improvements and regulatory policy. It also features case studies and examples of positive change.
The industry has made continuous reductions to the amount of natural gas that is flared. By working through a range of consortia, such as the GGFR, industry is reducing the amount of ‘associated’ gas that is flared. These improvements have been enabled by implementing local infrastructure and creating and opening markets for the associated gas. Ipieca members are also working with GGFR and local governments to build mechanisms to promote infrastructure development, regulations, availability of finance and other factors critical to large-scale energy conservation.
Ipieca and the Methane Guiding Principles
The important need to reduce methane emissions, a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas, was highlighted at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, when over 100 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge, aiming to reduce methane emissions by 30% in 2030.
Ipieca's work on methane has included several workshops and reports, glossaries, a fact sheet and webinar series, enabling greater alignment of our industry on how to manage methane from operations.
During the first half of 2021, Ipieca in collaboration with SPE, OGCI and IOGP held a series of four webinars to explore oil and gas organizations’ efforts to reduce methane emissions, covering: detection and quantification methods; technology and investment; policy and industry action; and satellite data on methane emissions.
In March 2021, Ipieca, IOGP, GIE and MARCOGAZ, published a joint Methane emissions glossary covering the entire natural gas value chain. Expected to be an invaluable reference tool for understanding the terminology of regulations and legislative processes, the joint glossary builds on Ipieca’s 2018 Methane glossary to support the industry and other stakeholders in the use of consistent terminology, and to improve confidence in understanding and managing methane emission sources to further improve performance in reducing methane emissions.
Ipieca held a virtual methane workshop in November 2020. This brought together industry members, scientists, regulators and intergovernmental organization representatives from around the world to share their knowledge and expertise, summarised in the workshop report.
Helping reduce consumer's emissions
The industry also supports our consumers as they manage their energy usage and GHG emissions, for example through:
- working with motor vehicle manufacturers to create products that help increase engine performance
- supporting partnerships such as the Global Fuel Economy Initiative
- producing new advanced lubricants that reduce engine friction and increase fuel economy
- supporting consumer education to achieve more efficient energy use
- developing and using lower-carbon fuels
- exploring and developing new natural gas resources and technologies
- investing in low-carbon and alternative fuels and technologies, including carbon capture and storage
Ipieca's work on societal solutions including carbon capture and storage is discussed under Exploring low-emissions pathways.