Voluntary Initiatives for Oil & Gas Companies

Stefano Galiasso
Senior Associate

Several organizations have started to communicate ESG goals across industries, some of which have clearly defined, and in some cases aggressive, targets. We are approaching an interesting inflection point where policy is beginning to catch up to publicly communicated targets, and companies will soon have to disclose progress towards their public commitments.  Soon, it will become clear who is truly embedding ESG topics into business operations and transforming the way they are doing things and who is just setting targets with no clear path in sight to achieve them.  

One of the most common ESG targets that companies are setting are greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the next 8-30 years, with the hardest to abate sectors under increasing public scrutiny. Oil & gas companies are especially under a microscope when it comes to emissions reductions, with methane emissions in the spotlight. Long term emissions reductions strategies can be a challenge to define, especially when the robust policy needed to inform these strategies is not yet present. Oil and gas CEOs have an unprecedented opportunity to transform their companies’ emissions reduction strategies by voluntarily adopting emission reduction targets that can achieve far more than just compliance.

Highwood Emissions Management's Voluntary Initiatives Summary

Luckily, our friends at Highwood Emissions provide some insight on how to get ahead of regulations and design emissions reduction strategies that can become a long-term competitive advantage, increasing the value and quality of your business. Highwood’s Voluntary Emissions Reduction Initiatives in 2022 is the second edition of their report making sense of the ever-changing voluntary initiatives landscape in the oil and gas industry.

This version of the Green Molecule™Journal will only explore certain aspects of the voluntary initiatives available to natural gas distribution companies, however, the Highwood Emissions report effectively organizes the voluntary initiatives for each part of the value chain. If your core business is not distribution, we suggest you spend some time diving into the report to learn more about what initiatives might be better suited for your business.  The ECV team is always happy to engage directly with you in more detailed conversations on emissions management!

Types of Voluntary Initiatives 

A voluntary initiative is a coordinated effort, managed by an administering organization, that enables participants to take standardized voluntary steps towards targeting, achieving, and/or taking credit for emissions reductions. The report organizes initiatives into 4 categories.

  1. Certifications: recognize accomplishments. They hold participants to binding standards and entail an explicit declaration of achievement by an administering organization. Certifications tend to be the most rigorous category with measurement requirements and strict reporting standards.
  2. Commitments: look to the future. They require participants to pledge towards a goal. 
  3. Guidelines: are the how. They include frameworks, standards, principles, and/or tools set forth by an organization to be followed by participants. 
  4. Other Initiatives: may include platforms for sharing emissions reduction activities and achievements, and broad partnerships among industry, governments, and NGOs.

Voluntary Initiatives Available to Distribution Companies

Commitments

Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) 2.0: Funded by the UNEP International Methane Emissions Observatory, the OGMP is a comprehensive methane reporting framework requiring the implementation of measurement-based technology. To participate, companies must regularly report their methane emissions using strict science-based measurement standards from all operated and non-operated assets across the value chain. Currently, 20 upstream companies, 38 midstream companies, and 21 downstream companies across 60 countries have adopted the OGMP 2.0. 

ONE Future Coalition: A growing group of more than 50 U.S. companies operating across the oil and gas value chain that have collectively committed to reducing their methane emissions intensity to 1% or less. The coalition is independent, but participants still have the option to disclose their emissions data and collaborate with the EPA under their Methane Challenge Program. Even if they are not disclosing, participants receive an EPA-generated reporting framework that requires companies to report their emissions data to the coalition annually, ensuring continual engagement and accountability. 

EPA Methane Challenge Program: A commitment-driven program giving participants distinct pathways to emissions reduction with benchmarks and reporting procedures. The program offers a Best Management Practices (BMP) Option, allowing companies to implement best management practices for one emission source relevant to their industry over the course of a 5-year timeframe with mandated annual reporting procedures to be disclosed to the EPA regarding the rate of progress, key milestones, and context for implementation plans. 

Guidelines

GTI Energy’s Veritas: A standard methodology for calculating methane intensity by reconciling site-level measurements. Veritas has developed segment- specific protocols to address the nuances of each of the six sectors of the oil and gas value chain. The Protocols are currently being improved and refined through a demonstration period that lasts through September 2022. With over a dozen projects spanning the six segments of the value chain, GTI Energy is improving the protocols before releasing them for public use.

NGSI Methane Intensity Protocol: The Natural Gas Sustainability Initiative is an industry-led effort to address ESG issues across the natural gas supply chain and the Methane Intensity Protocol specifically addresses methane intensity by providing an openly available monitoring and reporting framework. While the protocol is primarily based on emission factors, future efforts may include direct measurement. The NGSI Protocol builds on the efforts of the EPA and is  widely adopted by other initiatives for their quantification method including EO100™ Standard, The MiQ Standard, and the US EPA Methane Challenge. 

CDP Scores: A sustainability evaluation platform for various industries including oil and gas allowing participants to communicate climate performance to investors and identify and address climate change vulnerabilities. Scoring is based solely on self-reporting but emissions disclosures must be externally verified to achieve points in all levels of the scoring. Over 13,000 companies participate in CDP scoring.

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Oil and Gas Standard: An ESG framework that focuses on the risks and opportunities of the oil and gas industry. SASB gives importance to the inward effects of external stimuli to a company’s profitability. 214 oil and gas companies across the value chain currently disclose through the SASB Standards. Though SASB is a complete ESG assessment of a company, it only considers topics that are deemed as material for the entire industry to lower the cost of disclosure and decrease noise of less relevant information. 

Other Initiatives

Global Methane Challenge: An international campaign that highlights policies, best practices, and technologies that can accelerate the reduction and recovery of methane emissions. Since 2019, the program has highlighted methane emission reduction methods across 88 companies in biogas, coal, municipal solid waste, and oil and gas.  The Challenge invites its participants to establish systematic and transparent monitoring programs and emissions inventories for their methane reduction efforts, which can even include participation in other voluntary initiatives. 

Global Methane Alliance: A combination of governments, financing institutions, international organizations, NGOs, and industry actors that aims to accelerate the achievement of methane emissions reduction targets through knowledge sharing and collective efforts in the oil and gas industry. The alliance is targeting an absolute methane reduction target of up to 75% by 2030 and a methane ntensity target of 0.25%.

Some things change, some things stay the same

Highwood published the first Overview in 2021. Since then, regulatory and nonregulatory drivers have heavily influenced the voluntary initiatives environment. Naturally, a lot has changed, but some aspects remain constant and Highwood summarizes the differences below:

Highwood Emissions Management: Voluntary Emissions Reduction Initiatives in 2022

We anticipate even more changes year over year as the initiatives evolve to be stronger and more widely adopted by the industry. Some recommendations that would improve the efficacy and credibility of initiatives include: 

  1. more consolidation or harmonization across initiatives, 
  2. improved data collection and quality, 
  3. clearer effort expectations for rigorous measurement programs, 
  4. guidance on measurement and inventory best practices, 
  5. a baseline initiative to compare across all initiatives, and 
  6. guidance on establishing transparent, differentiated gas markets.
  7. implementation of tools that improve the transparency and design of transformation plans

Selecting the Right Initiative 

Highwood provides guidance on how to select the right initiative for your business. Some of the questions you can start with are below, along with some best practices to implement when reviewing your options.

Highwood Emissions Management: Voluntary Emissions Reduction Initiatives in 2022

Energy Capital Ventures’ Limited Partners are already participating in some of these great voluntary initiatives. We strongly encourage all of our readers to dive into some of these programs and learn more about the growing landscape of voluntary reduction efforts as we accelerate the transition to net zero. We look forward to meeting start-ups innovating in the methane emissions measurement and reduction space, some of which are highlighted in our article here. If you are an entrepreneur interested in joining our network please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

A special thanks to Antonio Monisit, Paul Ashford, Dr. Thomas Fox and Jessica Shumlich at Highwood Emissions Management for their expertise in authoring and publishing this report. To learn more about the voluntary initiatives in this article, you can download the free report from Highwood Emissions Management here, and register for the free interactive mini-conference here, to be held on Sept. 21, 2022, hosted by Highwood Emissions Management in collaboration with Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada.