The oil and natural gas industries are increasing their efforts to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, and West Virginia-based assets are working to make that happen.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and ExxonMobil signed a 10-year partnership in Washington, D.C., in which the three parties agreed to advance methods and technology by which the environmental impact of the energy industry might be lessened.

NETL Director Brian Anderson said ExxonMobil does business all over the world, and with the global population continuing to rise, the challenge for industry becomes how to provide low-cost, reliable power and do so in a sustainable manner. This is something, he said, that will require technological solutions. As times change, so must industry.

“We’ve been working on those technologies for decades,” he said, adding that while ExxonMobil has plenty of its own capable researchers, working with NETL and NREL has advantages.

“Our areas of focus and expertise are complementary. The energy sector is just so big that whenever you come up with a new innovation, to then scale it up for the energy sector, it takes tremendous effort,” he said.

Anderson said all of NETL’s sites in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Oregon are going to be involved. But the Morgantown facility is where much of the larger-scale research just prior to commercialization takes place, so it will play a crucial role, with ExxonMobil staff working alongside NETL researchers.

Per the agreement, ExxonMobil is investing up to $100 million in cooperative research and development endeavors to advance groundbreaking low-emissions energy technologies toward commercial scale.

While this is not the first partnership the DOE has entered into with a private company, it is certainly one of the largest. For ExxonMobil, this is the latest in a series of lower-emissions research programs, which include over 80 universities, five energy centers and multiple private-sector partners. The company has spent more than $9 billion since 2000 developing and deploying lower-emissions energy solutions.

“Finding meaningful solutions to address climate change is going to take everyone — governments, companies and academia — working together,” ExxonMobil Vice President of Research and Development Vijay Swarup said. “This agreement will help us advance fundamental science and demonstrate scale. This is critical because it will give us a better understanding of how to progress technologies so they can be applied globally.”

Another example was on display during the 2019 spring meeting of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. During that conference, Cristie Neller, vice president of Dominion Energy’s Eastern Pipeline Engineering and Gas Infrastructure Group, detailed the company’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re going to do that by many ways,” she said. “We’ve gotten to where we are by using natural gas. Natural gas generation is also a complement to renewables. We’re looking at putting 3,000 megawatts of solar and wind in place by 2022 and continuing to build out our natural gas to support our renewable portfolio. Everything is changing around us, and we must adapt.”

Neller said it isn’t just about reducing carbon dioxide, but also methane emissions. She said Dominion has prevented 180,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere since 2010, and the company aims to prevent 430,000 metric tons from escaping into the atmosphere by 2030, which represents a 50 percent reduction based on 2010 levels.

She said one way in which this can be accomplished is by deploying renewable natural gas, or RNG. This can be accomplished via covered lagoons at farms, where methane and carbon dioxide are collected, sent through a scrubber and recycled through the regular natural gas power system. This process is more economical than trying to generate raw power from methane alone.

To that end, Dominion entered into a $250 million partnership with Smithfield Foods to form Align Renewable Natural Gas. Neller said this is the largest RNG partnership organized thus far. An RNG facility has already been pioneered in North Carolina to prove the concept could work.

“Each year, we’re going to do a little more,” she said. “It’s about learning to walk before you can run. No matter how much we grow our assets, we’re also looking to lower our emissions, so it’s double the challenge.”

James Kotcon, a professor of soil science at West Virginia University, maintained that this trend is a sign of energy companies seeing the writing on the wall regarding the adverse affects of climate change and this an adaptation to the times.

However, representatives of the state’s trade natural gas associations said these new endeavors provide new opportunities.

“The natural gas industry is so successful in part because of its commitment to advances in technology, being innovative and being clean and green,” said West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association Executive Director Anne Blankenship regarding initiatives such as agricultural RNG.

“Companies like Dominion have been focused on these initiatives for years as we continue to produce and use more natural gas because it is the right thing to do. We are good corporate citizens and have the same goals as everyone else — a clean environment and a good quality of life,” she said.

Charlie Burd, director of the West Virginia Independent Oil and Natural Gas Association of West Virginia, said many companies are now going down this path. He noted that environmental regulations under the previous administration were rushed in their implementation, but, given time and flexibility, the energy industry has the capability and will to identify and solve its own problems using innovation rather than restrictions.

“This is just another example of the industry being responsible,” he said, adding there are also financial incentives for cracking down on emissions. “Every producer is incentivized because they do not want what money they are making evaporating into the air.”

To view the original article, go to: https://www.wvnews.com/statejournal/news/industries-seek-to-lower-their-methane-emissions-carbon-footprint/article_624f4282-dd7a-546d-8a7e-92938a0fdf03.html#tncms-source=article-nav-next

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