Permian Basin oil and gas companies address pollution as fossil fuel production booms

Carlsbad Current-Argus • Adrian Hedden

As fossil fuel production was expected to continue growing in the Permian Basin this spring, energy companies in the region also appeared to increase their focus on mitigating the environmental impacts of operations.

Occidental Petroleum announced Monday its Direct Air Capture plant on the Texas side of the Permian Basin, developed by subsidiary 1PointFive will capture about 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

The facility began construction in August 2022 and was expected to start operations in late 2024 with the potential to scale-up to 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year, according to a company announcement.

The Monday release also announced Occidental was partnering with Siemens Energy to develop compressors for use at the facility, supplying a 13,000 horsepower (hp) wet gas compressor package and an 8,500 hp dry gas compressor at the facility.

The machines will compress and process the gas, before sending it into a pipeline for underground injection.

Occidental Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub said the operations will help the energy industry meet global air pollution reduction targets, part of a worldwide effort to address climate change.

It will assist in the company’s efforts to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions, Hollub said, meaning Occidental will remove more emissions from the air as it puts out across its worldwide operations.

“We are leveraging Oxy’s core competence in carbon management to capture and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide to help meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and reduce emissions globally,” Hollub said. “Our first Direct Air Capture plant will advance industrial-scale carbon capture to provide a solution to help Oxy and others accelerate their respective paths to net zero.”

Siemens CEO Christian Burch said partnerships with major energy companies like Occidental were helpful in reaching such goals for the industry.

“Technologies to effectively capture and sequester CO2 will be a necessity if we want to achieve our climate goals,” he said. “Close partnerships with partners like Occidental are the base to scale up innovative solutions.”

Another major operator in the region XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, announced last week it was partnering with Infinity Water Solutions to increase XTO’s use of recycled water in oil and gas drilling.

Hydraulic fracturing uses large volumes of water pumped underground to break up shale rock formations so oil and gas can be extracted.

To cut down on use of freshwater in fracking, many companies began recycling wastewater resulting from the process for use in subsequent operations.

A multi-year contract signed by XTO and Infinity was intended to preserve “millions of barrels” of water, read a company announcement, while also reducing volumes of water pumped back underground for disposal – a process recently linked to induced seismicity in the Permian.

“This collaborative work with Infinity is part of ExxonMobil’s ongoing efforts to seek industry leading performance on water management in the Permian, including a continued focus on increasing water recycling and sharing,” said David Scott, general manager of Exxon’s Permian Basin business unit.

“As a leading operator in the Permian Basin, we are working to do our part and collaborating with others to help safeguard New Mexico and West Texas water sources.”

The emphasis on environmental solution within the Permian Basin’s oil and gas industry followed reports that both oil and gas production was expected to grow this month, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The Permian was expected to add 30,000 barrels per day of oil production in March, along with 97 million cubic feet per day of natural gas, the EIA reported.

Higher production throughout 2022 and continuing this year could lead oil and gas companies in a better financial position to reduce pollution, read a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In 2022, the IEA reported the global energy industry released about 135 million tons of methane, down slightly from record highs in 2019 but attributable for 40 percent of total emissions from human activity.

Faith Birol, IEA Executive Director said energy companies should “step-up” their emission reduction efforts like ending routine venting and flaring, during a time of record profits.

“Our new Global Methane Tracker shows that some progress is being made but that emissions are still far too high and not falling fast enough – especially as methane cuts are among the cheapest options to limit near-term global warming,” Birol said.

“Many companies saw hefty profits last year following a turbulent period for international oil and gas markets amid the global energy crisis. Fossil fuel producers need to step up and policy makers need to step in – and both must do so quickly.”

Check out the full article at Carlsbad Current-Argus.