Celebrating Earth Day, Everyday
By Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President and CEO
Each year, Earth Day offers us all an opportunity to stop and recognize the ways we can all improve – industry and individuals alike – in our efforts to collectively contribute to a more sustainable future. The problem is that many times the day comes and goes, as does the sentiment.
What impresses me about the oil and gas industry is that for decades we have continuously invested in innovation, committing to cleaner, more efficient technologies and operations to drive sustainable progress day after day, year after year. That’s why we were proud to publicly support the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year in addressing climate change. And we know can go further still as we continue to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy to communities everywhere.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Restore Our Earth,” and examines emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. Many WSPA member companies are making bold commitments that embody this theme, and are investing and setting sustainable business strategies that will drive progress for decades to come.
- Water management and savings is an example of direct action that correlates with today’s Earth Day theme. Companies within our industry are committed to conserving water, and in some cases, are giving back more than they use through reuse, recycling and reclaiming efforts.
- Reducing emissions through an inclusive mix of different types of energy is a huge focus of the industry, with new innovations driving future opportunities to limit greenhouse gasses and curb climate change.
- New technology and solutions such as carbon capture and sequestration are being introduced and expanded to move toward a lower carbon future while still providing the energy sources the world needs.
There’s a lot to be inspired by. As we celebrate Earth Day today, my hope is that we can also think about practices in our everyday lives to be more sustainable. While industry and companies across the globe have an important role to play in reducing emissions and protecting the planet, our individual day-to-day actions can also make a big difference. Here are some of my favorite everyday practices that I try to incorporate into my life:
- Never leave the faucet running. We all wash our hands a lot more than ever before due to pandemic precautions, so let’s be mindful to turn off the tap while we wash up and stay COVID safe.
- Re-use everyday things where you can, to give them a second life. I wash out and reuse my plastic bags for example – it’s easy and reduces waste to landfill.
- Volunteer to clean up your community or favorite area. Many companies provide some flexible volunteering time, or it can be a nice activity to feel good about on a weekend. If we all did it once or twice a year imagine the impact we’d make.
- Unplug your appliances and electronics when not in use. Devices left plugged in, even when turned off, still consume power, even if just a tiny amount each day – but it adds up over the course of weeks and months.
- Make conscious choices to support local businesses and locally grown food where we can – it not only supports your community but makes a sustainable difference as well.
Just as California needs an all of the above strategy for our energy future, my sustainability efforts at home are a mix of actions that both are attainable and make a difference. I hope this year Earth Day can remind us all that the work we do, and the choices we make in our everyday lives do have an impact, and it can be for the better. Let’s celebrate Earth Day today, and every day.
The Science is Clear; Policy Makers Should Make It Their Guide
Published in the Ventura County Star
April 21, 2021
By Ben Oakley, Manager of the California Coastal Region at Western States Petroleum Association
The headline from the Ventura County Star article about the new United States Geological Survey (USGS) study on the Oxnard Oilfield and water says it all: “Long-awaited study shows no major health concerns from water wells on Oxnard Plain,” February 9, 2021; yet accusations and charges persist that the field is the cause of contamination. In this era of Covid-19 we’ve all been admonished to “trust the science.” In the case of the USGS study we should do the same.
Because when activists use fear and intimidation rather than science to influence public policy, they lead all of us down the wrong path – a path that is riddled with serious consequences and could cost the jobs of more than 2,000 citizens of the Central Coast; a path that will increase our dependance on foreign oil, and a path will surely result in additional economic harm to everyone just as we are finding our way out of the disasters brought on by Covid-19.
Let’s take a closer look at the study. The new USGS study on the Oxnard Oilfield confirms no groundwater contamination from the oil industry. Our groundwater meets all drinking water standards. Those are facts. In addition, scientists agree that the materials detected by USGS in the water could be from naturally occurring sources. In this case, government did the right thing. Charges of groundwater pollution had been raised and scientists at the USGS set about to see whether it was true. The result: they found no major health concerns from water wells in the Oxnard Oilfield.
Here’s the language directly from the study; “Comparison of historical oil-field water chemistry data with historical and collected groundwater samples indicated no detections of petroleum hydrocarbons, inorganic constituents, isotopes, or other dissolved constituents and no evidence of mixing of water from oil-bearing formations with groundwater overlying the Oxnard Oil Field.” That’s strong language. It’s a clear statement. It is what should guide policy.
In addition, the study did find some concentrations of other things in our water but: Methane and other light hydrocarbon gases are not regulated drinking water constituents posing a known health risk, and the presence of these gases at concentrations <10 mg/L do not indicate degraded water quality. Again, the findings of the study are clear. Our water quality is fine.
Unfortunately, before the study was complete, activists used fears of groundwater contamination to convince local leaders to impose a drilling moratorium and other policies including zoning ordinance amendments and general plan policies aimed at shutting down the oil industry. Those actions have resulted in some disturbing consequences. The list isn’t pretty:
- Ventura County is now faced with almost a dozen lawsuits over its policies;
- Ventura County could lose the significant tax revenue from the oil industry that supports critical services like fire, police, and schools; and
- Over 2,000 local families could lose their jobs, which are family-wage jobs with benefits that are essential to the economy of Ventura County.
This whole episode should serve as a cautionary tale for policy makers: our future must be shaped by facts and science, not fears … because when we let science lead us, we protect the health of our community as well as the livelihoods of local workers. I’m very glad the USGS study confirms our water is safe. This should be welcome news for Ventura County residents as well.
Ben Oakley is the Manager of the California Coastal Region at Western States Petroleum Association. Read about WSPA’s commitment to science and safety at wspa.org.
From Obstacle to Opportunity: How Carbon Emissions Can Support a Sustainable Energy Future
By Tiffany Roberts, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs
A growing number of governments and businesses alike are making future commitments to carbon neutrality, which requires achieving zero net carbon emissions through eliminating, repurposing or removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from operations, or from balancing emissions with carbon removal or offsetting.
Carbon neutrality is a bold and admirable goal and one the state of California has set to achieve by 2045. But like many aggressive goals, achievement won’t be an easy path, and the roadmap to getting there remains clouded with uncertainty. While the oil & gas industry has an integral part to play in ongoing emissions reductions, one technology innovation in particular can make carbon neutrality a true reality, and that’s Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage or Sequestration (CCUS).
As emissions reduction plans go into effect to reduce overall CO2, CCUS can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere and even turn it into something valuable. The pathway to carbon neutral strategies must include more than emissions reductions alone, and this groundbreaking innovation can play an integral role in shaping climate policy within California – and the world.
This technology, pioneered by our industry, captures CO2 before it hits the atmosphere. Scientists and engineers within our industry are able to safely trap it, store it or repurpose it into new materials as part of a circular economy. Carbon capture has the opportunity to revolutionize our collective fight for a carbon-free future, and proven results continue to reinforce that.
Let’s dive in a little deeper into this game-changing innovation:
- So, what is CCUS exactly? It’s a process that captures carbon dioxide emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants, or any emissions hub, and either stores it or reuses it so it will not enter the atmosphere. By capturing CO2 before it enters the air, the technology eliminates the carbon output entirely.
- How does it work? Essentially, carbon emitted from industrial sources would be safely trapped and stored securely in places like deep geologic formations, so the CO2 never reaches the atmosphere. Additionally, scientists are even finding ways to repurpose that CO2 and transform it into useful products such as fertilizers, cement, plastics and more.
- Why is this important to reaching carbon neutrality goals? Emissions reduction is just one side of this coin. Carbon neutrality is widely believed to be impossible without offsets and ways to remove existing carbon. The CCUS technology, which is rapidly improving every year, can allow for continued critical industrial operations while removing the carbon, creating a true path to net-zero societies.
- Does this technology exist today? The concept of such technology has been around for decades, and there are multiple CCUS projects across the globe that currently are in operation. Increased investment in new projects will accelerate both emissions capturing and key learnings to expand this technology for widespread success. Regions like California for example, who have ambitious carbon reductions goals, should be quickly implementing CCUS to help achieve them.
- Who is leading this innovation? It should be no surprise that the oil and gas industry – the women and men who have powered the U.S. for decades – is leading the charge with CCUS. In fact, the California Resources Corporation, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Valero, and Shell (all WSPA member companies) have tens of billions of investments and commitments underway that will help drive progress with CCUS, and with the environment broadly.
- What’s next? This rapidly expanding technology will only improve as more projects come online. Ideally, the United States, and California in particular, will commit to CCUS investments with our industry to continue to partner towards shared environmental goals.
While the rate of innovation has been exciting, we know our industry still has a lot of work to do both from a CCUS research and development standpoint, as well as with ongoing investments to make impactful carbon reduction. There is no silver bullet in the journey to carbon neutrality, but CCUS has an exciting part to play. The oil and gas industry will continue to provide sustainable innovations that will help get us to a sustainable energy future that works for everyone, and CCUS is an exciting example that can make carbon neutrality seem possible.
FACT SHEET: A Case for Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration Technologies
Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage or Sequestration (CCUS) encompasses a set of proven technologies that permanently remove CO2 from our atmosphere, predominantly sequestering it securely underground. CCUS is a more cost-effective way than most to address climate change and will help California be a “Climate Leader,” if it can significantly catch up with the rest of the world.
The oil and natural gas industry is at the forefront of CCUS and stand ready to tackle this immense challenge and significantly increase the deployment. The industry has the people and leaders with the right expertise and experience to identify and evaluate the subsurface for safe storage of CO2, manage large-scale permitting of projects, efficiently procure materials and manage supply chains, construct large-scale capital-intensive projects, and safely operate complex facilities.Download the full fact sheet
2020 – A Year of Innovation in Motion
There is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year for us all, but as we move into 2021 we share a renewed sense of hope that even in tough times our industry and our people will continue innovating to create a resilient energy infrastructure that ensures a safe and prosperous future for us all.
We know this because of the unprecedented year we all experienced – where we were asked to be nimbler and more flexible than ever before to deliver safe and reliable fuels. And in doing so, we didn’t stop innovating, we didn’t stop searching for opportunities to better our people, our processes, systems, and products. That is what we call Innovation in Motion – a spirit of constant progressive thinking that propels us forward. In fact, it’s the very definition of innovation to continue evolving, making better and more informed decisions despite the challenges to better shape the future of our industry and our work.
One such example from 2020 is the innovation and collaborative work that has happened around Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) – a suite of technologies that has the propensity for major climate change and is being called “a game changer” by world renowned scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because of its capabilities of removing large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. CCUS can help significantly reduce carbon emissions from many sectors (oil production, refining, biofuels, cement manufacturing, power generation, agriculture, dairy, etc.). And WSPA member companies have been working hard in a collaborative process to bring awareness and education to the benefits of CCUS and moving us closer to designing and obtaining the permitting needed for our facilities to bring this innovation to scale.
We know there’s a lot more work to be done, particularly in California, if we want to reach our aggressive climate goals, but we also know an ongoing investment in sustainable innovation is critical to the action needed to fight climate change. Too often we close ourselves off to creative solutions because of political divides or differing points of view — and if we’ve learned anything from 2020, we’ve learned we have to remain flexible, look at every option, and collaboratively explore all possible solutions. While we may not always agree on everything, we can align on an energy vision and commitment that supports our people, our planet and our shared prosperity.
Our industry and our people stand ready to continue innovating and working collaboratively toward a resilient energy infrastructure and a safe and prosperous future for us all. We hope you’ll join us in this pursuit of constant progressive thinking that will propel us forward.
Wishing you the best that 2021 can bring.
STEM is Sparking Interest in Future Industry Jobs
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is what connects rewarding oil and gas industry careers to the men and women who fill them. Across the board, the industry is using its work producing energy as the platform to inspire ongoing STEM learning and to spark interest in industry jobs. Not all STEM careers are just for the highly educated – in fact, many oil and gas industry jobs are open to those with a high school diploma or an associate degree, coupled with solid hands-on job training.
The Road to Reducing Mobile Emissions is Paved with Inclusive Innovation
Over the next twenty years, drastic changes to the world economy are expected to take place that will impact both the global energy landscape and the environment. With the world’s economic middle class expected to increase from 3 billion to 5 billion as the world economy nearly doubles in that time, and with global energy needs expected to rise by 25%, a significant portion due to mobile sources, developing innovative solutions is now more important than ever.
In order to reduce emissions and improve air quality in the quickest and most cost-effective manner, WSPA believes all innovative technologies and pathways should be considered to achieve these shared goals.
While fossil fuels will continue to play a prominent role in meeting the world’s growing energy demands, the oil and gas industry is committed to developing and bringing to market diverse energy sources that are efficient and beneficial to our shared goal of reducing global emissions while also improving air quality.
Remembering What, and Who, We’re Fighting for at the 2020 WSPA Annual Conference
Written by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President
This year, it was my honor to deliver the keynote address at the 2020 WSPA Annual Conference, which was held, for the first time, on a virtual platform!
While I missed seeing my friends and colleagues in person, I was so proud of my team for putting together a seamless, educational, and innovative conference that brought us all together. This was an important time for us to take a breath as an industry and re-focus on our shared mission: a sustainable energy future for everyone.
It’s no secret that this has been a challenging year. COVID. Economic turmoil. Wildfires. Power outages. It’s been a lot to handle, for all of us.
Despite these challenges, I’m so glad that our industry took the time to get together and remind one another of what – and who – we’re fighting for. Even with all of these challenges, it’s still up to each of us to power the state’s responses to wildfires, pandemics, and crises. It’s up to us to power our economic recovery.
It’s up to us to keep working towards a truly sustainable energy future. It’s what we do!
When I spoke to our Annual Conference attendees last week, I was speaking to some of the hardest-working, most dedicated, resilient people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
The men and women of this industry work hard. I get to see it every day. And there isn’t a single person working in this industry who doesn’t want a cleaner, safer, more sustainable planet.
It’s this hardworking problem-solving mentality that:
- Keeps us operating safely and successfully under the most stringent environmental regulations in the world.
- Pushes our ever-evolving industry to continue to innovate and adapt.
As I like to say to my colleagues, we’ve been evolving ever since the horse and buggy – it’s in our nature!
Despite the changes we’ve all experienced in the past year, there are some things that will never change:
- We will never stop advocating, fiercely, for the women and men of our industry.
- We will never stop pushing for policies based on science and data.
- We know that facts, not fears, must shape our energy future if we want to protect our environment, our economic prosperity, and our sense of social equality.
As we continue innovating, creating and advancing, we must remember that our future is dependent on a diverse energy mix – not one that puts all of our eggs in one basket. Oil and gas will continue as a part of our energy mix for decades while we work towards a diversified energy portfolio that ensures resiliency, affordability, and reliability for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
It’s time to come together, to work together, to innovate together, to collaborate together. We have the expertise, science, data, engineering know-how and the experience to tackle the energy challenges we face right now. This year’s Annual Conference was a wonderful reminder of this fact.
As we like to say at WSPA – there’s power in everybody. When we work together, listen to one another, and strive towards a common goal, we can achieve a future that supports all Californians. Together.
Maintaining STEAM During the Global Pandemic and Beyond: Long-Term Investments for Sparking Interest in Industry Careers
One of the things our industry does very well is prepare for the future by taking a solutions-oriented approach and building on best practices – and, our approach to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEM/STEAM) education is no different. Increasing awareness for industry careers is essential to growing and diversifying our workforce, particularly in communities of color, and among women and veterans.
For many member companies, supporting STEM/STEAM goes beyond making funding commitments and extends deep into the communities where we operate to offer real opportunities for hands-on and virtual learning. Using their work producing energy as the platform, here are ways a few of our companies are sparking interest in industry jobs:
- With a focus on inspiring high school students, ExxonMobil became a founding sponsor of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) in 2007, and since that time the company has committed nearly $200 million to the nonprofit organization. NMSI provides scalable and rigorous program solutions that empower school communities to prepare all students to succeed in college and the workforce. To better prepare students and teachers for the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics , NMSI replicates proven programs with quantifiable results — such as its College Readiness Program, Laying the Foundation and UTeach™ — on a national scale.
- Shell actively supports STEM with a range of programs in more than 20 countries. NXplorers, their flagship STEM program, aims to equip young people with the problem-solving skills needed to become future innovators and leaders. In 2019, Shell continued to expand NXplorers and it has now been launched in 17 countries. Watch video
- With the help of Chevron, Project Lead the Way offers students and educators curricula and training to help kids obtain skills in STEM for engineering computer science through the program that is available to more than 300,000 students across the U.S. The company also funds the National Academy of Engineering which helps pre-K-12 educators implement engineering education across in the classroom to encourage pre-college engineering education.
To learn more about our work in STEAM, read our other blog posts
- Technology Bridges the Gap for Continued Learning
- Laying the Foundation Today to Create Tomorrow’s Industry Leaders
Together, we can continue to help today’s students and teachers stay motivated and focused on STEM/STEAM education to prepare for industry careers well into the future.
Maintaining STEAM During the Global Pandemic and Beyond: Laying the Foundation Today to Create Tomorrow’s Industry Leaders
Events and STEAM-focused internships are typically based on face-to-face, hands-on teaching and learning, but this year’s programs have been challenged with schools and businesses operating in mostly virtual environments. Our member companies have stepped up to this challenge to offer excellent experiences through collaborative virtual platforms and valuable learning opportunities for students of all ages.
For example, for the first time ever, California Resources Corporation (CRC) switched to a Virtual Summer Internship Program format this year to ensure continued support to provide interns with an immersive and valuable experience during COVID-19. The program, aimed at talented college students, provides the opportunity to learn about the petroleum industry while allowing them to develop and hone their professional and hands-on technical work field skills.
CRC employees found innovative ways to communicate and collaborate with interns and assimilate them into the company culture and virtual workplace. Using online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the Virtual Internship Program engaged interns through daily check-ins and virtual “Intern Learning Series” meetings.
Similarly, Marathon Petroleum offered a virtual experience to continue valuable learning experiences for Summer Internships. Click here to view their efforts.
Valero continued its support and sponsorship of Benicia’s STEAM ‘Rotational Wheel’ program to fund science tools, such as needed microscopes, magnifying glasses, measuring tools and other experiments. In a virtual environment, technology projects are all still thriving, including coding with ‘ozo’ and ‘bee’ bots, Google ‘Virtual Reality’ expeditions, and Lexia Core 5 & Code.org programming. Last year, the company provided $30,000 to assist in financing subject matter experts in STEAM at all four Benicia elementary schools.
The ability to stay nimble is the key to success in today’s challenging environment. We applaud the work being done by our member companies to keep the momentum going for STEAM education. Not only is the work important for our industry today, it is critical to laying a foundation that empowers students to become tomorrow’s future leaders.
Learn more about our work in STEM/STEAM, click here.