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.

Meet Jerry Tardivo Alcoser, general manager of operations, San Joaquin Valley, Chevron

Jerry Tardivo Alcoser shares how Chevron is solving today’s problems with facts and data. She focuses on what can be controlled and how they can make it better.

Meet Christina Sistrunk, Retired CEO, Aera Energy

Christina Sistrunk shares why the capabilities of the oil and gas industry will be absolutely fundamental in solving today’s global issues.

Read about Christina’s incredible legacy at Aera Energy.

Meet Alexis, process engineer at Torrance Refining Company

Alexis Oyetibo, a process engineer at the Torrance Refining Company, talks about equal opportunity in the oil and gas industry and mentoring a new generation of Black women pursuing STEM careers.

Meet Nishal, refinery process safety manager at Valero

Nishal Patel works for Valero at the Wilmington Refinery in California. She fell in love with the industry for its dynamic nature, depth and ability to solve problems. She wants to change the mindset around having a ceiling for younger women and minorities. Learn how being in oil and gas has empowered Nishal.

 

Meet Ashley, electrical engineer at Aera Energy

Ashley Davis is an electrical engineer at Aera Energy in Bakersfield, CA. Knowing that she has an impact on people’s daily lives is what motivates her to work in the oil and gas industry. Learn more about Ashley’s story.

Celebrating the Women of Oil and Gas

By: Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President and CEO

Today is International Women’s Day and this month is Women’s History Month, two great opportunities to come together to celebrate women’s contributions to our world, industry, and history. Throughout the month of March, we’ll be sharing videos highlighting the hard-working, problem-solving women of oil and gas who work every day to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy for all.  From refinery safety process managers in Wilmington to electrical engineers in Bakersfield, women play an essential role in the energy industry’s operational, technological, scientific, and engineering innovations. They are key in putting us on the path to a sustainable energy future.

For myself and for WSPA, this is a day where we reflect on our commitment to empower women across the oil and gas industry and ensure all women in our industry have access to equal opportunity, representation, and respect. I was so very proud when I became President of WSPA in 2010. Today I’m equally proud to support women within our own organization and across our member companies. We aren’t done and we’ve got a ways to go, but we are committed to doing our part.

Throughout my 31 years at WSPA, I’ve seen the oil and gas industry’s gender demographics change significantly. Today, women make up approximately one-fifth of the total oil and gas workforce. That is a big shift from when I first started in oil and gas, but I know we must continue to do what we can to change these statistics. I’m committed to it.

Furthermore, The WSPA staff is 57% women, with 20 women on our leadership and regional teams across California and Washington. In 2018, we created the Women of WSPA Initiative (WOWI), a group made up of a network of women connected to WSPA, to help mentor and support women in the industry and ensure their access to equal opportunities. In addition to our internal work with WOWI, WSPA has donated $10,000 across our five western states to Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization that inspires girls to be confident, healthy, and joyful through creative physical activity.

WSPA is dedicated to empowering and supporting women in the oil and gas industry, today and every day. And to women in the oil and gas industry and across the globe – we see you and we celebrate your contributions to our present and future. Thank you.

Meet Ashley, electrical engineer at Aera Energy

Ashley Davis is an electrical engineer at Aera Energy in Bakersfield, CA. Knowing that she has an impact on people’s daily lives is what motivates her to work in the oil and gas industry. Learn more about Ashley’s story.

Meet Nishal, refinery process safety manager at Valero

Nishal Patel works for Valero at the Wilmington Refinery in California. She fell in love with the industry for its dynamic nature, depth and ability to solve problems. She wants to change the mindset around having a ceiling for younger women and minorities. Learn how being in oil and gas has empowered Nishal.

Meet Alexis, process engineer at Torrance Refining Company

Alexis Oyetibo, a process engineer at the Torrance Refining Company, talks about equal opportunity in the oil and gas industry and mentoring a new generation of Black women pursuing STEM careers. Learn more about Alexis’ story.

Meet Christina Sistrunk, Retired CEO, Aera Energy

Christina Sistrunk shares why the capabilities of the oil and gas industry will be absolutely fundamental in solving today’s global issues. Hear more about Christina’s story.

Read about Christina’s incredible legacy at Aera Energy.

Meet Jerry Tardivo Alcoser, general manager of operations, San Joaquin Valley, Chevron

Jerry Tardivo Alcoser shares how Chevron is solving today’s problems with facts and data. She focuses on what can be controlled and how they can make it better. Hear more about Jerry’s story.

WSPA Statement – Kern County Supplemental Recirculated EIR

Following are comments presented by WSPA President & CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd at the March 8 Kern County Board of Supervisors hearing in regards to the supplemental recirculated environmental impact report (2020/2021) for revisions to the Kern County zoning ordinance – 2020 A, focused on oil and gas local permitting.

“…The Oil and Gas Ordinance and 2015 EIR created a comprehensive streamlined permitting system for oil and gas activities in Kern County, imposing new standards and conditions for oil and gas exploration, development and production.

“The EIR introduced many new restrictive and costly requirements and mitigation measures which significantly affect industry operations.  Nevertheless, WSPA strongly supported them, and continues to support them.  These measures provide certainty and efficiency for the County’s streamlined permitting process.

“In our view, the Oil and Gas Permitting Program has been highly successful, helping to further responsible oil and gas development, while at the same time safeguarding the County’s environmental resources.  Among other things, the program generated over $136 million in mitigation fees over the four and a quarter-years that it was in effect.  We greatly appreciate the work of County staff in effective implementation of the program.

“Before you today is a Supplemental Recirculated EIR to supplement the 2015 EIR, prepared by County staff to comply with the Court of Appeal’s decision requiring additional environmental analysis of specific areas.  We want to thank the staff for their tremendous hard work to prepare the SREIR.

“Most importantly, the Ordinance will require compliance with 87 mitigation measures as set forth in the Final SREIR.  WSPA supports and agrees with the revised and added standards and mitigation measures in the SREIR to address the Court of Appeal’s decision and strengthen Ordinance implementation.

“Some commenters urge the County to reject the SREIR and ordinance, arguing that the County should transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy production to address the problem of global climate change.  Both traditional and renewable energy have a place in responding to climate change.  Switching from coal-fired to gas-fired power plants has been a major contributor to global carbon emission reductions to date.  Kern County is a leading oil and gas producing county in the state of California and in the nation.  At the same time, the County is also a leader in renewable energy and has permitted numerous solar and wind projects.  The Ordinance and SREIR do not discourage future renewable energy development within the County.

“California’s energy industry leads in innovation and environmental stewardship.  We comply with some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world and strive to operate in harmony with our neighbors and communities.  California-based oil and gas production, in particular here in Kern County, provides an essential supply of energy that keeps our economy and citizens moving forward.  In 2019, the oil and gas industry accounted for roughly $197 million of Kern County’s property tax revenue and over 16,000 jobs at average wages 60% above the County average…”

2020 – A Year of Innovation in Motion

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President

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.

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.

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