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.
Cap-and-Trade Prevails One Year into Pandemic
We are coming up on the one-year mark when everything changed for us as a society due to COVID-19. At first, we thought it might only last a few weeks. But weeks turned to a few months, and then months turned to seasons. Now here we are about to start our second spring in this parallel state.
Looking back on the year, I recall wondering about the implications of the pandemic and how that might impact the conversation on climate policy. With most of us working from home and sheltering in place, vehicle miles traveled plummeted. I watched the May 2020 cap-and-trade auction (the first auction after the pandemic truly took hold) and wondered how the market might react.
In response to that auction, I wrote a post about the results, noting a lack of surprise about the downturn.
Around that time, we also heard some of the same old refrains about the program – notions such as the price of allowances is not high enough, there are too many allowances in the system, or there is not enough revenue coming into state coffers.
But these complaints – which we still hear echoes of today – miss the point of the program. And they ultimately miss the point of placing a price on carbon.
A price on carbon is about driving action on climate – and it is working.
Cap-and-trade is an environmental program, first and foremost. It is not intended to be a revenue generator. Its primary function is to place a price on carbon and create the right incentive structure to drive investments in greenhouse gas emission reductions through technological development and conservation.
We should continue to celebrate the fact that California was ahead of schedule in delivering on its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And cap-and-trade has served as the backstop to all other state programs to ensure that we were able to meet that goal.
For those who doubt the program, all they need to do is observe the auction trends from this past year. The last two auctions have been fully subscribed. Prices for current year allowances and future year allowances have been steadily increasing. And even during the August auction when we were in the throes of uncertainty, future year allowances sold out completely.
Moreover, technological development and innovation is on the rise. Within the oil and gas industry alone, we have seen an exponential increase in investment and interest in technologies for carbon capture and sequestration, direct air capture, alternative fuels, and more. And as the state gets ready to kick off the update to the Scoping Plan – the California climate blueprint – which will be focused on carbon neutrality, we expect to see a positive conversation on all the innovation that is coming down the pike.
It’s truly exciting – and there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are all on this journey. And in my humble opinion, that is the mark of success.
Tiffany Roberts is Vice President, Regulatory Affairs at the Western States Petroleum Association. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanykroberts, and keep up with her personal blog, Energy is Vital, where she chronicles the impacts of energy inequality through individual stores.
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…”
The Women and Men of the Oil and Gas Industry Stand Ready for Inclusive Innovation in Era of Biden Administration
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Western States Petroleum Association President Catherine Reheis-Boyd issued the following statement regarding the incoming Biden administration.
“When it comes to getting our future right, the stakes have never been higher. As we face a global pandemic, economic devastation, deep political divisions, and climate change, now more than ever we need to work inclusively and collaboratively across party lines, industries, and interests.
As President Biden sets the stage for addressing America’s compounding crises, including a call-to-action around aggressive climate goals, thousands of dedicated and conscientious scientists, engineers and passionate problem-solvers across the oil and gas industry stand ready to bring their ingenuity and expertise to the table. For decades they have been proudly supplying the people across the West with safe, reliable energy produced under the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. Our industry also continues to support—and significantly invest in—the advancement of renewable energy, liquid fuel improvements, as well as technological and process innovations to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
We applaud President Biden’s call for unity. Climate change is a global issue and it’s going to take each and every one of us working together to do our part to address it. The oil and gas industry has long been hard at work to reduce carbon emissions and improve our collective impact on the environment. Through inclusive innovation, we are eager to implement engineering and energy solutions that position us to serve as example in achieving carbon neutrality at a scale that matters.
We believe if we set aside political differences, listen to the data, respect the science, and pool our resources, together we can create a truly sustainable energy future that meets the important needs of our environment, social equality, and our economy.”
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.
The Power of Partnerships
Written by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President
I think we can all agree that over the last several months it’s become clear that people – and communities – are stronger when they come together. It’s always been my opinion that the same is true for businesses and organizations, in the form of collaboration and strategic partnerships. No one company or entity can be as successful as possible when completely siloed, and no single person, group or organization has all the answers all the time.
The oil and gas industry has a rich history of mutually beneficial collaborations that have driven industry innovation, business success, policy alignment and vast economic growth for decades. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a webinar titled “Energy Opportunities to Secure the Economic Vitality of our Region,” put on by leading voices from Kern County, and the topic of collaborations for a stronger future was front and center.
The partnership between Bakersfield College, Kern Community College District and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is one that the entire California energy industry should applaud. Bringing private and public partners together is an essential step in working towards a sustainable energy future that serves all Californians. And the webinar audience got to hear from a variety of experts on how important the oil and gas industry is to Kern County, and what the future may hold if academia, research, policy and industry can come together to meet tomorrow’s energy challenges.
There’s no doubt that this collaborative group will do great things, and drive innovations that will contribute to a sustainable energy future. But to that regard, I was particularly impressed with the observations of one of my fellow presenters, Lorelei Oviatt, Director, Kern County Planning and Natural Resources. She astutely noted that while we’re all excited about innovation and partnering to develop new technologies, not all ideas will work to meet California’s insatiable energy needs. She applauded the resilience of the oil and gas industry for reliably powering our state, which has “made it work in California” a state that hasn’t always made delivering energy easy.
You see, exciting partnerships don’t just happen in Silicon Valley or New York City. What people sometimes forget is that our industry has always thrived through collaboration. Sometimes that comes through partnering for new technologies. But often times it comes in the form of coming together to solve big problems and deliver solutions – solutions that keep businesses and consumers moving, and keep the lights on.
In the last year alone, we’ve faced a pandemic, an economic crisis and an energy shortage that hurt our state when we were at our most vulnerable. Inclusive innovation and collaboration – like what this Kern County partnership is working to accomplish – is going to be necessary in addressing how we can continue to provide continuous, safe, reliable, affordable energy for all of our neighbors.
And as we continue to adapt to meet the ever-growing and changing energy demands of the future, we will have to support a diverse energy mix that considers all available technologies, options and policies. Some of which, I imagine, may come out of partnerships like this!
Meet Kelli Joyce with Phillips 66
Hear what inspires her to innovate and move forward – even during these trying times.
Kelli, a Routine Maintenance Superintendent for Phillips 66, is working to ensure safety, innovation, and environmental sustainability are a top priority for oil and gas.
Western States Petroleum Association Appoints New Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Promotes New Director
Vice President, Strategic Communications
SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 21, 2020 — Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) President Catherine Reheis-Boyd announced three personnel moves today, the appointment of Tiffany Roberts as Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, the promotion of Margo Parks to Director, California and Southwest Policy and the hiring of Zach Leary as Manager, California Policy.
“I am excited to announce the promotion of two talented and insightful women and the addition of an advocate experienced in our industry and the issues facing California. All three will help us deliver results for our members and generate a better understanding of our industry’s challenges, innovations and leadership with regulators, government officials and communities across the state,” Reheis-Boyd said.
Roberts has spent the past 15 years helping shape and inform energy and climate policy in the Western US. In her new role, Roberts will lead the organization’s engagement efforts with regulatory agencies that oversee oil and gas operations across Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
“Cultivating a collaborative and science-driven dialogue with regulatory agencies in the states our members operate is critical to achieving our shared environmental and climate goals,” Reheis-Boyd said. “Tiffany not only brings a notable background in energy policy, but also a passion and keen sense of understanding for how those policies impact real people and communities.”
Parks joined the WSPA team in November 2017 as Manager, California Policy Advocate. Drawing on her experience advocating for both a trade association and a contract lobby firm, Parks works with WSPA’s members, navigating policy and politics to help achieve the organization’s goals in the legislature. In her new position, she will also oversee legislative affairs in Nevada and Arizona in addition to her role in California.
“Margo’s experience and leadership in handling of some of the toughest issues we face in California will undoubtably benefit the industry in other areas of the West,” Reheis-Boyd said.
Leary joins WSPA from the California State Senate where he served as a Policy Consultant working on a wide range of policy issues including criminal justice reform, energy, natural resources, and taxes.
“Zach brings a great understanding of the challenges facing California and how to develop and implement sound public policy,” Reheis-Boyd said.
Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is a non-profit trade association representing the companies that safely and reliably explore for, produce, refine, transport and market the petroleum and energy products that fuel the five western states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. We represent 150,000 women and men who have proudly been powering the western states since 1907.
Our Innovation Commitments to the People and the Planet
Written by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President
In the business world, like in many aspects of life, innovation is critical to meeting the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow. Innovation helps companies grow, evolve and stay relevant, as well as provide necessary solutions for the future. No matter the outcome, at the core of innovation is creative thinking, and over time creative thinking leads to a culture where innovation is not only embraced, but necessary.
For the oil and gas industry, innovation is part of our DNA — starting with Business Model Innovation and the conscious decisions we make every day to change for the better and what we do to keep our businesses running; to Process Innovation and the continuous improvement for how we produce and deliver safe, reliable energy; and, to Social Innovation and new social practices that bring about positive change in the communities where we live and work. Our industry employs some of the brightest and most cutting-edge researchers, engineers, scientists and passionate problem-solvers that bring creative thinking to life every day, enabling climate solutions that are reducing carbon emissions and safeguarding our environment in ever-impressive ways.
Sunday, June 21 marked International Climate Change Day, a time to recognize the bold commitments to sustainable innovation across the industry. Here are a few examples of WSPA member companies transforming how they operate to produce and deliver safe, reliable energy in ways that better satisfy the needs of consumers while protecting the planet. We’re proud to continue a culture of innovation to meet the needs of tomorrow’s sustainable energy future, together.
Business Model Innovation:
Transforming the way we do business to better satisfy the needs of consumers while protecting the planet.
- Aera Energy is committed to reducing its carbon footprint with a company-wide mission
that puts safety and environmental performance first. Its rigorous testing and environmental actions have enabled Aera’s air emissions to drop by more than half since 2000.
- For some companies, like Chevron, climate goals to reduce GHG emissions intensity through its flaring and methane metrics are tied directly to employee and executive compensation so all have a stake in the game.
- With more than 20,000 scientists and engineers, including more than 2,200 with PhDs, ExxonMobil collaborates with approximately 80 universities, civil society groups and other industry partners around the world to explore new energy technologies to reduce emissions. Recently, the company entered into an agreement with the U.S. National Laboratories to commit up to $100 million to research lower emissions solutions. Over the past 10 years, the company has avoided 162 million metric tons of GHG emissions.
- The Phillips 66’s air research and development program at its state-of-the art Technology Center collaborates with government agencies, trade organizations and academic institutions to provide data that leads to effective rulemaking to improve air quality in the communities where it operates. Since 2012, air emissions from its refining business unit have decreased 25%.
- Plains All American Pipeline integrates safety into its business planning and decision-making processes. Across the organization, the company has more than 220 dedicated employees who focus exclusively on environmental, health and safety initiatives.
The continuous improvement for how we produce and deliver safe, reliable energy.
- Valero Energy is one of the largest ethanol producers in the nation, with 14 plants across eight states in the Midwest and annual production capacity of 1.73 billion gallons. The plants are also a major producer of distillers grains and other feed products.
- U.S. Oil & Refining Co. is constantly working to improve its efforts to protect the environment by proactively investing in technologies which reduce flaring and have resulted in a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Shell is expanding its operations in wind power to make more renewable power available to customers. At the end of 2019, Shell’s share of total installed capacity combined from onshore and offshore wind was 290 MW, which is enough to power 230,840 homes for one year.
- PBF Energy invested over $550 million in turnaround, maintenance and other strategic capital expenditures to improve reliability and reduce environmental impacts in 2018. The company is edging closer to implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s regulations that will reduce allowable sulfur levels in fuels being used in the shipping industry.
- Marathon Petroleum Corporation is expanding its renewable fuels manufacturing and blending capabilities by converting its North Dakota refinery into a renewable diesel plant at a cost of $470 million, processing biocrude in California, and investing in bio-gasoline and bio-jet fuel R&D.
- California Resources Corporation is the largest natural gas producer in California, which imports more than 90 percent of the natural gas consumed in the state. Natural gas is a fuel that provides 30 percent of California’s electricity generation, a highly efficient direct source of energy for heating and cooking in California homes, restaurants, hospitals, and a key feedstock in industrial applications.
- Berry Corporation is committed to conducting its business operations in a manner that maintains, protects, and preserves our natural resources. As part of its commitment to responsible environmental stewardship, the company works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by using co-generation power plants that reuse heat to produce both steam and electricity together.
What’s more, Social Innovation is driving new social practices and progress, not for the sake of prosperity, but progress for the people and the planet. These new solutions help overcome social and environmental challenges and support ongoing social progress. Like any good neighbor, the industry is striving to bring prosperity and social change through volunteer work and community building, charitable contributions and direct economic support, diversity inclusion and education, and environmental stewardship and ecosystem management. Here are a few of those examples:
New social practices that drive progress for the people and the planet.
- In the past five years, Chevron has spent $154 billion globally on goods and services, helping grow economies, create jobs and develop workforces.
- Shell invests in community projects so that local people can benefit from social and economic development. In 2019, Shell spent $116 million on voluntary social investment.
- In order to create shared value with their stakeholders, Marathon works to act responsibly and make real, positive impacts in the communities where they operate. In 2018, Marathon donated more than $2.4 million to the United Way, an organization that shares their dedication to improving lives and strengthening communities where they live and work every day.
- Valero and the Valero Energy Foundation fund nonprofit agencies that serve predominantly disadvantaged children and families within four areas. In 2018, Valero provided direct monetary support of $8.9 million for education, $6.5 million for health care, $4.8 million for basic needs, and $2.7 million for civic needs.
- We have a strong belief that no one company or industry can combat climate change alone; these are shared challenges, and we are committed to doing our part.
We have a strong belief that no one company or industry can combat climate change alone; these are shared challenges, and we are committed to doing our part with industry partners and beyond. It is this collaboration that makes us better and helps us reveal the blind spots as we continue innovating to find solutions that positively impact our business and our global community. The collective impact of continuous innovation is creating opportunities to grow in new directions.
We look forward to seeing what else our industry can do to inspire real change for us all.