Oil and Gas Industry Investing in Emissions Reductions

Published October 1, 2009

The U.S. oil and gas industry has contributed nearly half of all dollars invested by the nation’s public and private sectors this decade in low-emissions energy technologies.

The industry’s investment of more than $58 billion in such technologies is documented in “Energizing America: Facts for Addressing Energy Policy,” issued by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

The study points out the $58 billion invested this decade by the oil and gas industry “represents 44 percent of the $133 billion spent by all U.S. industries and the federal government combined.” The oil and gas industry is also at the forefront of developing carbon capturing and storage technology, or CCS, to reduce carbon dioxide, according to the API report.

Several Technologies Studied

The report says government should do more to encourage this private-sector effort.

“In order for CCS to advance,” the authors write, “much more needs to be done. A legal and regulatory framework for long-term CO2 storage is still lacking. The use of CCS would facilitate the continued use of our nation’s vast coal and frontier hydrocarbon resources in an environmentally friendly way.”

Cutting emissions and their concentration in the atmosphere requires the coordinated application of several technologies. In addition to CCS, the industry is forging ahead in developing end-use technologies that enable energy to be used more efficiently.

One of those technologies is “combined heat and power”—using excess heat from refinery processes to produce additional energy.

Outpacing Other Industries

“Between 2000 and 2008,” the report points out, “the industry invested over $30 billion in end-use technologies, including advanced technology vehicles, efficiency improvements, combined heat and power, gas flair reduction technologies, and carbon capture and sequestration. This represents approximately 42 percent of all the investments made in these technologies in North America.”

In addition, the report notes, the oil and gas industry accounted for 22 percent of all the investments made in North America in non-hydrocarbon fuels since 2000. These include investments in energy derived from wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, and landfill digester gas.

The industry also has spent more than $21 billion developing substitute and less-carbon-intensive fuels, such as liquefied natural gas, and reducing methane fugitive emissions.

“This investment in fuel substitution technologies represents 73 percent of the total invested in this technology class,” the June 29 report says.

Industry ‘Embracing the Earth’

“Just like telephone technology has matured from a crank phone calling a central operator to minute cell phones with automated systems, the oil and gas industry uses state-of-the-art advances,” said Marita K. Noon, executive director of the New Mexico-based Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy.

“Today’s oil and natural gas industry contributes to the nation’s well-being by providing energy that is abundant, affordable, and available while embracing the Earth—the two are not mutually exclusive,” Noon observed.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC.