US CO2 and Methane Intensity by Basin

US CO2 and Methane Intensity by Basin

The CO2 intensity of oil and gas production is tabulated for 425 distinct company positions across 12 distinct US onshore basins in this data-file. Using the data, we can break down the upstream CO2 intensity (in kg/boe), methane leakage rates (%) and flaring intensity (mcf/boe), by company, by basin and across the US Lower 48.

In this database, we have aggregated and cleaned up 957 MB of data, disclosed by the operators of 425 large upstream oil and gas acreage positions. The data are reported every year to the US EPA, and made publicly available via the EPA FLIGHT tool.

The database covers 70% of the US oil and gas industry from 2021, including 8.8Mbpd of oil, 80bcfd of gas, 22Mboed of total production, 430,000 producing wells, 800,000 pneumatic devices and 60,000 flares. All of this is disaggregated by acreage positions, by operator and by basin. It is a treasure trove for energy and ESG analysts.

CO2 intensity. The mean average upstream oil and gas operation in 2021 emitted 10kg/boe of CO2e. Across the entire data-set, the lower quartile is below 3kg/boe. The upper quartile is above 13kg/boe. The upper decile is above 20kg/boe. And the upper percentile is above 70kg/boe. There is very heavy skew here (chart below).

The main reasons are methane leaks and flaring. The mean average asset in our sample has a methane leakage rate of 0.21%, and a flaring intensity of 0.03 mcf/bbl. There is a growing controversy over methane slip in flaring, which also means these emissions may be higher than reported. Flaring intensity by basin is charted below.

US CO2 intensity has been improving since 2018. CO2 intensity per basin has fallen by 17% over the past three years, while methane leakage rates have fallen by 22%. Activity has clearly stepped up to mitigate methane leaks.

(You can also see in the data-file who has the most work still to do in reducing future methane leaks. For example, one large E&P surprised us, as it has been vocal over its industry-leading CO2 credentials, yet it still has over 1,000 high bleed pneumatic devices across its Permian portfolio, which is about 10% of all the high-bleed pneumatics left in the Lower 48, and each device leaks 4 tons of methane per year!).

Most interesting is to rank the best companies in each basin, using the granular data, to identify leaders and laggards (chart below). A general observation is that larger, listed producers tend to have lower CO2 intensity, fewer methane leaks and lower flaring intensity than small private companies. Half-a-dozen large listed companies stand out, with exceptionally low CO2 intensities. Please consult the data-file for cost curves (like the one below).

Methane leaks and flaring intensity can also be disaggregated by company within each basin. For example, the chart below shows some large Permian producers effectively reporting zero flaring, while others are flaring off over 0.1 mcf/bbl.

All of the underlying data is also aggregated in a useful summary format, across the 425 different acreage positions reporting in to EPA FLIGHT, in case you want to compare different operators on a particularly granular basis.

Exploration capex: long-term spending from Oil Majors?

This data-file tabulates the Oil Majors’ exploration capex from the mid-1990s, in headline terms (in billions of dollars) and in per-barrel terms (in $/boe of production). Exploration spending quadrupled from $1/boe in 1995-2005 to $4/boe in 2005-19, and has since collapsed like a warm Easter Egg. One cannot help wondering about another cycle?

The peer group comprises ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and TOTAL, which comprise c10% of the world’s oil production and 12% of the world’s gas production. As a good rule of thumb, this group can be thought of as c10% of global production.

This peer group quadrupled its exploration expenditures, from $5bn pa spent on exploration in 1995-2005 to an average of $20bn pa on exploration at the peak of the 30-year oil and gas cycle in 2010-2015. Exploration spend ramped from $1/boe to $4/boe over this timeframe. It has since fallen back to $1/boe, or around $1bn per company pa in 2022.

The US has always been the most favored destination, attracting c25% of all exploration investment, both offshore (e.g., Gulf of Mexico) and increasingly for short-cycle shale. During the last oil and gas cycle, the largest increases in exploration investment occurred in Africa, other Americas, Australasia; and to a lesser extent in Europe and the Middle East.

One possible scenario for the future is that this peer group will continue to limit its exploration expenditures to the bare minimum, below $1bn per company per year, or below $1/boe of production; under the watchwords of “capital discipline”, “value over volume” and “energy transition”.

However, it is somewhat terrifying to consider that the industry needed to spend an average of $2.5/boe on exploration from 2005-2019 in order to hold its organic production “flattish”.

Under-investment across the entire industry may foreshadow a sustained shortage of energy, especially if 50% lower-carbon gas is intended to replace coal as part of the energy transition, per our roadmap to net zero, or more pressingly as Europe faces sustained gas shortages. Hence one cannot help wondering if industry-wide exploration capex in the 2020s and 2030s is going to resemble the 2000s and 2010s?

This data-files aggregates the Oil Majors’ exploration capex, across ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and TOTAL disclosures, apples-to-apples, back to 1995.

Gas-to-liquids: the economics?

the economics of gas-to-liquids

This data-file captures the economics of gas-to-liquids, including the formation of syngas in an auto-thermal reformer, then the subsequent upgrading into liquids via the Fischer-Tropsch reaction.

Our base case is that $100/bbl realizations are required for a 10% IRR. You can stress-test the economics as a function of gas prices, capex costs, thermal efficiencies, carbon intensity, CO2 prices and other operating costs.

Our inputs for each of the categories above are substantiated by collating data-points from past projects and technical papers. Finally, our notes and review of GTL patents are outlined in the final tabs.

US Refiners: CO2 cost curve?

Which refiners have the lowest co2 intensity

Which refiners are least CO2 intensive, and which refiners are most CO2 intensive? This spreadsheet answers the question, by aggregating data from 130 US refineries, based on EPA regulatory disclosures.

The full database contains a granular breakdown, facility-by-facility, showing each refinery, its owner, its capacity, throughput, utilisation rate and CO2 emissions across six categories: combustion, refining, hydrogen, CoGen, methane emissions and NOx (chart below).

Assessed companies include Aramco, BP, Chevron, Citgo, Delek, ExxonMobil, Koch, Hollyfrontier, Marathon, Phillips66, PBF, Shell and Valero.

Tree database: forests to offset CO2?

CO2 uptake rates in forests by tree type

Nature-based solutions are among the most effective ways to abate CO2. Forest offsets will cost $2-50/ton, decarboning liquid fuels for <$0.5/gallon and natural gas for <$1/mcf (chart below).

CO2 uptake rates in forests by tree type

The data-file tabulates hundreds of data-points from technical papers and industry reports on different tree and grass types. It covers their growing conditions, survival rates, lifespans, rates of CO2 absorption (per tree and per acre) and their water requirements (examples below).

CO2 uptake rates in forests by tree type

LNG plant footprints: compaction costs?

This data file tabulates the acreage footprints and peak worker counts at c20 recent LNG projects. It is interesting how these variables are likely to change over time, to lower costs and due to COVID.

International LNG occupies c50-acres per MTpa and 1,000 peak workers per MTpa of capacity. This means that largest facilities can have over 20,000 workers on site at any one time, which will be challenging amidst COVID.

US LNG projects have been smaller, at c30-acres per MTpa, as high-quality input gas requires less pre-processing; and worker counts are as much as 4x lower, due to phased, modular construction designs (see below).

FLNG is c20x more compact than typical international projects but and has the highest density of workers. Modules which typically have large exclusion zones are congested. This will require extremely cautious operation. It could impact economics, through higher costs and lower up-times.

In principle, smaller plants should achieve cost advantages over larger plants. To reap these benefits, we are excited by novel “liquefaction” technologies, which are also tabulated in the file.

Ventures for an Energy Transition?

Oil Major Venture Investments

This database tabulates almost 300 venture investments made by 9 of the leading Oil Majors, as the energy industry advances and transitions.

The largest portion of activity is now aimed at incubating New Energy technologies (c50% of the investments), as might be expected. Conversely, when we first created the data-file, in early-2019, the lion’s share of historical investments were in upstream technologies (c40% of the total). The investments are also highly digital (c40% of the total).

Four Oil Majors are incubating capabilities in new energies, as the energy system evolves. We are impressed by the opportunities they have accessed. Venturing is likely the right model to create most value in this fast-evolving space.

The full database shows which topic areas are most actively targeted by the Majors’ venturing, broken down across 25 sub-categories, including by company. We also chart which companies have gained stakes in the most interesting start-ups.

Shell: the future of LNG plants?

Shell LNG Pipeline

Shell is revolutionizing LNG project design, based on reviewing 40 of the company’s gas-focused patents from 2019. The innovations can lower LNG facilities’ capex by 70% and opex by 50%; conferring a $4bn NPV and 4% IRR advantage over industry standard greenfields. Smaller-scale LNG, modular LNG and highly digitized facilities are particularly abetted. This note reviews Shell’s operational improvements, revolutionary greenfield concepts, and their economic consequences.

Carbon Capture Costs at Refineries?

Carbon Capture Costs at Refineries

This model calculates the costs of post-combustion carbon capture at a world-scale refinery, using today’s commercially available CCS technologies. The aim is to see whether the process could be economically competitive, as oil refineries emit c1bn tons of CO2 per annum.

Carbon capture costs vary unit-by-unit, as a function of the unit’s size and the CO2-concentration in its flue gas. Hence we estimate that c10-20% of refinery emissions can be eliminated for $XX/ton, the “middle 50%” will cost c$XX-XX/ton, while the final 20% will cost $XX-XX/ton. Calculations can be flexed in the model, using alternative input assumptions.

Our estimates are informed by an excellent technical paper from Shell, which is also summarised.

Overview of Downstream Catalyst Companies

Companies in Refining Catalysts

This data-file tabulates details of the c35 companies commercialising catalysts for the refining industry.  Improved catalysts are aimed at better yields, efficiencies and energy intensities. This is the leading route we can find to lower refining sector CO2 emissions.

In particular, we find five early-stage companies are aiming to commercialise next-generation refining catalysts.

We also quantify which Majors have recently filed the most patents to improve downstream catalysts.

If you would like us to expand the data-file, or provide further details on any specific companies, then please let us know…

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