Greenhouse Gas and Other Emissions
Our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions levels reported in 2016 rose compared to 2015. This reflects both an increase in our operations activity and changes in measurement and reporting.
Overall, our direct GHG emissions rose 12 percent. Contributing to this were a full year of operations in Texas as we worked toward bringing Rosetta Resources assets up to our standards, as well as the addition of the Thunder Hawk offshore production platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, of which we assumed operator status in the third quarter of 2016. Other factors included increased compressor use in the DJ Basin and an increase in flaring in Equatorial Guinea. Increased activity in the Eastern Mediterranean raised our electricity consumption there. These increases were offset to some degree by reduced venting from the Neptune Spar in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, lower levels of activity in the Marcellus Shale, and a drop in mobile emissions resulting from discontinuation of helicopter use in the Falkland Islands.
Data changes that affected our emissions calculations included the addition of a new Environmental Protection Agency industry segment, Onshore Petroleum and Natural Gas Gathering and Boosting. These activities were previously not included in our reporting scope and increased both our combustion and fugitive emissions calculations. We saw a reduction in venting emissions in our onshore Texas operations by improving the accuracy of our recordkeeping.
In addition, our reporting of U.S. emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increased following implementation of a new regulation that requires us to report a standardized emissions figure for new sites until actual emissions measurements can be calculated. That standardized number is higher than our site-specific historic measurements.
We made significant advances in reducing U.S. methane emissions. Our reduction in 2016 was an estimated 1.62 billion cubic feet (bcf). Two factors that contributed to this were continued use of infrared cameras to detect leaks and more accurate recording of vapor recovery unit data in the DJ Basin. Our data for 2016 also includes reductions achieved in our new Texas onshore assets.
Addressing Community Concerns
We continue to work closely with local communities to address concerns they might have about the effects of energy development. In Colorado, Noble Energy served as one of 21 members of the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force, which included government, industry, civic and NGO leaders. It recommended nine changes that significantly expand the role of local governments – and their citizens – in making siting decisions for large facilities in urban areas. In 2016, the last of these recommendations was implemented when the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved regulations that would allow local governments to consult with energy companies on the location of multiple-well drilling sites, storage tanks and other large facilities in developed areas. The multi-year task force process demonstrates the effectiveness of bringing all parties together to find solutions to existing or potential conflicts.
Natural Gas + Noble Energy = A Cleaner Ride to School
After exploring multiple alternative fuel options, the Douglas County, Colorado, school district chose to launch a compressed natural gas (CNG) pilot program. Through a partnership with Noble Energy and the Regional Air Quality Council, the school district was able to secure more than $250,000 in grants, enabling it to purchase new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses for less than the cost of used diesel buses.
Douglas County is one of nine counties benefitting from Noble Energy’s CNG bus program, which has helped Colorado school districts purchase 47 buses with contributions of nearly $4.19 million since 2013. Clean-burning natural gas is up to one-third less expensive than diesel fuel on an equivalent energy basis, saving school districts approximately $3,000 on fuel per CNG bus per year while dramatically reducing air pollutants compared to diesel-fueled vehicles. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Transportation Technologies, natural gas engines dramatically reduce carbon monoxide by 70%; non-methane organic gas by 87%; and nitrogen oxides by 87%.