Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A fundamental element of our business strategy and approach to risk management is our commitment to continuously improve environmental performance. We are proud of our commitment to reduce emissions across our operations and constructively and broadly engage our shareholders, peers and communities on this important issue.
The Noble Energy Safety, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Committee oversees and guides our activities focused on safety, corporate responsibility and sustainability, including work in the area of climate. The committee works closely with the company’s executive-level Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility (SCR) Committee, which provides leadership on the management of climate-related issues. The SCR Committee is supported by a multi-disciplinary working group and external experts on climate.
As part of our commitment to transparency, Noble Energy will publish a climate resiliency report in 2019 informed by the framework of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and focused on our climate-related governance, strategy, risk management and performance.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas and other Emissions
We are committed to complying with all applicable air quality rules and environmental regulations. In addition, we look for economic opportunities to prevent or reduce emissions even beyond compliance.
Our global direct greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 6.4 percent year over year in 2018. Our total greenhouse gas emissions intensity, measured as tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per thousand barrels of oil equivalent production, decreased by 5 percent.
These changes were the result of upgrades to our physical infrastructure and improved internal controls, notably the improvements we have made to the Clayton Williams Energy assets we acquired in Texas in 2017.
Our drive to implement new technology and replace older equipment also improves sustainability and reduces emissions. For example, tank emissions decreased significantly in the DJ Basin as most production comes from sites with more progressive emission controls than in the past. Improved facility design in the Permian Basin has reduced emission rates, holding VOC emissions flat despite significant production growth.
Continuous improvement in reducing emissions continues to be one of our top environmental priorities. To minimize these emissions, we employ best management practices such as instrument air pneumatic devices. We also use available direct pipeline takeaway access when possible.
We also control emissions and minimize flaring of gas by recovering or re-injecting natural gas and actively pursue sufficient take-away capacity for associated produced gas. In 2018, we prevented emitting more than 201 million cubic feet of methane through increased use of new vapor recovery units in the U.S.
Methane intensity (total methane emitted expressed as a percentage of natural gas production) decreased in 2018 as a result of divesting Gulf of Mexico and Southwest Royalties assets as well as operational improvements. Intensity was 0.09 percent compared to 0.13 percent in 2017.
We continue to upgrade the design of our production facilities to produce oil and natural gas with fewer air emissions, including those emissions for which there are public health standards, such as ozone precursors and particulate matter.