Devon Energy says it will voluntarily reduce methane emissions from its operations in the United States by at least 12 percent by 2025.
“Setting this target signals the next step in Devon’s continuing proactive pursuit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reaffirms the company’s commitment to protecting the environment for future generations,” the company stated Monday in a press release.
Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. It can leak into the atmosphere at any point in the natural gas supply chain. It is also intentionally emitted through flaring, the burning off of natural gas bi-product at oil production and processing sites, as well as venting, the release of unburned gases for safety reasons.
“It [methane] is a little bit like carbon dioxide on steroids and oil and gas is one of the largest industrial sources,” explained Ben Ratner, who manages corporate initiatives to reduce methane emissions at the Environmental Defense Fund.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane makes up 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, it has a disproportionate effect on the planet’s warming because it absorbs more heat than carbon dioxide. For the first 20 years after its release, it is 56 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the United Nations.
Devon says it will increase focus on “leak detection and repair” in order to hit its methane target. The company is following in the footsteps of several of its competitors, such as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, which announced plans to curb methane emissions in 2018.
“Managing methane doesn't require transforming your business model, and so a number of companies are looking at limiting methane emissions as one of the things they can do to address global climate change,” Ratner said. He believes companies are responding to investors and shareholders who have become increasingly concerned with demonstrating efforts to be more environmentally friendly.
Like companies that have made similar promises, Devon has supported lobbying efforts to weaken federal methane regulations. Former President Obama increased the frequency of required methane leak inspections as part of his Clean Power Plan. Devon is a member of the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association that championed replacement rules under the Trump administration, which effectively reinstated decades-old guidelines. Devon also says it helped develop the Bureau of Land Management’s methane rule in 2017, another rollback of Obama-era policy.