The Role of Culture in Methane Management
Updated: May 30, 2019
Creating a robust “low emissions culture” is vital to companies invested in ensuring the future of natural gas as part of the energy transition.
The world is transitioning to a decarbonized energy future. While there may be debate about the pace of change, the transition is indisputably happening. The role of oil and gas in this time of energy transition will be impacted by economic, environmental and governmental forces, all which shift in relative importance over time. Today, environmental pressures take a dominant role.
In the 2017 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario forecasts natural gas consumption will “increase by nearly 20% between 2016 and 2030 and then remain broadly flat to 2040.” Natural gas has advantages over other fuels in the transition to a decarbonized future due to its low CO2 emissions and high reliability when used as an energy source. However, one of the important drivers in IEA’s view is the impact of methane emissions and industry’s response.
Creating a low emissions culture.
Culture is broadly defined as the shared values, standards, behaviors and beliefs that characterize an organization. Values expressed at the executive level and supported through standards and measurable performance expectations will be reflected in behavior at the operational level. When a field operator with a busy schedule and pressure to “do more with less” is faced with the choice to vent gas and quickly accomplish the work, or take the time to minimize the amount of gas vented before proceeding, what decision will they make? The choice will reflect the cultural values that have been created and what field personnel believe will be supported.
Top performing companies will create a robust “low emissions culture” reflecting emissions management as part of an effective corporate risk management strategy. This should include three key elements: 1) Performance Metrics as part of incentive compensation; 2) Training and communications emphasizing the importance of minimizing or eliminating the release of gas and 3) Frequent monitoring and action to ensure progress is made. Implementing these elements across all operations from design to maintenance is essential to achieve minimum methane emissions levels. Building cultural values, standards and beliefs that low emissions are important will drive decisions that achieve results. Similar activities employed in creating a safety culture have delivered proven benefits to industry.
Raising the commitment to reduce emissions across the entire organization through a “low emissions culture” can help mitigate one risk to the future use of natural gas in the energy transition.
Future posts will feature thoughts about each of the other keys to methane management. Lowering methane emissions by addressing each of the five areas will help ensure the relative benefits of natural gas over other fossil fuels and provide for a longer transition while remaining within the carbon budget. The results will benefit companies, the environment and communities impacted by natural gas operations.