This year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency will observe its 49th year of operation. After years of increasing public concern about human impact on the environment in the 1950s and 60s, President Richard Nixon signed an executive order to establish the agency in order to assess and research the environment, and enforce statutes put forth by Congress to protect it.
Since then, the status of the environment has remained a central topic in the news worldwide. Industry has been heavily criticized about its role in the destruction of the environment, and many activists and organizations are waiting to see what corporations will do to ease the effects of climate change.
ExxonMobil is working to develop and implement environmental and innovative energy technologies to reduce its footprint, here in Beaumont and across the globe.
According to its website, ExxonMobil has a six-step environmental management process — identify environmental and social aspects; evaluate environmental, social and regulatory settings; conduct environmental and social risk assessments; manage risks, avoid, reduce, remedy; monitor and evaluate; and apply environmental and social aspects.
“ExxonMobil is committed to conducting our business in a manner that is compatible with the balanced environmental and economic needs of the communities where we operate,” Cindy Holloway, ExxonMobil public and government affairs coordinator, said. “We are committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations and apply responsible requirements where regulations are not adequately protective.”
Holloway said that by 2020, ExxonMobil will have invested more than $2 billion in environmental performance measures in Beaumont alone.
“This includes the installation of three cogeneration units and a wet gas scrubber in 2005,” she said.
According to ExxonMobil’s website, cogeneration is the process of generating electricity and heat at the same time and making use of both in the place where they are generated. A wet gas scrubber removes pollutants from gas streams.
“ExxonMobil has reduced sulfur dioxide emissions from its Beaumont operations by more than 80 percent since 2004,” Holloway said. “The Beaumont complex has reduced ozone precursors such as nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds by more than 50 percent since 2004.”
In addition, Holloway said Beaumont is not on any Texas Commission on Environmental Quality air pollutant watch lists.
In 2017, the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement which sought to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the effects of climate change as a whole. ExxonMobil states on its website that it “supports the work of the Paris signatories, acknowledges the ambitious goals of this agreement and believes the company has a constructive role to play in developing solutions.”
ExxonMobil is also investing in its future as an energy company.
“Energy matters to ExxonMobil,” Holloway said. “With the world’s population estimated to reach more than nine billion people in 2040, providing enough affordable energy to help improve global living is one of our main objectives.
“A significant portion of the world’s population remains energy-deprived, facing living conditions that would be considered dire by most people in developed countries. Access to modern energy improves a community’s quality of life. It is closely correlated to increased life expectancy, reduced poverty and malnutrition, and higher levels of childhood education.”
Holloway said that as growing populations gain increased access to energy, rising living standards in many parts of the world will create the largest expansion of the global middle class in history, meaning more demand for homes, transportation, electricity, consumer goods, and the energy to power them all.
“The challenge is to satisfy this growing demand, while reducing the risks of climate change,” she said. “We are focused on mitigating emissions in our operations, developing technology solutions, providing solutions that reduce emissions for our customers and engaging on climate change policy. ExxonMobil is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council, which advocates for a revenue-neutral carbon tax and aligns closely with our long-standing principles.
“In 2018, ExxonMobil joined the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a voluntary initiative representing 13 of the world’s largest oil and gas producers working towards solutions to mitigate the risks of climate change.”
ExxonMobil is invested in developing technology solutions that will be instrumental to meet rising global energy demands while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions, Holloway said.
“We are conducting scientific research to enhance existing and develop next-generation energy sources,” she said. “ExxonMobil has spent more than $9 billion on lower-emission energy solutions since 2000. At the center of our research is ExxonMobil’s Corporate Strategic Research laboratory, a fundamental research institution with approximately 170 Ph.D. scientists and engineers focused on addressing the company’s long-range science needs.
“We support a diverse portfolio of in-house research projects, including next-generation biofuels, carbon capture and storage, alternative energy and climate science.”
One of the next-generation biofuels ExxonMobil is looking at is algae. ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics, Inc. are working toward the technical ability to produce 10,000 barrels of algae biofuels a day by 2025. According to ExxonMobil’s newsletter, The Exemplar, algae biofuels emit fewer greenhouse gases.
“ExxonMobil is partnering with approximately 80 universities around the world to explore new energy technologies,” Holloway said. “The new phase of research includes an outdoor field study that will grow naturally occurring algae in several ponds in California.”
In carbon capture, Holloway said ExxonMobil is conducting research to find ways to improve existing technologies.
“One project, with FuelCell Energy, is focused on reducing the cost of capturing carbon by using carbonate fuel cells that generate power while capturing carbon,” she said.
The ExxonMobil Beaumont Refinery is currently constructing an expansion project within the refinery’s existing footprint that will increase crude refining capacity by more than 65 percent, or 250,000 barrels per day.
Construction of the new unit began in 2019 and startup is expected by 2022, according to a press release on the company’s website
“The project will create 1,850 jobs during construction and between 40 and 60 permanent jobs once completed,” Holloway said. “We plan to transport a significant amount of equipment and material via the Neches River to minimize community impact and reduce the number of construction trucks traveling through neighboring communities. In anticipation of an additional 1,850 construction workers, we are also considering plans for an alternative path toward the refinery’s south plant via Martin Luther King Parkway.”
But, as with every industrial project, there are risks. According to the ExxonMobil website, they consider risk at every stage of development and continuously work to manage environmental impacts.
For more information, visit corporate.exxonmobil.com.
This is paid content by Lamar students produced in partnership with ExxonMobil.
Story by UP editor Olivia Malick, pictures by UP photo editor Noah Dawlearn.