Natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels and is playing an important role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Abundant and reliable natural gas is also helping to increase the feasibility of more widespread use of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind. Minimizing methane emissions is a key goal for SWN, and doing so isn’t just good environmental stewardship; since methane is ultimately our product, it is good business as well. Accountability for this goal goes all the way to the top of SWN’s organization, since operating executives’ evaluation scorecard includes methane performance metrics, and our Board of Directors regularly reviews methane emissions performance.

GHG Emissions Leadership

SWN has long been a leader in reducing GHG emissions from our operations and is achieving top-tier GHG emissions performance. In 2019, we assessed our GHG emissions intensity compared to our peers and found we were a top performer, with significantly lower GHG emissions intensity than most of our peers. In 2019, our GHG intensity was 0.52 (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per million British thermal units produced).

SWN also leads the industry in reducing methane emissions, an important GHG in our industry. In 2019, we achieved a methane leak/loss rate of 0.055 percent.1

SWN is a founding member of the Our Nation’s Energy (ONE) Future coalition, a group of 16 companies working to reduce methane emissions across the natural gas value chain. Through peer-reviewed scientific analysis, ONE Future determined that – to ensure the climate benefits of natural gas over other fuels – the industry’s methane intensity must not exceed 1 percent across the entire natural gas value chain.2

SWN achieved and surpassed our ONE Future target of 0.36 percent six years ago, and we have continued to reduce emissions since.

Our ability to continually exceed this aggressive target stems from our early leadership in implementing methane emission reduction technologies and from the ways we have integrated environmental stewardship – including a consistent focus on identifying and reducing sources of methane emissions – into our company culture and operations. We are committed to continuous improvement and are always seeking ways to further reduce our emissions, as well as encouraging others in the industry to do so.

We are members of The Environmental Partnership, a group of 83 companies that have committed to implement a range of emission reduction best practices. Further, we seek to improve and share our knowledge in this area by participating in scientific studies with regulatory agencies, academia and nongovernmental organizations. These scientific research efforts are resulting in significant advances in knowledge and technology across the industry, which are also driving performance improvements.

0.055%

methane leak/loss rate in 2019, well below the ONE Future goal for our operating segment of 0.36%

10%

reduction in GHG emissions intensity in 2019, from 0.57 kg CO2e/MMBTU gas produced in 2018 to 0.52 in 2019

Emission-Reduction Efforts

SWN has proactively implemented methane mitigation technologies – including reduced emission completions, pneumatic device replacement, liquids unloading mitigation, and leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs – well in advance of U.S. regulatory requirements. Current SWN facilities do not utilize high-bleed controllers, nor do we use them in new facility design or installation.

Our voluntary LDAR program, through which we find and fix methane leaks across our operations, is overseen at the highest levels of our company. The Health, Safety, Environment and Corporate Responsibility Committee of our Board of Directors reviews LDAR performance quarterly, and senior executives are accountable for LDAR performance as part of their balanced scorecard evaluations. SWN’s Air Program Manager oversees day-to-day implementation of the program across the company, providing a single point of accountability and maintaining consistent implementation in all of our operating regions.

Our LDAR program goes beyond current regulatory requirements by including certain nonfugitive equipment sources – such as pneumatic controllers – and by addressing all potential sources, not just new ones. This program exceeds the standards of many SWN peers by covering all operational facilities, equipment and components. SWN LDAR personnel participate in both equipment start-up and maintenance activities to address potential leaks across the facility’s lifecycle.

The elements of our LDAR program are as follows:

  • Conduct ongoing remote monitoring of pressure, temperature and flow rate to identify any changes that may indicate methane leaks
  • Conduct frequent audio, visual and olfactory inspections by field personnel to identify leaks
  • Complete leak detection surveys using optical gas imaging cameras at least annually. New wells and new compressor stations are assessed within 60–180 days of commencing operation.
  • Make immediate repairs of leaking components if practical and safe. Once repairs are completed, the component or equipment is re-surveyed to confirm the leak has been fixed.
  • Track and report data on leak detection surveys to help ensure repairs are made effectively and to drive improvements in maintenance and repair practices

100%

of our operational production facilities surveyed for potential methane leaks in 2019

100%

of our compressor stations surveyed for potential methane leaks in 2019

99%

of identified methane leaks were repaired3

Other things we do to reduce emissions include:
  • Use preventative practices and design standards to eliminate otherwise high-emitting events
  • Prevent and/or minimize emissions from venting, including during planned events such as liquid unloading and blowdowns
  • Use the applicable U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Natural Gas STAR recommended technologies for minimizing methane venting
  • Minimize flaring to the maximum extent feasible to do so (In our core operating areas, flare use is limited to stand-by for upsets in the early stages of the drilling process, emergency conditions or as otherwise required by federal or state regulations.)

Technologies/Practices SWN Uses to Minimize Emissions, by Operational Phase

Well Drilling
  • Catalytic converters
  • Low-sulfur diesel fuel
  • Engines that run on a mixture of diesel and natural gas

Well Completions/Workovers
  • Catalytic converters
  • Low-sulfur diesel fuel
  • Green (i.e., low-emission) completions and re-completions

Production Activities
  • Maintenance practices
  • Low-NOx burners
  • Vapor recovery
  • Leak detection, including use of infrared cameras to identify leaks
  • Artificial lift systems
  • Monitored manual liquids unloading
  • Solar-powered instruments
  • Flash tank vessels on glycol dehydration units

Gas Gathering/Treatment
  • Lean burn engines
  • Catalytic converters
  • Leak detection, including use of infrared cameras to identify leaks
  • Flash tank vessels on glycol dehydration units
  • Electric glycol pump
  • Air/fuel ratio controllers

Miscellaneous
  • Conversion of fleet vehicles (field trucks) from gasoline/diesel to compressed natural gas
  1. Methane intensity or methane leak/loss rate (mass percentage) is calculated by dividing the gigagrams of methane emissions by the oil and gas gross production (cubic feet converted to gigagrams). In accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas reporting requirements, assets that were divested in 2018 are not reported.
  2. For more information on ONE Future and the target-setting process, please see: https://onefuture.us.
  3. All leaks are ultimately repaired. However, less than 1 percent of leaks in 2019 were identified for delayed repair in accordance with regulation to prevent excess emissions as a result of immediate repair.