May 18, 2021

An Early Comparison of Responsibly Sourced Certifications for Oil & Gas Producers

Interest among oil & gas producers to go above and beyond regulatory emissions requirements is growing – not only to preserve the industry’s social license to operate, but also to unlock premium values for products and enterprises by demonstrating verifiable responsibly sourced production.  Numerous voluntary initiatives are emerging to enable oil & gas industry participants to take credit for their emissions reductions efforts, but the space is noisy - comparisons across initiatives are challenging, and the benefits of participation are difficult to quantify.  Additionally, a myriad of technologies including continuous monitoring sensors, UAVs (drones), aircraft, satellites, and vehicle-based systems are emerging to improve data quality and disclosure.

On May 3, 2021 the team at Highwood Emissions Management (“Highwood”) released a useful report titled “An Overview of Voluntary Emissions Reduction Initiatives for Responsibly Sourced Oil and Gas”, in which they analyze 20 of the emerging certifications, commitments, guidelines, and ratings across the nascent landscape of voluntary emissions reductions initiatives for oil & gas producers.  According to Highwood’s definition, Certifications hold participants to binding standards that may include emissions reduction performance targets, use of specific technologies, and/or adoption of methodologies.  Certifications entail an explicit declaration of achievement from the administering organization to the participant.

A Sampling of Current Voluntary Emissions Reduction Initiatives

In this article we provide an early examination of four Certifications for Responsibly Sourced Oil and Responsibly Sourced Gas (“RSG”):

  • Equitable Origin 100™ (EO100™) Standard
  • ISO 14001:2015
  • MiQ Standard
  • Trustwell Responsible Gas
RSG Certifications Overview (Source: Highwood Emissions Management)

Equitable Origin 100™ (EO100™) Standard

The EO100™ standard for responsible energy development was created in 2012 and verifies energy production across a range of ESG categories including human rights, fair labor and working conditions, social impact, community development, corporate governance, and indigenous people’s rights.  With regards to GHG emissions, in order to achieve RSG certification participants are expected to implement regularly maintained emissions performance targets that are audited by independent third-party organizations.  Operators are expected to quantify and disclose scope 1 and scope 2 emissions using reporting protocols established by organizations such as the IPCC.  Equitable Origin has recently partnered with MiQ for select projects, which has a more detailed focus on methane emissions and may lead to more incorporation of the two certifications going forward for RSG.  Participants holding the EO100™ certification are held accountable by the 3-year lifespan of each certification, as well as through annual audit assessments which are conducted remotely and on-site.  

Equitable Origin is a nonprofit funded through donations, grants, and certification fees.

(Source:  Highwood Emissions Management)

ISO 14001:2015

The International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) 14001:2015 certification is an international standard that specifies the requirements for an environmental management system (EMS) that an organization may use to enhance their environmental performance.  An EMS is a management framework that a participant may use to manage their environmental impact, fulfill regulatory compliance obligations, and assess risks and opportunities associated with their work practices.

The ISO 14001:2015 certification is an improved version of their original 2004 14001 certification which now implements a plan-do-check-act (PDCA) model, listing various checkpoints that lead to certification. The PDCA model implements a rigorous approach in verifying adherence to the ISO 14001:2015 principles and involves both internal audits performed by a participant, as well as audits from ISO.  While RSG certification is non-prescriptive regarding technology and emissions targets, it outlines environmental management standards that are recognized globally.  

ISO is a nonprofit funded from the subscriptions paid by national participants and the sale of their standards.

(Source:  Highwood Emissions Management)

MiQ Standard

The MiQ Standard is a RSG certification program that evaluates performance based on methane intensity, corporate practices and technology use.  MiQ was built out of a partnership between the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and SYSTEMiQ and began certification pilot testing in 2021 to reduce emissions by implementing flexible certification standards for upstream producers.

Certifications are issued at the upstream point of production and are valid until the associated units of gas are consumed (retired), allowing for traceability of MiQ-certified RSG gas throughout the length of the natural gas value chain. MiQ's certification framework is informed by input from leading groups such as the United Nations (UN), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the academic community, as well as over 50 stakeholders.

The MiQ approach is committed to adaptability as technologies and best practices evolve within the field of methane measurement – a principle they are calling the "dynamic standard".  Participants are held accountable through public disclosure, a point system predicated on methane intensity, and an auditing process comprised of accredited third-party inspectors.

MiQ is a not-for-profit partnership between RMI & SYSTEMiQ.

(Source:  Highwood Emissions Management)

TrustWell Responsible Gas

In 2020, Project Canary merged with Independent Energy Standards (IES), the originator of the TrustWell™ certification, creating a company with both continuous monitoring technology and a certification standard for Responsibly Sourced Gas (RSG). The standard is evaluated based on several criteria, including air quality, water stewardship, land impacts, and community interests.

Through their own evaluation process, Project Canary tracks emissions which are appraised against established methane intensity benchmarks from organizations such as ONE Future, the EPA, and the OGCI.  The certification looks to provide a level of accountability through a tiered ranking system that grades a participant’s emissions approach and applies a performance rating ranging from silver to platinum.

Project Canary is for-profit, funded by methane monitoring fees and certification fees.

(Source:  Highwood Emissions Management)

RSG Certifications Quick Facts (Source: Highwood Emissions Management)

As the landscape for voluntary emissions reduction initiatives evolves, it will be increasingly important for disclosures to be based on verifiable, auditable independent third party emissions data.  Across the initiatives Highwood examined, verification via independent auditing was the exception, not the norm.  Only two of the Certifications – EO100 and MiQ – require the use of third-party auditors to verify performance through on-site measurements.  In the same way that capital providers require that a company’s financial statements be audited by reputable, independent third party auditing firms, operator’s emission reporting may soon have similar audit requirements.  Considering recent calls from investor coalitions for tougher methane emission regulations, verifiable emissions data may soon be a major factor in an operator’s access to and cost of capital.

Questions about emissions monitoring across your oil and gas operations? Contact Impact IQ today to see how we can help.

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