Exxon Mobil pledged its commitment on Wednesday to lower-carbon projects to meet higher global emission standards while staying focused on environmentally-sensitive but profitable fracking in America's premier shale basin Permian.
"We remain committed with plans to position Exxon Mobil as a leader in society's drive for a lower carbon future," company Chairman Darren Woods said at Investor Day 2021.
Woods said Exxon Mobil had reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent under its commitment to the Paris Accord, outperforming the energy sector's average reduction of 2 percent.
While the company would continue making progress on reducing its carbon footprint, it will not take its foot off hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as its popularly known, in the high-yielding Permian basin, he said.
Green groups are vehemently opposed to fracking, which is the process of extracting fossil fuels, like oil and gas, from shale basins by injecting a mixture of water, salt and thousands of toxic chemicals into the earth.
Environmentalists say the chemicals used are toxic pollutants that have been linked to cancer, mutations, and other adverse impacts on human health, and are destructive to aquatic life and ecosystems.
US President Joe Biden has suspended the issuance of new oil and gas leases on Federal land and water areas. He has set a target of halving the US carbon footprint by 2035 and committed to investing $400 billion over the next decade on "clean energy" projects such as wind, solar and water.
Woods tried to draw a clear distinction between the general criticism against fracking and what Exxon Mobil was doing by highlighting the company's successes in reducing its carbon footprint, particularly in the Permian.
The Permian is a shale oil basin about 250 miles wide and 300 miles long, spanning parts of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. It includes the highly-prolific Delaware and Midland sub-basins.
"We've reduced flaring intensity in the Permian by 80 percent versus 2018," Woods said, referring to the practice of burning gas that is deemed uneconomical to collect and sell. "We're also reducing greenhouse gas intensity and by 2025, expect it to be around 50 percent lower."
As an investment itself, the Permian was among Exxon Mobil's best, and "continues to be one of our highest priority investments that offers unique short-cycle flexibility", he said.
"There are competitive advantages as well to achieving double-digit returns at $35 per barrel cost, which include improved capital efficiency and higher resource recovery," Woods added.
Exxon Mobil widened its holdings in the Permian in 2017, after paying $5.6 billion in stock to acquire companies owned by Texas' Bass family that control parts of the basin in New Mexico.
It remains one of the Permian's more active operators, although the number of rigs it has drilling for oil in the basin are down dramatically to just 8 rigs from 48 in 2019, due to the demand destruction in oil caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Woods said Exxon Mobil's Permian fields were expected to yield the equivalent of 700,000 of oil equivalent barrels per day by 2025, versus a projected 400,000 for 2021.