Marathon Petroleum Is Cutting Greenhouse Gas Intensity Using Energy Efficiency

by | Mar 17, 2023

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Marathon Petroleum Corp. is a refiner, marketer, and transportation company — the largest such refiner with 16 refineries with a capacity of 3 million barrels daily. The Ohio-based company, formed in 2009, is a subsidiary of Marathon Oil. 

It focuses on reducing greenhouse gas intensity through energy efficiency measures and portfolio diversification. It aims to reduce such intensity levels for its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 30% by 2030. It is 23% of the way there now.

It also set a goal to cut its Scope 3 emissions by 15% by 2030. It is 11% of the way there now, achieved, in part, by ceasing crude processing at three petroleum refineries; one refinery has been converted to renewable diesel production. 

Scope 1 refers to internal operations, Scope 2 is linked to the fuels its buys from others, and Scope 3 is tied to its supply chain. 

“We operate with an understanding of the potential environmental impacts of our business. This understanding informs our commitment to lower the carbon intensity of our operations and the products we manufacture, improving the energy efficiency of our operations, and advance practices that conserve natural resources,” the company’s annual sustainability report says. 

“We strive to be a market leader in the production and delivery of renewable fuels, seek ways to expand the use of renewable energy in our operations, and deploy emerging technologies that reduce environmental impact while enhancing business performance,” it concludes. 

Energy efficiency is critical to its strategy: Its “Focus on Energy: program helped the company avoid the equivalent of 2 billion Btu’s per hour of energy use — the amount of energy used by 100,000 homes.

Meanwhile, the company strives to reduce waste through energy recovery and recycling. It says that since 2013, about 103,000 tons of waste emanating from its refineries have been transformed into alternative fuels for the cement industry. That has prevented 248,000 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions.

It also works with companies to reclaim metals, diverting them from landfills. The partnerships recover and recycle metals, including cobalt, copper, molybdenum, platinum, and vanadium.

How Marathon Deals with Biodiversity and Water

Marathon Petroleum strives to manage and monitor water use throughout its operations — critical to sourcing free water in water-stressed regions in the U.S. It set a companywide target to reduce freshwater withdrawal intensity by more than 20% by 2030 from 2016 levels. It is 15% of the way there now. 

Water is central to refining, leading Marathon to source from rivers, lakes, wells, and municipal water plants. But the company’s gas processing plants are designed to use little or no water. Nearly all of those plants have hot oil heaters that burn fuel gas. Its refining facilities can reuse water. The water can also be treated and recycled. “Our systems are set up for only fully treated water to be discharged to a surface body of water such as a lake, river, or bay so that the quality of these waters is maintained.”

It also has a comprehensive program to improve air quality by producing cleaner fuels, reducing natural gas flaring, and minimizing fugitive emissions.

To that end, it aims to cut methane emissions intensity 75% below 2016 levels by 2030 across its natural gas gathering and processing operations. Furthermore, between 2002 and 2021, it says it reduced its “criteria pollutants” by 54% even while its refining and natural gas assets grew. It invested $1 billion to achieve those pollution cuts. 

Moreover, “In 2022, we are allocating significant growth capital to renewables, including converting our Martinez, California, refinery to a renewable fuels facility. When complete, the Martinez Renewable Fuels facility will be larger than any renewable diesel production facility operating in the U.S. today while generating approximately 60% less GHG emissions per year than its prior operations,” says Michael Hennigan, chief executive, in the company’s annual sustainability report. 

Protecting the natural habitat and wildlife is a priority. It engages stakeholders, conducts environmental impact reviews, and determines mitigation initiatives. Some steps it takes:

— Incorporating species preservation into operational approaches. 

— Developing our construction schedules to avoid disrupting species migration, spawning, and nesting.

— Restoring all disturbed areas to pre-construction conditions by seeding/hydroseeding with native seed mixes. 

— Monitoring wetland and waterway crossing sites on pipeline rights of way to confirm they are fully restored and functioning, and 

— Training affected employees and contractors about biodiversity and maintaining assets in sensitive areas.

And spill prevention is at the height of its environmental and safety list. To that end, it patrols its pipelines using airplanes equipped with specialized sensors that detect hydrocarbon spills. And it uses cameras to catch any spills, including crude and highly volatile liquids, at remote pipeline stations. And it started using artificial intelligence technology at 45 additional facilities last year.

It also uses sensors and meters to detect flow rate changes or see if pressure drops on its lines. Meanwhile, it also educates landowners, first responders, and community partners about safe digging practices and emergency response. 

 “Our commitment to safely and responsibly operating our assets is critical and fundamental to our business and to protect our employees, contractors, communities, and the environment. We support this commitment through operational practices and technology focused on a goal of zero spills.” 

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