Shell’s Permian Basin sell-off unlikely to reduce climate pollution

“You’re not reducing emissions, you're just transferring who produces them.”

A gas flare burns in the Permian Basin in Texas. Bronte Wittpenn / Bloomberg Creative Photos / Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell’s sale of all its Permian Basin fracking assets to ConocoPhillips for $9.5 billion may reduce the company’s emissions on paper, but nowhere else, experts say.

Shell has come under increasing pressure to reduce its climate pollution, including a landmark ruling from a Dutch court this spring, but selling its Permian oil extraction operations just means it gets the pollution off its own balance sheets – and onto ConocoPhillips’.

“You’re not reducing emissions, you’re just transferring who produces them,” said Arvind Ravikumar, head of UT-Austin’s Sustainable Energy Transitions Lab, to The Texas Tribune.

Shell may also hope to do some reputational rehab by selling off its assets in the Permian Basin, specifically. “The Permian Basin has gained a notorious reputation,” said Luke Metzer, head of Environment Texas. “Many Wall Street people have said it has a black eye for failing to address methane emissions and flaring.”

As reported by The Texas Tribune:

“This is not a symbol of global movement to take climate action,” said Kenneth B. Medlock III, senior director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University. “This is a symbol of what two different entities viewed was in their own commercial best interest.”


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