Continued growth for organizations in the chemicals, oil and gas sectors — while still meeting company-specific sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives — creates a wide range of challenges. For projects both within and outside ozone nonattainment areas, aligning with these goals and meeting federal and local permitting requirements means organizations must innovate to identify and implement emission reduction strategies.

But doing so is easier said than done.

Successful growth depends on strategies that take on new investments while offsetting air emissions and streamlining the air permitting process by keeping emissions below federal permit trigger levels. Such strategies are defined by a number of variables and are tailored to each project. Successful strategies tackle major challenges and look toward future regulatory developments.

Understanding the Challenges

Traditional organizational structures within operating companies and service providers have the potential to add barriers to emission minimization objectives. Initial progress can be obstructed by the large number of possible approaches and options for developing an effective emissions reduction strategy, and few service providers are equipped to provide a comprehensive solution.

The development of emissions reduction strategies requires the input of key stakeholders, such as management, project teams and engineering groups, many of whom will have divergent viewpoints. Gathering and sorting through this information can slow the development process and is compounded when introducing multiple specialty service providers and other stakeholders.

One-size-fits-all solutions do not exist in these circumstances, and are bound to fail, especially when an organization is still developing its approach to ESG and the reduction of greenhouse gases. Because there is no overall, agreed upon standard for these tactics, organizations must determine their own criteria for sustainable operations. These will inform the overall strategy for reducing emissions at new and ongoing projects.

Building a Strategy

Building a successful strategy requires that organizations understand their situation, their industry and the benchmarks they plan to meet. This means that every strategy is purpose-built to meet specific needs. However, certain themes are common to all emissions reduction strategies.

First, an organization must define its objectives and the associated asset-specific parameters to develop an effective emission management strategy. An organized team that includes essential technical capabilities and clear management can effectively identify and outline this framework, and then plan key interactions between important parties, such as service providers and stakeholders. From here, measurable goals can be established and tracked to keep the progress on target.

Looking Ahead

Pressure to minimize emissions will continue to increase as air quality rules grow more stringent and industries advance corporate ESG objectives to align with shareholder interests. Success depends on tailoring a plan to fit the situation and understanding the challenges to build a diverse, experienced team alongside a knowledgeable service provider to cover all the angles.

Because air quality regulations are always changing — becoming more prevalent in some areas —organizations must be prepared to meet ongoing rule adjustments. Looking ahead while planning major projects prepares organizations in the chemicals, oil and gas sectors to continue to build new projects in a more stringent regulatory environment.


Sustainable benefits can come from development of renewable fuel and chemical capabilities and facilities. 


Blake Soyars, PE, is manager of the Air Quality & Noise Department, specializing in permitting and compliance for refinery, energy and chemical manufacturing customers.