EXPERT INSIGHT

Regulatory Reforms and Their Ripple Effects on U.S. Oil and Gas Investments

Written by Tazmyn Gounden, Head of Investor Research

Published 23 April 2024

Energy Council 2024 Industry Trends

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the EPA's recent regulations mark a pivotal shift for the US Oil and Gas sector, influencing operational strategies, the investment landscape, and M&A dynamics. In December 2023, the EPA launched a final rule targeting significant reductions in methane and other pollutants from oil and gas operations, aligning with the IRA's comprehensive Methane Emissions Reduction Program. This program not only tightens emissions standards but also provides over $1 billion in aid to foster the adoption of low-emission technologies. This initiative supports the industry in upgrading equipment, enhancing GHG reporting and monitoring, and mitigating environmental impacts, thereby reshaping the operational, investment, and financial landscapes of the sector.

The EPA estimates varying annual costs for implementing changes in reporting and emissions control, ranging from around $1,656 for gas pipeline reporters to $82,701 for exploration and production reporters.

The implications of these regulations

A pivotal element of the IRA is the introduction of the Waste Emissions Charge. Starting in 2024, this fee applies to facilities emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, with fees escalating annually from $900 per metric ton in 2024 to $1,500 by 2026. This fee targets excess emissions, pressuring companies to enhance their emissions control strategies or face significant financial penalties.

Complying with these new standards is not without cost. The EPA estimates varying annual costs for implementing changes in reporting and emissions control, ranging from around $1,656 for gas pipeline reporters to $82,701 for exploration and production reporters. While these figures suggest manageable expenses for some, the actual costs could escalate depending on the facility and required upgrades. The costs of non-compliance could be far more substantial, potentially affecting the company's market valuation and investment appeal.

Impact on Investment

The environmental regulatory shift introduced by the IRA is set to impact the investment landscape further, as investors and financial institutions prioritize sustainability, the implications of GHG reporting, and emissions data on financial assessment, strategic planning, and funding strategies. According to a McKinsey survey, Chief Investment Officers rank ESG considerations as the third most important factor for energy investments. However, despite prioritizing cost optimization and capital productivity higher than ESG considerations, 19% of investors are considering reducing their investments in the sector due to ESG concerns.

As investors increasingly consider ESG factors and regulatory pressures increase, the O&G sector has responded by investing in decarbonization and low-emission technologies such as hydrogen, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). According to BCG, industry leaders in decarbonization are not only realizing environmental benefits but are also gaining financial advantages, such as increased revenues and a strengthened competitive edge. These achievements stem from a comprehensive approach to emissions reduction, including enhancing energy efficiency, minimizing gas leaks, and transitioning to low-carbon energy sources for power and heating

The enhancement of the 45Q tax credit, which incentivizes carbon capture by increasing the credit values for both point source and direct air capture of CO2, makes these projects more financially viable and attractive to investors. Extending the construction window for these projects until 2033, allows for longer timelines for development and deployment, and includes options for direct pay and transferability of credits, making it easier for developers to finance CCUS projects.

  • Investors considering reducing their investments into the sector due to ESG concerns 19% 19%
Mergers and Acquisitions

The regulatory environment is also reshaping the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) landscape in the oil and gas sector. Companies are increasingly pursuing transactions that not only enhance operational efficiency and reduce emissions but also strategically position them for success in the energy transition. An example of this is Occidental Petroleum’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Carbon Engineering Ltd., a strategic move that allows Occidental to foster broader development partnerships and deploy Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology more effectively and profitably. This shift towards strategic consolidations and acquisitions highlights the industry’s evolution, as companies aim to refine operations, adopt sustainable energy practices, and safeguard both profitability and shareholder value.

The regulatory changes spurred by the IRA are poised to fundamentally transform the investment and operational landscapes of the oil and gas industry. By steering investments towards emissions abatement and enforcing stricter emissions controls, these regulations not only aim to mitigate environmental impact but also to realign the industry’s focus towards sustainability and efficiency. As the sector navigates these changes, the dual challenges of compliance costs and strategic realignment are likely to catalyze a shift in how companies operate, invest, and grow in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

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