​‘Unexpected partnerships’ between environmental groups and industry offer the best results: Q&A with EDF + Business

Isabel Mogstad. Image: EDF

This is Isabel Mogstad. She works in the Washington, DC office of the Environmental Defense Fund, leading oil and gas innovation projects for its EDF+Business program. She used to work for Schlumberger.

Recently Mogstad was in Calgary presenting to Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada about the collaborative work EDF + Business has underway with oil and gas players, which currently focuses on methane mitigation strategies.

One of these partners is with Shell, which earlier this year announced it would pilot new sensing equipment at one of its shale gas sites near Rocky Mountain House, Alta., as part of the EDF’s methane detectors challenge.

JWN had a chance to chat with Mogstad this week about the why “unexpected partnerships” like this one are important to EDF.

What would you say the concept is behind EDF + Business?

EDF + Business, formerly known as EDF Corporate Partnerships, has been working with unexpected partners for the last 25 years. Oil and gas is one great example of an uncommon partner, but those also include Walmart, FedEx, McDonald’s, KKR and others.

The theory behind these uncommon partnerships is that we can forge solutions together that are both positive for the environment and for the bottom line. The approach of EDF + Business and the partnerships that we cultivate is based on a fundamental principle that collaboration and mutual respect catalyze the best end results.

There are examples across our work and across different partnerships that exemplify this principle, that coming together and collaboratively working together in a trusting way based on science and economics is going to drive results that are going to be a win for the environment and a win for businesses.

The EDF is considered to be “economically literate.” Do you feel that is important?

It is hugely important. I am very proud to share and I love to tell people that EDF was the first American environmental non-profit to hire an economist and I think in many ways that points to our pragmatism, our realism and exemplifies our approach of finding the ways that work.

What is it like for you, coming from your background in industry, working in your current role?

I came out of undergrad from Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, extremely interested in energy policy and energy economics, aspiring to be a change agent in the future.

I felt that I needed real world, hands-on experience in the industry that I wanted to be involved in. Even in a qualitative way, I felt that having that first hand experience would make me a more effective change agent. So I went to work for Schlumberger in their management consulting group for two years and was exposed to various segments of the supply chain focusing largely on operations excellence, the digitization of the oilfield and oilfield automation.

At the core of what influenced me was working alongside members of the oil and gas industry. When I decided to make the transition to EDF and focus on corporate partnerships, it allowed me to have this unusual sort of intimate perspective on how oil and gas production works and also the people behind that production.

It’s about understanding what solutions are feasible where; especially with oil and gas methane globally, it’s not a one-size fits all approach. At EDF we’re very focused on the holistic toolkit of solutions, and I think one of the reasons we focus so much on that is we recognize that there are technical and operational nuances that make Canadian oil and gas production very different to American oil and gas production. We’re looking for solutions that accommodate all of these different challenges.

What’s happening right now for EDF + Business in Canada?

The science study that came out from Carleton University that came out a couple of weeks ago is probably the latest update on the work that we’re doing in Canada directly, and that report is hugely influential on my work in oil and gas methane innovation. The key takeaway from that report is that the emissions inventory numbers are underestimating methane emissions by anywhere between 25 and 50 percent.

The good news is there are methane mitigation solutions out there that are cost effective that are commercially available to help solve those problems now.

We are excited about technology innovation partnerships in Canada. It would be fantastic to see Canadian operators pilot technologies from the methane detectors challenge as we’ve seen with Shell and also technologies that come out of the mobile monitoring challenge that we are working on with Stanford University.

I am excited and I have confidence that Canadian oil and gas operators can and will take a leadership role on identifying and testing best in class methane mitigation solutions.

If EDF, like many other environmental organizations, has a goal to move away from fossil fuels, why is important to collaborate with industry along the way?

Reports show and the data currently suggests that fossil fuels will be a part of the energy mix for some foreseeable period of time. They power industry, they power people’s homes, and there is currently today a role for natural gas and other fossil fuels in the economy.

We are striving for a lower carbon economy and to achieve that we strongly believe that fossil fuel production needs to be carefully managed and emissions need to be drastically reduced for natural gas to play a constructive role in a lower carbon economy.

We are better environmental stewards when we take action and forge solutions and part of doing that effectively means working collaboratively with partners.