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people and community meet the methane hunter

2 min read | february 23, 2023

Vanessa Ryan, Chevron’s methane reduction manager.

Managing methane is among the most consequential challenges of our time. For Vanessa Ryan, it’s a daily endeavor.

As Chevron’s methane reduction manager, Ryan is on a mission to keep methane in the pipe throughout our worldwide operations.

But first she must find the methane, and detecting it is a challenge.

“It’s colorless and odorless most of the time,” Ryan said. “It’s almost like chasing a ghost.”

exploring the haunts

Ryan manages a team of methane experts that includes specialists in chemical engineering, facility design and operations. But even with all the brain power, finding any leaked methane emissions is tricky.

In oil and gas production, methane emissions can elude capture, finding a way out through leaks in processes and equipment. Venting and flaring can be other avenues of escape.

Ryan said solving the problem is fascinating.

“You get to think about the patterns you see or which tools are needed to predict where the next potential emission source would be,” she explained. “It’s really a combination of hyper-efficiency and problem-solving.”

“That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We are constantly looking for ways to keep methane in the pipe.”

getting hooked

After earning a master’s degree in public policy and joining Chevron in a sustainability-type role, Ryan was given an assignment that would change the course of her career.

She was asked to prepare an executive for a meeting related to methane management.

Once she began researching the topic, she couldn’t stop. She peppered experts with questions and worked with colleagues to understand the best practices for reducing methane emissions and flaring in the Permian Basin.

“That was probably one of the coolest things I've ever been involved in because it wasn't just air people,” Ryan said. “It was facilities engineers, people from asset development discussing which aspects were most important. We covered all sorts of different issues, thinking about cost, reliability, safety and the environment.”

expanding her scope

Ryan’s role has taken her all over the world. In 2022, she often found herself on the road working with asset teams in Kazakhstan and throughout the U.S.

During a visit to Kazakhstan last year, she impressed colleagues with her scope of knowledge.

“One of the things I appreciated about Vanessa was she just knows so much,” said Blair Blackwell, a low carbon advisor for Chevron’s Eurasia business unit. “She was able to pull so much information from our operations and then brainstorm about the types of solutions that might make sense for our business unit. The way she’s able to dive in is incredible.”

The feeling is mutual, with Ryan saying she remains inspired by a passion shared by colleagues and industry partners.

“I’m surrounded by a lovely group of people who have great passion for the topic and incredibly deep knowledge,” she said. “But deeper than their knowledge is their curiosity and their desire to continue to learn more about this space and continue to learn from the huge range of folks that touch methane in our company.”

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