Water, spills and air
The availability of fresh water is a growing challenge in some regions of the world. At Shell, we know that it is important to preserve this valuable resource and manage our water use responsibly. Water constraints tend to affect people at the local or regional level, so we tailor our use of fresh water to local conditions.
In water scarce areas, we develop water management plans. These plans describe the long-term risks to water availability and define measures to minimise our use of fresh water or prescribe alternatives to fresh water, such as recycled water, processed sewage water and desalinated water. Waste water from our operations is treated before discharge into the environment. Where appropriate, we look for ways to treat waste water using natural solutions such as constructed wetlands. This helps us to reduce the energy use associated with water management.
Our technology centre in Bangalore, India, is home to our water research laboratories. It is also a hub that connects Shell’s water experts around the world so that they can share their experience. The centre works in collaboration with leading universities, non-governmental organisations and global technology firms such as Wetsus, one of the top water research organisations in the Netherlands. A focus of this work is on the development of advanced technologies to increase recycling and reuse rates.
Shell is also involved in a number of working groups with different organisations, such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues. In these groups we share experiences and encourage the adoption of common practices across the industry. In 2012, we published an accounting methodology for water used in oil and gas operations, in co-operation with the University of Utrecht.
Shell has clear requirements and procedures in place to prevent operational spills. We have routine programmes to maintain our facilities and pipelines, and improve their reliability, in order to reduce operational spills. However, spills still occur for reasons such as operational failure, accidents or unusual corrosion. (See Environmental performance).
We track emissions released into the atmosphere from our upstream and downstream facilities and work to reduce air pollution from our operations. This includes making investments to lower our emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and volatile organic compounds that are released during oil and gas production and processing. These pollutants can affect air quality in the areas where we operate.