We carefully consider the potential environmental impact of our activities and how local communities might be affected during the lifetime of a project.
Highlights in 2017
- We started working with nature-based projects to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions while improving the livelihoods of local communities and preserving biodiversity.
- We recorded our lowest volume of operational spills.
- The Australian government approved a biodiversity offsetting plan from the Shell-operated QGC gas project.
We aim to comply with all applicable environmental regulations, continually improve our performance and prepare for future challenges and opportunities. We use external standards and guidelines, such as those developed by the World Bank and its International Finance Corporation, to inform our approach.
Our global environmental standards include requirements for managing our emissions, minimising our use of fresh water and conserving biodiversity. Within our operations, we also focus on reducing our energy use, flaring less gas and preventing spills and leaks.
When planning new projects, we carry out detailed assessments of the potential environmental, social and health impacts. These assessments help us manage and reduce impacts on the environment and communities during construction, operation and, when relevant, decommissioning.
As a member of the Natural Capital Coalition, we also continue to follow and contribute to work on the evolving concept of natural capital – the value of nature to people, society, businesses, and the economy. This helps us to better understand its potential applications.
We seek to understand and respond to any potential impacts our activities may have on biodiversity or ecosystem services. This covers the benefits that people or businesses derive from ecosystems, such as food and clean water.
In our projects and operations, our primary aim is to avoid impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Where avoidance is not possible we aim to minimise our impact. Where our operations have affected biodiversity and the communities who rely on biodiversity for their livelihoods, we take measures to help restore habitats or ecosystems. We look for opportunities to make a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation in the communities where we operate.
To help us improve our environmental performance, including protecting biodiversity, we work with scientific and conservation organisations around the world. For example, at our Stones deep-water project in the Gulf of Mexico, we share deep-water data with marine scientists.
We develop biodiversity action plans when operating in areas that are rich in biodiversity, known as critical habitats, to assess and mitigate our impact on local biodiversity and dependent communities.
Biodiversity in Australia
In 2017, the Australian government approved a biodiversity offsetting plan from the Shell-operated QGC gas project which included protecting an area with a rich ecosystem.
QGC had acquired the Valkyrie property in 2015 as a biodiversity offset to compensate for clearing vegetation and habitat for the development of gas resources. It is located next to the Dipperu National Park and contains large areas of eucalyptus woodlands, endangered brigalow woodlands, semi-evergreen vine thickets, riparian vegetation and wetlands.
The availability of fresh water is a growing challenge in some parts of the world. Increasing demand for water resources, growing community expectations, and water-related legislation might affect our ability to secure access to fresh water and to discharge water from our operations.
We design and operate our facilities to help reduce their fresh water use. We manage our water use carefully, and we tailor our use of fresh water to local conditions because water constraints affect people at the local or regional level.
In water-scarce areas, we develop water management plans for our facilities. These plans describe the long-term risks to water availability and define measures to minimise our use of fresh water or recommend alternatives to fresh water, such as recycled water, processed sewage water and desalinated water.
We work together with organisations, such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social performance. For example, we contributed to WBCSD’s publication and case studies on circular water management, published in 2017.
Water recycling in Texas
Shell has taken steps to improve water recycling in one area of the Permian shale asset in west Texas, USA. Previously, we transported groundwater used for hydraulic fracturing through a 21 kilometre pipeline due to limited local water supply in this area. Since late 2016, we have replaced about 40% (or around 0.37 million m3) of this water by recycling produced water near a new development area. Permian now reuses produced water sourced from three saltwater disposal facilities.
We develop technologies to treat, reuse and recycle water from our operations so that we can manage our water footprint in a responsible way while meeting environmental standards.
Where appropriate, we look for ways to treat water from our operations using natural solutions such as constructed wetlands. At our research and technology centre in Doha, Qatar, we run a pilot programme to evaluate the effectiveness of constructed wetlands in removing various chemical components found in the gas field waste water. Tests over the past two years have shown the technology is feasible and we are now testing other waste-water streams for treatment.
At the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO, Shell interest 34%) joint venture operations in the Omani desert, the Nimr reed beds are used to naturally clean the water that is extracted alongside oil production. PDO is also investigating the potential of using some of the water to irrigate crops that are tolerant to high levels of dissolved salt.
We aim to reduce the amount of waste we generate and to reuse or recycle materials, wherever possible. For example, in 2017, seven of our downstream manufacturing sites sent more than 50% of their waste generated during the year for recycling or reuse. Of these seven, four sites sent more than 80% of their waste for recycling and reuse.
We determine if waste is hazardous to ensure it is managed properly. In Tunisia, we addressed a long-standing challenge to responsibly dispose of a significant volume of solid sulphur waste that we had stored on site due to the lack of disposal facilities for this waste in North Africa that met international standards. After studying potential disposal options, we transferred the solid sulphur to an international standard disposal facility in Norway for final disposal.
Read more about how we manage waste at www.shell.com/managingwaste
Recycling manufacturing waste in the USA
In Michigan, USA, where we make catalysts for refineries and chemical plants, we now recycle waste from the manufacturing site by sending it to a local company for use in the production of cement. We previously sent the waste to a landfill but it now forms a component to make clinker, an ingredient in the process of making Portland cement. The initiative has significantly reduced our volume of waste and reduced costs.
Soil and groundwater
We assess and carefully manage the risks of potential soil and groundwater contamination. We also conduct scientific research on the risks of contamination from petroleum activities and share our findings with government agencies to support the development of environmental guidelines.
In China, for example, local and national environmental regulations are emerging in response to rapid urbanisation and the government’s aim to return significant portions of contaminated land to productive use. In 2017, we shared our expertise in managing land contaminated by oil and gas activity to help Chinese regulators and research institutes develop comprehensive sustainable, risk-based approaches.
Product stewardship at Shell means protecting employees, customers, communities and the environment from potential hazards caused by our products when they are manufactured and used.
We work to understand and communicate the potential health, safety and environmental impacts of the products Shell makes to ensure they are managed responsibly throughout their life cycle, from production to final disposal or reuse.
We ensure this by:
- checking the safety of all our products and assessing their potential harmful effects;
- assessing how suitable the products are for each market;
- communicating the hazards and risks of our products; and
- complying with applicable regulations.
Before we decide to sell a product in a new market, we assess the risks of using it in a new way, and the applicable regulatory requirements. This enables us to manage the risks posed by a product, and even to selectively choose whether to participate in certain market end-uses based on those risks.
We communicate the potential hazards associated with products through product labelling and safety data sheets. These documents explain how to safely manage the products.
We also monitor changing regulations in countries where we manufacture, sell or import products.
Access our safety data sheets at www.shell.com/chemicals/msds.
You can also read more about our product stewardship, as well as understand our commitment to animal welfare in relation to product safety testing in our annual reports.