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Environmental performance

Direct greenhouse gas emissionsmillion tonnes CO2 equivalent
Direct greenhouse gas emissions – million tonnes CO2 equivalent (line chart)

Greenhouse gas emissions

The direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from facilities we operate were 72 million tonnes on a CO2-equivalent basis in 2012, a decrease from 74 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2011. The main reasons for this drop were reduced flaring in Nigeria and divestments in our Downstream business. These were partly offset by the ramp-up of production at the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar.

Around 55% of our GHG emissions came from the refineries and chemical plants in our Downstream business. The production of oil and gas in our Upstream business accounted for over 40% of our GHG emissions, and our shipping activities for less than 5%. We continue to work on improving operational performance and energy efficiency to reduce GHG emissions.

The indirect GHG emissions from the energy we purchased (electricity, heat and steam) were 9 million tonnes on a CO2-equivalent basis in 2012, a decrease from 2011. We estimate that the CO2 emissions from the use of our refinery and natural gas products were around 580 million tonnes in 2012. Further information on GHG emissions is available on our corporate website.

Flaring – Upstreammillion tonnes CO2 equivalent
Flaring – Upstream – million tonnes CO2 equivalent (line chart)


The flaring of natural gas in our Upstream business decreased in 2012 to 7.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, from 10.0 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2011. We made progress in reducing flaring in Nigeria in 2012. Flaring emissions were down by around 25% in Nigeria from the previous year, to 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This was mainly because more investments in gas-gathering equipment were brought on-stream and tighter flaring controls were applied. Flaring also dropped due to reduced production at the Majnoon field in Iraq to allow the upgrade of some facilities, and the completion of start-up of the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar.

Overall, flaring made up around 10% of the total direct GHG emissions in 2012. Nigeria accounted for around 65% of this flaring in 2012, with the remainder mainly from the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar, Majnoon in Iraq and operations in Malaysia. In 2012, we further reduced the flaring intensity – hydrocarbons flared per tonne of production – to the lowest level we have recorded for our Upstream business.

Operational flaring occurs for safety reasons, or during the start-up of Upstream facilities. We aim to minimise this operational flaring. Continuous flaring takes place due to a lack of equipment to capture the gas produced with oil. Most of the continuous flaring in 2012 took place in Nigeria.

We expect that flaring from the Majnoon field in Iraq will rise in future years as production increases and before equipment to gather the associated gas can be installed. When we acquire or become the operator of an existing facility that is already flaring or venting (releasing gas to the atmosphere), it takes time before these activities can be stopped.

Outside Nigeria and Iraq, the few facilities that continuously flare accounted for less than 1% of our total direct GHG emissions in 2012. Some of these facilities are at ageing oil fields where the associated gas pressure is too low to power the compressors used to gather the gas and avoid flaring. In 2012, the venting of hydrocarbons amounted to less than 1% of our total direct GHG emissions.

Our HSSE & SP Control Framework requires our new facilities to be designed so as not to flare or vent continuously.

Energy intensity – Upstream
(excl. Oil sands and GTL)gigajoules/tonne production
Energy intensity – Upstream (excl. Oil sands and GTL) – gigajoules/tonne production (line chart)

Energy efficiency

One of the ways we can manage our direct GHG emissions is to work on improving the energy efficiency of the facilities we operate.

In 2012, the overall energy efficiency for the production of oil and gas in our Upstream business (excluding oil sands and GTL) worsened compared to 2011, with rising production of hydrocarbons that need more energy to access and increased drilling activity. All our major facilities have energy management plans in place to make the best use of those facilities, including the use of improved field management techniques. We expect that maintaining the energy efficiency levels of recent years will be more difficult in the future as existing fields age and production comes from more energy-intensive sources.

Energy intensity – Oil sandsgigajoules/tonne production [A]
Energy intensity – Oil sands – gigajoules/tonne production (line chart)

[A] Includes mining and upgrading operations

In our oil sands operations, energy intensity in 2012 worsened slightly compared to 2011, but was around the same level as in earlier years.

In 2012, the overall energy efficiency for the manufacture of oil products at our refineries improved compared to 2011, helped by continued progress with our CO2 and energy management programme, as well as good reliability performance and increased use of refinery capacity.

The overall energy efficiency of our chemical plants worsened in 2012 compared to 2011, as some of our larger plants operated less efficiently.

Our refineries and chemical plants continue to implement the CO2 and energy management programme to improve their energy efficiency performance.

Energy intensity – RefineriesRefinery Energy Index [B]
Energy intensity – Refineries – Refinery Energy Index (line chart)

[B] Indexed to 2002, based on 2006 Solomon EII™ methodology

Energy intensity – Chemical plantsChemicals Energy Index
Energy intensity – Chemical plants – Chemicals Energy Index (line chart)
Spills – Operational and Sabotage [C]number of spills
Spills – Operational and Sabotage – Number of spills (line chart)

[C] Over 100 kilograms


Shell has clear requirements and procedures to prevent operational spills, and multibillion-dollar programmes in place to maintain and improve our facilities and pipelines. However, spills still occur for reasons such as operational failure, accidents or unusual corrosion.

In 2012, our operational spills of oil and oil products amounted to 2.1 thousand tonnes, down from 6.0 thousand tonnes in 2011. This was the second-lowest level we have recorded. We continue to investigate and learn from all spills to improve our performance.

Spills – Operational and Sabotage [D]volume in thousand tonnes
Spills – Operational and Sabotage – Volume in thousand tonnes (line chart)

[D] Over 100 kilograms

The number of operational oil spills also decreased in 2012 to 206, down from 211 in 2011. This was the second-lowest level we have recorded. We are working to extend the significant improvements made in previous years in the number of operational spills through our continued investment in improving the reliability and maintenance of our facilities.

In 2012, sabotage and theft in Nigeria remained a significant cause of spills, amounting to 3.3 thousand tonnes from 137 spills. This was an increase in both volume and numbers from 2011, as the scale of oil theft in Nigeria reached unprecedented levels. See Nigeria for more information on spills in Nigeria.

Fresh water withdrawnmillion cubic metres
Fresh water withdrawn – million cubic metres (line chart)


The way we manage our use of fresh water is especially important in areas of the world where the availability of water is constrained due to limited supplies or extensive use. We assess the availability of water where we operate, and design and run our facilities in ways that help reduce their water use.

In 2012, the amount of fresh water we used decreased to 203 million cubic metres, down from 209 million cubic metres in 2011, mainly due to less river water withdrawn for our oil sands operations. Our Downstream business accounted for around 75% of our fresh-water use for the manufacture of oil products and chemicals; our Upstream operations used around 25%. At our major facilities in water-scarce areas, we are developing water management plans that include how our operations will minimise water use and increase water recycling. We expect that our fresh-water use will change over time in line with our portfolio and our efforts to use water more efficiently.