Shell meets CO2 reduction target two years early

The global energy company, Shell, has published an integrated social and environmental report looking at its progress toward sustainable development in 1999. The company met all of its environmental performance targets - including its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction target for 2002 - with the exception of its goal for spills.

Mark Moody-Stuart, chair of Shell’s committee of managing directors, introduced the results by likening the company’s journey toward sustainable development to that of a surfer trying to catch a wave. “We’re starting to get the feel of it,” writes Moody-Stuart, “but we know we’ve got a long way to go before we can stand with absolute confidence”.

Environmental performance

How do we stand? People, planet and profits points out that Shell has met its target to reduce company-wide CO2 emissions by 10% on 1990 levels two years early, primarily because refinery activity and flaring have diminished. CO2 emissions declined by 2.1 million tonnes in 1999.

With increasing demand for ‘cleaner’ fuels (see separate story in this section of edie news) finding solutions to energy use and emissions at refineries may become more pressing. “The average level of emission per unit of production was higher in our refineries, reflecting a relative increase in the use of more energy-intensive upgrading facilities which are required to produce higher-specification products,” states the report.

Instead of setting itself a new CO2 reduction target, Shell is waiting to make sure that emission levels continue to meet the 2002 target over the next couple of years. Shell admits that 1998-1999 were not the company’s ‘best years’ and that oil production was not at capacity. The question now is whether Shell can meet the 2002 as its production increases. “We are committed to keeping these targets,” a Shell spokesperson told edie, “and we want to make sure that we can consistently meet them.”

Shell has plans to incorporate carbon costs into its decision-making process on large projects, and reports that its forests – located mainly in South America – sequestered an estimated 700,000 tonnes of CO2 in 1999.

Flaring – burning off gas produced as a by-product of oil production – reduced by 11% in 1999 and Shell admits that this reduction was “mainly as a result of reduced oil production in Nigeria”.

For the first time, Shell has listed emissions for all six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Overall, emissions of all six GHGs reduced by 3% from 1998 levels.

Oil content in effluent discharges reduced by 37% compared to 1998 and Shell specifically points to improvements at its Buenos Aires refinery.

There was little change in Shell’s material waste production and for the second consecutive year it provided separate figures for hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Shell’s chemical division reported a doubling in hazardous waste, attributed to the demolishing of a furnace.

Shell’s spills record for 1999 is poor, with an increase in the volume of spills compared to 1998 levels. The report identifies a spill of 4,269 tonnes of light crude oil into the River Plate, Argentina, as contributing to the poor figures and also notes that data for a spill at Ekakpamre, Nigeria has yet to be included. The spill was caused by sabotage, says Shell, and “work is continuing to obtain an accurate and reportable figure”.

Investment in renewables

How do we stand? includes information on Shell’s renewables division, restating Shell’s hope that identification of “commercially viable projects” will allow for long-term investment and a profitable renewables arm. 1999 was the third year in a five-year renewables investment strategy.

Thus far, Shell has concentrated on forestry, production and sales of photovoltaic panels (see related story) and biomass. It plans to speed up its involvement in wind energy, the fastest-growing energy source (see related story) and on the subject of solar energy the company is specific about what is required for the pv industry to become profitable: “a combination of technical innovation, government incentives, customer willingness to pay more and further investment in production” is the solution Shell is seeking.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie