Shell reduces water use but plants operating less efficiently

Shell reduced the amount of fresh water it used by 6 million cubic metres in 2012 compared to 2011, mainly due to the company withdrawing less river water for its oil sands operations.

According to the company’s 2012 sustainability report, it reduced the use of fresh water to 203 million cubic metres, down from 209 million cubic metres in 2011.

Its downstream business accounted for around 75% of fresh-water used for the manufacture of oil products and chemicals, leaving the remaining 25% to its upstream operations.

The company said that at its major facilities in water-scarce areas, it is developing water management plans that include how its 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,” the report states.

Shell also reported a 2 million tonne decrease of CO2 equivalent in 2012 from 2011. Direct GHG emissions from facilities it operates reached 72 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2012, a decrease from 74 million tonnes of CO2 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” it said.

Around 55% of the company’s GHG emissions came from the refineries and chemical plants in its downstream business, while the production of oil and gas in its upstream business accounted for over 40% of GHG emissions, with shipping activities forming less than 5%.

Looking at its indirect GHG emissions from energy purchased, such as electricity, heat and steam, the company recorded a 1 million tonne decrease of CO2-equivalent in 2012 from 2011. It reported 9 million tonnes on a CO2-equivalent basis in 2012.

“We estimate that the CO2 emissions from the use of our refinery and natural gas products were around 580 million tonnes in 2012,” it added.

However, in 2012 the overall energy efficiency for the production of oil and gas in the company’s upstream business worsened compared to 2011. This was due to rising production of hydrocarbons that need more energy to access and increased drilling activity.

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

“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”.

Leigh Stringer

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