Shell sustainability report: Business growth thwarts green ambitions

Royal Dutch Shell released 76 million tonnes of direct greenhouse gas emissions, used 193 million cubic metres of fresh water, and disposed of 2.2 million tonnes of waste in 2014.

The figures come from the oil and gas giant’s latest Sustainability Report, released on Friday.

The direct GHG emissions from Shell-operated facilities were 76 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2014 – an increase of 3m tonnes compared with 2013.

Shell said the main reason for the uptick was business growth, as production increased in Qatar and Iraq facilities. It also said that excluding ‘flaring’, GHG emissions fell due to improved energy efficiency in many operations.

Flaring is the release of natural gas to the atmosphere associated with oil production. The report states “We believe flaring should be minimised as this is a waste of valuable resources, increases GHG emissions and contributes to climate change”.

However, the flaring of natural gas in Shell operations increased to 13m tonnes of CO2e, compared with 7.4m tonnes in 2013. This was again attributed to increasing production around the world.

Figure 1: Direct GHG emissions


In 2014, the amount of fresh water Shell used increased to 199 million cubic metres – up from 198 million cubic metres in 2013.

Shell said its water management program is “often tailored to the local situation” and has established water-management plans for operations in water-scarce area.

Figure 2: Fresh water withdrawn


Shell disposed of 2.2 million tonnes of waste, down by 0.6 million tonnes compared with 2013. The company also recycled or sold around 500,000 tonnes of waste, approximately 18.5% of total waste.

The report reads: “Our main sources of non-hazardous waste include soil from excavations and drill cuttings (materials removed from the ground during drilling such as rock and soil). Where possible, hazardous waste – such as process water from our chemical plants and refineries – is treated on-site or removed for treatment or safe disposal.”

Figure 3: Waste disposal

‘Set targets’

The report was independently reviewed by the External Review Committee – a body organised by Shell, featuring sustainability and climate change experts. The committee praised Shell transparency and reporting, but urged the company to include “holistic sustainability targets” for the first time in future reports.

The committee also criticised Shell for failing to clarify how it saw its role in transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix.

They asked: “Are future energy solutions including renewables perceived as a threat to Shell’s business model or does Shell welcome and support the future they herald? How and in what time frame will Shell capital investment evolve from today’s fossil fuel predominance?”

Brad Allen

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