We use a globally consistent management system called the Operations Integrity Management System to ensure this tenet. The 11 elements of this management system provide a systematic, structured and disciplined approach to measure progress and track accountability across business lines, facilities and projects. Environmental business planning is integrated into the full lifecycle of our operations, from initial impact assessments to facility design and construction, through startup and operations to late life and abandonment. Before starting any major new projects, we require a risk-based environmental, socioeconomic and health impact assessment to identify community concerns, environmental aspects, and social and economic conditions.
Designing to improve water impacts
ExxonMobil minimises the potential adverse impact of water discharges through facility design and operations.
ExxonMobil’s environmental design practices and standards ensure risk mitigation at the design stage, and we closely monitor operations to ensure that they continue to perform at designed levels. Modifying or upgrading facilities during their service life offers additional opportunities to make improvements.
For example, the Baton Rouge, La., refinery has started constructing an advanced biological wastewater treatment facility that reduces total nitrogen discharges by 500 tonnes per year. While the refinery is a relatively small contributor to overall nitrate discharge in the Mississippi River basin, this voluntary reduction will have direct environmental benefits on the Gulf of Mexico, where high levels of nitrate discharges over several years have created a dead zone, or area of low oxygen.
ExxonMobil employs a rigorous management approach to drive spills and leaks with significant impact to zero.
At ExxonMobil refineries, we recently enhanced an existing human factors approach to reinforce the zero-spill mindset among employees. Specialists developed a best practice guide that outlines 17 high-risk elements and corresponding procedures designed to reduce the likelihood of a spill caused by human error. This guide is credited with reducing such spills by more than 40 per cent in its first four years.
Marine transportation of crude oil and refined products is another area where a continuous-improvement mindset has achieved results. ExxonMobil’s marine fleet, representing several hundred owned or leased vessels in daily service, has been recognised internationally as a leader in marine vessel spill prevention.
ExxonMobil uses comprehensive integrity-management programmes to oversee the transportation of millions of barrels of petroleum and chemical products over thousands of miles of pipeline around the world. For example, our pipeline affiliate in the U.S. regularly tests its pipelines to detect corrosion and other integrity concerns and uses skilled personnel in ground and air patrols, state-of-the-art systems, alarms and other techniques to continuously control and monitor pipeline routes.
In addition to prevention, we focus on maintaining a state of readiness to quickly and effectively respond to incidents resulting from our operations. To ensure that a response to an incident will be coordinated and effective, each site conducts emergency drills in accordance with regulatory requirements or management guidelines, ranging from “desktop” exercises to full-scale field drills. Annually, we conduct comprehensive multiday drills at sites around the world, involving emergency response teams and hundreds of employees, contractors and specialists. Participants run through realistic scenarios and interact with local authorities and agencies.
Response preparedness often requires collaboration across our industry. For example, ExxonMobil has partnered with several companies to form the nonprofit Marine Well Containment Co. to develop a rapid-response offshore oil spill containment system for the Gulf of Mexico. The system, representing a more than $1 billion combined commitment, provides pre-engineered, constructed and tested containment technology and equipment deployable within 24 hours of a spill in the Gulf.
ExxonMobil is also a partner in the Subsea Well Response Project, an initiative to design and build subsea capping and dispersant application equipment for international use, excluding the U.S. and Arctic, and to base the equipment in storage locations in northern Europe, South America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific. The project is one outcome of a joint-industry effort to broadly incorporate lessons from recent incidents and to improve future response capabilities and practices.
Reduce spills through best practices
XTO, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil since 2010, reduced its total volume* spilled by 58 percent in its first year of implementing OIMS and incorporating ExxonMobil's best practices in environmental management.
*aggregate of hydrocarbon, chemical, and drilling fluid spills greater than one barrel
Our spill performance
ExxonMobil discloses its spill performance each year, among other environmental performance indicators, in the Corporate Citizenship Report.