Throughout the life cycle of a producing oil field or other asset, we work to limit disruptions to local communities and protect the environment. Effectively decommissioning onshore and offshore assets is essential to reducing our overall environmental impact. We ensure that decommissioning activities are planned and conducted to appropriately manage risks and, where possible, create beneficial land use opportunities.
Offshore assets present unique and complex decommissioning challenges due to a combination of factors, including the specific marine ecosystem at each site and the size and weight of facilities, as well as the inherent risks of removing such facilities in marine environments. As a result, the planning and preparation for decommissioning some offshore assets can start up to 10 years prior to the actual execution.
ExxonMobil uses a systematic process for decommissioning offshore assets that varies depending on the type of structure and unique characteristics of a specific site. We evaluate potential decommissioning strategies based on a number of considerations including safety, environmental and social factors. When feasible, we pursue strategies that have the potential to provide continued benefits to communities and the environment. During the planning phase, we seek to incorporate lessons learned from other decommissioning projects as well as expert advice from interested parties. These parties may include fishing communities, environmental organizations and academia.
Performance and initiatives
Recognising the unique challenges associated with offshore assets, ExxonMobil created an offshore decommissioning center of expertise in 2015 that is responsible for planning and managing the safe decommissioning of our offshore assets.
An important element of ExxonMobil’s decommissioning strategy is rehabilitation. This is the process of safely repurposing assets that are no longer productive resources. Whenever possible, we look for opportunities to repurpose former ExxonMobil sites for environmental and societal benefits. We support science-based, cost-effective approaches to remediation that take into consideration the interests of various stakeholders.
We are committed to the sustainable stewardship of surplus properties. ExxonMobil Environmental Services (EMES) — our global organisation that provides guidance and supports the remediation and stewardship of surplus sites — has managed more than $6.6 billion of remediation work and returned more than 2,300 property parcels to beneficial end uses since 2008. In 2016, EMES monitored 5,600 active sites in more than 30 countries.
Performance and initiatives
In 2016, EMES received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 4 Excellence in Site Reuse Award for our efforts to remediate and redevelop former Virginia Chemical Company (VCC) fertiliser manufacturing sites. VCC sites produced phosphate fertilizer from the late 1800s to the 1960s. While ExxonMobil never owned or operated the VCC sites, we became responsible as a corporate successor. In 2000, ExxonMobil and EPA Region 4 formed a collaborative agreement known as the VCC Initiative to address the contamination at the properties where these facilities once operated. Since then, ExxonMobil has cleaned up 27 of the 30 former VCC sites, and worked with property owners and local communities to ensure the land can be redeveloped.
Up Close: Remediation efforts in Greenpoint, New York
Beginning in the mid-19th century, the Greenpoint area in Brooklyn, New York became home to industrial operations including oil refineries, tanneries, manufactured gas plants and metal manufacturers. While ExxonMobil’s refining operations in Greenpoint ceased in the mid-1960s, petroleum contamination was discovered in 1978. Complex remediation projects such as Greenpoint, where petroleum products are underground and not easily accessed, take time to complete. ExxonMobil has been deploying the latest proven technology and careful planning to ensure a safe and effective recovery at Greenpoint.
We are also working with local businesses, civic organisations and schools to help make Greenpoint a better place to live and work. ExxonMobil has leased and sold properties in Greenpoint that have been used for successful commercial enterprises while ensuring that ExxonMobil’s long-term remediation efforts are successful.
In 2016, we engaged with the New York Harbor Foundation to support the Billion Oyster Project (BOP), an ecosystem restoration and education project aimed at restoring 1 billion live oysters to New York Harbor. With assistance from ExxonMobil, students at the New York Harbor School manage an oyster hatchery that has restored more than 11 million oysters to New York’s harbor estuary. The BOP’s unique curriculum teaches students about the importance of protecting local marine ecosystems.