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At our Groundbirch development in British Columbia, Canada, we are finding ways to reduce the amount of fresh water from local sources in producing tightly trapped natural gas.

Under a special agreement with the nearby City of Dawson Creek in 2012 we opened a new waste-water plant at the local sewage treatment area. The plant uses man-made technology and natural bacteria to help clean up water that would otherwise be discharged into a local river. Some of the treated water is reserved for the city, for example to irrigate sports fields.

See our section on natural gas

Read more about Dawson Creek recycled water project


The OMEGA process uses 20% less steam and generates around 30% less waste water

We use advanced technology to help reduce fresh water use in our chemicals manufacturing. For example, the new mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) plant at our petrochemicals complex in Singapore uses Shell’s proprietary OMEGA technology to make MEG – a raw material used in products such as polyester and anti-freeze. The OMEGA process uses 20% less steam and generates around 30% less waste water compared to conventional processes.

Read our section on chemical reactions

Shell has moved into the production of the Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol. Brazilian sugar cane needs virtually no irrigation to grow because of high seasonal rainfall. Raízen, the joint venture between Shell and Cosan, uses around 10 litres of water to produce each litre of ethanol. It recycles about 90% of the water used in its mills. Blowing the cane clean in some mills further reduces the need for water.

Read more about our Raízen project

We have built the world’s largest gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, Pearl GTL, in the Qatari desert with our partner Qatar Petroleum.

The GTL plant will produce at least as much water as GTL products, mainly from the chemical reaction that is the first step in turning the natural gas into GTL products.

The facility is designed to use every drop of this water as part of our approach to avoid releasing any liquids from the plant. Pearl GTL’s industrial water processing plant is the biggest of its kind, with a capacity to treat 280,000 barrels a day of water for reuse, for example as steam.

Producing water in the desert


Petroleum Development Oman (PDO, Shell share 34%) operates in some locations where water is extremely scarce, yet it produces nearly five barrels of water for every barrel of oil. At the Nimr oil field, around 250,000 m3 of contaminated water is brought to the surface together with the oil. The water must be disposed of and this adds to the cost of production.

In 2008, PDO engaged German company Bauer Resources to build the world's biggest commercial reed-bed sewage treatment plant, covering 235 hectares. Since its start-up in 2010 the plant has been cleaning about 47,000m³ of water each day. This approach has the potential to make water available for use by locals.

The plant uses micro-organisms to clean contaminants, removing oil and leaving salt, which can be processed to industrial salt. Biomass is also produced and can be used as an energy source.

In 2011, Bauer Resources GmbH received the Global Water Award for “Industrial Water Project of the Year” for the plant. PDO plans to double the water volume to be treated by the plan , so that it could  eventually treat 95,000 m³ of contaminated water each day.


Our joint venture SAPREF refinery in Durban, South Africa, has a 20-year agreement to use water recycled from households to meet part of its needs. In this water-stressed area of South Africa, reusing water reduces pressure on drinking water supplies.

Durban Water Recycling is expanding its facilities to supply SAPREF. The company cleans household wastewater for industrial use. The refinery will replace around a third of the fresh water it uses for process cooling and to make steam.

The Durban Water Recycling project

SAPREF Refinery

Shell and fresh water

We monitor, control and reuse water produced along with oil sands

We monitor, control and reuse water produced along with oil sands

The oil sands are becoming an important resource to help meet the world’s growing energy needs. Water is needed in the process to separate the oil from the clay and sand. Operators must manage water use responsibly to limit the use of fresh resources.

At the Athabasca oil sands project in Canada, Shell uses 2-3 barrels of water to extract one barrel of bitumen. We recycle all the water recovered from this extraction process, but need fresh water to replace the water that evaporates.

When oil is extracted from oil sands, a mixture of water, coarse sand, silt, clay and a little oil remains. This mixture, known as tailings, is stored in a pond near the oil sands mine. We monitor, control and reuse this water: none is released directly into the environment.

Our tailings demonstration project is designed to accelerate water removal from tailings and make it available for further reuse.

Managing water at the Athabasca oils sands project