Greenhouse gas emissions GHGs

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)

The direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from facilities we operate were 72 million tonnes on a CO2-equivalent basis in 2015, down from 76 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2014.

We have changed our reporting methodology to align with the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This has involved updating the way we calculate the global warming potential (GWP) of the GHGs we emit. GWP compares the impact of emissions from GHGs with the impact of emissions from the equivalent amount of CO2. This update has increased our reported GHG emissions (on a CO2-equivalent basis) by around 0.5 million tonnes.

The reasons for our overall decrease in GHG emissions are as follows:

  • divestments, including unconventional assets in North America, some operations in Nigeria, and the Geelong refinery in Australia;
  • operational improvements across many assets;
  • overall reduction in flaring;
  • start-up of Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Canada´s oil sands; and 
  • shutdown of multiple units at our Moerdijk chemical plant in the Netherlands.

The indirect GHG emissions from the energy we purchased (electricity, heat and steam) were 9 million tonnes on a CO2-equivalent basis in 2015, down from 10 million tonnes of COequivalent in 2014. These emissions were calculated using a market-based approach, as defined by the World Resources Institute GHG Protocol.

We expect that maintaining the energy efficiency levels of recent years will be more difficult in the future as existing fields age and new production comes from more energy-intensive sources. This could result in an associated increase in direct GHG emissions from our upstream facilities over time.

Our focus is on the direct and indirect emissions of the companies and joint ventures where we are the operator.

For information on the limitations of our GHG data see the GHG Assurance data tab.

We have achieved external verification of our 2015 direct and indirect GHG data from facilities we operate.

See our GHG Assurance tab for more details.

Download the Petroleum Industry Guidelines for Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Footnote: This new edition of the Petroleum Industry Guidelines of May 2011, (API, IPIECA, OGP) has revised chapters on organizational boundaries, references to scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and uncertainty.

GHG Reporting

Visit our online sustainability report to read about our GHG emissions

Download our response to shareholder resolution on climate change

Find out more about our climate change public policy positions

Visit our performance data section on the Online Sustainability Report 2015

Shell and the Carbon Disclosure Project

Read more about our approach to climate change in our public response to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Download our response to the 2016 Carbon Disclosure Project

Visit the Carbon Disclosure Project website - opens in a new window

GHG breakdown

GHG breakdown

Emissions by boundary and scope

Below we report emissions on an operational control (100% of emission from companies and joint ventures where we are the operator) and equity basis (equity share of emissions from companies and joint ventures).

The direct (Scope 1) emissions come from the facilities under the operational control or the equity boundary. The energy indirect (scope 2) emissions come from the facilities of others that provide electricity or heat and steam to our operations.

(million tonne CO2 equivalent)
Control - 2014
Control - 2015
Equity - 2014 Equity - 2015
Direct (Scope 1)





Energy indirect (Scope 2)





Scope 3 emissions are those emissions that we estimate come from the use of our refinery and natural gas products as reported in the Annual Report. 

Scope Annual Report boundary Annual Report boundary
million tonne CO2 2014 2015
Use of our refinery and natural gas products (Scope 3) 600 560

See a more detailed breakdown of our 2015 scope 3 (other indirect) emissions.

Emissions by business sector

Here we report the breakdown of emissions by business sector. These are the direct and energy indirect emissions on both an operational control and equity basis reported in million tonnes CO2 equivalent.


Control - 2014

Control - 2015

Equity - 2014


Equity - 2015


Direct (Scope 1)
Downstream including shipping

37.1 35.0 50 48

38.9 36.4 45 43
Energy Indirect (Scope 2)

Downstream including shipping

6.1 5.9 9 8

3.4 3.3 3 3

Emissions intensity

Emissions intensity is a measure of the amount of GHG produced for each unit of oil or gas produced by our upstream operations or crude and feedstock refined by the downstream facilities where we have operational control. It is the total amount of GHGs emitted (direct and energy indirect) per unit of output or throughput.

Tonne CO2 equivalent / Tonne of production or throughput

Intensity ratio 2014 2015
Upstream * 0.12 0.12
Oil sands ** 0.49 0.46
Chemicals 0.56 0.49
Refineries 0.29 0.29

*excludes oil sands and gas-to-liquids operations

** includes mining and upgrading operations

GHG Assurance

GHG assurance

We undertake external verification for our operational control and equity GHG data to a level of limited assurance at the Shell Group and business level. The operational control verification for the previous year’s data is undertaken in February and the equity work is undertaken in May. The assurance statements become available in March and June respectively.

1. Limited assurance of the 2015 direct and energy indirect data under operational control

2. Limited assurance of the 2015 scope 3 emissions from the use of refinery products and natural gas

3. Limited assurance of the 2015 direct and energy indirect data on an equity basis

In addition, we undertake external verification to a level of reasonable assurance at the majority of the major installations where we have operational control. The reasonable assurance audits at the major installations are conducted under the local regulated scheme or in the absence of regulation under Shell’s own program which uses external auditors from a variety of organisations.

Reasonable assurance of the 2015 direct and energy indirect data under operational control

Challenges with equity data

Approximately one quarter of the equity data comes from sources outside our data systems and carries potentially greater uncertainty. The quantification and hence verification of equity emissions takes longer than operational control emissions as we are dependent on receiving data from other parties and reporting timelines vary.

More in Sustainability

Air quality

We take steps to reduce airborne pollutants from our operations and help customers reduce their impact on air quality by using our products.

Sustainability reports

We began reporting voluntarily on our environmental performance with the first Shell Report that covered 1997.

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