Our ambition and commitments

Water is one of four priority topics in our environmental framework.

Our ambition is to conserve fresh water by reducing consumption and increasing reuse and recycling.

Our new commitments from 2021

We will reduce the amount of fresh water consumed in our facilities, starting by reducing fresh-water consumption by 15% by 2025 compared with 2018 levels* in areas where there is high pressure on fresh-water resources.

*25 million cubic metres of fresh water consumed by our facilities in high water stressed areas in 2018.

We will also assess options for further reduction goals by the end of 2022.

Our existing commitments

Shell’s Goal Zero ambition to achieve no harm and no leaks across all of our operations underpins all our work. This applies to where we use water and where our work affects water resources.

Our Principles for Producing Tights/Shale Oil and Gas (known as Onshore Operating Principles) include water protection and usage.

Water: a circular approach

In water-scarce areas we develop water management plans for our facilities. These investigate long-term risks to water availability, consider any impact on water resources in the surrounding watershed, and set out measures to minimise the use of fresh water.

We are now going further and adding a goal for our water use to improve these plans.

Four of our major facilities are currently located in areas of high water stress based on analysis using a combination of water stress tools, such as the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, and information specific to the local environment. These are in Qatar (Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant), Singapore (Shell Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom refinery) and the Philippines (Tabangao).

We design and operate our facilities so that more water can be reused and recycled, and less fresh water is needed. We look for alternatives to using fresh water, such as recycling water, and using processed waste water.

Our facilities in Qatar and Singapore are already doing this:

  • Women standing

    Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL)

    Our Pearl gas-to-liquids facility in Qatar assesses and manages water use to as low as reasonably practicable, resulting in almost complete recycling and reuse at the facility. Pearl has capacity to treat up to 45,000 cubic metres of water a day, which is comparable to a municipal water treatment plant for a town of 140,000 people.

  • Women working

    Pulau Bukom

    On Pulau Bukom, a small island south of Singapore, we use recycled water and desalinated sea water for steam generation at our refinery. We also reuse our process water. This means we take less water from mainland Singapore, freeing more of it up for residents.

We also work with communities to find better ways to share water as a resource:

  • Groundbirch

    Groundbirch

    In Canada, Shell has worked with the people of Dawson Creek to manage water use at our nearby natural gas operations at Groundbirch. We partnered with the city council to open a plant that treats municipal waste water that would otherwise be discharged to a local river. Groundbirch now recycles approximately 98% of its water, and the city of Dawson Creek can use the treated water for its own needs, such as cleaning roads and irrigating parks.

    Read the story: ‘Down the drain… and into energy production’

Waste water and produced water

We treat, reuse and recycle water from our operations. For new major installations where we need to dispose of treated waste water (effluents) through permitted outlets, we use international standards (such as the IFC Performance Standard 5).

In some places we are able to treat water from our operations using natural processes:

  • Oman field

    Oman

    For example, in Nimr, Oman, Shell is part of a project that uses reed beds as a natural filter for water brought to the surface during oil production in the desert. The scheme has created the world’s largest constructed wetland, which is now a haven for migratory birds, including flamingos.

    Read the story: 'How nature helped solve an industry challenge'

Soil and groundwater

We assess and carefully manage the risks of potential soil and groundwater contamination from our operations.

We conduct scientific research on potential risks from petroleum activities or products we may use and share our findings with government agencies, researchers and others to support the development of risk-based environmental guidelines.

Man using equipment

Working with others

We work with others to improve water management, promote circularity and water efficiency.

We join with top universities and global technology companies, as well as with organisations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance.

We are working with Wetsus, one of the top water research organisations in the Netherlands, on the development of advanced technologies to increase recycling and reuse of water.

Water: what we use

We chart our progress and performance on water use in our annual Sustainability Report. In 2019, our intake of fresh water was 192 million cubic metres, compared with 199 million in 2018.

MORE IN SUSTAINABILITY

Respecting nature

Our new environmental framework sets out our ambitions for 2030 and later, as well as shorter-term goals.

Circular economy and waste

Our ambition is to use resources and materials efficiently and to increase reuse and recycling.

Air quality

We are helping to improve air quality by reducing emissions from our operations and providing cleaner ways to power transport and industry.

Biodiversity

Our ambition is to have a positive impact on biodiversity. Find out what we're doing.