Enhancing process safety

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Enhancing process safety
Image United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to this content.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to this content.

Safety is a core value and an integral part of our culture. Process Safety focuses on managing the inherent hazards associated with the vast equipment and complex processes that are essential to our business. The primary purpose is to keep hydrocarbons, chemicals, and process water controlled and safely managed through all phases of our operations. Process safety events can potentially impact the workforce, the community, and the environment. Because of this, we set high expectations for ourselves. Everyone involved in our operations plays a role in driving process safety excellence. We are now in the fourth year of a corporate-wide Process Safety initiative. From 2018 through 2022, we achieved a 25% reduction in Tier 1 process safety events (those of greatest consequence).


To help protect our employees, contractors, communities where we work, and the environment, ExxonMobil uses a proactive, disciplined approach to managing risks inherent to our operations. Our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) serves as the foundation for managing process safety risks and establishes clear expectations. The safeguards built into OIMS are integral to how we design, operate, and maintain our facilities. We work to verify and rigorously manage these safeguards through maintenance, inspection, operations, competency demonstrations, and emergency preparedness drills. As part of OIMS, ExxonMobil monitors the performance of joint ventures and assets operated by others consistent with our expectations and encourages them to consider improvements as appropriate.

As part of our approach to enterprise risk management, higher-consequence process safety risks and risk management strategies are stewarded by the company’s Management Committee. Our Upstream, Product Solutions, and Low Carbon Solutions companies develop and execute these strategies with centralized support from ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering Company and the ExxonMobil Global Operations & Sustainability organization.


Our primary objective is to help protect our people, communities, and the environment by successfully managing and enhancing process safety.

Management and application

To help drive further improvements in process safety, we recently introduced our Enhancing Process Safety Program and updated our OIMS framework with new and enhanced expectations related to leadership, scenario management, human performance principles, critical task execution, and event learning. 

Effective scenario management is key to preventing and mitigating process safety events. This includes understanding major hazards and associated scenarios, as well as verifying, maintaining, and improving, as appropriate, critical safeguards. People are our most important safeguard, and our enhanced human performance principles provide mechanisms for employees to ask for help, pause work if needed, and report issues to management. In addition, our open-door communication procedures provide avenues for anonymous reporting of employee concerns.

We collaborate with our peers and industry associations to share findings from process safety events. For example, we are a founding member and remain actively engaged in the Advancing Process Safety Initiative, a collaborative effort between the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API). The initiative aims to improve process safety performance across the industry by sharing experiences and knowledge about events, hazard identification metrics, and proven practices. 



ExxonMobil applies industry standards, including the API Recommended Practice 754 and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) No. 456 Recommended Practice. We use process safety indicators to classify and track incidents by severity from Tier 1 to Tier 3. We report process safety events to several organizations each year including API, AFPM, IOGP, and the American Chemistry Council as a way to collectively identify and learn from industry trends.

Our Enhancing Process Safety Program has helped reduce Tier 1 safety events. From 2018 through 2022, we achieved a 25% reduction in Tier 1 process safety events (those of greatest consequence). Each event is analyzed through our “Learning from Incidents” process and corrective actions were identified to guide further improvement.

Workplace security

Our robust security measures are designed to protect our personnel, including senior executives, and facilities from threats. Our security programs are risk-based, flexible, and responsive to the environments in which we operate, and they comply with applicable regulations.

Facilities undergo periodic security reviews to address potential threats. Each assessment considers geographic location, the community, criminal activity, and the current political climate. We monitor local conditions and maintain detailed security preparedness plans, such as emergency response, evacuation and intruder response, bomb threat, and active shooter response plans. We train employees who travel to and live in higher-risk countries on personal safety in challenging security environments. Our security personnel work to improve our risk management methodologies, threat-assessment capabilities, and technical security management processes through drills, training programs, and industry forums.

Emergency preparedness

ExxonMobil is prepared to respond to a wide array of emergency events, including natural disasters, pandemics and operational incidents. Each ExxonMobil facility has access to trained responders and resources. Centralized and cross-functional teams develop and practice emergency response tactics through incident management teams and emergency support groups around the world, which enables us to provide a robust response in emergency situations to help protect people, the environment and our communities.

In 2021, our Regional Response Team (RRT) demonstrated its “Readiness to Respond” capabilities under pandemic circumstances by conducting an innovative exercise that simulated a global response to a potential real-life oil spill event. Approximately 300 RRT personnel and response partners from more than 35 countries were involved in a continuous 28-hour follow-the-sun event, with face-to-face hubs in Singapore, the U.K., Prague, and Houston, along with virtual support globally. Exercises like this help support our objective to be prepared and ready to respond.


Managing spills

At ExxonMobil, we develop products that are critical to global prosperity and quality of life, and we recognize this comes with a certain level of risk. We are committed to the prevention, mitigation, and elimination of spills from our operations and having the processes, resources, and people in place to respond to incidents, however unlikely they are to occur.

Our employees are trained to have a zero-spill mindset, and our facilities are designed and operated with the objective to prevent unplanned releases from entering the environment and causing adverse effects. We also seek to implement best practices derived from our own research and industry collaborations to continually reduce the number of spills.


Our Spill Prevention Program establishes corporate-wide procedures for inspecting and maintaining equipment, training operators, and conducting practice drills.

Our program is focused on the elimination of all spill types, using overarching principles of internal frameworks as described by our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) to address a wide range of scenarios, considering human and non-human factors that could potentially lead to a spill. At our refineries, for example, following enhancements to our human factor approach, we developed a best practice guide that details 17 high-risk elements and the procedures to mitigate them. This has contributed to a 44% reduction in spills from 2016 to 2022.

Our comprehensive integrity-management programs also oversee the transportation of millions of barrels of petroleum and chemical products over thousands of miles of pipeline around the world. For example, our affiliate in the U.S. regularly monitors and tests the integrity of our pipelines, detecting corrosion and other integrity concerns, through the deployment of ground and air patrols, implementation of state-of-the-art systems, alarms, and other techniques to continuously control and monitor pipeline routes.


We focus on readiness, so that if a spill does occur, we can conduct a rapid, comprehensive response to minimize impact on people and the environment. Our RRTs include employees from more than 30 countries, with subject matter experts, technical experts, and experienced responders from business lines and functions across the company. And our spill response research program is an industry-leading in-house program with a focus on cold-water and remote locations that also applies to local or surface spills.

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, higher-consequence scenarios and interact with local authorities and agencies.

In May 2023, for example, the RRT worked with employees to assess and enhance Esso Exploration Angola’s incident management team’s ability to respond quickly and effectively. In total, 245 people were involved in the drill, from 22 countries, including more than 20 people from NGOs or mutual aid partners. Visits and meetings with the Angolan Minister of Mineral Resources and Petroleum and the Secretary of State, as well as Sea Alarm Foundation, The Global Oiled Wildlife Response System (GOWRS) project, and Oil Spill Response Ltd. were all integrated in the response. The Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa facilitated engagement with the Angolan minister around the spill’s impact and potential transboundary issues. We also integrated wildlife response into the process, promising to provide a foundational element within our oil contingency plan for other sites to emulate.

Collaboration and research

Through a variety of collaborations and associations, ExxonMobil works with others in our industry to share best practices, improve capabilities, and facilitate global spill response and management. These include:
  • Australian Marine Oil Spill Center, focused on rapid containment and recovery of all oil types along the Australian coastline.
  • Marine Spill Response Corporation, the largest dedicated oil spill and emergency response organization in the U.S., providing access to their STARs network of specially trained contractors in approximately 250 locations nationwide.
  • Marine Well Containment Company, a Houston-area, not-for-profit focused on deepwater well containment response in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. ExxonMobil is a founding member.
  • Oil Spill Global Response Network, global collaboration among oil response companies to provide centers of expertise for spill preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • Oil Spill Response Limited, an industry-owned spill-response cooperative with members representing more than two-thirds of the world’s oil production, and their recently launched Global Oiled Wildlife Response Service.
  • Western Canada Spill Services Ltd., which supplements member companies’ programs with additional spill response training and equipment.
  • Oil Spill Combat Team, the largest spill response center in Indonesia.
  • Eastern Canada Response Corporation, which provides services and equipment to ships and oil-handling facilities under Canadian law.
  • Multi-Partner Research Initiative, bringing together government agencies, academia, response organizations, oil companies, Indigenous communities and other experts worldwide.

Our oil spill response research program was initiated more than half a century ago and remains unique in the industry. We share and build upon our knowledge by working with governments, academia, and others, pursuing innovative solutions and advancing scientific understanding of spill response through dozens of collaborations. Research currently underway includes potential development of quick-sealing polymers to rapidly close leaks, enhanced experimental techniques to test new solutions, next-generation dispersants, an autonomous jet ski to detect and monitor spills, and more.



As cybersecurity risks continue to evolve, our multilayered approach to preventing and mitigating the risks of cyberattacks helps protect us against business disruptions and threats that could materially affect our data, facilities, operations, or the safety and privacy of our people.

Attacks against other global companies in recent years highlight the need for robust cybersecurity measures at all companies. At ExxonMobil, our overall program is designed by evaluating and performing analysis of threats, and implementing risk-based tools, policies, and architectures to address risk and is supported by our corporate polices and standards.

We leverage industry standard frameworks, including the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, to identify potential gaps in our defenses, and we work with independent third parties to help test and evaluate the strength of our systems and processes.

Data protection and security

We have comprehensive programs designed to protect the integrity and privacy of personal, corporate, and customer data. With respect to the handling of personal data, our data privacy program is designed to process such information, including that of customers, vendors, suppliers, and employees, in a manner consistent with applicable laws. ExxonMobil’s data privacy program includes a code of conduct and data privacy practices which encompass common principles (e.g., purpose limitation, transparency, data security, data quality, and data minimization) and are designed to provide simplified and consistent guidance to meet global data privacy requirements.

Training and business continuity

Awareness remains one of our key defenses, and cybersecurity education is a priority for ExxonMobil. We perform annual cybersecurity awareness training for our personnel and conduct routine testing of cybersecurity awareness, including ongoing mock phishing exercises, to help individuals identify and respond to cybersecurity risks and reinforce safe behaviors.

In addition to promoting safe behaviors, we manage business continuity as a key component of our Controls and Operations Integrity Management Systems. The company has developed and sustained business continuity plans (BCPs), with a suite of enablers to be activated in the event of a major cyber-attack.

Our cyber BCPs are regularly reviewed for compliance, performance, and potential improvements. In addition, periodic drills are conducted to keep pace with this evolving space and to evaluate our ability to maintain safe operations for critical business units.

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