Report Jan. 8, 2024
Conserving water resources
Report Jan. 8, 2024
Our priority in water stewardship is the quality and supply of freshwater in the communities and environments where we operate. Water challenges have the potential to pose business continuity and other risks, and resilient water systems are needed for our operations as we work to meet society’s evolving needs. We collaborate with our stakeholders to better understand water risks in the areas where we operate, and we consider the insights we gain in our project design and operational practices.
We strive to be a leader in safeguarding water resources while taking actions that help preserve water quality and conserve water supplies in the communities where we operate. We focus our efforts on prudently managing and monitoring the water we use, including freshwater used in our operations, wastewater treatment and discharge, and recycling produced water (i.e., water that comes to the surface during oil and gas production) to conserve freshwater consumption in industrial processes.
Through our water stewardship efforts, we seek to:
- Help protect human health and the environment.
- Consider local water needs when addressing operational requirements.
- Continuously improve capabilities and performance.
- Engage stakeholders in development of water solutions.
Our team works to minimize the potential impact of our operations, especially in areas of water stress, as defined by measuring the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable water supplies. We aim to integrate this understanding into operational practices and project design, which includes adding technology applications focused on water management.
Management and application
We use water in our operations, withdrawing or purchasing fresh, brackish, and saline water for upstream exploration and production, downstream refining, and chemicals production. Some of that water is treated and returned to a local water body, some is consumed in our manufacturing processes, and some is used for other purposes (e.g., employee health and hygiene). When sourcing water for operations, we look for ways to reduce the impact of withdrawal, consumption, and discharge, considering local needs and alternative sources of supply.
Assessing and managing water risk
When sourcing water for our operations, ExxonMobil identifies and manages risks related to supply and quality. Water scarcity poses several potential risks for our industry and others, including increased competition for water resources, reduced production or business interruption, and increased costs.
We use a combination of tools to assess water risks and scarcity, including the World Resources Institute AqueductTM Water Risk Atlas (WRI water risk tool) and local assessments. We estimate that approximately 9% of the freshwater volume that we withdraw for our operating sites and projects is from areas that are water stressed, based on analysis using the WRI water risk tool. Similarly, 20% of these locations are in areas that are water stressed.1
Research and operational analyses further enable the continuous improvement of the processes and technologies we use to manage water risk. Our Environmental Aspects Guide informs our efforts to identify and evaluate risks and impacts throughout the life of an asset or project, and we are currently evaluating an additional Water Aspect Assessment tool that we piloted in 2022 to bring enhanced focus on water risks in our Environmental Aspect Assessments.
We consider multiple factors in determining our approach for a given process or site, including local water availability, quality, and environmental impact and engage formally and informally with stakeholders and governments as part of this process. For selected sites in areas that are water stressed, we are working to assess actual costs, as well as potential trade-offs, such as varying operational efficiencies, increased energy use, or more concentrated waste streams.
In 2023, we worked with outside experts to begin an in-depth analysis of key operating sites in areas of potential future water stress. At these sites and others, we are developing thorough water balances to gain further clarity on our water use and identify additional opportunities to improve water stewardship. This work informs our ongoing efforts to develop comprehensive water roadmaps to reduce freshwater intake for select major operated facilities, which we anticipate will be complete by the end of 2024. We expect these roadmaps will be updated as needed.2
We collaborate with universities, governments, and other industry members to manage risk and to study and improve water quality and treatment. Our engineers and scientists assess new technologies to help manage water use and treat wastewater streams, evaluate existing infrastructure, and develop strategies to improve our sustainability performance.
We collaborate with multiple external researchers, including:
- The National Alliance for Water Innovation, headquartered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to develop advanced treatment technologies for produced water desalination.
- The New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium and Texas Produced Water Consortium, to develop environmental, health, and safety risk assessment frameworks for beneficial reuse of treated produced water.
- The Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment, to develop water treatment systems.
- The Texas Partnership for Forests and Water, a statewide collaborative led by Texas A&M Forest Service that works to conserve and enhance forested watersheds across the state.
Spotlight on the Permian Basin
In 2022, almost half of our net U.S. oil and natural gas production came from the Permian Basin. As we work to responsibly develop our assets in the region, we are working to safeguard the availability and quality of its water sources.
To minimize withdrawal from natural water resources and mitigate risks from water use in our operations, we seek to:
- Prioritize sourcing from recycled produced water to conserve resources of fresh and brackish water.
- Minimize “downhole” water disposal – that is, water discharged into underground formations – through technology and operational optimization.
- Maximize opportunities to reuse produced water, leveraging our capabilities in risk management, research, and technology.
- Support local and regional water conservation efforts, such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative.
Implemented in 2021, our comprehensive water management roadmap for 10 years of Permian development identifies opportunities to reduce freshwater intake, as well as manage disposal, and guides our efforts to achieve industry-leading performance on water management. We expect this roadmap will be updated as needed.3 In 2022, we sourced more than 130 million barrels of water from recycled Permian produced water, comprising over half (64%) of our water needs for hydraulic fracturing operations. The remaining water needed came from brackish sources.
Additionally, we are increasingly using recycled produced water in our operations, including the Fayetteville and Marcellus shale gas operations. All told, we are working with industry members, technology solution providers, researchers, and regulators through collaboration, technology, and operational optimization to help improve industry water management in the Permian and beyond.
We have water management standards that establish requirements for water sourcing and wastewater treatment. These Project Environmental Standards set project requirements when a country has no water-use standards or less-stringent standards than our own expectations. ExxonMobil’s overall water management process is consistent with Ipieca’s Water Management Framework, which outlines a risk-based, continuous improvement process for water management.
We regularly review our water consumption and look for ways to use water more efficiently. Our local water management programs are designed to address potential water-related risks and include a review of freshwater consumption rates, when relevant, to identify opportunities for improvement.
Informed by our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) framework and Environmental Aspects Guide, we consider the unique traits of each asset and location, including biodiversity and other environmental factors, to help us reduce overall water use and impacts to freshwater-dependent ecosystems. Tactics for managing water risks include water conservation technologies, use of alternative sources, and recycling of municipal and industrial wastewater.
At the ExxonMobil Singapore facilities, most of the fresh water used by the site is reclaimed treated wastewater, which reduces demand on local water supplies. There are multiple wastewater treatment systems across the ExxonMobil Singapore complex, including a membrane biological reactor that provides additional opportunities for water reuse on site.
At our Baytown petrochemical complex in Texas, we have launched projects and initiatives to address changes to our water supply, including investments in our infrastructure to shift sourcing from the San Jacinto River to the saltier Trinity River in support of the Houston Metro Area’s water management plans.4
Across our upstream portfolio, our well sites are designed and constructed to promote well integrity and help protect the water table. Protective measures include multiple layers of steel and cement casing to separate wells from aquifer and to keep fluids in the pipe and out of the water table. In addition, hydraulic fracturing completions are closely monitored to manage the pressures within the well in accordance with design parameters.
- ExxonMobil full-year 2022 performance data as of April 5, 2023, and World Resources Institute AqueductTM Water Risk Atlas accessed on November 6, 2023. For more information on the tool, visit www.aqueduct.wri.org. We define “water stressed” as high, extremely high, or arid stress levels identified by this WRI tool and exclude sites that withdraw less than 0.5 MBBLS/year.
- Roadmaps aim to identify opportunities for selected sites, which are subject to change as a result of a number of factors, including the Company’s planning process, supportive government policy, and/or technology developments.
- Roadmaps aim to identify opportunities for selected sites, which are subject to change as a result of a number of factors, including the Company’s planning process, supportive government policy, and/or technology developments.
- Texas Water Development Board, Region H Water Planning Group, 2021 Regional Water Management Plan Volume 1 Section 11.2.4, available at www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/rwp/plans/2021.
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CAUTIONARY STATEMENT RELEVANT TO FORWARD LOOKING INFORMATION FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE “SAFE HARBOR” PROVISIONS OF THE PRIVATE SECURITIES LITIGATION REFORM ACT OF 1995 AND OTHER IMPORTANT LEGAL DISCLAIMERS
Images or statements of future ambitions, plans, goals, events, projects, projections, opportunities, or conditions in the publications, including plans to reduce, abate, avoid or enable avoidance of emissions or reduce emissions intensity, sensitivity analyses, expectations, estimates, the development of future technologies, business plans, and sustainability efforts are dependent on future market factors, such as customer demand, continued technological progress, policy support and timely rule-making or continuation of government incentives and funding, and represent forward-looking statements. Similarly, emission-reduction roadmaps to drive toward net zero and similar roadmaps for emerging technologies and markets, and water management roadmaps to reduce freshwater intake and/or manage disposal, are forward-looking statements. These statements are not guarantees of future corporate, market or industry performance or outcomes for society and are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control or are even unknown.
Actual future results, including the achievement of ambitions to reach Scope 1 and 2 net zero from operated assets by 2050, to reach Scope 1 and 2 net zero in Upstream Permian Basin unconventional operated assets by 2030, to eliminate routine flaring in-line with World Bank Zero Routine Flaring, to reach near zero methane emissions from operated assets and other methane initiatives, to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction plans or goals, divestment and start-up plans, and associated project plans; technology advances including in the timing and outcome of projects to capture and store CO2 supply lower-emission fuels, produce hydrogen, produce lithium, obtain data on detection, measurement and quantification of emissions including reporting of that data or updates to previous estimates, and use plastic waste as feedstock for advanced recycling; progress in sustainability focus areas; and reserve or resource changes could vary depending on changes in supply and demand and other market factors affecting future prices of oil, gas, petrochemical or new market products and services; future cash flows; our ability to execute operational objectives on a timely and successful basis; policy and consumer support for emission-reduction and other advanced products and technology; changes in international treaties, laws, regulations and incentives, including those greenhouse gas emissions, plastics, carbon storage and carbon costs; evolving reporting standards for these topics and evolving measurement standards for reported data; trade patterns and the development and enforcement of local, national and regional mandates; unforeseen technical or operational difficulties; the outcome of research efforts and future technology developments, including the ability to scale projects and technologies such as electrification of operations, advanced recycling, CCS, hydrogen production, or direct lithium extraction on a commercially competitive basis; availability of feedstocks for lower-emission fuels, hydrogen, or advanced recycling; changes in the relative energy mix across activities and geographies; the actions of competitors; changes in regional and global economic growth rates and consumer preferences; actions taken by governments and consumers resulting from a pandemic; changes in population growth, economic development or migration patterns; military build-ups, armed conflicts, or terrorism; and other factors discussed in this release and in Item 1A. “Risk Factors” in ExxonMobil’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for 2022 and subsequent Quarterly Reports on Forms 10-Q, as well as under the heading “Factors Affecting Future Results” on the Investors page of ExxonMobil’s website at www.exxonmobil.com. The Advancing Climate Solutions Report includes 2022 greenhouse gas emissions performance data and Scope 3 Category 11 estimates for full-year 2022 as of March 1, 2023. The greenhouse gas intensity and greenhouse gas emission estimates include Scope 2 market-based emissions. The Sustainability Report, the Advancing Climate Solutions Report, and corresponding Executive Summaries were issued on Jan. 8, 2024. The content and data referenced in these publications focus primarily on our operations from Jan. 1, 2022 – Dec. 31, 2022, unless otherwise indicated. Information regarding some known events or activities in 2023 are also included. No party should place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the dates of these publications. All forward-looking statements are based on management’s knowledge and reasonable expectations at the time of publication. We do not undertake to provide any further updates or changes to any data or forward-looking statements in these publications. Neither future distribution of this material nor the continued availability of this material in archive form on our website should be deemed to constitute an update or re-affirmation of these figures or statements as of any future date. Any future update will be provided only through a public disclosure indicating that fact.
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The Resiliency section of the Advancing Climate Solutions Report mentions modeled operating cash flow in comparing different businesses over time in a future scenario. Historic operating cash flow is defined as net income, plus depreciation, depletion and amortization for consolidated and equity companies, plus noncash adjustments related to asset retirement obligations plus proceeds from asset sales. The Company’s long-term portfolio modeling estimates operating cash flow as revenue or margins less cash expenses, taxes and abandonment expenditures plus proceeds from asset sales before portfolio capital expenditures. The Company believes this measure can be helpful in assessing the resiliency of the business to generate cash from different potential future markets. The performance data presented in the Advancing Climate Solutions Report and Sustainability Report, including on emissions, is not financial data and is not GAAP data.