Conserving water resources
We value water as an essential resource for human development and for the support of the world’s ecosystem. That is why ExxonMobil works to manage water resources used in our operations, in a manner that helps protect human health and the environment. We strive to be a leader in safeguarding water resources and we make an effort to understand water stress at the local level, as well as the potential impact of our operations. We also endeavor to integrate this understanding into our project design and operational practices.
Conserving water resources
We recognize the important role we play in managing water resources used in our operations, and we prioritize the quality and supply of freshwater in the communities and environments where we operate. We work to prudently manage water we use in our operations, including using freshwater for production, wastewater treatment and discharge, and produced water recycled for industrial use to conserve freshwater consumption.
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
When sourcing water for our operations, ExxonMobil identifies and manages risks related to supply and quality. We regularly review our consumption and look for ways to use water more efficiently. ExxonMobil is piloting a tool to further enhance our understanding of risks associated with water, including wastewater discharge, water quality and supply and proximity to environmentally sensitive areas.
The World Resources Institute1 (WRI) maintains a publicly available global database and interactive tool, the AqueductTM Water Risk Atlas (WRI water risk tool), which maps indicators of water-related risks. ExxonMobil uses the WRI water risk tool to increase our understanding of the baseline water stress as well as future projections of water stress in the areas where we operate. Today, approximately 5% of the fresh water that we withdraw for our operating sites is from areas that are at high water stress as defined by the WRI.
We develop and implement local water management programs in locations where we identify potential water-related risks. One example of where we are strengthening our water management practices due to local water scarcity is in the Permian Basin, where some areas have been identified by WRI as experiencing extremely high water stress.
As we continue development of resources in the Permian Basin, we expect to see increasing volumes of produced water. ExxonMobil is responding to the challenge of managing larger volumes of produced water while minimizing freshwater withdrawal by developing the necessary infrastructure. This includes lined storage ponds, pump stations, produced water recycling facilities, and over 425 miles of water pipelines. With this investment in infrastructure, in 2021, we were able to supply about half (48%) of the water we needed for fracturing operations in the Permian Basin (across Texas and New Mexico) from recycled, produced water, while the remaining half of the water needed for operations came from brackish sources.
ExxonMobil estimates that 40% of our major assets and operating sites are in areas with potential future water scarcity, based on an analysis using the WRI water risk tool. To mitigate this risk to the local environment and to our business, we use site-specific management strategies that include the use of conservation technologies, alternate sources, and recycling of both municipal and industrial wastewater.
When sourcing water for operations, we look for ways to minimize the impact of withdrawal, consumption and discharges. This requires us to consider local needs as well as local, alternative sources of supply.
ExxonMobil collaborates 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, 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.
1 Source: World Resources Institute AqueductTM Water Risk Atlas, accessed on March 15, 2022. For more information on the tool, visit www.aqueduct.wri.org