Smarter ways to use water - Energy Factor
Perspectives blog

Smarter ways to use water

Suzanne McCarron - 03/25/2016

This week people all over the globe observed World Water Day.

FeaturedAt ExxonMobil, we think about smarter ways to use water every day of the year, because water is critical to energy production.

We use water in our various operations, from running our refineries and chemical plants to producing oil and natural gas. We also are conscious of how our water requirements for these operations may compete with local water needs.

The U.S. oil and gas sector accounts for just 2 percent of total water withdrawals nationally. But that small number is little comfort in water-stressed areas. And it’s not just in the United States, obviously. Of our nearly 90 major operating facilities around the world, approximately one-quarter are located in areas identified with the potential for water stress or scarcity.

So we are careful to strike the right balance in these regions and to operate as efficiently as possible. That’s why we work with local communities, officials, and other stakeholders to come up with equitable, sustainable solutions.

We understand the need to do more with less when it comes to water. ExxonMobil uses alternative water sources wherever they are appropriate and seeks opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle water, considering potential trade-offs like waste, energy, and cost.

Among these efforts:

  • In Canada, we have developed state-of-the-art water-recycling techniques, resulting in dramatically reduced water requirements for oil sands production. Freshwater-use intensity at our Cold Lake facility has fallen by almost 90 percent since the project’s inception. Other conservation initiatives could reduce freshwater use at Cold Lake by up to an additional 30 percent from current uses.
  • At our Torrance, CA, refinery, we purchase recycled wastewater from a local municipal treatment plant for our cooling towers and boilers, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the facility’s water consumption.
  • We are recycling produced water for many of our hydraulic-fracturing operations, particularly in the Marcellus Shale.
  • And just this week our Baton Rouge refinery received the 2015 Environmental Leadership Award from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality for wastewater treatment efforts – above and beyond those required by existing regulations – that have cut nitrate emissions by 50 percent.

There’s more of course. For instance, we realize water conservation benefits at our facilities with electricity/steam cogeneration units. Efforts such as these help explain why our corporation’s global net freshwater consumption decreased nearly 20 percent since 2011.

Next month, ExxonMobil will release its global Corporate Citizenship Report for 2015, which will contain more about our water use as well as other operational metrics.

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