BP recognizes the importance of managing water as efficiently as possible in areas of water stress and scarcity
According to the BP-funded Energy Sustainability Challenge (ESC), global demand for water is predicted to rise by between 20-40% between 2009 and 2030. Managing water resource availability in the face of increasing pressures from population growth and industrial and agricultural growth is likely to be one of the key challenges for governments, businesses and society in the coming decades.
Within the energy sector, most of the water consumed relates to thermo-electric use and hydrocarbon extraction and processing. To examine how pressure on natural resources may influence energy production, BP is partnering with leading research universities in its ESC programme.
The research indicates that the amount of freshwater withdrawn to extract fossil fuels is smaller than previously thought. Globally, the agricultural sector accounts for 70% of withdrawals, energy withdraws around 9-12%, other industry withdraws around 6-12% and 10-15% is withdrawn for municipal use.
Energy sector freshwater withdrawals, 2009 and 2030
Water use in BP’s operations
In our Upstream segment, we use water in our drilling, hydraulic fracturing and oil sands operations. At our refining and petrochemical facilities, water is used for cooling, steam and manufacturing processes. Water is also used in our biofuels business for supplementary irrigation and the refining of biofuel energy crops.
BP withdraws fresh water under licences from rivers, lakes, reservoirs and underground aquifers. We also purchase water from municipal drinking water suppliers. Not all water is withdrawn from freshwater sources. In many areas, saline water is treated to the levels appropriate for its use, such as in our gas operations in Oman. At some locations, we use water sourced from municipal wastewater treatment plants after it has been specially treated for industrial use as an alternative freshwater source, for example, at our Kwinana refinery in Australia.
At the same time, our operations need to manage significant volumes of polluted water - produced water in upstream operations and process effluent in downstream and biofuel operations. These waters are either treated and then discharged to the environment or re-injected to the oil or gas reservoir or disposed of through other permitted means.
Our operations are required to identify environmental and social impacts and assess potential opportunities to manage those impacts, including any resulting from our water withdrawal or discharges.
We are continuing to pilot and develop standardized tools to more deeply understand the nature of the risks and opportunities associated with water management at a group and local level. This includes an assessment of water scarcity, challenges in treating effluent to required standards, and the long-term social and environmental pressures on water resources within the local area.
Based on the IPIECA Global Water Tool, around 40% of BP’s upstream and downstream operations are located in areas where the availability of fresh water is considered stressed or scarce. Our freshwater withdrawals in scarce or stressed areas are 29% of our total freshwater withdrawals.
BP is currently reviewing the risks to our operations in these areas and updating our management plans accordingly. For new projects we are assessing project lifecycle water demand and how this may be met from available water resources in the area. This will allow us to minimize our impacts and understand the wider context of water risks within the catchment or aquifer.
In 2012 we used the IPIECA Global Water Tool and the WRI Aqueduct Global Water Atlas to identify potential water scarcity risks across all our operated assets. We also applied the GEMI Local Water Tool to complete a more detailed analysis at three operations, so those sites could develop local water management plans to address risks. An in-depth analysis was also carried out at three potential new projects to assist them in scoping water appraisal studies.
In 2012, we commissioned Harvard University in the US to conduct research on the allocation and use of water in the Middle East. This three-year research programme started with a preliminary assessment in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Oman. The study will continue through 2013 and 2014 with more detailed research in some or all of these countries. This will equip BP with peer-reviewed science as a basis for planning water needs for oil and gas developments in the Middle East.
Working with others to address water issues
We believe that many of the risks and opportunities in managing water use are best addressed by working with others. For example, to help address water challenges, among other environmental challenges posed by oil sands production, we are a member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, an initiative made up of oil sands producers. We anticipate this will build on our approach to managing water in our oil sands projects, which includes using the best available technology for water treatment, protecting water resources through lifecycle assessment and monitoring all water sources, use and disposal. www.cosia.ca
Water management efficiencies
BP is currently reviewing opportunities that may exist to improve efficiencies in water management within our operations, both in terms of the volumes consumed and the cost of water management. This includes water treatment technology tracking and evaluating potential future investments in new technologies that have an effect on how we use water in our processes and how we treat waste waters.
For example, at our joint venture Gelsenkirchen refinery in Germany, we have constructed two new wastewater treatment plants that are designed to improve treatment efficiencies while satisfying current regulatory standards and which have been designed with likely future standards in mind. The local authority has designated the River Emcher as pure river water as a result of the improved quality of effluent discharge from the refinery.
Group total water withdrawal by business activity
Our fresh water use and discharges to water
In 2012, the reported volume of total freshwater withdrawal1,2, by the BP group totalled approximately 347million m3. The main business activities contributing to this total in 2012 were refining, chemical and lubricant manufacture and storage terminals, which account for around 97% and upstream, which accounts for around 3%. BP group volumes of total water withdrawal increased by 10million m3 in 2012 primarily as a result of increased refining and petrochemical production.
Most of the fresh water withdrawal is returned to the same catchment in which the water was withdrawn. At the Whiting and Toledo refineries, once through cooling water systems are used. In these systems it is estimated that at least 95% of the water withdrawal from the Great Lakes for once through cooling waters is returned to the Lakes, a total volume estimated to be 139 million m3. Accounting for the other volumes of water treated and discharged back to the environment - it is estimated that BP consumed 93 million m3, or 27% of the freshwater we withdrew in 2012.
1This does not include our biofuels business in Brazil where we are putting the systems in place to report water metrics in the future.
2 In 2012, BP announced the sale of the Texas City refinery in the US and the Kuantan PTA facility in Malaysia. For the Texas City refinery, freshwater withdrawals and treated water discharges have been estimated by scaling the volumes according to the different crude oil throughput between 2011 and 2012. At Kuantan the data for only 10 months (Jan – Oct) of 2012 was available.
Group discharges to water by discharge category
In 2012, the mass of produced water discharge or disposed of via injection wells by our Upstream business totalled approximately 108,655 thousand tonnes (kte), a reduction of over 11% on 2011.
In our refining and chemicals business, the volumes of wastewater discharges, either following on-site treatment or to a third party treatment works was 115 million m3, a 1% increase from 2011. This water was treated to a high level with an equivalent of 7,827 tonnes of chemical oxygen demand (COD) (an indirect measure of the amount of chemicals dissolved in the water) discharged within our treated wastewater. This is equivalent to an average COD concentration of 68 mg/litre, reduced from 88 mg/l in 2011, a reduction of 23%. This is as a result of divestment of assets and improvements on the performance at a number of our refinery wastewater treatment facilities.
Any impacts from water withdrawal and discharges to water occur mainly at a local or regional level and there are wide variations in legislative requirements and local environmental conditions where we operate. We report how we are managing water withdrawal and discharges to water locally at our major operating sites in our mapping tool and our verified site reports.