As a global energy company, Shell places a strong emphasis on environmental conservation and responsible resource management. With a firm commitment to reducing its ecological footprint and addressing environmental concerns, Shell has set its “Respecting Nature” goals under Powering Progress Strategy, which outline the company’s commitment to stimulating biodiversity, developing waste management, saving water, and improving air quality. The article reveals the main company’s achievements in 2022 on the way to preserving the global ecosystem.
Striving to make a positive effect on the natural environment, Shell is not only developing ways to improve the company's impact on it while operations but also launching initiatives to enhance biodiversity where possible.
In particular, Shell partners with such external experts as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Earthwatch to develop and define the company’s approach to measuring its progress. Additionally, to minimize the impact on ecosystems, the company evaluates the potential impact of projects on biodiversity and local communities within the impact assessment process, as well as develops biodiversity action plans for new projects launched in critical habitats. At the end of 2022, four out of eight new Shell projects which are wholly or partly located in critical habitats already had such biodiversity action plans developed.
The company also implements a range of projects to protect biodiversity near its existing operations. For example, in the Veracruz Reef System National Park in Mexico, Shell is restoring two hectares of damaged coral reefs that support the marine ecosystem by collecting and nursing healthy coral fragments from the seabed. And in the North Sea, partly owned by Shell Blauwwind offshore windfarms provide unique habitats to oysters, turning undisturbed waters below the wind turbines into shelters for marine life.
Continuing the tradition of improving the environment through biodiversity projects, in 2022 Shell replenished its portfolio by partnering with Monash University on a four-year restoration program for Browse Island. The cooperation aims to improve the population and resilience of seabirds, the hatchling survival rate of the green turtle, and the health of the reef.
Shell aims to become a zero waste business by reducing generated waste and increasing reuse and recycling. While the goals are being set, the company has already started assessing its facilities and looking for solutions to maximize the efficiency of using resources and materials.
Till the end of 2022, Shell completed 24 waste assessments at major production facilities to identify the largest waste streams, share learnings and develop plans to reduce the quantity of disposed waste. The number of disposed hazardous and non-hazardous waste was 1,982 thousand tonnes, while 457 thousand tonnes of residual materials were sent for reuse, recycling, or beneficial use as raw material in another process.
Paying special attention to combating plastic, Shell follows its goal to increase the amount of recycled plastic in Shell-branded packaging to 30% and ensure that all the company’s packaging is reusable or recyclable.
For now, the biggest achievement in this field belongs to the European region, where around two-thirds of the packaging used for Shell Car Care products is recyclable. Furthermore, in 2022, over 30% of service stations owned by Shell had successfully eliminated unnecessary single-use plastic items such as cutlery, straws, and stirrers, while nearly 40% had completely removed single-use plastic bags.
Shell believes that one of the most promising ways to deal with hard-to-recycle plastic is pyrolysis — the processing of plastic waste into a chemical feedstock called pyrolysis oil. Following this, in 2022, the company started building a pyrolysis oil upgrader at the Shell Chemicals Park Moerdijk in the Netherlands, as well as continued building another upgrader at Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Singapore. Both have the potential to produce up to 50,000 tonnes of pyrolysis oil per year.
To make its operations more resource-effective, Shell also works on reducing fresh-water consumption by 15% by 2025 in areas with high pressure on the water.
Having four major facilities in areas with a high level of water stress, the company managed to lower the freshwater consumption there to 18 million cubic meters, compared with 22 million cubic meters in 2021 and 25 million cubic meters in the 2018 baseline. The overall Shell’s 2022 intake of fresh water decreased to 156 million cubic meters, compared with 166 million cubic meters in the year before.
The reduction of the amount of fresh water consumed by enterprises is possible due to projects of processing used water for reuse.
For example, in the US state of Kansas, Shell’s renewable natural gas (RNG) plant cooperates with co-located near the dairy farm to use the farm’s effluent and wastewater for leak testing and ongoing operations at the RNG plant. This allows Shell’s facility to avoid bringing 11 million gallons of water to the site, which in addition would be accompanied by negative environmental, safety, and financial impacts of transporting the water. And in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell recycles washwater generated by its offshore oil and gas activities with new technology, which uses electricity to break down the contaminants, leaving the water safe to be used multiple times for cleaning. This approach allows reducing the overall waste from Shell’s wells by approximately 30%.
Ensuring Clean Air
As a business that contributes to air quality both through operations and sold products, Shell strives to lower its influence on the environment by reducing its facilities’ emissions and providing cleaner ways to power transport and industry.
In particular, the company keeps a close watch on emissions following its own standards and those of local regulators to manage airborne pollutants during oil and gas production and processing, including emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and volatile organic compounds. In 2022, it managed to decrease the level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from 105 thousand tonnes to 93 thousand tonnes, as well as reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds from 45 thousand tonnes to 38 thousand tonnes.
Investing in cleaner ways to power homes and transport, Shell expands its net of electric vehicle charging points, and works on developing its hydrogen solutions and biofuels. For heavy-duty road transport, the company offers liquefied natural gas as a fuel and gas-to-liquids products, which help reduce sulphur emissions, particulates, and nitrogen oxide compared with oil-based products. And to reduce emissions from road exploitation, Shell with the help of road constructors and air quality experts created a new bitumen product — Shell Bitumen FreshAir. Due to its composition, it can reduce specific gasses and particulate matter from asphalt mixtures by 40%, improving local air quality levels.
Shell also supports the UN-sponsored Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles — a global initiative that unites organizations’ resources and efforts to achieve cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions from road transport.
As the world grapples with pressing environmental challenges, decisive actions to preserve nature are no longer optional, but mandatory for all businesses that rely on natural resources. At Shell, our environmental ambitions are underpinned by consistent work aimed at making a tangible difference on land, in the air, and in the water.