With the world’s population expected to increase from 7 billion to nearly 9 billion people by 2040, demand for natural resources is expected to climb in the years ahead.
Combining our local experience with our planning for the future, we know the imperative of meeting our responsibilities to supply the energy the world’s economies need – and why we must do so in a safe, secure, and environmentally responsible way.
Nowhere is that clearer than with how we manage water. Water is an issue with global consequences – yet meeting forecasted growth in global freshwater demand will require local solutions.
We focus our efforts on preventing adverse impacts to water and prudently managing the water we do use. To protect human health and the environment, we work to limit the impact of our water withdrawals, consumption, and discharges. Local water needs and alternatives are always a key concern as we look to source water for our activities.
As the water case study in our recently published Corporate Citizenship Report details, we are making real progress. Between 2011 and 2013, for example, our global net freshwater consumption decreased by 24 percent.
We actively contribute to industry-wide initiatives that develop tools for systematic water management. We use these tools to help us map water use and assess risks – and we have learned that approximately one-quarter of our major operating sites are in locations with some degree of water stress or scarcity. That makes it even more important for us to engage with local officials and residents to determine workable outcomes for all.
Similarly critical are the technology improvements our scientists and engineers routinely deliver. Our Canadian oil sands project at Cold Lake is just one example of technology making a substantial difference. Freshwater-use intensity has decreased by nearly 90 percent compared to when the project started three decades ago.
The case study also notes impressive water initiatives ExxonMobil supports in Qatar, Indonesia, and elsewhere.
It’s a similar story in the United States. Along with the industry overall, ExxonMobil is applying our water-use principles to hydraulic fracturing:
- A 2010 Harvard study found that producing natural gas from hydraulic fracturing uses less water than is required to produce the same amount of energy from coal, uranium, and biofuels.
- In Texas, researchers found that fracking for natural gas ends up saving water compared to other fuels used to produce electricity.
- A peer-reviewed life-cycle analysis of natural gas production in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale conducted by two ExxonMobil researchers reached similar conclusions.
- And a recent report sponsored by the Western Energy Alliance estimates the oil and gas industry uses less than 1 percent of the total amount of water used in many western states.
Those are heartening statistics. Yet, as our corporate citizenship reporting shows, we are committed to improving our operations. For us, this is what being a responsible corporate citizen is all about.