Safeguarding the environment is a key aspect of the Hess Values, which set the framework for how we operate.
Managing environmental impacts — including water and energy use, air emissions, waste and spills — is an important aspect of the work we do every day. We dedicate significant staff and resources to help ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, international standards and voluntary commitments. To track our environmental performance and drive improvement over time, we use key performance metrics — including several factored into our annual incentive plan — at the asset and enterprise levels.
Water management is one of our material issues and a key element of our environment, health, safety and social responsibility (EHS & SR) strategy. Water is a critical resource for our onshore exploration and production operations, where it is used primarily for cooling purposes in both our upstream and midstream operations, as well as for drilling and completions, including hydraulic fracturing. We know water is also an important resource for the communities and ecosystems in which we operate. In some areas where we operate, our water use may be restricted by local limitations on water supply and disposal.
We are committed, throughout our operations, to evaluating and reducing our water footprint. In 2017 we continued development of our risk-based, lifecycle approach to managing water, as well as associated improvements to our water data collection process.
Leak Detection and Repair
We employ a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program at our production facilities in North Dakota and Ohio. The LDAR program covers each fugitive emissions component at these facilities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a “production facility” as “all structures, piping, or equipment used in the production, extraction, recovery, lifting, stabilization, separation or treating of oil, or associated storage or measurement, and located in an oil or gas field.” The agency defines “fugitive emissions component” as “any component that has the potential to emit fugitive emissions of methane or volatile organic compounds at a well site, production facility or compressor station, including but not limited to valves, connectors, pressure relief devices, open-ended lines, flanges, covers and closed vent systems, thief hatches or other openings on a storage vessel, compressors, instruments and meters.”
In 2017 we continued to enhance our LDAR field assurance team. To help ensure compliance, our LDAR field assurance team conducts audible, visual and olfactory (AVO) inspections and optical gas imaging (OGI) on equipment that has the potential to emit fugitive emissions. The AVO inspections are conducted monthly in our North Dakota production operations. OGI is conducted semiannually by trained operational personnel in our North Dakota production operations and quarterly at our North Dakota gas plant and compressor stations and, until we sold the Permian asset, the Texas gas plant. At our Ohio production facilities, we conduct quarterly, semiannual or annual inspections using OGI, as required. Per the regulations of the Ohio EPA, we are able to move to semiannual or annual inspections after a period of demonstrating de minimis leak rates for permitted equipment. Based on U.S. EPA standard leak rates, our repairs to fugitive emissions components in 2017 in North Dakota reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to removing nearly 6,000 cars from the road.
AVO inspections involve observations (such as fluids dripping, spraying, misting or clouding from or around components), sound (such as hissing), and smell (because Hess equipment is typically in mixed hydrocarbon service, volatile organic compounds are typically present when leaks are identified). Our Reliability Operators conduct monthly documented AVO inspections at all of our operated facilities. In addition, they monitor equipment for leaks as part of their daily work. We require Reliability Operators to be trained and experienced in the appropriate operation of each piece of equipment and familiar with Hess operations in the area where they are working. They are also required to complete training on the Hess Standard Work documents for each piece of equipment subject to AVO inspection.
OGI is performed by the field assurance personnel in our regulatory group who are certified in the use of infrared thermal cameras and other monitoring techniques (such as U.S. EPA Method 21) to detect fugitive emissions.
If a leak is found during inspection, we have a “first attempt” deadline of five days for repair. If a repair within five days is not possible, the leak is documented and a fix is required within 30 days as per the Consent Decree with the North Dakota Department of Health (for North Dakota facilities – see page 53 of our 2016 Sustainability Report for more detail) and Ohio EPA requirements (for Ohio facilities).
We have also committed to replace all remaining high-bleed pneumatic controllers across our North Dakota operations by 2022, or sooner when required by applicable regulation. In Ohio, our operations run on instrument air and do not include high-bleed pneumatic controllers.
These measures, together with the steps we are taking to reduce flaring in North Dakota, will help to further reduce our fugitive emissions.