Our commitment to safeguarding the environment is a key aspect of the Hess Value of Social Responsibility and underpins the way we work every day. We strive for continuous improvement in our environmental impacts, which include water and energy use, air emissions, waste and spills. Across our company, we deploy dedicated staff and significant resources to help ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, international standards and voluntary commitments. We have developed a range of key performance metrics to track our environmental performance and drive improvement over time at both the asset and enterprise levels. Certain of these metrics are also factored into our annual incentive plan, to further advance our culture of environmental stewardship.
The communities and ecosystems in which we operate depend on water to thrive. Water is also important for our onshore operations, where we primarily use it for drilling and completions in our upstream operations and cooling in our midstream gas processing operations.
Water management has been identified as a material issue for Hess and is a key element of our environment, health, safety and social responsibility (EHS & SR) strategy. In 2019, we continued to develop our risk-based, lifecycle approach to managing water, completing a stressed water resource analysis in the Bakken region and sponsoring two pilot studies focused on tracking and treating produced water.
See the Shale Energy section of our website for more detail on our approach to water management in our shale operations
Leak Detection and Repair
We employ a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program at our production facilities in North Dakota. 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 2019 we continued to enhance our LDAR field assurance team. This 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 scheduled monthly. OGI is conducted semiannually by trained operational personnel at our production operations in North Dakota and quarterly at our gas plant and compressor stations in the state. Based on U.S. EPA standard leak rates, our repairs to fugitive emissions components in 2019 in North Dakota reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to approximately 469 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 and so volatile organic compounds are typically present when leaks are identified). During such inspections, reliability operators monitor equipment for leaks as part of their daily work and document the results. We require reliability operators to be trained and experienced in the appropriate operation of each piece of equipment involved in their work activities and familiar with Hess operations in the areas where they work. 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 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 a prior Consent Decree with the North Dakota Department of Health.
We have also committed to replace all remaining high-bleed pneumatic controllers across our North Dakota operations by 2022 (see page 51 of our 2019 Sustainability Report for more detail).
These measures, together with the steps we are taking to reduce flaring, will help to further reduce our fugitive emissions in North Dakota.