Safeguarding the environment is a key aspect of the Hess Value of Social Responsibility.
Responsible management of environmental impacts – including water use, air emissions, waste and spills – is an essential component of our drive for operational excellence and an important part of how we do business every day. We also 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 level. Through these efforts, we continuously strive to reduce the amount of water and energy we use, limit our emissions to air and prevent spills and other unplanned releases.
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 drilling and completions, including hydraulic fracturing.
We understand public concern about our industry’s use of water, and we are committed, throughout our operations, to evaluating and reducing our water footprint. We are developing a risk-based, lifecycle approach to managing water, from sourcing through disposal. We are also working to improve our water data collection process, water risk assessment and risk-based evaluation of asset-level water management opportunities.
Leak Detection and Repair
We employ leak detection and repair programs at our production facilities in North Dakota and Ohio. The inspection and repair program includes 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” and “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 2016, we enhanced our Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) field assurance team. Compliance assurance activities that are implemented through our field assurance team include monthly audible, visual and olfactory (AVO) inspections and semiannual optical gas imaging on equipment that has the potential to emit fugitive emissions. Overall, our LDAR program comprises: monthly AVO inspection of fugitive emissions components (North Dakota production operations), as well as quarterly (North Dakota gas plants and compressor stations) and semiannual (North Dakota production operations) optical gas imaging. At our Ohio production facilities, we conduct quarterly, semiannual or annual inspections using optical gas imaging. 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.
AVO inspections involve observations (such as fluids dripping, spraying, misting or clouding from or around components), sound (such as hissing), and smell (Hess equipment is typically in mixed hydrocarbon service so volatile organic compounds [VOCs] 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 which 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.
Optical gas imaging is performed by our field assurance personnel in the 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 in accordance with the Consent Decree with the North Dakota Department of Health (North Dakota facilities – see page 53 of our 2016 Sustainability Report for more detail) and Ohio EPA requirements (Ohio facilities).
We have also committed to replace all remaining high-bleed pneumatic controllers across our North Dakota operations by 2022. 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 methane emissions.