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Kara Sea spill defense test

Spill performance

ExxonMobil focuses on implementing preventive measures to avoid spills and, if a spill does occur, ensure a rapid, comprehensive response.

We continually seek to develop and improve risk management, operations integrity, spill prevention processes and containment capabilities. The total volume of hydrocarbons spilled to soil and water was 9,100 barrels in 2014; more than 60 percent was recovered at the spill sites. The majority of these spills do not affect third parties or the communities that surround us. Over the past decade, we have reduced the number of spills greater than 1 barrel by approximately 10 percent.

In 2012, we started measuring significant spills to the environment (SSEs) across the corporation. SSEs are spills to surface water and groundwater, sensitive environments or communities. We had 20 significant spills in 2014, including a spill from a time-chartered marine vessel involving a small amount of gasoil to water during a cargo transfer. These SSEs represent approximately 6 percent of the total number of spills. We are increasing focus on these spills to learn from them so we can prevent their reoccurrence.

Significant spills to the environment

Every day, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company transports approximately 2.6 million barrels of petroleum and chemical feedstocks and products through approximately 8,000 miles of pipelines in the United States. We diligently maintain and inspect our pipelines to ensure their integrity and prevent and detect corrosion, third-party damage or intrusions onto our rights of way. We also patrol our pipeline routes on the ground and in the air, and we monitor pipeline operations around the clock using state-of-the-art systems, alarms and other monitoring technologies. (Learn more about how we are managing products transported by rail.)

We have implemented enhanced surveying techniques and are applying state-of-the-art inspection technologies and analyses on our pipelines. These surveys and inspection findings are identifying areas where we can strengthen our pipeline integrity and risk management systems. In addition, we are working closely with others in the industry to evaluate and capture technology advancements for pipeline integrity assurance.

  • Lynne Lachenmyer

    Safety, security, health and environment vice president
    “Our company is built on the foundation of risk management for everything we do. During my career, I have had the opportunity to work in Refining, Chemical and Lubricant manufacturing roles around the world. I firmly believe if we manage risks right, we can prevent significant process safety events, including spills to the environment. Effectively managing risks is fundamental to successful business performance.”

The worldwide marine business of ExxonMobil’s affiliates, which involves about 500 vessels in daily service, logged nearly 20,000 voyages and 42,000 port calls in 2014, safely transporting approximately 1.35 billion barrels of crude oil and refined products. In 2014, our marine affiliate, SeaRiver Maritime Inc., launched a new crude oil tanker, Liberty Bay, to transport crude oil from the Alaska North Slope to refineries along the U.S. west coast. While all of the vessels owned and operated by SeaRiver have mandatory double-hull cargo tanks, Liberty Bay also features the latest safety, navigation and engine room technologies, including double-hull fuel tanks, fully redundant navigation systems and high-efficiency engines with electronic tuning. An advanced ballast water treatment system will provide additional environmental protection, in advance of international requirements.

Spills (not from marine vessels)

Offshore oil spill response

As part of our commitment to operational excellence, we have developed specialized spill response tactics. We have the industry’s leading, dedicated, in-house oil spill response research program, which includes a focus on Arctic research. ExxonMobil also participates in multiple joint industry projects for improving oil spill response in the Arctic and elsewhere, including the American Petroleum Institute (API) joint industry task force, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) Arctic oil spill response technology joint industry program, an IOGP and IPIECA joint industry project, and the API oil sands technical subcommittee.

These projects allow us to share best practices and learn from our peers. For more information, visit the following websites:

Since 2010, we have collaborated with others in our industry through our membership in the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) to develop an oil spill containment system for the Gulf of Mexico. In support of MWCC, ExxonMobil led a Marine Well Containment System project, which commenced delivery of an expanded containment system (ECS) in 2014. The ECS significantly increases the response capability of MWCC both in terms of capacity and flexibility. For more information about the ECS, visit MWCC’s website.

In 2014, an ExxonMobil and Rosneft joint venture conducted drilling operations at the University-1 well in Russia’s Kara Sea. This was the capstone of extensive preparations that included environmental studies, seismic operations, employment of an advanced ice management system and integration of a winterized drilling rig. A fleet of multifunctional support vessels accompanied the rig to maintain operations integrity, conducting safe operations hundreds of miles from the shore base.

The preparations for and completion of operations at the University-1 well demonstrated our ability to integrate the people, technologies and best practices needed to operate in an Arctic offshore environment safely and effectively, and further added to our knowledge base for operations in the Arctic.