While water is critical to the energy industry of which we are a part—upstream oil production and downstream oil refining, for example, both use a lot of it—because we are primarily a transporter and deliverer of energy, water is not a key input to most of our operations.
However, because our pipelines traverse large distances that include water bodies and watercourses, spills pose significant risks to both surface and ground water, as well as to fisheries and wetlands. Also, because our pipelines cross areas where people live and recreate—and because people care deeply about their ability to access clean water—spills, and even the perception of the possibility of spills, also pose significant risks to our reputation and our ability to obtain regulatory permits and approvals.
Given the significance of these risks we address water protection as a priority in our management systems and processes, including our public safety and environmental incident risk treatments.We also address concerns raised by stakeholders (including customers, local communities, environmental groups, water users, regulators, water management authorities and suppliers) and Aboriginal and Native American individuals and groups. By working with these individuals and groups to understand their concerns, we will incorporate more effective treatment measures into our project management and operations, while also supporting the efficiency of regulatory reviews.
In the meantime, we continue to thoroughly assess and treat our water-related risks. Our assessments take place as part of our regular work, and as part of the processes we must undergo to obtain regulatory approval to construct or maintain our pipelines and related infrastructure.
We engage third-party environmental consultants to conduct the assessments, which involve identifying impacted waterways, geological conditions and groundwater chemistry. The assessments also involve determining the distance that oil could migrate downstream from a spill, how oil could flow overland and what water it could impact, oil dispersion patterns in open water bodies, the proximity of spills to municipal water supplies and intakes and the potential for other impacts.
Based on the results of the assessments, we work with municipalities to develop contingency plans. Where prudent, we also install additional valves to limit the volume of oil that could escape from a pipeline after an incident. For more information, please see the Environment & Land Management section of this report.