Keeping materials in containment

Keeping large volumes of oil, produced water and other materials in containment is a guiding principle of Devon’s Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Philosophy. We take a comprehensive approach to preventing, responding to and remediating spills from our equipment and facilities. Devon sets an annual corporate goal for reducing our total spill rate that keeps our business units and company focused on prevention measures.

Training, tools and techniques

Our environmental management program includes a Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Control (SPCC) protocol that drives compliance with the U.S. EPA SPCC Rule and other environmental rules and regulations. The protocol details the responsibilities, equipment, procedures and steps to prevent, control and provide adequate countermeasures to an unplanned discharge. It also specifies the training required for all personnel involved in designing, building and operating oil-handling or storage equipment, including an annual spill-response training exercise and briefing. Devon requires our contractors to meet or exceed the standards in our SPCC protocol.

We make every employee and contractor aware of their responsibility to prevent spills by immediately reporting near misses, such as a storage tank approaching full volume or signs of wear that may result in a leak. We respond to near misses and make any necessary adjustments to prevent spills.

Devon uses appropriate tools and techniques to minimize and contain discharges from our equipment and facilities. At facilities with storage tanks, our spill prevention procedures include secondary containment, “nearly full” alarms on tanks and offsite monitoring equipment that can shut in facilities remotely.

At our produced-water recycling facilities, Devon installs temporary storage reservoirs designed to minimize the risk of overflow from rain. The reservoirs are double-lined and sloped to direct any water that may penetrate the first liner to a sump pump. A layer of mesh material between the two liners is outfitted with motion detection that alerts our operators if a liner leaks. Any reservoir where we temporarily store water, including saltwater disposal sites, is lined for environmental protection.

To protect the environment and ensure safety when using oil-based fluids to drill wells, we employ a closed-loop system that is considered an industry best practice. We comply with the EPA SPCC Rule by keeping plans at drilling locations to minimize the impact of spills. We also follow local, state and federal guidelines when handling drilling fluid and mud systems.

When a spill does occur, we remediate, investigate the cause and take corrective action to prevent recurrence. Devon often performs in-situ remediation using naturally occurring microorganisms to remediate and restore impacted soils when feasible. This method also reduces the likelihood that invasive weeds and plants will be introduced to the area. In-situ remediation has other advantages, as well: It reduces truck traffic because it generally doesn’t require heavy machinery, and it reduces our overall operational waste footprint by eliminating the need to send impacted soil to landfills.

Devon has a robust EHS system for reporting and tracking spills. We require reporting of unintentional releases of oil, produced water, chemicals and any other material associated with our operations. Spills and near misses are tracked by the total company and business unit, which enables them to analyze their spill performance and find ways to improve.

The Devon lost-spill rate is based on the volumes of produced oil, produced water and recycled water handled in our operations. We believe that measuring our spill rate based on the total amount of fluids we manage in our operations gives us the best view of our performance and allows us to better manage our spill prevention procedures.

Improved performance in 2021

To drive continuous improvement, Devon sets an annual corporate target for the lost-spill rate and includes it in our annual performance bonus calculation. In 2020, legacy Devon achieved a 38% year-over-year improvement in our lost-spill rate, mainly due to spill prevention and remediation efforts across all our business units. At legacy WPX, continued employee spill reduction education and preventive maintenance across all business units resulted in a 26% year-over-year improvement in spill performance.