Comprehensive approach to protecting the land
Each year, Devon handles millions of barrels of fluids. Keeping oil, produced water, recycled water and other materials properly contained is a guiding principle of our 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 spill rate that keeps us focused on preventive measures and best practices.
Our environmental management program includes a Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Control (SPCC) protocol that drives compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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 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. Our spill prevention measures at facilities with storage tanks 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. Any reservoir where we temporarily store water, including saltwater disposal sites, is lined for environmental protection.
To protect the environment and help 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 U.S. EPA SPCC Rule by keeping plans at drilling locations to minimize the impact of spills. Devon also follows 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 of introducing invasive weeds and plants 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 incident management 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 business units to analyze their spill performance and find ways to improve. In 2021, we made changes to our incident management system to continue refining our spill reporting to prevent spills going forward.
Devon’s 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.
To drive continuous improvement, Devon sets an annual corporate target for our spill rate and includes it in our annual performance bonus calculation. In 2021, we did not meet our internal lost-spill rate and our lost spilled barrels increased compared to 2020. We identified spill trends, and our environmental and operations teams worked together to take corrective actions to reduce spill risk, such as equipment design changes and targeted preventive maintenance. To be good stewards of the land and deliver strong environmental performance, we continue working to prevent spills in our operations.