At Devon, we demonstrate environmental stewardship as we work to minimize our operational footprint. We have a comprehensive approach to preventing, responding to and remediating spills.

Monitors, alarms and remote communications are key tools in preventing spills.

As a responsible operator, Devon works to prevent spills of oil, produced water and other materials from our equipment and facilities. Our environmental-management program includes a Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Control (SPCC) protocol that details the responsibilities, equipment, procedures and steps to prevent, control and provide adequate countermeasures to an unplanned discharge. The protocol helps ensure our compliance with the U.S. EPA SPCC Rule and other environmental rules and regulations. 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.

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.

Prevention and containment measures

In keeping with the pollution-prevention principle in our Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Philosophy, 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. Between the two liners is a layer of mesh material 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.

When using oil-based fluids to drill wells, we employ a closed-loop system, considered an industry best practice to protect the environment and to ensure safety. We comply with the EPA Spill 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.

Remote surveillance equipment we’ve installed in our Powder River Basin operations in Wyoming is helping to mitigate spills. High-definition cameras allow operators and analysts at a central location to identify a minor leak and dispatch responders before it becomes a larger spill. Our staff can also perform a remote shutdown to stop an identified spill until responders arrive on-site to address the issue. Through machine learning and predictive analytics, we believe we’ll be able to anticipate spills and ultimately prevent them.

Holding ourselves accountable for improving performance

We never want a spill, but in the event one happens, the first line of defense is to contain it behind a wall or berm.

When a spill does occur, we remediate, investigate the cause and take corrective action to prevent recurrence. When feasible, Devon performs in-situ remediation using naturally occurring microorganisms to restore impacted soils. This method allows the natural environment to assist in remediation and 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.

We hold ourselves accountable for improving our performance by setting an annual corporate target for the lost-spill rate and including it in Devon’s annual performance-bonus calculation. We recorded a 41% improvement in our lost-spill rate in 2019 primarily due to effective spill remediation and prevention across all of our business units.