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Sustainability report 21|22

Water and effluents

Water is a vital resource, contamination of which can have serious impacts on human and animal habitats and ecosystems. Although none of the regions where our production sites are located are currently experiencing water stress*, we still maintain a close focus on efficient and careful use of this natural resource.

*Ability, or lack thereof, to meet the human and ecological demand for water.

Different types of water are produced in RAG’s various activities:

Produced water

During the extraction of oil and gas, formation water, which has a similar salt content to seawater, is also produced. Rather than being fed into the natural water cycle, this water is returned to the reservoirs during normal operations to maintain the pressure required there. This water and its recirculation to the reservoir is a significant element of commercial oil production. To prevent it from contaminating the soil and groundwater, the reservoir water is collected in a closed system in separate tanks before being injected back into the reservoirs at pressure. The surface water (rainwater) that accumulates at wells and stations is collected by licensed water treatment service providers.

Process water

Freshwater is also needed for certain work and processes in our operations. It is used as a drilling fluid and for cooling and pressure checks at our facilities. We ensure that our facilities are operated properly, efficiently and in an environmentally sound manner, and prevent the contamination of surface and groundwater or soils through the consistent implementation of preventive maintenance and servicing activities, which are supported by our internal environmental and integrity management systems.

Use of suitable drilling fluids

Our drilling activities and special treatments also bring us into contact with deep-lying freshwater strata. Potentially important in future, we make sure that these water resources are not contaminated by using chemical-free drilling fluids. In addition, the same drilling fluids are used in multiple wells – if technically possible – to optimise the use of water and additives. The restroom facilities in office and operational buildings are supplied with water from the public mains or wells located on site. Wastewater is diverted into municipal wastewater treatment plants, or, if no connection is available, collected by an authorised wastewater treatment company. The amount of freshwater used at all sites corresponds to around 2.3% of total water use; the majority (approx. 97.7%) is attributable to produced formation water. 

Project-related cleaning work in the course of the abandonment of mining facilities (e.g. pipelines) led to exceptional annual consumption of about 1,100 m³ of freshwater during the reporting period. For the year 2023 we expect project-related quantities of approx. 150–200 m³ of water, which corresponds to a consumption of only about 3 households.

Water use for future energy sources

We have been working with water electrolysis to advance the use of hydrogen as an emission-free energy form since 2015. However, producing green hydrogen also requires access to sufficient quantities of pure water. In this regard, it will be important to regularly evaluate water stress at the regional level when producing hydrogen in the future.

Methane electrolysis is another innovative solution for the production of hydrogen. Using this method, renewable electricity can be generated emission-free from methane (CH4) instead of using precious pure water (for more details, see ‘Sustainable energy solutions‘).

Where we want to improve

Water is one of humanity’s most important and fundamental resources. As a result, the careful handling, efficient use and protection of existing – and future – water reservoirs is crucial. Due to the insufficient quality of the data, we do not have adequate information on our water consumption in recent years. Evaluation of the data currently available confirms that there is still room for improvement when it comes to  recording and documenting use in this area. In response, we started setting up a system in 2022 that will permit the structured and efficient recording, documentation and analysis of the amount of water we consume and recirculate, which will help us to better understand our water cycles in the future while facilitating the continuous improvement of our water management systems. We also aim to continuously improve our environmental and integrity management systems with a view to providing further safeguards against leaks at our facilities.