Our ambition and commitments

Water is one of four priority topics, alongside Biodiversity, Circular economy and waste and Air quality included under our Respecting Nature goal as part of our Powering Progress strategy.

Our ambition is to conserve fresh water by reducing consumption and increasing reuse and recycling.

Our Respecting Nature commitments

We will reduce the amount of fresh water consumed in our facilities, starting by reducing fresh-water consumption by 15% by 2025 compared with 2018 levels* in areas where there is high pressure on fresh-water resources.

*25 million cubic metres of fresh water consumed by our facilities in high water stressed areas in 2018.

We will also assess options for further reduction goals by the end of 2022.

Our related commitments

Shell’s Goal Zero ambition to achieve no harm and no leaks across all of our operations underpins all our work. This applies to where we use water and where our work affects water resources.

Water - a circular approach

Although the availability of fresh water is a global issue, water constraints tend to affect people and the environment at the local or regional level. Therefore the way we manage our use of fresh water depends on the local situation, and requires tailored local solutions.

Water is one of the considerations in the impact assessments that we conduct for every new project. In water-scarce areas we develop water management plans for our facilities. These investigate long-term risks to water availability, consider any impact on water resources in the surrounding watershed, and set out measures to minimise the use of fresh water.

We engage with communities and other stakeholders to understand and address their concerns. We evaluate the long-term sustainability of water resources to select the options that avoid or minimise disruption to the environment and other users. This helps us to ensure we have a continued supply of water that we need for our operations, but also to help minimise impact on others.

At end 2021, four of our major facilities were located in areas where there is a high level of water stress based on analysis using a combination of water stress tools, such as the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, and information specific to the local environment. The facilities are: Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar, Shell Energy and Chemicals Park and the Jurong Island chemical plant in Singapore and Tabangao import terminal in the Philippines. Each operating asset has a water management plan in place.

Consumption of fresh water by these facilities at end 2021 was 22 million cubic metres compared with our 2018 baseline of 25 million cubic meters. – More details can be found in our Sustainability Report 2021.

In 2021, we conducted a pilot project looking at approaches to water stewardship, which will help us develop a methodology that we can apply more widely across our businesses in 2022 to improve water efficiency and set further goals to reduce fresh-water use.

Some of our facilities are already starting to take a more efficient approach to water:

  • Women standing

    Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL)

    Our Pearl gas-to-liquids facility in Qatar assesses and manages water use to as low as reasonably practicable, resulting in almost complete recycling and reuse at the facility. Pearl has capacity to treat up to 45,000 cubic metres of water a day, which is comparable to a municipal water treatment plant for a town of 140,000 people.

  • Women working

    Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Singapore

    The Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Singapore on Pulau Bukom, an island south of Singapore, began implementing measures to reduce its fresh water use in 2018, achieving this through continuous improvements. Maintenance improvements have reduced evaporative losses from the cooling towers, steam leaks and other water losses. An improved condensate recovery system also resulted in the reduction of the overall amount of fresh water required. In addition, the site plans to recycle treated wastewater and reduce its water usage.

We also work with communities to find better ways to share water as a resource:

  • Groundbirch


    In Canada, Shell has been working with the people of Dawson Creek to manage water use at our nearby natural gas operations at Groundbirch. We partnered with the city council to open a plant that treats municipal waste water that would otherwise be discharged to a local river. The city of Dawson Creek can use the treated water for its own needs, such as cleaning roads and irrigating parks. Groundbirch recycles approximately 98% of water used for its operations.

    Read the story: ‘Down the drain… and into energy production’

Treated waste water and produced water

We track low level concentrations of oil, grease and other hydrocarbons within effluents and treated water returned to the environment from the day-to-day running of our facilities (referred to as discharges to surface water). We work to minimise these discharges according to local regulatory requirements and our own standards. Data on our discharges to water is included in our Sustainability Report.

In some places we are able to treat water from our operations using natural processes:

  • Oman field


    For example, in Nimr, Oman, Shell is part of a project that uses reed beds as a natural filter for water brought to the surface during oil production in the desert. The scheme has created the world’s largest constructed wetland, which is now a haven for migratory birds, including flamingos.

    Read the story: 'How nature helped solve an industry challenge'

Soil and groundwater

We assess and carefully manage the risks of potential soil and groundwater contamination.

We investigate known and suspected releases associated with our operations and manage the impact on soil and groundwater according to the most stringent of local regulated standards or Shell global standards.

We conduct scientific research on potential risks from our activities, customer services or products we may use. We share our research findings with government agencies, researchers and other stakeholders to support the development of sustainable risk-based environmental guidelines.

Man using equipment

Working with others

We work with others to improve water management, promote circularity and water efficiency.

We join with top universities and global technology companies, as well as with organisations such as IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance: Shell is part of a consortium with other energy companies that supports water risk assessment tools. These provide a high-level overview of how companies in the oil and gas sector can define, assess and respond to water risks.

With mounting pressure on fresh-water resources in the Netherlands for industry, agriculture, drinking water and nature, Shell is participating in the newly created consortium AquaConnect, to help develop key technologies to safeguard regional water provision.

We are also working with Wetsus, one of the top water research organisations in the Netherlands, on the development of advanced technologies to increase recycling and reuse of water.

Water: what we use

We chart our progress and performance on water in our annual Sustainability Report. Find more information about on progress against our commitments and data on our water use and discharges.


Respecting nature

Our new environmental framework sets out our ambitions for 2030 and later, as well as shorter-term goals.

Circular economy and waste

Our ambition is to use resources and materials efficiently and to increase reuse and recycling.

Air quality

We are helping to improve air quality by reducing emissions from our operations and providing cleaner ways to power transport and industry.


Our ambition is to have a positive impact on biodiversity. Find out what we're doing.