We continuously monitor environmental performance across our operations and endeavor to meet or exceed all applicable laws and regulations in an effort to minimize environmental impacts. We are committed to a year-over-year reduction in federally reportable releases as we strive toward our goal of zero incidents.
Our Health, Safety and Environment department consists of more than 180 environmental professionals who follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) continuous improvement cycle, a foundational element of our Operations Management System. Using PDCA, we regularly review existing work practices and improvement opportunities in environmental performance.
Other highlights that demonstrate our commitment to environmentally responsible operations include:
- Since 2005, Plains has invested more than $4 billion to maintain and improve the integrity of our assets in the U.S. and Canada.
- During that same time, we have removed from service thousands of miles of pipeline that do not meet our integrity standards, and have constructed thousands of miles of new pipeline built to meet or exceed industry standards.
- We take extra steps to ensure the quality of the steel pipe used in our pipeline construction projects. Newly manufactured line pipe is first inspected before leaving the mill; the pipe is again inspected prior to, during and after it is welded; and finally, the pipe is inspected prior to being placed into operation to ensure our pipelines meet our integrity and safety standards before being placed into service.
Our Environmental Policy is underpinned by our Core Values and endorsed by our senior management. Plains is committed to assessing and protecting the environmental, cultural and ecological resources where we live and work.
- Through the design and construction of our assets, we strive to minimize impacts to the environment through careful consideration of the concerns of stakeholders, including private landowners and state/provincial and federal regulatory entities.
- In operating our assets, our goal is to establish and maintain balance with, and sensitivity to, the surrounding natural environment. We strive to preserve air and water quality, wildlife and their habitats, and traditional land and resource use.
This life cycle commitment—minimizing significant disturbances, mitigating impacts to the environment, and enhancing biodiversity where possible—promotes a focus on identifying and employing practices and protections that avoid undue impacts to the environment.
Plains’ commitment to sustainability stems directly from our Core Values. We recognize the inherent risks associated with energy transportation, and we demonstrate this understanding through our commitments to (i) safety and the environment in the communities in which we operate and (ii) communications/partnerships with and among our stakeholders. Plains strives to promote sustainability through transparent business practices and responsible use of our resources, and we seek to establish relationships within communities to participate in county, state, provincial and federal initiatives to protect and enhance the environment.
Safe Construction Techniques
Prior to construction of our assets, we frequently meet with area first responders to educate them on the project and answer questions. Before beginning construction, we regularly evaluate new construction techniques that can lessen the impact of construction or lower the risk of future incidents. Our new construction risk mitigation efforts include:
- Pipe that is manufactured and inspected to exceed American Petroleum Institute (API) 5L pipe specifications
- Inspection of pipe mill orders
- Welds that meet API 1104 standards
- X-ray examination of all pipeline welds to verify integrity prior to placing the line into service
- Depth of cover that generally exceeds requirements
- Hydrotesting lines before they are placed into service
- In-line inspections of lines within one year of in-service date
Where a pipeline route crosses sensitive areas—such as significant water crossings or cultural resources—horizontal directional drilling or boring is often used to bury the line dozens of feet below the surface. This allows the surface to remain undisturbed and reduces the likelihood of an incident during the operation of the pipeline.
Following completion of construction activities, the right of way will be restored as close as possible to its original state. Right-of-way agreements with property owners vary, but may include efforts such as re-seeding the soil or repairs to fencing.
Plains’ primary business involves the transportation and storage of crude oil and natural gas liquids. Greenhouse gas (GHG) compound concentrations in crude oil and natural gas liquids are very low and are therefore not considered to be a significant source of direct GHG emissions. The bulk of Plains’ potential GHG emissions are associated with our natural gas processing and storage assets. A small portion of our potential GHG emissions are associated with hydrocarbon combustion in engines (truck engines, pump engines, generator engines and combustion-based emission control devices). Where possible, we try to avoid GHG emissions associated with combustion sources (such as pump and compressor engines and generators) through the use of electric motors—which source electricity from local utilities—as opposed to hydrocarbon-fueled engines. GHG emissions from truck transport engines are minimized through a preventive maintenance program that ensures our trucks are properly tuned and maintained, including proper maintenance of exhaust and emission control systems. At the limited number of asset locations where GHG emissions (including CO2, Methane and N2O) meet reporting thresholds, Plains complies with the associated measuring and reporting requirements.
Energy Consumption Management and Efficiencies
Plains is committed to responsible energy use. Our Energy Management group tracks energy use across the company and identifies energy conservation or optimization opportunities. Energy reduction investments and initiatives that are overseen by the team include:
- Participation in demand response programs and curtailments during peak periods
- Use of flow improvers (drag reducing agents) in our pipelines to reduce power consumption
- Ongoing reviews and optimization of our power portfolio
- Review of pipeline operations and equipment to improve our operational efficiency