ONEOK uses a variety of sustainable practices to minimize and offset effects our operations and capital-growth projects may have on ecosystems and terrestrial biodiversity.
Our approach to land and water management includes evaluating sites that reduce impacts; activities focused on restoring habitats affected during construction; and assessing water use and opportunities for reduction. Additional focus areas related to conservation include improving natural habitats and public use areas, employing extensive leak detection processes to monitor assets, and implementing programs to manage waste reduction, recycling and energy use.
Facility and pipeline construction planning often requires ONEOK to adopt a scalable approach to site selection and pipeline routing. We are committed to evaluating project sites and pipeline routes designed to minimize the impacts on communities and the environment, while also allowing for economic viability of the project, and safe construction and operation once complete. The environmental evaluation of a proposed project involves identification of high conservation value (HCV) factors within a proposed route that include the following:
Wherever possible, ONEOK refrains from site selection in protected areas and areas of high conservation value. We seek to avoid and minimize impacts to sensitive resources by considering alternate locations or adjusting construction methods and site design.
Preliminary route and site locations undergo extensive environmental reviews and permitting where applicable before construction begins. Our minimization approach is specific to each project and location and may include construction timing restrictions, project alteration, buffered exclusion zones and alternative construction methods. Where possible, we also co-locate projects with existing pipeline routes to limit habitat fragmentation.
Water use, supply and resource conservation are important components of ONEOK’s operations. By assessing water use through benchmarking and monitoring equipment, we identify opportunities for water reduction and reuse; potential inefficiencies across operations, including undetected repairs like buried leaks; and cost savings.
Wherever possible, we strive to minimize water use by reclaiming it in operations processes and construction projects. During hydrostatic testing of new pipeline assets, our project teams reuse water for testing multiple pipe segments or recycle it where appropriate. Water is a valuable resource in the fractionation of NGLs. Our facilities have adopted processes to maximize water efficiency and reduce wastewater generation by recovering water for reuse.
During construction, ONEOK takes proactive steps to assess and lessen potential effects to water resources. This includes a three-tiered conservation approach:
This three-tiered conservation approach was critical during the planning and construction of approximately 1,200 miles of pipeline during 2019 as part of our capital-growth projects in the Rocky Mountains, Mid-Continent and Texas Gulf Coast regions.
ONEOK avoided 60% of the waterbodies and wetlands along planned pipeline routes. This included fully rerouting construction to avoid 922 waterbodies or wetlands, and using trenchless boring technology to install pipe under 342 waterbodies and wetlands without disturbing the environment above. This technique is a common form of avoidance, which greatly reduces potential temporary crossing impacts.
When unable to be avoided, ONEOK uses best management practices designed to minimize any potential temporary impacts of crossing waterbodies and wetlands, including installing barriers to protect sediment from entering the waterbodies and constructing temporary bridges that allow workers and equipment to cross waterbodies with limited impact.
Pipeline system integrity is key to our operational success. ONEOK dedicates considerable resources to the evaluation, development and implementation of leak detection systems.
Leak detection methods are broadly classified into two categories:
Some segments along transmission pipelines have been designated as high consequence areas (HCAs) in accordance with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) guidance and federal regulations. HCAs for hazardous liquid pipelines are defined as populated areas, drinking water sources and unusually sensitive ecological resources. ONEOK has implemented additional hazard assessment and prevention programs for HCAs that help manage asset integrity risks.
We work closely with regulators to develop appropriate mitigation and conservation approaches that serve to offset potential environmental impacts from our projects.
The restoration of habitats that may be affected during the construction of large infrastructure projects remains a key focus, and during 2019 we restored 13,700 acres of habitat. This includes determining the appropriate seed mixes and plant species in the area as well as properly separating topsoil to restore the right of way following construction. ONEOK takes into account landowner concerns during restoration and communicates restoration expectations to contractors.
ONEOK has significantly reduced waste and improved reliability on pipeline construction projects by using an automated multicomponent spray technology to apply epoxy coating to pipe joints. The coating application is necessary to protect welded pipeline connections from corrosion but is traditionally applied by hand, which requires the use of liter pails and single-use application equipment. The spray application technology is faster, more reliable and produces less waste.
Over the past two years, implementing the technology has eliminated:
ONEOK is nearing completion on a multiyear initiative to build a remote monitoring network on our current cathodic protection system, which reduces pipeline corrosion. Installing solar-powered remote monitoring units on pipelines to monitor cathodic protection systems, rather than relying on physical monitoring, has reduced vehicle mileage by approximately 200,000 miles per year and reduced CO2 emissions by 122 tons annually. Remote monitoring also has increased system knowledge by allowing daily monitoring of locations and improved data accuracy.
Continually improving waste reduction and recycling programs helps divert waste from landfills and isimportant to our sustainability efforts.
ONEOK uses a resource management software system to streamline reporting and provide anunderstanding of recycled materials and waste quantities. By analyzing data in the system, we can more easily identify opportunities for reducing waste, recycling materials when possible and improving processes for more sustainable approaches to waste management.
Tracking data in this single software solution has allowed for transparency and visibility in waste volumes and recycling.
For data, visit oneok.com/sustainability/performance-data.