Oil spills 1 Oil spills are defined as hydrocarbon liquid spills that reach the environment. are a critical environmental issue for our industry. Spills management is defined as the prevention of spills in operations and other spills (e.g., caused by sabotage or natural hazards) and the management and remediation of spills resulting from an incident.

Stakeholders with major concerns relating to potential impacts stemming from spills are as follows:

  • Government authorities: potential breaches of environmental regulations
  • Employees and contractors: potential health and safety issues arising from accidents and damage to the environment and society
  • /: potential damage to the environment and society
  • Society: damage to the surrounding environment
  • Shareholders: direct financial losses due to the costs of remediation measures and reputational risks

Spill Prevention

Spill prevention and control measures include:

  • Hazard identification and risk assessment
  • Preventive measures and maintenance to avoid leaks
  • Emergency response and contingency plans including materials and equipment for spill intervention
  • Cleanup and remediation procedures

We aim to prevent and reduce oil spills and leakage in our operations at sea as well as on land. Appropriate spill prevention and control plans that account for specific business conditions have been put in place. We conduct the spill response according to a plan which identifies appropriate resources (persons in charge and intervention materials) and expertise. It assists on-site personnel with dealing with spills by clearly setting out the responsibilities for the actions necessary to stop and contain the spill and to mitigate its effects. This includes techniques for preventing the spill from moving beyond the immediate site and collecting the spilled substance and contaminated material. Clear communication and coordination protocols are set out in the local plans, particularly where national or international response resources may be required.

We have a Well Integrity Management System in place, and detailed Hazard and Operability () and Hazard Identification () studies have been conducted for all of our wells. We also carry out regular oil spill response drills and training. In addition, we rely on third-party support for capping and containment, surface clean-up, and emergency management.

In 2020, OMV Petrom continued to improve the Pipeline Integrity Management Program, even during challenging times. New and existing risks were prioritized using the Pipeline Integrity Management System software. The highest-ranked pipelines were targeted for complete or sectional replacement, again ensuring that our pipeline integrity efforts focus on the locations where the greatest risks exist. We also continued developing corrosion management plans for our high-risk pipelines along with projects to install “pig launchers and receivers” to enable cleaning and internal inspection of these pipelines. External coatings and cathodic protection are now mandatory for all new metallic pipelines in accordance with OMV Group and OMV Petrom standards and procedures. A pipeline inspection program is in place and functional for all pipelines with capability for internal inspection. The program is managed and planned in SAP (Computerized Maintenance Management System). The Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) Program for Upstream facilities had to be put on hold for 2020 due to COVID-19. However, we plan to increase the number by an additional 15 to 35 HAZOP studies in 2021. A leak detection and repair program using infrared detection cameras was also established and rolled out with its execution planned in CMMS. Retrofits of existing assets are now underway in some assets as are projects that reduce the number of facilities, thus reducing our carbon footprint.

OMV has developed a Corrosion Management Framework () to provide a proactive and consistent approach to corrosion monitoring and management across the entire OMV Group. Covering the full life cycle of the equipment exposed to the risk of corrosion in both oil and gas facilities from the well to the sales point, this framework encompasses the entire value chain of our business. A team of 30 in-house experts with multidisciplinary and multicultural backgrounds are working to embed CMF principles into everyday operations.

The majority of our oil spills involve OMV Petrom Upstream, where we concentrate our efforts to safeguard and maintain our infrastructure and to improve the reliability of our facilities.

Spill Remediation

Hydrocarbon spills are assessed and cleaned up immediately after their occurrence in accordance with internal procedures governing spill remediation. Leaks are repaired immediately or within defined time frames in accordance with the site’s maintenance processes and based on the risk assessment outcome and other factors, such as feasibility of repair during operation. In order to strengthen our response to and reduce the environmental impact of oil spills, we continued to perform emergency drills, including pollution scenarios. We approach remediation measures in line with the relevant legal requirements, which include clean-up, restoration, rehabilitation, and/or replacement of damaged environmental receptors. Due to the very effective and efficient cleaning and remediation techniques applied, oil spills recorded at OMV by 2020 had only a minor short-term impact on the environment.

We ensured that the affected land was fit for the intended use by implementing remediation measures including cleaning up spills (e.g., by excavation and clean earth filling) as well as relying on natural attenuation (recovery) based on the respective decision of the environmental authorities. Provisions are recognized in our accounts for the liabilities related to spills and cover cleaning and remediation costs.

Total Volume of Spills


Total Volume of Spills (bar chart)

Oil Spill Performance

In 2020, we recorded no major hydrocarbon spill (2019: one major spill).

In 2020, 2,390 minor releases occurred (2019: 2,046). Total hydrocarbon spillage was around 41.4 m3 (2019: around 56.6 m3). 2 Excluding Borealis Spills and leaks were mainly due to the corrosion of aging infrastructure.

Pellet Spills

Plastic pellets released unintentionally during production, transportation, conversion, and recycling can end up in streams, rivers, and oceans. Preventing spillage is a core responsibility for the industry. Borealis is committed to achieving zero pellet loss in and around its operations and was therefore an early signatory to Operation Clean Sweep® (), an international program initiated by the Society of the Plastics Industry and the American Chemistry Council and rolled out in Europe by PlasticsEurope. Borealis is also a signatory of the “Zero Pellet Loss” pact in Austria, which is the Austrian equivalent to OCS. Achieving zero pellet loss is a continuous journey and requires leadership, effort, investment, and targeted and effective work practices.

In 2020, the OCS requirements newly developed by PlasticsEurope were used as the basis for audits of all Borealis polyolefin locations. The audits confirmed that Borealis’ locations in general live up to the requirements that will be the basis for the certification scheme. Nevertheless, there are still some gaps to be closed before all locations can be certified to the soon-to-be-released OCS standard.

Borealis’ upgraded state-of-the-art water treatment system in Schwechat, Austria, became fully operational in 2020 as well. The EUR 6 investment in the novel filtering system at production facilities in Schwechat further minimizes the risk of plastic pellet loss. As there was no off-the-shelf technology available to suit the needs and expectations of this location, the solution was custom-built with the help of university partners and technology providers.

1 Oil spills are defined as hydrocarbon liquid spills that reach the environment.

2 Excluding Borealis

non-governmental organization
non-profit organization
Hazard and Operability
Hazard Identification
Computerized Maintenance Management System
Corrosion Management Framework
cubic meter
Operation Clean Sweep