BP, Sunoco & Shell Ranked Greenest Oil Companies in Sustainability Survey

BP oil refinery photo

photo: BP

Most dyed in the hemp TreeHuggers probably don't think that the words 'green' and 'oil company' can rightly be placed next to one another. And they're pretty much right, but there are definite variations among oil companies in regards to their levels of investment in renewable energy, their production operations, and their stance on climate change. Using a rough life-cycle analysis, Greenopia has compiled just how green (or not) various oil companies are:1. BP
Topping the list with an overall score of 1 (best) is BP, which received top marks for its investments in renewable energy, environmental reporting, climate change stance, and greenhouse gas emissions. It did less well in terms of production efficiency and efficiency in addressing oil spills:

BP is subpar in its hazardous waste production and water usage. Water, in particular, was surprising because BP’s consumption has increased greatly over the past few years. This could be due to a shift in certain fuel types in BP’s portfolio (for example, clean diesel requires a lot of water), but still was extremely high versus other companies. Hazardous waste production was also high even after we normalized it against production and/or revenue. However, BP has been decreasing this number over time and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

2. Sunoco
Coming in second place with an overall score of 2 is Sunoco. Greenopia said that Sunoco has the best sustainability reporting of any major oil company, has greatly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions in the past 20 years, is extremely efficient in its water use, and produces less hazardous waste than its competitors. All these got scores of 1.

Knocking Sunoco down a peg was the fact that its investments in renewable energy are seriously lacking and that Sunoco has had a large number of oil spills (volume compared to the industry was not high, but for a company its size, there were many incidents).

3. Shell
Taking the bronze medal is Shell, with a score (appropriately enough) of 3. The only area which Shell earned top scores in is its stance on climate change and pursuit of renewable energy. I question the later, considering recent announcements regarding concentrating on biofuels over past involvement in , but that's that.

Shell earned mid-level scores for its environmental reporting and production efficiency. What stands out with Shell is decreasing water efficiency (tar sands?...), increasing production of hazardous waste, and its number of oil spills:

Shell’s biggest issue is its creation of solid and hazardous waste. Its figures have gotten much worse over time and this is a bit of a concern. Shell is also not very efficient with its water, having one of the worst rated when scaled to production. However the area of biggest concern with Shell is its 820 oil spills in 2007 which were in the neighborhood of 7.5 million liters of oil. When normalized against production, this was the second highest level of any major oil manufacturer in the US. In its defense, though, many of these spills are caused by sabotage in its Nigerian pipelines, but Shell has come under some fire for its support of a militaristic regime in Nigeria. Thus, although no oil source is necessarily great for society and the environment, Shell seems to be even a bit more questionable in this regard. Lastly, although it has shown steady improvement over the past few years, Shell’s GHG emissions are still huge and, when scaled to production, is one of the worst (emissions per barrel of oil equivalent).

The Remainder of the Top 10...
Rounding on the top 10 in Greenopia's rankings are: Hess (4): Other than greenhouse gas emissions, solid if not top marks on everything; Marathon (5): Top marks for oil spill efficiency; Exxon (6): Truly horrendous scores for stance on climate change, investment in renewable energy, and greenhouse gas emissions; ConocoPhilips (7): Awful on oil spills; Chevron (8): pretty terrible on greenhouse gas emissions, production efficiency and oil spills; Valero (9): Tremendously bad oil spill record, pretty bad environmental reporting and production efficiency; Citgo (10): Received the lowest scores possible on everything but oil spill efficiency, where it was in the middle of the pack.

More: Greenopia - Oil Company Rankings
Oil Companies
Greenpeace Stages Greenwashing Awards Ceremony in BP Headquarters
Shell CEO Admits Peak Oil Could Be Here in 7 Years
Who Are They Kidding: Exxon Says Never Doubted Climate Change

Related Content on Treehugger.com