The benefits of on-site composting for the  oil and gas industry’s ESG performance

a picture taken at sunset of an oil refinery

In recent years, the oil and gas space has been placed under greater scrutiny when it comes to its ESG (environmental, social, and governance) performance.

Growing public awareness around the industry’s environmental impact has led to heightened demand for more responsible operations. Global regulations are also constantly changing — forcing organisations to keep pace with sustainability requirements, or risk facing penalties both financially and reputationally. With these shifts, investors’ appetites for more sustainable partnerships are growing too.

Recognising the need to widen the net, and do more to bring ESG to the top of the industry’s agenda, forward-thinking oil and gas companies have learnt that better food waste management plays a significant role in boosting long-term success.

Here, our sales manager and food waste management expert, Huw Crampton, elaborates…

Why is food waste a problem for the oil and gas industry?

With catering services provided for employees during drilling and construction phases, oil and gas projects can generate large volumes of food waste. Of course, the environmental impact of sending this to landfill — releasing methane when it decomposes, and degrading ecosystems due to high energy use — means alternative disposal methods need to be considered.

But with these oilfield sites often in remote locations, this can be logistically tricky.

Not only can initial collections be costly, but the price can increase tenfold if the food waste streams are contaminated with other materials. Plus, if rotting scraps attract pests or vermin, health and safety risks can add a new dynamic to food waste management — spreading disease, fostering unsanitary conditions, and even creating dangerous potential for encounters with wildlife.

On-site food waste composting or drying can not only significantly reduce the amount of wastage produced by oilfield canteens, but also bring a range of benefits for ESG performance. 

Minimising food waste volumes

On-site composting can reduce food waste volumes by transforming organic waste into nutrient-rich compost, through a natural biological process — which involves breaking down food waste using microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. 

The compost produced can then be used to enhance soil health and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers. Plus, by diverting food waste from landfills, on-site composting reduces the amount of waste that needs to be transported and disposed of, thereby decreasing associated disposal costs and environmental impacts.

Industrial drying processes can prove equally critical here. With this method, oilfield sites can convert their food waste into an inert, odourless powder — reducing its moisture content and weight by up to 90%, and reducing the risk of attracting vermin. Plus, this dehydrated deposit can even be used as a valuable biomass resource.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Methane has a global warming potential 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame, so reducing methane emissions is a crucial way to mitigate the effects of climate change within oil and gas operations. By composting food waste on-site, companies can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and thus reduce associated pollution.

Supporting a circular economy

On-site composting supports the circular economy by creating a closed-loop system, where food waste is transformed into a valuable resource, which can be used to augment soil health and support healthy plant growth. This can prove critical in the oil and gas industry — helping to reduce its reliance on virgin materials and support the use of sustainable resources.

Improving soil health

Additionally, the nutrient-rich resource produced via composting can be used to improve soil health. This can lead to increased carbon sequestration in the soil — which is essentially removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil’s organic matter for extended periods of time. This helps to further mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Maximising soil health by adding nutrients, enhancing its structure, and increasing microbial activity, composting is an effective and sustainable way to promote healthy plant growth and increase crop yields. 

This can be particularly valuable in the oil and gas industry, where soil can be damaged during drilling and construction activities, by preventing land degradation and contamination. Plus, by increasing vegetation growth and biodiversity, organisations can help to mitigate the impact of their activities on the environment.

Enhancing corporate social responsibility

By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, such practices can also play a leading role in enhancing the oil and gas industry’s corporate social responsibility. This is a must for companies looking to improve their ESG performance, enhance their reputation among customers and stakeholders, and gain greater investment opportunities.

Reducing costs

Reducing waste disposal fees and potentially generating revenue from the sale of nutrient-rich resources, on-site composting can help oil and gas companies to improve their bottom line at the same time as supporting their sustainability goals.

While often overlooked, financial performance is a key part of the ESG puzzle. Organisations that implement cost-saving measures demonstrate strong governance principles, and can significantly improve their bottom line — leading to increased profitability and shareholder value. This, in turn, can enhance a company’s reputation and attractiveness to investors, who are increasingly interested in sustainable investments that align with ESG principles.

How can oil and gas companies successfully implement on-site food waste composting and drying?

Despite the benefits, some oilfield sites may be hesitant to implement on-site composting due to concerns about odour, pests, and space limitations. However, with proper management and design, these concerns can be mitigated.

To boost strategy success, organisations should consider the following factors:

Site selection and design: The location for composting should be away from sensitive areas, and be designed to minimise odour and pest issues. The premises should also have adequate space to accommodate the volume of food waste generated by the oil field canteen.

Proper waste segregation: To ensure the quality of the compost, it is essential to segregate food waste from other waste streams — such as plastics and metals. This can be achieved through employee training and clear labelling of waste bins.

Monitoring and management: Regular monitoring of the compost pile is necessary to ensure proper decomposition, as well as prevent odour and pest-related issues. The compost pile should be turned regularly to promote proper aeration and decomposition too.

Food waste drying: By shredding and evaporating the water from the waste, oilfield sites can dehydrate their organic matter and convert it into a dried, sterile, and stabilised powder. As well as reducing the volume and weight of food wastes by up to 90%, this helps to divert produce from landfills, and minimises disposal costs. And because this deposit is odourless, it offers peace of mind if vermin-related concerns remain.

By reducing food waste volumes and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, as well supporting soil health and the circular economy, on-site composting and drying can help the oil and gas industry mitigate the impact of its activities on the environment and enhance its ESG strategy. At the same time, it can also help them to significantly reduce disposal costs.

If you’d like to speak to one of our specialists about how the oil and gas industry can augment its ESG performance with on-site composting, get in touch today. Alternatively, check out our library of related case studies.