Our oil and gas production operations in PNG take place in some of the most remote and environmentally sensitive regions in the world. Extracting and processing hydrocarbons can pose a risk to the natural environment, so our facilities and management systems have been designed to manage these risks to the lowest level that is reasonably possible.
All our exploration and production activities must meet our environmental performance requirements, which achieve or exceed those outlined in permits or legislation. Our procedure governing environmental management outlines key requirements for implementing this for all Oil Search assets and activities. Our procedures on environmental assessment provide requirements to systematically identify and assess environmental aspects, potential impacts and their related risks throughout the asset/activity lifecycle.
We engage directly with government authorities to understand local environmental laws and guidelines and, where appropriate, contribute to the development of environmental legislation. To minimise the impacts of our activities on the environment and to ensure effective control, all of our drilling, production, processing, refining and export activities in PNG operate under an environmental management system that is certified as ISO 14001 compliant.
Air quality management
Air emissions such as NOx, SOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can significantly impact the environment. They primarily arise from the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, kerosene and diesel. We are committed to monitoring and reducing our impacts on ambient air quality.
We conduct regular monitoring of ambient air quality, meteorological characteristics affecting pollutant dispersion and other sources of emissions to ensure we don’t exceed air quality thresholds defined by legislation.
During the planning and design phase, we assess the potential air quality impacts of all new projects and modifications to existing facilities. Our procedure on environmental management ensures we don’t buy any ozone depleting substances and we are phasing out the use of existing stock.
In addition to air emissions, we regularly monitor noise, dust and odour to avoid environmental nuisance.
Waste, effluents and spills management
Underdeveloped supporting infrastructure, limited access to recycling and disposal facilities and unestablished regulation and legal procedures in PNG makes waste processing and disposal challenging. We therefore work towards reducing the volume of waste we produce and to continually improve our processes for managing the storage, handling, transportation and disposal of waste produced by Oil Search activities.
We are committed to reducing the volume of waste we produce and incinerate. Our procedures on environmental management identify the minimum acceptable strategy, methods and hierarchy of controls for all stages of waste production, management and disposal. Our on-site management processes help people to segregate waste into different disposal streams, including incineration, landfill, compost, recycling and reuse.
We have strict handling processes for hazardous waste such as medical waste, battery acid storage and sewage effluents. These are managed and disposed of in accordance with the principles of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. We provide regular training for waste management personnel and conduct site-wide waste management awareness campaigns.
The volume and quality parameters for off-site discharges in PNG are set and monitored by the environmental regulator and are included in our environmental permits.
For Oil Search, oil spill preparedness and response is a cross-disciplinary activity that starts with robust planning. All our facilities and operational practices and procedures are designed to reduce the risk and impact of spills and ensure an effective emergency response. Our ongoing approach comprises engineering and process improvements underpinned by a culture of operational awareness and engagement. We also conduct routine inspections to ensure potential sources of spills and releases are appropriately managed.
We ensure site-specific pollution prevention and containment facilities are incorporated into site design. This includes storing hydrocarbons, hazardous chemicals, fuels and lubricants within designated containment facilities and making sure response mechanisms and equipment such as spill kits are available and functioning. We store any on-site chemicals in accordance with the relevant material safety data sheet (MSDS), manufacturers’ recommendations and legislation.
Although we have no producing offshore wells, we manage marine spill risks at our terminal facilities and near water bodies through strict hydrocarbon transfer processes. Marine spill response equipment is maintained onshore at our supply base in Kopi.
Water use and extraction
We recognise the importance of local water resources to associated ecosystems and host communities, so we seek to reduce our consumption and manage our use of water in a sustainable manner.
The most significant water risks we face relate principally to over-extraction or groundwater contamination, both of which could affect the use of water by the environment and communities. Most of our PNG operations are carried out in areas of karst limestone, where groundwater systems interconnect with surface streams and rivers that provide water to host communities.
To manage water-related risks, we develop water balance models and undertake flow gauging before extracting water. This helps us identify the maximum sustainable volume of water that can be extracted without impacting the environment or downstream users. We conduct ecological effects assessments at surface water extraction locations and establish pollution controls at potential pollution sources.
All the Company’s water extraction and discharge activities are subject to regulatory approval and review. The environmental regulator sets and monitors water quality criteria, which are included in our environmental permits. To ensure our impacts have been minimised and we maintain compliance, the water quality surrounding our areas of activity is regularly monitored — both upstream and downstream — throughout a drilling activity and after it has ceased and regularly for all our permanent operational sites.
We include mitigation and management measures in our environmental management plans for each location and tailor them to the associated activities. We also monitor how water usage in our camps and for fire-fighting impacts the surface water sources we share with communities, especially during droughts.
Biodiversity protection and site rehabilitation
While Oil Search’s operations in PNG extend over large areas of high biodiversity value, our physical footprint is small. We actively work to manage any impacts we may have, recognising that these ecosystems support a variety of species and contribute to the livelihood and sustenance of local communities.
We are committed to minimising our impacts on biodiversity by ensuring we understand and respond proactively to biodiversity risks. Oil Search has a formal position for entry into sensitive areas which includes areas with high biodiversity value; areas providing life-sustaining ecosystems; and areas with high cultural heritage significance. Comprehensive requirements for identifying and managing this is integrated into our procedures on environmental assessment and management.
In 2016, a biodiversity risk assessment of our licence and adjoining areas identified the following key biodiversity risks:
- Habitat reduction from land clearing,
- Habitat degradation resulting from the spread of pests and weeds,
- Local species extinction due to increased hunting, and
- Reduced availability of resources for flora and fauna caused by increasing human population.
To better assess these risks at specific locations, we undertake baseline studies for all new projects to gather information about key aspects of the local ecology such as the presence of rare and threatened flora, fauna and habitats as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. We use the results to ensure we adopt appropriate management and mitigation measures to protect biodiversity value.
Where potential impacts to biodiversity are identified, we implement measures to avoid the impact (including repositioning of infrastructure) through a Site Specific Environmental Management Plan. if avoidance is not practicable, we implement the mitigation hierarchy of minimise, mitigate and, where necessary, offset.
Biodiversity is protected during our operations by implementing erosion control, invasive species management and land rehabilitation. We conduct revegetation surveys at disturbed sites and have routine invasive species monitoring and weed-control programmes.
Effectively rehabilitating any land disturbed by our activity is essential for reducing our overall environmental impact and protecting our social licence to operate. The baseline environmental study identifies and informs suitable rehabilitation measures which are included in an Environmental Management Plan. To ensure the Plan meets or exceeds our permit or legislative requirements and is consistent with community and government needs and expectations, we liaise with local landowners and regulators to agree on the management principles and rehabilitation outcomes.
These measures help ensure we remain prepared for any future changes in legislation such as more restrictive biodiversity laws or the introduction of mandatory biodiversity offsets, and continue to meet changing investor and other stakeholder expectations.
We actively engage with the PNG Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA). We also work with local communities to protect and enhance the biodiversity of their land.