Managing resources responsibly
Our oil and gas operations 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 reasonably possible. More information on our environmental management approach is on our website.
Managing our environmental impacts
Our facilities in PNG were impacted significantly by the 2018 earthquake. Inspection of production assets indicated the integrity of our infrastructure had been maintained and there was no loss of containment of hydrocarbons. Inspection of our drilling operations identified an unintended release of chemicals stored in a tank (benign saline solution) as a result of a landslide. This resulted in a release of 67,407L and was low impact and within the permitted discharge limit and material type prescribed by the Company’s environment permit.
The number of spills (>1bbl) that reached the environment in 2018 increased to nine, compared to five in 2017. Three of these incidents were attributed to damage caused by the earthquake in our non-production facilities and the remainder were due to increased transportation activity involving the movement of liquids and mechanical faults. A performance improvement plan was developed in late 2018 to monitor our spills performance and implement actions to minimise reoccurrences.
After the earthquake, we strengthened governance around managing the environmental impacts associated with our activities by re-introducing a High Priority Tracker. The Tracker consolidates and prioritises requirements from our environmental permit, our operational plan and findings from periodic ISO 14001 audits, and act as a consistent and effective management tool for prioritising and managing actions. The Tracker was commended by independent external auditors during our most recent environmental management system audit (ISO 14001:2015), which was completed in November 2018 with no major non-conformances reported.
In 2018, we signed a waste management facility-sharing agreement with ExxonMobil that facilitates shared access to waste-processing facilities. The agreement will achieve efficiency gains through increased capacity, improved waste management and reduced maintenance and transportation costs.
During the year, the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum established an Environmental Committee, and Oil Search is an active participant. Comprised of environmental managers from a number of resources companies in PNG, the Committee acts as a local industry body for environmental matters and facilitates collaboration between peers to review issues and provide technical feedback.
In Alaska, we conducted numerous field-based environmental studies on water, air and fauna to ensure our ice roads had a minimal impact on the environment. We also initiated an air monitoring programme to develop a baseline to ensure that air emissions associated with the winter drilling season were minimised and did not impact local communities. As part of the programme, air emissions reduction initiatives were implemented, including one on drilling rig generators, to limit air emissions from both generators and testing equipment.
Strategic biodiversity management
Oil Search actively works to mitigate our impacts on biodiversity by recognising that these ecosystems support a variety of species and contribute to the sustenance of local communities.
In 2018, we continued bringing together our initiatives under a Biodiversity Strategy that is currently being developed. This will provide a strategic framework for preserving biodiversity value in our operational areas. Once finalised, the Strategy will focus our efforts on ensuring biodiversity values are adequately identified and considered through the implementation of a management hierarchy of ‘avoid, minimise, mitigate and offset’.
During the year, Oil Search’s Eastern Fold Belt seismic programme completed phase one of its activities in the protected Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area of PNG. We actively engaged local communities and obtained permission from the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area Committee for this activity. An evaluation of the implications of working within this protected area was undertaken, and our seismic work was determined to be a low biodiversity risk. A site-specific Environmental Management Plan with stringent environmental requirements applies to this programme and is supported by ongoing risk assessments.
Engaging over our Alaskan footprint
As part of the requirements of Oil Search’s proposed development in Alaska, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluated potential environmental and social impacts associated with the Nanushuk Oil Development project in accordance with relevant regulatory requirements. Oil Search actively participated in the EIS by providing detailed information and commissioning background environmental studies. These included an analysis of potential environmental impacts and the proposed avoidance and mitigation measures that have been incorporated into our project design.
Developing the EIS created opportunities for North Slope Alaska Natives and the wider community to provide information on local resources, voice concerns, and understand potential impacts. The EIS was completed in early November 2018 and a decision on the permit approval is anticipated to be made by the regulator in early 2019.
In 2018, Oil Search began acquiring all the necessary permits and approvals for conducting a multi-well winter appraisal drilling campaign in the Pikka Unit. This included approximately 50 different permits/approvals from a range of different State and Federal regulators, including those responsible for environment, natural resources and conservation and fauna.
Since the drilling locations were located on land owned by traditional Indigenous owners, Oil Search proactively engaged with the recognised local village corporation (Kuukpik Corporation), to secure appropriate levels of approval from the recognised landowner.