What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic process to identify the baseline conditions in a project and surrounding area before it commences, predicts and evaluates the potential environmental impacts, whether positive or negative, of the proposed project actions, in order to aid decision making regarding the significant environmental consequences of the project.
What is an Environmental Management Plan?
An Environmental Management Plan (EMP) is a site specific plan outlining agreed performance criteria and all measures that are necessary in order to minimise and mitigate potential impacts to the environment while complying with all aspects of environmental legislation. It defines respective roles and responsibilities and identifies appropriate emergency preparedness and responses. The EMP serves as a measuring tool for the government to assess the environmental performance of the project.
What is an Oil Spill Contingency Plan?
An Oil Spill Contingency Plan (OSCP) is a roadmap that outlines the steps that should be taken before, during and after an accidental oil spill to control, contain and clean up the spill from the environment. The OSCP will describe the regional shoreline sensitivities, the local and international support infrastructure such as ports and airports, oil spill risk scenarios and oil spill trajectory modelling, available oil response equipment in the project and surrounding project areas (on-board and onshore), notification procedures, communications systems and the organisational structure. Obviously it is the desire and intention of all parties involved NOT to have a spill of any kind and to ensure containment is assured throughout the project, but it is an obligation for all those involved to ensure an appropriate response should there be an incident – no matter how small or apparently insignificant.
What is the difference between a blow out and a kick?
A kick is the entry of formation fluid (i.e. salt water, gas, oil or a mixture) into the well bore while drilling normally controlled by the fluid systems and equipment utilised. A blow out is when the formation fluid from a kick overpowers employed systems and equipment, resulting in surges in well bore pressure. The outcome of which means more fluids will be flowing out from the well than is being pumped into the well to overcome the pressures. At this time normal emergency procedures cut in and protection equipment is deployed.
What is a Blowout Preventer?
A Blowout Preventer (BOP) is a large, specialised valve used to control excessive wellbore pressures by either closing over an open wellbore, sealing around drill pipe and drilling string in the well or by more dramatically using steel shearing surfaces (rams) to cut through drill pipe in order to seal the wellbore. This control equipment has normally multiple fail-safe systems with two rams each operated electrically and hydraulically. More recently double BOP systems have been deployed which effectively has two BOP’s sitting above the well bore.
What are the functions of a drilling fluid?
There are multiple functions of a drilling fluid, more commonly known as mud, but most importantly it is there to: lubricate, cool and clean the drill bit; circulate cuttings out of the wellbore for identification and analysis; and, control pressures and prevent the uncontrolled inflow of formation fluids.
What type of drilling fluids will be used for the project?
The Company intends to use water (i.e. seawater) as the basis for its drilling fluids. In certain operating situations there are options to use synthetic-based drilling fluids, but currently there are no plans to use synthetic drilling fluids. If, due to technical or safety reasons its use becomes unavoidable; a strict policy of ‘total containment’ will apply for the duration of its use across the whole rig. Synthetic drilling fluids and all mud will be contained and shipped to shore to certified facilities for recycling by the vendor. It should be noted that oil-based fluids will not be used for drilling at any time. Notwithstanding these restrictions, all chemicals used during any operations will be selected on the basis that they are ‘environmentally friendly’ and low toxicity selected using the internationally recognised OSPAR classification for chemicals (OSPAR Oslo/Paris commissions emerged following a growing general awareness of the potential dangers of pollution following a number of serious oil tanker incidents.) Thus, all containers will be classified using a green and yellow designation to be tracked and accounted for. No chemicals designated as red and black under this system are intended to be used throughout the whole operation.
How would one determine what exists on the seabed near the drill site and prior to any drilling?
A high resolution sea bottom survey using Multibeam and 3D seismic techniques has been used to capture the natural and man-made sea bottom features within a wide project area. Such a survey allows the Company to determine the accurate presence of the following:
- seabed topography and relief
- sea grass beds
- communication cables
- cold water corals
- gas vents and natural oil seeps
- archaeological features
- benthic communities
- fishing spawning grounds
This work has been translated into an environmental sensitivity map to be used throughout the project to direct activity. Once a drill rig is on site, further verification and a detailed visual inspection will take place using a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV).
Roberta Quant, Environmental Scientist
All indications suggest the presence of potentially giant fields within the licence area, however all exploration activities must be conducted with due regard to minimising any environmental impact and with a view to future sustainability