Synopsis of Forum meeting
By Phyl Rendell
The forth meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum took place on 7th March in the Chamber of Commerce. The Forum comprises representatives of the oil industry, environmental organisations and relevant Falkland Islands Government departments. The Forum meets to provide a means for structured formal and informal consultation on proposed and ongoing hydrocarbon exploration and production activities that may affect the natural environment in and around the Falkland Islands.
The meeting largely focussed on the work undertaken by a data gap analysis group which was formed on the advice of previous meetings of the Forum to consider gaps in environmental data and current knowledge with relevance to the hydrocarbons industry.
Rockhopper Exploration Sea Lion Area Environmental Baseline Survey
Andy Duffy gave an overview on the recent Environmental Baseline Surveys undertaken in the Sea Lion Development area of the North Falklands Basin. He advised that the final report is nearly complete and will be circulated shortly. Headlines from the report include the post drilling analysis of the 1998 wells which show minimal contamination, metals and hydrocarbons levels in the area. Marine Mammal Observer and Seabird Observer observation figures are consistent with previous surveys. Acoustic monitoring results have been gathered from the first 4 months of the year-long study. Six whale species have been identified to date and recordings of several whale species were played in the meeting.
Falkland Oil and Gas Limited (FOGL) 2012 South Falklands drilling programme and Marine Mammal and Seabird Observations
Richard Clarke gave a presentation on FOGLs Leiv Eriksson exploration campaign which was completed in late 2012. He reported on the successful drilling of two wells, the Scotia East D well and the Loligo A well. Richard noted the excellent health safety and environment record during drilling, with OSRL training provided to all crew members, no adverse environmental or health impacts, and all hazardous waste being shipped to the UK for disposal. Richard gave an update on the current 3D seismic work being undertaken in their acreage. He noted the hand over to Noble Energy of the northern part of the FOGL licences in March 2013.
Grant Munro gave a presentation on the marine mammal and seabird observations he undertook for FOGL during their recent exploration phase. Regarding the seabird surveys undertaken he outlined the radial count methodology used, the number of species and seabird sightings made and compared these results to previous surveys. Concerning the MMO results he noted the methodology employed, the number of species recorded and the number of animals and sightings. Grant will provide a final report with observations and conclusions regarding possible associations with the drill rig.
It was pointed out that observations from vessels do not provide 100% coverage and some species, such as penguins, can easily be overlooked or missed altogether.
Gap Analysis Headline Results and funding options
Paul Brickle introduced the gap analysis work undertaken to date and noted that the final gap analysis reports would be circulated shortly and that any comments would be welcomed.
Anton Wolfaardt presented the priorities within seabird data gaps. He outlined the highest priority as the need to assess existing data in a level 1 Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) for Falklands waters. Anton also highlighted the need to assess the impacts of light attraction to rigs and support vessels. After a discussion on data analysis Anton noted that penguin species are the most vulnerable species and the hardest to assess. He also noted that increased tracking work will be required at a range of sites to begin to understand seabird foraging habits on a broad scale.
Grant Munro presented priorities regarding marine mammals. He highlighted the need to reassess existing JNCC and observer data on cetacean and pinnipeds in Falklands waters. He also noted the need to standardise observer protocols as well as reviewing seismic Marine Mammal Observer protocols. He also endorsed existing opportunistic surveys on oil exploration vessels.
Paul Brickle presented priorities related to oceanography. He highlighted as high priority the need for fine scale hydrographic data to allow for improved sub-surface monitoring. As a medium priority Paul identified the need to review oceanographic data collected by the oil and fishing industries. A low priority was to ascertain the risks of sub-lethal persistent oil releases.
Paul Brewin presented priorities regarding benthic inshore and offshore research gaps. He identified as a high priority the review of previous data from benthic surveys and Environmental Impact Assessments. He suggested this could be the subject of a one year MSc. A student might be identified through the SAERI. Medium priorities comprise on-going monitoring and post-drilling analysis. Lower priority was attached to the development of an inshore management plan including a risk assessment of habitats and species.
Paul Brickle concluded the session by noting the importance attached to better curation and use of existing environmental data. The newly formed SAERI information management centre was identified as a suitable repository for data.
It was noted by Paul Brickle that the data gap priorities have been now been established, and a mechanism for funding this work needs to be agreed. There was a discussion on this subject and it was noted that FIG should contribute as well as oil companies. It was noted that this will be discussed at the next Forum meeting in September or sooner.
Chair thanked the gap analysis group for all their hard work. She noted that Anton Wolfaardt leaves the Falklands in June and will not be present at the next meeting, and thanked him for his hard work considering data gaps regarding seabird species.
Temporary Port: expressions of interest tender
Ken Humphrey of Premier Oil introduced this item. He pointed out that an expressions of interest tender has been circulated calling for contractor bids to construct a temporary port facility. He noted that in order for Premier Oil to develop the Sea Lion field within their current timings they will require a temporary port facility, as FIPASS is not fit for purpose and the FIG deep water port will not be online for several years. Premier Oil plan to submit an outline planning application later this year. This will be supported by an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) scoping report, which will comprise a desktop and preliminary physical baseline assessment of the impacts of the development. This will be followed by a full application for planning permission supported by a full ESIA to be submitted by the contractor which will include a full baseline assessment of impacts related to the development.
Pipe Bundle production onshore facility
Ken Humphrey introduced this item and Martyn Witton gave a presentation on pipe bundle technology. He outlined the complexities of the technology and introduced the requirements associated with an onshore development of this kind. He noted that Premiers preference is to develop a pipe bundle facility onshore the Falkland Islands. Current technology does allow for the towing of pipes up to 1000km. He noted the development would require roughly 6km of relatively flat land, comprising a 20 metre wide runway and track which would be stone-filled. The facility requires a gentle beach with shallow protected waters where vessels access the pipe and subsequently tow this to site. Also required are access roads and potentially a work camp. A facility of this type would likely employ between 100 and 120 workers and would mostly comprise temporary workers. The facility would be constructed at the beginning of the Sea Lion development, with a one year construction phase. The facility would likely be required for 2 years before decommissioning.
Chair responded to the presentation that she believed there had been a commitment by FIG and industry to minimise the amount of onshore development associated with an oil industry in the Falklands. Chair also noted that this development was not identified in the Plexus Socio-Economic Report regarding the scenarios concerning the Sea Lion Development.