We understand our responsibility to be careful stewards of the land.
Throughout our operations, we focus on a systematic approach to caring for the land – from environmental assessments during our exploration activities, to wildlife and vegetation protection during production, to planning and implementing reclamation activities when drilling is complete. Our business units take a proactive approach to understanding the assets we own and/or operate, to assess both associated risks and potential opportunities. This involves a team approach, in which staff from Operations, Asset Integrity, Facilities, Engineering and HSE come together to identify priority sites for review. This may result in improvements to our internal processes or technologies, and to external elements such as updating community signage. These reviews are benefitting from the ever-increasing power of mapping and imaging technology, and from traditional observation techniques such as aircraft surveillance of pipeline routes, along with the personal observations from our staff as they visit these sites.
The following examples represent just a few of the related activities that we undertake.
Reducing Impacts on Communities
We carefully consider issues such as traffic, noise, dust, light, and flora/fauna impacts in our development and operations activities. We work with local residents and independent environmental groups to help reduce our impact. This includes early engagement with local communities through town hall sessions and other communications avenues to discuss our full development plans, and listen to any concerns, questions or feedback that is provided to help shape our plans. For more detail on our stakeholder engagement, see our Report section.
Reducing Surface Footprint
Wherever possible, we reduce our footprint on the land by re-using existing well sites, flow lines and surface facilities to support development. This reduces the aerial impact of our operations and removes the need for the construction of new well sites or pipelines.
In Canada and the United States, we often employ the use of horizontal wells. Where sub-surface geometries are conducive, we program these wells from a single surface location or pad, with up to eight wells being drilled from a single location. Pad drilling reduces the aerial extent of the well site, surface facilities, pipelines and roads: a single vertical well may have a surface impact of approximately 1.7 hectares, while an eight-well pad surface impact is only about 0.5 hectares per well. We also use this horizontal approach in France, in the Neocomian, Champotran and Vulaines fields.
This reduction in surface footprint is amplified by the longer horizontal lengths of wells. In the past, one pad site would have developed about 20 sub-surface hectares (1,400 metres in horizontal length); today, we can develop 1,000 hectares from a single pad site (up to 3,000 metres of horizontal length).
Our Pembina stacked play in Canada has the added environmental benefit of being able to share surface infrastructure, such as roads, pipelines and processing facilities between several different geological plays. This higher well density reduces driving distances, and therefore emissions associated with development, monitoring and maintenance of wells. It also optimizes equipment and energy used during development and maintenance of productive reservoirs.
In The Netherlands we also re-used existing well sites and well bores, which reduces the need for constructing new sites or pipelines. In addition, all our lease sites are sealed with asphalt to isolate them from the groundwater table. We collect rainwater that falls on our lease sites in a series of berms, gutters and storage systems so we can confirm that it is safe to release back to the environment.
In Australia, our leading edge use of horizontal drilling and the re-use of existing well sites also reduces disturbance of the sea floor and impact on marine life.
Wherever possible, we support local biodiversity efforts, from analyzing the marine environment off Wandoo to protecting ungulates such as deer and elk during critical winter months in Alberta. 304-1
In Ireland, we released our 2021-2026 Corrib Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) in 2021, following the successful implementation of the earlier 5-year plan from 2014 to 2019 (extended through 2020 due to COVID-19). This work included ecological monitoring, wetland construction, habitat enhancement, species planting, and collaboration with ecological organizations.
As reported in the first BAP, in 2011 Corrib was chosen, amongst others, as a pilot case for the testing of the No Net Loss (NNL) and Net Positive Impact (NPI) principles for the Shell Group. The study was conducted by the Biodiversity Consultancy, which took all project elements into consideration and found that “without any existing NNL policy, best practice at Corrib has resulted in a project design which is predicted to be Net Neutral or Net Positive for biodiversity by 2020”. This has been borne out by the positive effects from habitat enhancement and diversification measures that are already becoming evident, with wetland creation attracting a range of invertebrate species, for example, and leading to an increase in recorded bat species. Similarly, the extensive planting of native species of deciduous trees and shrubs planting is beginning to show positive effects in terms of observed invertebrate diversity.
In France, thanks to a request from a local beekeeper, honey is now harvested from our Saint-Méry battery site. Our site is a strategic location for beehives due to the presence of many fruit trees and acacias that are favourable to the proper development of the hives. The eight hives were placed in a small grove mainly composed of acacias, to position the bees as close as possible to flowers around which they can forage, thus optimizing the quantity and quality of the honey produced. The bee chosen is part of the “Buckfast” species, which is particularly hardy and renowned to be minimally aggressive. 304-2
Also in France, Vermilion was honored to sign the Natura 2000 Charter in 2019 for the “Zones humides d’arrières dunes des Pays de Born et de Buch” site in Gastes (Landes). This site includes a chain of large lakes and their main tributaries in Northern Landes and Southern Gironde. As part of our preparation for committing to Natura 2000, Vermilion replaced phytosanitary products with mechanical brushing and mowing to maintain our lakeside platforms in the region.
In Netherlands, we actively use ecological monitoring on our drill sites, including motion cameras and on-site personal inspections. This has confirmed that in our three recent drills, wildlife activities such as breeding were not disturbed for a variety of species, including badgers, bats and various species of birds. This monitoring allowed us to take proactive steps to ensure the protection of the habitat, including rescheduling work and mitigating light “scatter.” Images from wildlife cameras at one of our locations can be found here; these included known species (roe deer, hare) but also visitors less common in winter (foxes, stone martens, otter). These observations have been placed in the National Database of Flora and Fauna.
In Australia, Vermilion led the effort to develop the regional oiled wildlife response capability necessary to effectively manage the impact of a large oil spill on wildlife. We funded the necessary equipment (a rapid response unit that would receive, assess and treat oiled wildlife) and training, created a register of wildlife responders, and developed “at call” capacity for support specialists. To enable all-industry access, we subsequently donated this equipment to the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre, which is funded by the Australia Upstream and Downstream Industry group, which includes Vermilion. This initial investment and follow-up support from Vermilion has enhanced oiled wildlife response within Western Australia. While we hope there is never a reason to use this equipment, we are proud to have meaningfully increased the spill response capabilities of industry in our operating area. Please also see our Rigs to Reef project. 203-2 304-2
Liquid Releases (Spills)
As part of Vermilion’s Process Safety Management System, we actively strive to reduce environmental releases, or spills. We report on all spills (all liquid types including fresh water, produced water, emulsion, hydrocarbons) by both number of incidents and volume through our Performance Metrics. Our spills are generally contained within the infrastructure designed to prevent any releases or spills from reaching the environment. Our goal is to recover as close to 100% of the released volumes as possible within the shortest time frame as possible.
In 2017, Vermilion achieved the lowest spill volume since we began recording in 2004. In 2020, as a result of the higher spill profile of the assets acquired from Spartan in southeast Saskatchewan, our spill metrics in the Canada Business Unit increased significantly. In 2021, we therefore developed a reduction management plan that included a program of assessment, prioritization and mitigation of our pipeline network, accelerating the installation of leak detection, and decommissioning pipelines, with an internal spill reduction target.
Asset Retirement Obligations
We are committed to ensuring the long-term environmental stewardship of the land on which we operate. This includes complying with regulatory requirements associated with the temporary or permanent closure of those operations – known in the oil and gas industry as the Asset Retirement Obligation (ARO), and also by the terms abandonment (when a well is permanently sealed and taken out of service) and reclamation (replacing the soil and vegetation).
Our timing for the permanent retirement of an asset is associated with the reserves that it still contains, our projections for the production of those reserves, and regulatory requirements. Our work includes assessing the condition of each asset, the work that needs to be done to properly shut down the asset (for example, plugging the well with concrete to provide a shield against further hydrocarbon migration to the surface), land reclamation work that would be needed around the asset, and the ability to leverage other ARO work in the area, as it can often be more economical to perform this work on several closely located assets at the same time.
In general, the site is assessed in comparison to the surrounding land to determine if it is currently and/or projected to be of equivalent land capabilities. This includes a detailed review of site landscape (e.g. draining, erosion, stability, contour), vegetation (e.g. species, plant measurements, seed development, health), and soils (e.g. evidence of disturbance, topsoil and subsoil depths and textures, colour, consistency).
In 2021, we invested more than $30MM in abandonment and reclamation activities. This included our participation in the federally funded accelerated site closure programs in Alberta and Saskatchewan, through which we abandoned 106 wells.