In addition to continuing to build processes to meaningfully track and understand our sustainability impacts, we are committed, wherever feasible, to use processes that will reduce our environmental impact.
This is embodied in our sustainability strategy, which includes:
Environmental Impact Assessments: We conduct Environmental Impact Assessments and implement management plans as required by regulations in all of our business units, and wherever needed based on conditions in our operating locations. This includes, but is not limited to, the following examples:
We include a desktop review and environmental scouting report as part of our project development process. This combined approach identifies areas and species of concern. Over the years, this has helped us identify Key Wildlife and Biodiversity Zone for ungulates such as deer, elk and moose. During the critical winter periods, when food sources are lower quality and less accessible due to cold temperatures and deep snow, these animals survive by, in part, minimizing their energy expenditures through reducing their movements in their winter ranges. It is therefore important to minimize any disturbance to them during these critical periods. We therefore ceased operations, including drilling, in this location between January 15 and April 30, to minimize disturbance during this critical period. In addition, we have identified various bird species, such as swans and sandhill cranes, which we have protected by moving planned sites to avoid disturbing them.
In addition to completing EIAs, we collaborate with external consultants and experts to ensure that our activities support scientific research whenever possible. This resulted in an entirely new species of marine worm being identified in the waters off the coast of France. Vermilion's role in providing both data and material were noted in a scientific paper that identified the worm, named Auchenoplax worsfoldi, which has now been added to the World Register of Marine Species.
EIAs are part of the permitting process, and are carried out prior to an environment permit being granted for exploratory drilling and for production. In addition, we work closely with environmental experts to guide us in our activities to ensure that we do not disrupt or disturb wildlife migration, feeding or breeding patterns. In some cases, this means that we delay or reroute our development activities. This includes our Diever-02 well site, where we delay pipeline construction and other activities annually to ensure we do not interfere with birds nesting in the area.
EIAs are part of the permitting process. In 2020-21, the oil and gas industry in our region worked with the government to commit to drilling no new wells in water protection areas, which are designated areas to protect the groundwater. We are also part of a joint industry-government working group that is addressing additional technical measures related to environmental and groundwater protection.
Vermilion is evaluating the exploration opportunities available on our land base. As we complete these assessments, we will present exploration activity plans to partners and authorities as well as public and community stakeholders. These plans will reflect our efforts to minimize the environmental and social impact of our activities. As environmental impact assessments are a critical element of the acceptance and permitting process, Vermilion will ensure that they are conducted in the most rigorous manner feasible.
We have developed a detailed environmental impact assessment of the marine environment around our operations on the northwest shelf of Australia’s west coast, including our direct permit area and a wider surrounding area, where either planned or unplanned events may create impacts. In addition to analyzing the biodiversity of the area, current and traditional uses, and areas of significant environmental value and cultural heritage, we have conducted a risk assessment workshop that considers the regional environment and the local marine ecosystem. The resulting environmental plan ensures that our systems, practices and procedures meet the plan’s defined performance outcomes and all relevant legislative requirements. The commitments associated with these outcomes and standards contribute to ensuring that the residual environmental risk associated with our operations is as low as reasonably practical. We have also developed a range of performance standards (controls) that will be implemented throughout the life of the Wandoo field to ensure the potential environmental impacts identified through the risk assessment are managed appropriately. In 2020, the latest revision to the Wandoo Facility Environment Plan (which can be found here) was accepted by NOPSEMA, the regulator.
As part of the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline and terminal infrastructure, a detailed EIA was conducted; for new activities, an EIA screening is conducted by an independent expert. Should the screening identify that significant effects on the environment are likely, a full EIA is conducted. The original EIA resulted in a biodiversity action plan that spanned the years 2014 to 2019. This has resulted in a project design that has demonstrated a Net Positive impact for biodiversity by 2020, including the protection and monitoring of habitats and species, and a commitment to consultation with stakeholders and other interested parties. We are currently working within our second Biodiversity Action Plan (2021-2026) - highlights are included in our Biodiversity section.
We conduct comprehensive EIAs in our US locations that include cultural and paleontological surveys prior to any ground disturbance. We are vigilant during construction, and committed to having paleontologists and other scientific experts on hand to ensure we not only meet all regulations, but also take care of fossils or other important items. In 2015, that’s how we found a triceratops skull as crews started to build out one of our well pads. The skull was moved by experts to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Project Development and Management: Our project management framework includes issues related to sustainability and climate change, such as regulatory change, water use, emissions reduction and footprint reduction to reduce ecosystem fragmentation. We begin by ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements & standards, and alignment with Vermilion’s economic assessment criteria at the investigation phase of the project. Other project development factors include:
Staff feedback is taken into account by the groups responsible for managing emissions quantification and sustainability initiatives.
Emissions reductions and other environmental stewardship impacts are driven by the optimization activities we undertake in our business units and identified at the project assessment stage for both new and existing construction. Added value and responsible, sustainable development of the resources in our operating regions are primary investment drivers. The activities are typically identified by the in-country technical teams.
Many initiatives that support Vermilion's operational excellence and stewardship also have the effect of reducing emissions and other environmental impacts, and improving environmental benefits associated with our activities through the reduction of fuel, energy or water, or the protection of land and biodiversity. These benefits are identified during the investigation phase of a project assessment.
Our technical teams across the organization communicate with each other, collaborate on current and upcoming sustainability initiatives, and bring in technical expertise to augment project execution.