Biodiversity is important to ensure the stability of the ecosystem, and provide sources of food, medicines and natural resources. It also has great significance in spiritual, cultural and aesthetic contexts. We seek to maintain biodiversity and important ecosystem functions in connection with our operations in order to conserve such diversity. The following is a description of our 2009 performance in this area.
In 2009, Statoil carried out petroleum exploration and production in the North Sea, on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, in the Libyan and Algerian deserts, offshore Iran, and in the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada.
Statoil is part of the In Salah Gas (ISG) Southern Fields Joint Venture which conducted seismic surveys in 2008/2009 in the peripheral zone of the Ahaggar National Park. The Park is an extensive area of Algeria preserved for its archaeological, historical, faunal, floral, geological, and landscape qualities. Legislation is in force to protect, conserve and promote the cultural and natural heritage of the park. The Ahaggar National Park is classified as category II in the International Conservations Union (IUCN) classification system.
Statoil is operator of the offshore exploration licence Area 2 in Mozambique, which borders on the Quirimbas National Park. A seisimic survey was conducted in the area in 2007, and there has been no subsequent activity.
We seek to avoid impacts on biodiversity by mapping of environmental baselines, planning activities, and monitoring during and after activities.
In the ISG Southern Fields, a study was carried out by independent consultants to chart environmentally sensitive areas, define 'exclusion zones' and areas where restrictions on activities should apply. Sites of potential environmental interest were surveyed, and planned seismic lines were moved to minimise interference with sensitive areas. Oases, palm gardens, ancient villages, rare plants, reclusive animals and archaeological remains also represent challenges for the operations. Furthermore, Salah town with its 30,000 inhabitants is located within the seismic area. Prior to start-up, these concerns were addressed in the Access Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, a document which was presented to Algerian authorities.
To avoid compromising the environment of the National Park, the Joint Venture strove to conduct the seismic campaign in accordance with relevant international agreements, Algerian legislation, and policies and requirements of the operating companies. Dedicated personnel with environmental and archaeological competence were in place in the field. At the start of the survey in 2008 the employees received environmental awareness training and supervisors underwent archaeological training Special forms were developed to report archaeological and environmental findings and track environmental actions.
Statoil's environmental plans and monitoring of its oil sand leases in Alberta build on a study launched by NAOSC in 2006 to measure the degree to which wildlife is influenced by the presence of the oil industry that and which has been followed up in 2007 and 2009. The study measures the abundance and distribution of moose, caribou and wolves in the lease area and their physiological health.
Of particular concern are caribou, which are primarily found within distinct ranges in northern Alberta. As exploration drilling can only be carried out in winter, and winter is a stressful time for large mammals, it is important to understand the pre-development state of the animal population and to find a measure of the impact of winter drilling activities.
The study employs a non-invasive method of measuring and monitoring population health. The scat (faeces) of wolves, moose and caribou are collected and analysed. By testing for hormones secreted in response to external and nutritional stress, reproductive hormones and DNA, researchers can identify species, gender and individual animals and assess their physiological condition.
The scat locations are obtained using GPS, and they can thus be combined to provide information about the spatial distribution of animals as well as the approximate timing of disturbances. The scat locations have also been used to develop an empirical habitat model (resource selection model) for caribou, moose and wolves. Scat samples were collected in the winters of 2006, 2007 and 2009 using specially trained scat detection dogs. These dogs are able to locate samples from all three species at considerable distances, even if covered by snow. Members of the local indigenous community assisted in the programme.
Statoil's environmental programme for the oil sand leases in Alberta also includes a conservation and reclamation plan. The plan includes measures to prevent, mitigate, or ameliorate impacts, and to return land disturbed by the Project to equivalent, pre-disturbance land capability.
Integration of conservation and reclamation measures with the project includes considerations such as facility siting and design, and operational measures such as soil salvage, weed control, surface water management, sediment and erosion control, waste management and reclamation, re-vegetation and monitoring.
Surface disturbance will occur mainly at the following locations: Central Processing Facility areas (including temporary laydown and construction camps), well pads (including production, observation, and source water and disposal wells), access roads, barrow excavations and linear disturbances such as access roads above and underground pipelines.
When mineral soils are encountered, the standard practice is to salvage and stockpile both topsoil and subsoil. When organic material (e.g. peat) is encountered, material is salvaged to a pre-determined maximum depth (e.g. 40cm) and stockpiled. During decommissioning of a site, the stockpiles are used to re-create soil or peat layers similar to pre-existing conditions.
Statoil has conducted extensive and systematic monitoring surrounding our operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) over the last 30 years. Monitoring results indicate limited impacts on biodiversity of the discharges to sea. The impacts that are seen are limited to the vicinity of the installations, inside the 500 m safety zone.
In cooperation with SERPENT, exploration drilling wells have been monitored in more detail, with Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Impacts on biodiversity are mainly found within the area covered by drill cuttings which may reach out to 50 -100 m from the well.
When drilling in areas cold water corals on the NCS, mitigating measures and monitoring is in place to avoid harmful impact on the reefs. A seabed monitoring platform, or "lander" for inspection of coral reefs, is currently being tested at the Morvin well in the Norwegian Sea. There is also a research programme for further developing landers and sensor technology for remote monitoring of the marine environment.