Falklands : Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum Report
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 28.10.2012 (Article Archived on 11.11.2012)
The third meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum took place on 5th October in the Chamber of Commerce.
Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum
Synopsis of Forum meeting held at
9.00am on October 5th 2012
The third meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum took place on 5th October 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 the previous meetings of the Forum to consider gaps in environmental data and current knowledge with relevance to the hydrocarbons industry.
Rockhopper Exploration update on Sea Lion Area Environmental Baseline Survey
Andy Duffy gave a presentation on the baseline survey work undertaken recently at the Sea Lion development area. Andy outlined the methods used including the development grid utilised, seabed imagery through deep water video and camera, CTD water profiling, water sampling and box-coring benthic grabs.
Andy highlighted the benthic survey analysis currently being undertaken by the National History Museum, with over half of the samples sorted and 400 plus species identified to date. Initial results indicate a higher than expected number of crustaceans, high polychaete numbers and uniform metal levels.
Initial results of the sample work have shown no evidence of previous exploration at the sites where drilling was undertaken in the 1998 drilling round.
Grant Munro, consultant to Rockhopper, gave a talk on the static acoustic devices recently deployed to assess cetacean presence in the Sea Lion development area. It is hoped they will detect a wide range of cetacean species and inform on their abundance and movements. The survey work will also allow an estimation of ambient noise levels and will be useful in establishing shipping movements in the vicinity.
Premier Oil Introduction Presentation
Stuart Morrison of Premier Oil gave a presentation on the company and their operations in other parts of the world. Stuart introduced the company as a British independent oil company established in 1934. The company currently operate in 8 countries and employ roughly 700 staff.
Stuart noted a number of Premier’s current developments, noting similarities between Sea Lion to offshore operations in Malaysia and in the North Sea, West of Shetland.
Stuart noted that when it comes on line, the Sea Lion Development is likely to represent one third of their total current global resource base.
Stuart gave a brief overview of Premier’s Health Safety and Environment operations, including outlining HSE accreditations; notably OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001.
FOGL presentation on current South Falklands drilling programme and Marine Mammal and Seabird Observations
Richard Clarke of FOGL gave an update on their current drilling operations in the South Falkland basin. He reported that the Loligo well is complete and that the Scotia well is ongoing. Richard noted the companies HSE operations, notably the Emergency response exercise undertaken in mid August 2012. Richard also noted the extensive training of FOGL staff given by Oil Spill Response Limited, prior to this drilling campaign.
Grant Munro gave a talk in his capacity as seabird and marine mammal observer on FOGL support vessels during the current drilling round. Grant has been undertaking S/MMO observations from Mid August until present and will continue in this role until the completion of drilling.
Gap Analysis Group Final Reports
Introductions to the Gap Analysis working group were made by Paul Brickle, regarding the remit of the work and the specific focus areas.
Off-shore benthic environment
Paul Brewin introduced this topic, noting the large amount of data collected to date and the robust data collection techniques demonstrated in many of those collections. He went on to note the generally poor identification techniques and lack of detailed analysis of most samples. Paul also noted previous lack of consultation with local experts on benthic species and analysis, and the resultant low level of confidence in benthic analysis.
Paul Brewin gave a presentation on the near shore environment. He began by emphasising the globally high proportion of oil spills which take place in the near shore environment. Paul stressed that any spill can lead to long-term irreversible change. This is notable in the context of the Falkland Islands due to the near pristine shallow marine environment present and the large knowledge gaps in this field.
Grant Munro presented on the topic of data gaps regarding cetaceans in Falkland Islands waters. He summarised the work that has been done to date, noting the JNCC seabirds at sea surveys, the coastal stranding data collation work undertaken by Helen Otley and the independent seabird and marine mammal observer work undertaken during recent seismic survey and exploration activity.
Grant Munro presented an assessment of gaps regarding pinnipeds (seals and sea lion) species in the Falkland Islands. Grant noted previous census, survey and tracking work on the relevant species, namely South American Sea Lions, South American Fur Seals and Southern Elephant Seals. Grant emphasised that JNCC survey data is lacking on pinniped observations and that tracking data is limited to small sample sizes on all three species.
Anton Wolfaardt of JNCC gave a presentation on data gaps in relation to seabirds found in Falklands’ waters. Anton opened his presentation by discussing the benefits of strategic assessment of developments as oppose to project specific assessments. He went on to outline the three main potential interactions between seabirds and oil development activities: oil contamination, bird strikes with vessels and platforms, and disturbance caused by helicopter activity.
Anton went on to outline the complex nature of seabird distribution, which is subject to species and colony-specific variation in foraging trends, variations in food sources, inter-annual variation and seabird movements from outside Falklands waters.
Paul Brickle gave a presentation on oceanography in Falkland’s waters. He provided a summary of important gaps in knowledge and data, notably regarding the complex bathymetry and currents, fish spawning movements and the variation in frontal zones and high productivity upwelling areas in Falkland’s waters.
Paul Brickle gave a presentation on the data gaps regarding fish species in Falkland Islands waters. He opened the presentation by noting that fish mortality has never been observed even after catastrophic spills in the open sea and that publications suggest that adult fish are capable of detecting and avoiding zones of heavy pollution.
Paul Brickle gave a summary of some of the gap analysis findings to date. He highlighted the need to re-analyse JNCC data and the need for a local expert review of contemporary data sets. Paul emphasised the need for a central repository for data as a priority. He noted the papers to be circulated for review shortly and the further discussions to be held through the format of the Forum to produce a strategy on how priority data gaps are to be filled.
Chair thanked all the speakers for their presentations and contributions to the gap analysis group. Sec is to distribute copies of the papers to Forum members for comment; with comments to be provided to Paul Brickle, Phyl Rendell or Andrea Clausen.
Geographic Information System coordination
Paul Brickle gave a presentation on GIS and data curation entitled: ‘Two problems – One solution’. Paul gave some background on the uses a GIS could be put to, which included some visual representations of mapping and spatial data. He noted the main benefits of a comprehensive GIS include increased research benefits, better curation and comparison of long-term data and notably less likelihood of duplication of research.
National History Museum research – Roddy Cordeiro
A proposal from the National History Museum (NHM) regarding the curation of Rockhopper Exploration’s recent benthic survey samples was introduced by Roddy Cordeiro. There was a discussion on the proposal and it was felt the submission needed to be considered further by the Gap Analysis group, with detailed comments to be passed back to NHM. It is hoped this proposal might be the beginning of a more detailed strategy in terms of all benthic sampling related to hydrocarbons exploration in the Falkland Islands.
Phyl Rendell – Forum Chair
Andrea Clausen – Forum Deputy Chair