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Falklands : Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 21.09.2013 (Article Archived on 19.10.2013)

The fifth meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum took place on 5th September in the Chamber of Commerce.

Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum


Synopsis of Forum meeting held at

1.30pm, September 5th 2013


Phyl Rendell and Andrea Clausen


The fifth meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum took place on 5th September 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 Forum meeting focussed on the Gap Analysis findings and costings to undertake a major 2 year programme of science to support hydrocarbons development in Falklands waters.  The meeting also assessed the use of Non-aqueous drilling fluids such as oil-based muds and their potential use in Falklands waters.


Drilling Fluids and Cuttings Management – industry case studies


Richard Lobeck of Premier Oil gave a presentation on the use of oil-based muds in industry, focused on the management of drilling fluids and cuttings.  He outlined the modern use of drilling muds and fluids noting the use of water-based, synthetic and oil-based products.  It was noted that the Sea Lion Development will largely comprise water-based muds but that oil-based muds will likely be required in some instances for deep water operations, extended reach and difficult directional drilling.  Richard also noted that the use of oil-based muds can improve safety when drilling more complicated sections of a well. 


Richard went on to highlight recent industry developments in drill cuttings processing, notably through the use of thermal desorption rotomills on-board oil rigs.  This technology has been proven to reduce oil on cuttings to less than one per cent, the industry standard in the UK North Sea.  This process negates the need to ‘skip and ship’ cuttings to shore, with all processing on board the rig and remaining cuttings discharged on site.


The carbon footprint of rotomill processing and ‘skip and ship’ procedures was compared, with the rotomill footprint being much smaller.  Avoiding ‘skip and ship’ reduces logistic requirements and reduces the safety implications of moving large amounts of material from rig to shore.


It was noted that the cuttings footprint of oil-based muds is much lower than water-based muds.  There was discussion on this point as well as the technical issues of installing rotomills. Richard Lobeck advised that the use of rotomills on rigs is becoming prevalent in the North Sea and should be considered in the Falklands in future.


Regulations on Non-Aqueous Drilling Fluids


Roddy Cordeiro gave a presentation on the regulations in the Falklands relating to the use of non-aqueous drilling fluids (NADFs) and to the results of the consultation on developing regulations.  Roddy gave background on the legislation, mostly produced in the late 1990s and now largely out of date.


Roddy outlined comments he has received as part of the consultation on NADF regulations.  These are available in a paper provided to the Forum.  The recommendations of the paper are that: 1. the use of NADFs be considered on a well by well basis, 2. The release of whole NADFs in any stage of drilling is not to be permitted, 3. Supporting assessments including baseline survey and an EIA be prepared to support a technical failure during operations, 4. Offshore discharge of NADFs be limited to less than 1% or less dry weight OOC. 5. Only low toxicity OBMs and synthetic muds with low or negligible PAH content consent will be permitted, 6. FIG retains the right to amend the regulations based on international practice and technology improvements. 


There was a discussion over the potential onshore processing of cuttings/powder.  It was suggested this would be considered in the company’s Waste Management Plan and would be assessed primarily by PWD and EPD.  It was clear that a secondary use of processed cuttings/powder is not practical.


There was a discussion on the cumulative impact of drill cuttings in the development of the Sea Lion field.  It was suggested this would be covered in the EIA process but that FIG may consider a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in future to address cumulative impacts.          


Premier Oil Programme Update


Ken Humphrey gave an update on Premier Oil’s plans regarding the Sea Lion field development.  He advised on further work which has upgraded the field estimate to a total of 394 million barrels and updates on flow assurance.  Premier has reappraised their FPSO mobilisation and sub-sea infrastructure costs.


Ken went on to note a proposed rig-share with Noble Energy for a 3 well exploration/appraisal programme in the Sea Lion area in 2014/15.


He then outlined the current thinking on the Sea Lion Development, with a phased development of the exploitation of hydrocarbons, focussing first on the reserves in the north, followed by the south.  The potential use of a Tension Leg Platform to reduce the footprint of subsea infrastructure is now being considered along with the FPSO option. 


Noble Energy Activities Update


Richard Winkleman introduced Chris Wright who gave a presentation on Noble Energy’s activities and planning for exploration in their South Falklands basin licences.


Chris outlined the 3D seismic survey work Noble has undertaken between December 2012 and June 2013.  This covered 5,500 square km of 3D survey in the southern basin.  The vessel used utilised Marine Mammal Observers and Passive Acoustic Monitoring devices.  Noble plan to undertake further seismic work in the southern basin starting in November 2013, likely to take between 4 to 6 months.  


Chris went on to highlight the exploratory drilling campaign Noble is planning for the south.  This will comprise up to 4 wells on 2 locations to be confirmed following further analysis.  These wells will be similar to those drilled by the Leiv Eiriksson in 1200 to 1500m water and are planned to start in late 2014 once approvals are in place.  These approvals will include full environmental baseline survey, EIA and waste management planning.


Chris presented Noble’s plans for a temporary dock facility east of FIPASS in Stanley harbour to support the exploration campaign.  After approvals are in place Noble plan to start construction in late 2013 or early 2014.  The dock will be a floating prefabricated structure and will take roughly six months to construct.  The dock will comprise a 400ft by 100ft barge which will be secured via piles with access via a causeway. 


Chris noted that Noble and their consultants RPS are currently engaged in a week-long consultation with stakeholders on the assessment on their two upcoming projects, a temporary dock in Stanley Harbour and their 2014 exploration programme.  


Premier Oil Environmental Update


Andy Duffy and Richard Lobeck gave a presentation on Premier Oil’s environmental programme.


Andy Duffy updated on the static acoustic monitoring devices and data collected recently over a one year programme, to assess cetacean movements in the Sea Lion field area.  All the data has been successfully retrieved from the devices and is now being analysed prior to production of the final report.  Preliminary results are interesting including further species recordings near the Sea Lion area.  The research has also given good underwater background noise levels.


Andy gave an update on the Stanley Harbour Environmental Baseline Survey.  This work is in support of a temporary jetty and has now been parked.  The data has been passed to Noble for them to use in support of their temporary dock.  The results show little diversity in benthic fauna, with a native species of sea cucumber being the most notable species present.   The coastal fauna and flora survey was also noted. There were no threatened or red list species noted near the potential development area East of FIPASS.        


Richard Lobeck presented the findings of a fishing effort study undertaken by consultants for Premier Oil, considering the level of fishing effort in the Sea Lion field area.  This survey noted mitigation to protect subsea equipment and flow lines from trawling and other fishing activities.  The survey noted limited ilex squid fishing historically in the Sea Lion area and that there were only 3 trawling events in the area in recent years.  Overall the exercise demonstrated minimal fishing activity and provided options for a fishing exclusion zone with a guard vessel in the area. 


Richard presented on Premier’s oil spill management work in recent months.  He highlighted the high wax content of the Sea Lion crude and showed an interesting video of oil from the Sea Lion field reacting with sea water as if accidentally spilled.  Premier plan to contract Sintef of Norway to conduct a weathering study to further assess potential impacts.  A wave-rider buoy is to be situated for 3 years at the Sea Lion field to collect swell and other oceanographic data.


Oil spill modelling is progressing with the OSCAR model chosen to 3D model potential spill scenarios.  Further modelling to be undertaken looking at FPSO surface release as well as an open hole blow out. 


Richard concluded that there is a large amount of background work in train to bring together a number of surveys including; a full Environmental Baseline Survey and ESIA to support the Sea Lion Development, an ESIA for further exploration, offshore development design, full waste management philosophy and further modelling, an oil weathering study, and engagement with Oil Spill Response Ltd to contribute to oil spill management.  


Gap Analysis Costings Paper


Paul Brickle presented a paper on the Gap Analysis exercise including costings to undertake the priority areas identified.  Paul gave some background on the work undertaken over the past 18 months including the Terms of Reference and methodology.  He noted that seabirds and sea mammals came out as the highest priority, with an expert-led Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) identified in the actions including a comprehensive tagging programme and reworking of the JNCC data collected in the late 1990s.  This is to be led by a senior post-doc project officer. 


Benthic, oceanography, inshore and fisheries gaps in data repository were identified as the second area the project is to focus on.  A second senior post-doc project officer is recommended to lead on co-ordinating the repository of relevant data to support this area.  This work will include taxonomy and other collective benefits and will pursue establishing a Natural History Museum specimen collection.   


It was noted that Fisheries Dept and FIFCA have highlighted the need to better research Loligo spawning grounds around the Falklands. 


Paul went on to summarise the costings to implement this programme of work.  Major costs include the tagging devices for penguins identified, salaries for the two Project Officers and the two workshops required to facilitate the ERA.  The total budget comes to just under £600,000. 


A discussion followed the presentation on some aspects of the detail of the programme, including the penguin tagging programme and the curation of data.  Paul Brickle noted on the timings that it would be ideal if the project officers could begin work early in the 2014.  There was a discussion on the length of the programme, but it was agreed 2 years is a sensible period.          


Funding was discussed, with FIG officers noting up to £300,000 being made available from FIG over the 2 year project.  Ken Humphrey took the lead for the oil industry and agreed to coordinate an approach to FIPLA to find the remaining £300,000. 


Reporting was discussed with agreement that an oversight group should be formed on behalf of the Forum comprising the Director of Mineral Resources, a FIPLA representative and the Deputy Chair of the Forum, to assess progress on a quarterly basis.   


Chair thanked Paul Brickle and the Gap Analysis group for all their hard work and noted the upcoming internal deadlines to finalise FIG approval for funding the work.  


Environmental Regulations Gap Exercise


Roddy Cordeiro raised the lack of environmental legislation in relation to development of hydrocarbons and suggested an ‘Environmental Regulations Gap Exercise’ might be useful to assess additional legislation required to improve regulation of the oil industry.  Chair agreed to Roddy forming a steering group administered by the Department of Mineral Resources to scope the gaps through 2014.


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