As the first company in Russia to start shelf hydrocarbons production from offshore ice-resistant platforms and liquefied natural gas production, Sakhalin Energy can be justifiably proud of its achievements in the field of environmental protection. The environmental control, local monitoring, and conservation of biodiversity programs implemented by Sakhalin Energy are among best practices and are aimed at minimizing the impacts on the unique ecosystems of Sakhalin Island.
When carrying out any work, one of our foremost priorities is to comply with Russian and international requirements. The Company undertakes a large number of long-term programs and reviews the environmental conditions in the vicinity of the project facilities while monitoring flora and vegetation, avifauna, mammals, soil, ground waters, river ecosystems, and the marine environment. These priorities are reflected in Sakhalin Energy’s Sustainable Development Policy, Commitments and Policy on HSE and Social Performance, Biodiversity Standard, among other things.
In 2008 the Company developed an integrated Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). In a way, this plan became the end result of the Company’s multiyear efforts for environmental preservation. The plan systematizes the Company’s experience and simultaneously defines further actions to be taken under environmental monitoring and adverse impact mitigation. It describes the framework and rationale to support monitoring programs that Sakhalin Energy, its stakeholders, government authorities, and project lenders believe are important – not only because it provides environmental protection, but also because it makes good business sense.
The Biodiversity Action Plan includes programs to preserve the most important rare and threatened species (gray whales, the Steller’s Sea Eagle, Hucho perryi) as well as programs for the conservation of particularly vulnerable ecosystems (e.g., wetlands, area of protected bird colonies adjacent to the Chayvo lagoon, and the coastal zone of Aniva Bay around the Prigorodnoye production complex).
Sakhalin Energy’s BAP was approved by the Biodiversity Expert Working Group of the Sakhalin Oblast Environmental Council and was highly praised by independent international experts and Sakhalin-2 project lenders. Thus, the BAP implementation is supported by all stakeholders at both the national and international levels.
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Below are short descriptions of some of those programs.
• Gray whales
Every summer a small gray whale group feeds off the northeast coast of Sakhalin, near the Piltun-Astokhskoye oil-gas field. This proximity obliges Sakhalin Energy to take enhanced environmental protection measures in its offshore activities. Recognizing the potential impact, Sakhalin Energy – together with Exxon Neftegaz Ltd., the operator of Sakhalin-1 – has been financing programs to study and monitor the gray whales since 1996.
In association with the IUCN Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel, initiated by Sakhalin Energy in 2004, the Company has used the data from these studies to draw up and implement a plan for monitoring and mitigating effects on the gray whale population. Following up on the experts’ recommendations, Sakhalin Energy has adjusted their production plans. So, despite the considerable financial costs, the construction of a pipeline for a year was postponed, the route was changed, a seismic survey was postponed, etc. Within the framework of the research on gray whales, there was also an international satellite tagging program, which has already yielded some very interesting results about the migration patterns of animals in the North Pacific Ocean.
The program’s details are presented on the IUCN website and at “Gray Whales. The Sakhalin Story” .
• Steller’s Sea Eagles
A program was launched in 2004 to study and preserve the Steller’s Sea Eagle in the northeastern part of Sakhalin. In the course of construction work, Sakhalin Energy paid a great deal of attention to impact mitigation. For example, each of the occupied nests impacted by construction was assigned as a protective zone; eagle couples were constantly monitored in certain nesting areas where the potential impact was high, etc. These efforts minimized the construction’s impact: All nesting areas were preserved, and during the multiyear construction, the eagle’s fertility rate remained at the average for the population.
To assess the condition of the whole population, the Company’s studies covered not only the potentially impacted area, but also a vast territory in the northeastern part of Sakhalin. Once Sakhalin-2 entered the operational phase, the Company updated the monitoring program. For details, see “The Steller’s Sea Eagle”.
Sakhalin wetlands have a unique value to Sakhalin’s natural environment. The wetlands absorb precipitation and feed water to streams and rivers, maintaining the surface water balance, and are therefore very important for migrating and spawning salmon. It is necessary for Sakhalin Energy to make sure pipeline construction does not affect these fragile ecosystems. Mitigation measures included temporary restrictions on work; requirements for equipment; arrangement of plank roads (temporary roads); earthworks only for the trench line; and reclamation of right-of-way.
The Company monitored the reinstatement of wetlands after construction as well as any potential long-term impacts caused by the construction or presence of pipelines.
• Ballast water discharge
The migration of alien organisms from one region to another within ships’ ballast water poses a global problem, often leading to major environmental and economic disasters. Sakhalin Energy decided to use international practices based on the IMO Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments requirements. Although Russia ratified the Convention in April 2012, it will not take effect until it is signed by 30 maritime nations holding 35 percent of the world’s merchant tonnage.
As early as 2009, Sakhalin Energy developed and implemented an integrated Ballast Water Management Policy. For the purpose of compliance with this policy, each vessel is inspected for a number of parameters, and discharge is allowed only after confirmation of ballast water replacement in the open sea. Efficiency of these control measures is checked through biological analysis of ballast waters in the tankers. Every year since 2007, the Company has been monitoring Aniva Bay near Prigorodnoye production complex by sampling and analyzing plankton, benthos, and epibioses. Monitored results have led to the firm conclusion that the Company’s controls are highly effective.
In 2010 the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility invited Sakhalin Energy to participate in the project Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into Russia’s Energy Sector Policies and Operations. The project is carried out jointly with the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Oil and gas production lies in the zone where there is high risk of adverse environmental impacts. However, Sakhalin Energy’s experience shows that impacts can be reduced through strict adherence to environmental standards, the application of best environmental practices that produced the global oil and gas industry, and the introduction of innovative solutions. Only such an approach can lead to sustainable and environmentally safe production.
This project description was originally presented in the Global Compact International Yearbook 2013.