Throughout our operations, we focus on a systematic approach to caring for the land – from environmental assessments during our exploration activities, to wildlife and vegetation protection during production, to planning and implementing reclamation activities when drilling is complete. The following examples represent just a few of the related activities that we undertake.
In Canada, we often employ the use of horizontal wells. Where sub-surface geometries are conducive, we program these wells from a single surface location or pad, with up to eight wells being drilled from a single location. Pad drilling reduces the aerial extent of the well site, surface facilities, pipelines and roads. To put this in perspective, vertical well surface impact is approximately 1.7 hectares per well, while an eight-well pad surface impact is only about 0.5 hectares per well.
As the horizontal length of a well gets longer, the amount of sub-surface area developed increases. Originally, horizontal well lengths were 1,400 metres. We are currently drilling wells with horizontal lengths of up to 3,400 metres. In the past, one pad site was used to develop about 20 hectares (1,400 metres in horizontal length), but we are now developing 1,000 hectares from a pad site – up to 3,000 metres of horizontal length. Our Pembina stacked play has the added environmental benefit of being able to share surface infrastructure, such as roads, pipelines and processing facilities. This higher well density reduces driving distances, and therefore emissions associated with development, monitoring and maintenance of wells. It also optimizes equipment and energy used during development and maintenance of productive reservoirs.
We welcomed a new boat, the Pelican, to our Parentis Lake fleet in August 2015, allowing us to minimize the impact of our activities on the environment and our operating area. The boat is used for our lake rounds, and is increasing our presence and monitoring, offering a gain in intervention efficiency. From an environmental perspective, the engines meet the latest standards and regulations. This reduces fuel consumption and the boat's wake, thus offering greater respect for other lake users such as fishermen and sailors.
Vermilion's 2015 replacement of incinerator technology at our battery in Parentis has significantly reduced flaring, and helped us be a good neighbour to the community. Vermilion is reducing flaring in many of our locations, because it is more efficient to incinerate or use gases such as methane (instead of flaring or venting them). In turn, this allows Vermilion to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and our potential impact on nearby communities.
In Parentis, given the proximity of the glass windows of the tomato greenhouse that is co-located with our battery, it was particularly important to find a solution that avoided strong vibrations. From May to October 2015, we tested a new incinerator, along with new piping, a new scrubber and new safety fencing in the incinerator area. The dry run for the incinerator showed the impact immediately: no noise, vibration or smoke.
Vermilion's new incinerator runs at a much higher temperature (900C instead of 400-500C) and combusts the gas in a much taller, 9-metre stack. Together, these measures allow much more of the gases – such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides – to be safely incinerated, minimizing the gas that has to be flared.
In The Netherlands we recognize that we share the land, water and sea with many neighbours, including those with feathers. In many of our locations, these feathered neighbours will pay us a visit and in some cases stay for a while, so it is very important that we keep our sites clean and safe for them. We work closely with environmental experts to guide us in our activities to ensure that we do not disrupt or disturb their migration, feeding or breeding patterns. In some cases, this means that we delay or reroute our development activities. In 2015, we delayed pipeline construction activities around our Diever-02 well site to ensure we do not interfere with birds nesting in the area.
Whenever possible, we also try to reuse existing well sites, pipelines and surface facilities to limit our land use footprint. In 2014/2015, we drilled nine wells, six of which were drilled from pre-existing well sites, thus minimizing the need for the construction of new well sites or pipelines. All of our lease sites are sealed with asphalt to isolate them from the groundwater table. We collect rainwater that falls on our lease sites in a series of berms, gutters and storage systems so we can confirm first that it safe to release back to the environment.
In addition, we are holding quarterly staff town halls, and monthly and weekly leadership and project review meetings via webcasting and video conferencing. In the case of our town halls, we estimate that the technology cost of 5,500 euros will be paid back within 1 to 2 years, as it has eliminated the need to hire four buses that travel 200 kilometres each per year – and it has reduced both fuel use and GHG emissions at the same time.
In November 2014, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) accepted our Wandoo Facility Environment Plan in September and the Well Construction Environment Plan under the new Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009.
The objective of the Regulations is to ensure that any offshore petroleum or greenhouse gas activity is carried out in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and by which the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable and acceptable levels.
In Australia, the offshore environmental compliance requirements have improved over the last five years following the major global spill events. The accepted Environment Plans outline how Vermilion will undertake operations, marine projects and drilling activities at Wandoo to meet these improved standards. This was achieved through significant input from the operations, engineering, drilling and project teams within Vermilion.
We undertook offshore marine monitoring in late 2015 within the Wandoo Field. This included the characterization of the epifauna using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), water sampling and sediment sampling to:
The ROV environmental monitoring survey revealed an ecosystem at Wandoo, with a number of transient species including turtles, sharks and rays spotted at the base of our platforms. Corals, sponges, clams and molluscs cover the concrete structure.
The program was developed to identify Vermilion’s potential impacts on the marine environment in order to achieve further improvements in environmental management if required. As a major stakeholder in the region, it is Vermilion’s responsibility to the wider community to assist in maintaining the health of the regional environment.
This work, particularly given our drilling operations in 2015 and 2016, was supported by our previous work in Australia to develop the oiled wildlife response capability necessary to effectively manage the impact of a large oil spill on wildlife. We funded the necessary equipment (a rapid response unit that would receive, assess and treat oiled wildlife) and training, created a register of wildlife responders, and developed “at call” capacity for support specialists. To enable all-industry access, we subsequently donated this equipment to the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre, which is funded by the Australia Upstream and Downstream Industry group, which includes Vermilion. This initial investment and follow up support from Vermilion has enhanced oiled wildlife response within Western Australia. While we hope there is never a reason to use this equipment, we are proud to have meaningfully increased the spill response capabilities of industry in our operating area.