The oil and gas industry is truly global, with operations conducted in every corner of the globe, from Alaska to Australia,from Peru to China, and in every habitat from Arctic todesert, from tropical rainforest to temperate woodland, frommangrove to offshore.
The global community will rely heavily on oil and gassupplies for the foreseeable future. World primary energyconsumption in 1994 stood at nearly 8000 million tonnes ofoil equivalents (BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June1995); oil and gas represented 63 per cent of world energysupply, with coal providing 27 per cent, nuclear energy 7 percent and hydro-electric 3 per cent. The challenge is to meetworld energy demands, whilst minimizing adverse impact onthe environment by conforming to current good practice.
The exploitation of oil and gas reserves has not alwaysbeen without some ecological side effects. Oil spills,damaged land, accidents and fires, and incidents of air andwater pollution have all been recorded at various times andplaces. In recent times the social impact of operations, especially in remote communities, has also attracted attention.The oil and gas industry has worked for a long time to meetthe challenge of providing environmental protection. Muchhas already been achieved but the industry recognizes thateven more can be accomplished.
The United Nations Conference on Environment andDevelopment (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in June1992—’The Earth Summit’—focused world attention onthe close links that exist between the environment and socioeconomic development. The Summit reviewed global environmental issues and resulted in two conventions (theFramework Convention on Climate Change and theConvention on Biological Diversity), as well as the RioDeclaration and Agenda 21—plan of action. The centralmessage of Agenda 21 is one of interdependence and cross-sector partnership, and the plan of action provided a newapproach to the wide-ranging socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the world community.
The broad environmental issues faced by the oil and gasexploration and production industry are manifested at bothlocal and global levels. They include: habitat protection andbiodiversity, air emissions, marine and freshwater discharges,incidents and oil spills, and soil and groundwater contamination. The industry has responded to these issues. The challenge is to ensure that all operations conform to currentgood practice.
The continual evolution of the environmental agendamust also be taken into account. Industry places muchemphasis on establishing effective management systems andhas gone a long way to ensure that environmental issues arekey components of corporate culture, with the issues relatedto health, safety and environment often being consideredtogether, because they have much in common.
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