In 2009, we continued to roll out the Tullow Oil Environmental Standards (toes) to complement our EMS core standards. The five elements of toes act as a guide for our environmental management and help us to communicate and share environmental best practice across the Group.
Protecting biodiversity is a major environmental concern for Tullow due to the scale and location of our operations, which can have both a positive and negative impact on local species and ecosystems. To ensure we consider our impacts we follow international best practice when planning any of our operations.
Since Tullow began operations in Uganda, we have been mapping sensitive ecological habitats to provide us with an understanding of our potential impacts. This mapping is supported by long-term research, monitoring programmes and partnerships with government institutions and other specialist stakeholders.
We are involved in programmes to help communities understand conservation and biodiversity in their local areas. In Uganda, we promote the use of fuel-efficient stoves to help reduce dependence on locally sourced wood. Tullow also supports several projects to promote the understanding and conservation of endangered species, most notably with regard to primates in Central Africa and the Ecosystèmes Forestiers d’Afrique Centrale (ECOFAC) programme that Tullow has supported for the past five years.
Tullow’s operations in Uganda focus on the Albertine Graben in the west of the country, which is recognised as one of Africa’s most important sites for the conservation of biodiversity. It is believed that the Albertine Graben contains more vertebrate species than any other region on the continent, as well as a large percentage of Africa’s birds, mammals, reptiles and plant species.
In 2009, we drilled the Ngassa-2 well on the Angara Spit, a very narrow, fragile body of sand jutting into Lake Albert, which is in an area of established natural beauty with sensitive eco-systems. It was apparent from the outset that a normal sized well pad of approximately four hectares would not be possible so an innovative solution was needed to reduce the footprint of the well pad whilst ensuring we maintained high operational and safety standards.
Access to the Angara Spit also presented significant challenges, particularly as the use of conventional materials for road and well site construction would have had a negative impact on the environment. To mitigate this we used a new, non-intrusive construction material called ‘Neo-Web’, which enabled us to build a temporary well site and access road capable of bearing incredible weights with no lasting environmental harm. We were also able to offer employment to local communities who worked throughout the project to maintain the integrity of the road. In addition, careful thought was given to a range of environmental considerations, for example waste and storm water management, and Tullow established a mobile emergency response unit to supplement the contractor’s response unit.
All personnel involved in the Ngassa-2 project including contractors, subcontractors and local employees worked closely with the project management team to ensure that this project was completed without safety issues and without leaving a negative environmental legacy. While remediation works are ongoing, it is clear that full rehabilitation of the Angara Spit will be achievable.