Bringing wetland information into decision making of the oil & gas sector
Activities by the oil and gas sector can often threaten wetlands, such as in the Arctic or oil sands of Alberta, Canada. Shell and Wetlands International have developed a software tool called WPIAT (the Wetlands Pre-Impact Assessment Tool), which can help improve the understanding of how development affects wetlands, including its impact on biodiversity and people who depend on wetlands for food and work.
Wetlands are one of the most important and sensitive ecosystems. Around the world, oil and gas exploration often overlaps with wetlands – and growing demand is pushing development into sensitive wetland areas such as the Arctic. Experience over the past few decades has proven that inadequate management of the impacts of oil and gas activities on wetlands can lead to long term social and environmental damage, the loss of ecosystem services and business opportunities, such as in the Niger Delta.
In order to better identify ways to reduce impacts on wetlands before projects commence, Wetlands International is working with Shell to develop and implement WPIAT. Early identification of potential social and environmental consequences of industrial activity is essential in order to address impacts more responsibly. Before a project commences, WPIAT walks the user through a series of questions about the local environment and proposed activities, assessing this information to help identify the values and functions of wetlands that a planned project may affect. By understanding the sensitivities of wetlands and their value to people and nature, better decisions can be made to avoid, mitigate, compensate and restore any impacts.
WPIAT will capture the many lessons that have been learned from energy projects worldwide. Each new project will provide new lessons to inform future projects, and in this way it is a living tool.
What we achieved
Shell is testing this software in a pilot project and seeks to increase its use within the company. If successful, the tool could be used to improve the design of new energy projects, not only within Shell, but for the entire oil and gas sector.
Future use could also improve practices beyond the oil and gas sector. “In the future, we plan to adapt this tool for use by other sectors such as mining or tourism,” says Ward Hagemeijer, Corporate Relations Manager at Wetlands International. “By improving knowledge within industry of how development affects sensitive wetland environments, we aim to protect them – and the people that depend on them.”