Consultation for larger scale seismic surveys

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 2: 2015

NOPSEMA is receiving an increasing number of seismic survey environment plans (EPs) in which titleholders propose multiple seismic activities across a broad geographical area, with limited information on specific survey location and timing. By taking this approach, titleholders are seeking greater flexibility to leverage commercial opportunities. It has come to NOPSEMA’s attention that this approach presents challenges to meeting the regulatory requirements of effective and transparent consultation with relevant persons.

NOPSEMA has continually reiterated in the Regulator the regulatory requirements for consultation during the preparation of an EP as well as ongoing throughout the life of the EP. Effective and transparent consultation is only possible when sufficient information is provided to relevant persons so they can understand how they may be affected by the titleholder’s proposed activities. In the absence of specific seismic activity information, titleholders with broadly scoped EPs are advised to adjust their approach to consultation or risk having their environment plan refused.

During the preparation of an EP with limited information on activity specifics, in line with existing guidance, NOPSEMA recommends titleholders:

  • broaden criteria of who may be a relevant person and weaken criteria for determining a stakeholder is no longer a relevant person

  • allow relevant persons more time to consider the information

  • engage relevant persons earlier to determine what sufficient information they may require

  • share information with relevant persons before impact and risk assessments and ensure there is a common understanding of the assessment methods

  • when available, provide relevant impact and risk assessment information to demonstrate impacts and risks have been reduced as low as reasonably practicable and is acceptable

  • agree with relevant persons the methods, timing and processes for future engagement that includes clear decision-making criteria and conflict management mechanisms.

The Environment Regulations also require titleholders to conduct ongoing consultation with relevant persons in a manner demonstrated to be appropriate in a plan for ongoing consultation, as part of the implementation strategy of their submitted EP. Given that limited information may be available on activity specifics during preparation of an EP, NOPSEMA places greater importance on the ongoing consultation process. This is to provide an appropriate means of consultation with relevant persons on the specifics of the activity and the management of environmental impacts and risks as they relate to the functions, activities, or interests of relevant persons.

To facilitate appropriate ongoing consultation when specific activity information is unavailable during the preparation of an EP, in addition to existing guidance, NOPSEMA recommends that titleholders:

  • broaden, and increase frequencies of, searches for relevant persons prior to activities commencing and during the activity

  • reflect the requirements for initial consultation in the process for ongoing consultation as described under Environment Regulations 11A and 16(b), i.e. providing relevant persons with sufficient information and enough time to make an informed assessment

  • implement effective mechanisms so that objections and claims raised by relevant persons in relation to specific activities can be transparently and fairly assessed

  • improve consultation monitoring mechanisms to ensure consultation has been undertaken in accordance with the timeframes specified in the accepted EP

  • treat consultation plans as critical control measures, including having unambiguous environmental performance standards that stipulate the planned effectiveness of the controls

  • strengthen Management of Change procedures that feature information needs, assessment methods, decision-making criteria and implications for consultation requirements.

NOPSEMA will challenge titleholders to ensure that where the nature and scale of the petroleum activity proposed is broader, commensurate increased efforts and mechanisms to reduce uncertainty for relevant persons during the consultation process is reflected in EPs. Titleholders should employ open and respectful communication techniques to assist in the effective engagement of relevant persons, which will ultimately increase the likelihood of meeting the consultation requirements of the Environment Regulations.

Relevant persons engaged and concerned about consultation processes in relation to environment plans with limited information on activity specifics are advised to engage with titleholders to formally seek clarity about how your objections and claims will be assessed and the methods of engagement. If you are dissatisfied with a titleholder’s proposals for managing ongoing consultation, a clear and reasoned argument about your objections or claims in relation to the activities proposed should be submitted to the titleholder. NOPSEMA encourages stakeholders to read the consultation guidance published by NOPSEMA as it is equally applicable to your engagement in the consultation process under the Environment Regulations.

NOPSEMA’s Regulatory Services Charter (PDF 196KB) identifies how you may raise any concern or complaint with NOPSEMA.