Improving environmental impact assessments for seismic surveys

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 3: 2018 

NOPSEMA has identified a range of common deficiencies in environment plans in relation to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process for acoustic emissions from seismic surveys. These deficiencies often contribute to prolonged assessment timeframes, reduced operational flexibility and have presented challenges to industry’s social license to operate.

To assist industry and promote continuous improvement, NOPSEMA has developed an Acoustic impact evaluation and management information paper. The information paper is intended to provide good practice advice for the assessment and management of environmental impacts of acoustic emissions from seismic surveys.

The paper identifies a number of common deficiencies throughout the EIA process and provides advice in the form of ‘considerations’ to assist industry in addressing those deficiencies. Advice is also provided on the selection of suitable approaches for predicting underwater sound levels and determining where specific measures are required to validate sound levels, as well as fauna abundance and/or impact predictions to inform adaptive management.

The paper does not prescribe how environmental impacts of acoustic emissions from seismic surveys must be managed. Rather, it provides good practice advice to assist industry in ensuring their EIA process incorporates and considers relevant information when making predictions and selecting approaches for managing environmental impacts. It is NOPSEMA’s expectation that industry considers the advice provided in the information paper during the preparation of environment plans proposing seismic surveys. While it is not a regulatory requirement to apply the advice provided, consideration by industry is likely to result in improvements in the quality of demonstrating environment plans meet the requirements of the regulations as well as NOPSEMA’s assessment policies and decision making guidelines.

NOPSEMA will undertake a review of the information paper in 12 months to ensure it continues to assist industry in preparing quality EIAs for seismic surveys. To access the new guidance visit nopsema.gov.au/environmental-management/environment-resources.