Sensitive areas and green infrastructure

Sensitive areas

We work to avoid impacts on biodiversity when developing new projects. In some cases, our projects can affect local biodiversity and the communities who rely on its biodiversity for their livelihoods. We develop comprehensive biodiversity action plans to assess and mitigate the extent to which local biodiversity and communities may be affected by operations in critical habitats. For example, at our Corrib facility in Ireland, we constructed a pipeline tunnel under an estuary to minimise the impact on land and water habitats.

We partner with major conservation organisations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International and Earthwatch. We seek their guidance on how best to protect natural habitats. (See Joint ventures).

Protecting oceans

The biodiversity of the world’s oceans is at risk from a range of different challenges, including overfishing, climate change and pollution from plastics. We combine science and knowledge from local communities to enhance our understanding of the marine environments in which we operate. We also train people in communities to help protect marine mammals off the coast in countries where we are active, for example, in New Zealand and Colombia.

In the Gulf of Mexico, USA, we are encouraging scientists to use Shell’s expertise and technology – such as remotely-operated vehicles – to explore the depths of the ocean. This collaboration between academics and the deep-water oil and gas industry has led to sightings of rarely seen sea creatures and the discovery of what is thought to be a new species of octopus.

Creating green infrastructure

Shovels in front of oyster shells in Louisiana, USA (photo)

In Louisiana, USA, a Shell-funded programme organised the collection of oyster shells to help restore parts of the state’s eroded coastline.

Green infrastructure is the term used to describe the use of natural systems to complement man-made infrastructure, an approach which typically makes the overall system more resilient. We are looking for ways to integrate natural systems into the design of our projects. In some cases, natural systems could be used as part of climate change adaptation strategies by governments, businesses or communities.

In Louisiana, USA, a Shell-funded programme, operated by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, organised the collection of hundreds of tonnes of oyster shells from local restaurants to help rebuild oyster reefs and restore the state’s coastline. Louisiana is home to 40% of the USA’s wetlands, and a natural habitat for oysters. The oysters clump together to form reefs, which trap sediment and help create shallow marshes and estuaries. These are the nurseries for one of the country’s largest commercial fisheries and refuge for more than 5 million migratory birds. The reefs also help shield homes, businesses and ports from storms on Louisiana’s coast.

Dr John Hutton (photo)

Dr Jon Hutton

Former director, -World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), Cambridge, UK

External opinion

“Shell has contributed to UNEP-WCMC’s Proteus Partnership for more than 13 years, supporting the development and accessibility of valuable biodiversity information. Shell has made good progress integrating biodiversity data into operational decisions by screening for critical habitats and implementing biodiversity management plans. But there is always room for improvement.

Our research shows there are overlaps between hydrocarbon resources and areas that the conservation community considers important for biodiversity. This will make securing social licence to operate increasingly challenging. The energy industry needs to place a greater emphasis on the value of nature, economic or otherwise, in its decision-making. This would enable a more nuanced approach to developing resources in areas which require sensitive management of the social and environmental impacts and risks.”

United Nations Environment Programme
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