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Sensitive environments

Our work with leading scientific and conservation organisations around the world helps us to find new ways to manage environmental challenges and improve the way we develop our projects and operate our facilities. We collaborate with Earthwatch, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International to help us address environmental aspects of our activities (see “Partners and collaboration”).

Shell aims to operate responsibly and transparently in protected areas that are rich in biodiversity, often working in collaboration with environmental experts. We were one of the first energy companies to introduce a biodiversity standard. An environmental impact assessment takes place when we plan a major project or an expansion to an existing facility. We also consider the potential impacts on local biodiversity, taking steps to address them, and review how local people may depend on biodiversity and ecosystems for essentials such as fresh water and food for their subsistence.

For example, we are part of a joint venture operating in southern Iraq’s Majnoon oil field, which overlaps with an ancient wetland of international importance (see “Iraq”). Our environmental plan helped the project team gain a better understanding of the sensitivities in the area and how local communities use the marshes for their livelihoods, such as for fishing and feeding livestock. This influences the design of the oilfield infrastructure.

Engineering with nature

Natural systems can be used to complement man-made infrastructure, making the overall system more resilient. For example, oyster beds can be used to stabilise pipeline systems and reduce coastal erosion. We have been part of a joint industry programme, which released a report on natural systems in 2013 and recommended that green infrastructure be included in the training for engineers. Our scientists contributed to this work alongside academics, The Nature Conservancy, Dow Chemical Company, Swiss Re and Unilever.

Petroleum Development Oman (Shell interest 34%) has commissioned the world’s largest commercial wetland water-treatment plant, which covers 360 hectares. The facility is located south of Muscat, Oman, and treats water produced from the Nimr oilfield by using reeds from the wetland as water filters.