ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest publicly traded energy providers and chemical manufacturers, initiated oil and gas exploration activities in Guyana in 2008 that led to the company safely drilling its first exploration well in 2015. In 2016, ExxonMobil engaged ERM to help obtain Guyana’s first offshore environmental authorization for the Liza Phase 1 development project, which is expected to generate the country’s first oil in early 2020.
Since that time, ERM has continued to serve as ExxonMobil’s lead environmental and social consultancy, working alongside Guyanese environmental companies and local experts, for subsequent Guyana offshore developments. The Environmental and Social Impact Assessments for these projects included extensive, multi-season and multi-year field studies to characterize the baseline conditions along the coast and as far as 200 km offshore for birds, fish, marine turtles, and ecosystem system services.
ERM leveraged technology throughout the project to ensure safe, timely and accurate results. With specially adapted tablets, the team produced real-time data analytics in the field. Connecting with geospatial specialists located in ERM offices, local team members were able to conduct extensive and precise coastal mapping that was critical to the integrity of the biodiversity and socioeconomic studies. Highlights from our ongoing field studies include:
- The Turtle Tagging and Telemetry Program, conducted in partnership with the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency and the Protected Areas Commission, contributed a wealth of new data about the at-sea behaviors of Guyana’s nesting green and leatherback turtles.
- The Ecosystem Services Study documented the relationship between coastal ecosystems and local human populations and was the first study of its kind to be conducted coast-wide in Guyana. Over 700 community leaders and members participated.
- The Coastal Sensitivity Analysis mapped and measured the environmental receptors along 427 km of Guyana coastline, including over 59,000 hectares of coastal mangroves.
- Coastal Bird Studies, which included data collection at over 100 pre-determined survey points along Guyana’s entire coastline from Suriname to Venezuela. Overall, 230 species and over 69,000 birds were observed during five surveys; nine of which are recorded as bird species of global and regional conservation interest.
- Marine Bird Studies included the first offshore bird surveys of Guyanese waters. The nine surveys documented seven bird species not previously documented in Guyana. Data from the surveys increased the number of bird species confirmed to occur offshore Guyana from 28 to 35.
- The Nearshore and Offshore Fisheries Study was the first fish study of its kind in Guyanese waters in over 50 years. Several species that have never been recorded in Guyana’s waters were documented during the surveys.
Benefits and Value
ERM helps ExxonMobil keep its operations in Guyana on schedule and on budget by minimizing the potential environmental and social risks of its investments.