Environmental impacts and social concerns - A case study associated with petroleum exploration activities from onshore Baram Delta, NW Sarawak

Author : John Jong, Tran Quoc Tan, Franz L. KesslerPublication : Bulletin of the Geological Society of MalaysiaNumber : 72Page : 89 - 100Year : 2021DOI : doi.org/10.7186/bgsm72202107


Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 72, November 2021, pp. 89 - 100

Environmental impacts and social concerns - A case study associated with petroleum exploration activities from onshore Baram Delta, NW Sarawak

John Jong1,*, Tran Quoc Tan1, Franz L. Kessler2

1 JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration (Malaysia) Limited,
Level 17, Menara Prestige, No. 1, Jalan Pinang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 Goldbach Geoconsultants O&G and Lithium Exploration, Bommichring 7A 63864 Glattbach, Bavaria, Germany
* Corresponding author email address : jjong2005@gmail.com

Abstract: The onshore Baram Delta, located in NW Sarawak is the birthplace of petroleum production in Malaysia. The Miri oilfield was first discovered in 1910 and subsequently abandoned in 1972 with intermittent exploration activities in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. To rejuvenate exploration interest and to identify remaining hydrocarbon potential of the study area, in 2009-2010 JX Nippon acquired gravity, then regional 2D seismic data, followed-by exploration well drilling from 2011-2014. This paper discusses the social-environmental impacts and concerns associated with these petroleum exploration activities, from acquisition of seismic where explosives and vibroseis were used as a source of propagating signals, to exploration drilling with petroleum chemicals such as water-based muds used to facilitate the drilling operations. Overall, the inquiry addresses operational challenges, security of explosive storage and concern for handling explosives in the field, the social-environmental impacts of seismic acquisition operations, as well as removal of drilling fluid chemicals and disposal of contaminated cuttings. Containment procedures and mitigation measures undertaken to alleviate these social-environmental impacts are discussed according to the guidelines and regulatory requirements provided by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), in conjunction with PETRONAS Procedures and Guidelines for Upstream Activities (PPGUA) and the company’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Management System. In the final analysis, significant environmental and social challenges were certainly encountered while planning and conducting petroleum exploration activities in the study area. These challenges include problems related to topographic variabilities, permitting issues, compensations for affected lands and cash crops; layout constraints, drilling operations, well control measures for blowout prevention, traffic controls, potential damage to infra-structures, explosive and equipment transportation. However, with proper planning, effective communication with the local authorities, and awareness sessions conducted for the affected parties and stakeholders; together with the support of the local communities the operations have not only managed to mitigate these social and environmental concerns, the exploration activities also provided economic benefits such as hotel accommodation, logistics and transportation demands for local businesses, and short-term employment opportunities for the local people. Ultimately, the operations successfully acquired nearly 900-line km of seismic across many villages, longhouses, and in the city areas, with four exploration wells were drilled in the exploration block. We are glad to report that both seismic and drilling operations were conducted successfully and safely with minimal interruptions to people and environment, without untoward incidents or spills. With the mitigation measures in place, there were no damages other than land access, which were remediated, where incurred.

Keywords: Environmental impacts, Miri, NW Sarawak, petroleum exploration, seismic acquisition

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7186/bgsm72202107