The BHP Billiton Liverpool Bay oil and gas development (now operated by Eni) is located in one of the most sensitive near shore environments of the UKCS. A large number of important bird sanctuaries are located within 40km of the development.
After ten years of operation, the field production consent needed to be renewed and a newly appointed environmental advisory body advised the regulator against continued production; claiming that oil production and bird protection are incompatible. Neither BHP nor the regulator knew how to unlock the stalemate negotiations.
Without a proper response, the production consent would have expired, putting an end to the offshore development and the associated onshore gas terminal and would have deprived a newly constructed gas fired power plant of feedstock. UK CO2 emissions would have increased. Supply contracts would have been breached and legal compensation sought. The company’s operations in the UK would have folded.
BHP Billiton adopted the EM3.0™ approach to environmental issue management. This allowed the grid-locked parties to value each other’s interests and the societal benefits of continued production. An environmental statement was prepared that addressed the key concern of oil spill risk in significant detail. The company’s environmental track record in the context of the promises that it had made during the initial approval process was also presented.
Renewal of the production consent was granted and subsequent permit applications went considerably smoother. Stakeholder confidence in BHP was restored. Jobs were secured and the produced oil and gas satisfied the energy demand of many consumers.