Reducing regulatory burden and increasing the flow of information are just two of the focus areas of a new online portal launched by NERA (National Energy Resources Australia).
NERA, as an independent and not for profit organisation, is one of six Industry Growth Centres funded by the Australian Government to support global competitiveness by focusing on four key areas – increasing collaboration and commercialisation; improving access to global supply chains and international opportunities; enhancing management and workforce skills; and optimising the regulatory environment.
The portal – available at https://referencecases.nera.org.au – is an electronic repository for environmental ‘reference cases’ – detailed reports that capture common content relating to the environmental impacts and risks of offshore petroleum activities.
By collecting multiple reference cases in one site, the NERA portal forms a sophisticated knowledge base for operators to use in the development of new environment plans where previous case outcomes can be applied to their proposed activity, creating efficiencies for regulators and industry.
The portal has the potential to significantly reduce the assessment burden on companies in terms of cost, timeframes and uncertainty by simplifying the preparation and submission of new environment plans for future exploration.
The portal continues the work started by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) that, in conjunction with government, industry and community partners, first launched the reference case site to build community trust in the environmental approvals process and reduce unnecessary regulatory burden.
NERA CEO Miranda Taylor said the portal and NERA’s project work connected with the reference cases has the potential to build the industry’s social license to operate.
“While oil and gas companies play a vital role in providing the energy and prosperity needed to support Australian homes and businesses, they are also committed to show the community and thier stakeholders how they operate in an environmentally responsible manner and to be accountable for that performance,” Ms Taylor said.
“The portal will eventually provide a central place for anyone from the Australian community to search for and find the information that underpins the environmental performance of the industry. This shared knowledge base is what will underpin the industry’s social license for decades to come and allow the industry to grow in the most environmentally responsible, productive and competitive way possible.
“NERA’s reference case portal is a starting point for sharing information about the good practices of the oil and gas industry.The portal will make seeking environmental approvals simpler for smaller Australian companies or new entrants into the Australian market. The message is simple: don’t start from scratch, start with a reference case.”
The portal currently lists ideas for reference case studies and provides three examples of reference cases. Two of those reference cases are open for public comment.