Experience

Managing Impacts on Migratory Birds
Managing Impacts on Migratory Birds

Background

Growing attention is being given to the effects of lighting on birds from offshore oil and gas installations and wind farms, and associated implications for corporate reputation.  Artificial illumination on offshore oil and gas installations in particular has a variety of effects on migratory and non-migratory birds, especially at night. These include attraction and disorientation, resulting in encirclement of platforms during the autumnal migration. Birds can be directly injured or killed by collision, contact with oil or by being incinerated in the flare if the flare is in operation; but also indirectly by the trapping effect of the light.

Plexus was commissioned to carry out an assessment of emerging best practice and experience regarding the development and application of lighting schemes to minimise the negative impacts on migratory birds from offshore platform lighting. Emphasis was placed on bird friendly green light or spectral modified lighting and related approaches.

Using its network approach, Plexus was able to mobilise a team of biodiversity and lighting specialists with direct operational experience in the area of offshore platform lighting to review experience regarding spectral modified lighting and to present the business case for applying this technology to an oil project off North East Canada. 

In addition to spectral modified lighting other approaches such as shielding and directional lighting, the use of flashing lights and the development of flaring protocols were evaluated. Emerging regulatory trends and practice in the North Sea, North America and Australia were also considered, including trends in EIA scoping and the management of biodiversity impacts.

Deliverables

Plexus started with a literature review on the impacts of conventional lighting on offshore installations on migratory birds and attempts to reduce and/or eliminate the attraction of birds to platform lighting during the autumnal migration period. Particular attention was given to the development by NAM and Phillips Lighting B.V. of spectral modified lighting; an approach that has resulted in a significant reduction in bird attraction and associated fatalities.

Plexus interviewed operators, regulators and technology providers and evaluated the applicability of NAM’s green light experience in the Dutch sector of the North Sea to other offshore projects, from northern latitudes to the Gulf of Mexico and the tropics. This included a detailed review of NAM/Phillips’ trials in the North Sea and on the Island of Ameland, where green light has been in operation for several years. Experience gained in recent offshore, coastal and onshore projects in Australia, Alaska and Germany was also reviewed. Likewise, consideration was given to safety and cost issues, including a comparison of the cost of converting to green light compared to the cost of integrating the technology into project design.

Outcomes

The study presented a technology case and set out recommendations regarding the applicability of spectral modified lighting to the client’s project. The business benefits of the application of this existing technology, such as cost considerations and the management of stakeholder perceptions and relations with NGOs and regulators were also presented.

The study emphasised the benefits of early consideration of the impact of lighting on birds and concluded that, depending on the location and latitude of the project, spectral modified lighting, as part of an overall lighting strategy, can result in substantial business benefits and reduce the incidence of bird attraction to offshore platform lighting.  

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