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Biodiversity and ecosystem services


Biodiversity refers to the number and variety of living organisms in a given area. Ecosystem services are the food, water, shelter, clean air and cultural identity that people obtain from the environment. Safeguarding the ability of the environment to support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services is a priority for ExxonMobil.  

Our approach

Our approach to managing biodiversity and ecosystem services recognizes several factors, including the rarity of individual species, their roles in different ecosystems and habitats, their vulnerabilities and their cultural significance. To protect particular species and sensitive habitats, we take steps such as modifying engineering design, construction and operating practices, and enhancing wildlife habitats at our properties.

Up Close: Papua New Guinea biodiversity offset program

ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea (EMPNG), which operates a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the coast, is committed to safeguarding biodiversity in areas where the company operates and, in particular, the highland areas where the associated Upstream gas production and processing activities occur. This region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) includes the Kikori River Basin and is ecologically significant because it supports a large number of species, many of which are indigenous to PNG.

In 2010, EMPNG developed a biodiversity strategy built on extensive stakeholder consultation that outlines how impacts on biodiversity will be assessed and managed over the long term. EMPNG’s biodiversity strategy is aligned with PNG’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which provides a strategic roadmap for the sustainable use and management of the country’s biological resources. To develop the biodiversity strategy, EMPNG applied a risk management hierarchy, that involves, in order of application, the following approach:

Through the application of this process, EMPNG created a biodiversity program that will offset the more than 32,000 acres affected by the project by protecting almost 124,000 acres of varying forest types, including old growth forest in each of three elevation zones of the Upstream area over the life of the project. This protection is being achieved through implementation of the following five components of the biodiversity offset program:

In 2015, post-project monitoring indicated that the ecological health of impacted habitats had improved since construction of the PNG LNG facilities was completed. Biodiversity survey results in designated biodiversity assessment areas exhibited high biodiversity values, including the discovery of entirely new species of plants and frogs. A second biodiversity assessment survey is scheduled for 2017, and it will include new survey sites.

Performance and initiatives 

ExxonMobil closely examines the environmental context of the areas where we operate to identify biodiversity and ecosystem services risks and appropriate protective measures. We also periodically screen the locations of our major operating facilities against databases of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Protected Areas. In 2016, an estimated 25 percent of our major operating facilities were within 5 kilometers of designated environmentally sensitive areas. By tracking these data, we are able to ensure prioritized areas receive special protection. In addition to our commitment to protecting biodiversity in our operating areas, we support advocacy, research and partnerships to protect biodiversity outside our fence lines. In 2016, we contributed approximately $4 million to organizations, such as those focused on biodiversity protection and land conservation.

ExxonMobil actively manages land for the benefit of wildlife, which includes assessing habitats, developing plans to enhance or sustain wildlife, implementing the plans and monitoring the status of our sites through certified programs. These programs help us promote environmental awareness, biodiversity and science initiatives in our workforce and local communities on a global basis. We continue to seek opportunities at other locations for enhancing wildlife habitat and providing environmental education to local communities.

We also continue to collaborate with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to actively manage our land for the benefit of wildlife, while developing educational and outreach programs. Under WHC’s certification program we currently have 15 certified programs. Four programs have transitioned to WHC’s new Conservation Certification which combines wildlife habitat initiatives and educational outreach. These include: Houston (Texas) campus, St. Mary’s Island in Houston’s ship channel, Joliet (Illinois) refinery and Billings (Montana) refinery. The remaining 11 programs consist of Wildlife at Work or Corporate Lands for Leaning programs that will transition to the new Conservation Certification as those sites cycle through the recertification process. 

Up Close: Research and conservation of the iconic Arabian Gulf dugong 

The Arabian Gulf in Western Asia is home to the second-largest population of dugongs, a mammal that is related to the manatee and is listed as vulnerable by IUCN. There are thought to be approximately 7,000 dugongs in the Arabian Gulf, and of these approximately 2,500 are found off the coast of Qatar. Over the past two years, ExxonMobil Research Qatar has worked in partnership with Qatar University, Texas A&M-Galveston and the Qatar Ministry of Environment to research and better understand the biology and habitat of the Qatari dugongs.

The research team has been active in local community outreach to educate the people of Qatar about dugongs and the importance of conserving this native species. For example, ExxonMobil Research Qatar has presented at local schools, performed training workshops with the Qatar University Department of Biology and Environmental Science, and provided relevant training opportunities in partnership with the Qatari Ministry of Municipality and Environment.