By May 2, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

Mitigating the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction in the Peruvian Amazon

A figure from Dr. Jenkins' PLoS paper shows Consideration of key ecological and social factors for oil and gas extraction in Western Amazonia.

A figure from Dr. Jenkins’ PLoS paper shows consideration of key ecological and social factors for oil and gas extraction in Western Amazonia.

The Western Amazon is a vast stretch of tropical rainforest, teeming with life found nowhere else in the world. At the confluence of four countries, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil, it has some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet.

Unfortunately, the area is also rich in oil and gas. And where conservationists see the diversity of life in all its grandeur, governments and extracting companies see infrastructure and profits, which are more important in the minds of some corporations and politicians.

This makes the Western Amazon ‘ground zero’ in the struggle to save the world’s biodiversity. Though conservationists lost some fights long ago to prevent oil and gas development in this area, not all hope is lost.

Clinton Jenkins, one of the Pimm Group’s top researchers and contributors, and Vice President of the Pimm Group’s conservation organization SavingSpecies, is co-author of an article that may mitigate some of oil and gas extraction’s worst environmental impacts. The new findings are published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

The aim is to help protect biodiversity in the Western Amazon, especially as energy companies encroach into previously untouched regions.

Jenkins and his colleagues have been studying the Western Amazon for nearly a decade. He helped develop detailed maps that overlay oil and gas exploration zones with areas of high biodiversity and endangered species habitat. Using cutting-edge technology, Dr. Jenkins and his co-authors want to limit the potential damage from developing oil and gas resources.

Specifically, the article recommends ‘best management practices’ for oil and gas extraction in the species-rich tropical rainforest of Peru. Most importantly, the recommendations would help avoid harmful road-building and construction of other infrastructure in the most ecologically sensitive portions of tropical forests.

Co-written with an engineer that specializes in methods to reduce harm to the environment, the recommendations include using extended reach drilling (ERD), an innovative extraction technique that reduces dependence on multiple drilling platforms, roads, and other infrastructure on the forest floor.

Thus, instead of destroying swaths of forests, Jenkins projects that the best practices and methods envisioned in this scientific paper could help reduce potential deforestation by 75 percent, saving forest habitat for species found nowhere else on earth.

Original PLoS article
Finer M, Jenkins CN, Powers B (2013) Potential of Best Practice to Reduce Impacts from Oil and Gas Projects in the Amazon. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63022. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063022

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0063022

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