Oil & Gas – Exploration & Production

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Oil & Gas - Exploration & Production (E&P) entities explore for, extract or produce energy products such as crude oil and natural gas, which comprise the upstream operations of the oil and gas value chain. Entities in the industry develop conventional and unconventional oil and gas reserves; these include shale oil or gas reserves, oil sands and gas hydrates. Activities covered by this standard include the development of both on-shore and off-shore reserves. The E&P industry creates contracts with the Oil and Gas Services industry to conduct several E&P activities and to obtain equipment and oilfield services.

Relevant Issues (10 of 26)

Why are some issues greyed out? The SASB Standards vary by industry based on the different sustainability-related risks and opportunities within an industry. The issues in grey were not identified during the standard-setting process as the most likely to be useful to investors, so they are not included in the Standard. Over time, as the ISSB continues to receive market feedback, some issues may be added or removed from the Standard. Each company determines which sustainability-related risks and opportunities are relevant to its business. The Standard is designed for the typical company in an industry, but individual companies may choose to report on different sustainability-related risks and opportunities based on their unique business model.

Disclosure Topics

What is the relationship between General Issue Category and Disclosure Topics? The General Issue Category is an industry-agnostic version of the Disclosure Topics that appear in each SASB Standard. Disclosure topics represent the industry-specific impacts of General Issue Categories. The industry-specific Disclosure Topics ensure each SASB Standard is tailored to the industry, while the General Issue Categories enable comparability across industries. For example, Health & Nutrition is a disclosure topic in the Non-Alcoholic Beverages industry, representing an industry-specific measure of the general issue of Customer Welfare. The issue of Customer Welfare, however, manifests as the Counterfeit Drugs disclosure topic in the Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals industry.
General Issue Category
(Industry agnostic)

Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for: Oil & Gas – Exploration & Production

GHG Emissions
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    Exploration & Production (E&P) activities generate significant direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a variety of sources. Emissions may be combusted, including those arising from flaring or power generation equipment, or uncombusted, including those emissions arising from gas processing equipment, venting, flaring and fugitive methane. Regulatory efforts to reduce GHG emissions in response to climate change related risks may result in additional regulatory compliance costs and risks for E&P entities. With natural gas production from shale resources expanding, the management of the emission of methane, a highly potent GHG, from oil and gas E&P systems has emerged as a major operational, reputational and regulatory risk for entities. Furthermore, the development of unconventional hydrocarbon resources may be more or less GHG-intensive than conventional oil and gas, with associated effects on regulatory risk. Energy efficiency, use of less carbon-intensive fuels, or process improvements to reduce fugitive emissions, venting and flaring, can provide direct benefits to E&P entities in the form of reduced costs or increased revenue.
Air Quality
  • Air Quality

    Air emissions from Exploration & Production (E&P) operations other than greenhouse gas emissions include air pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can create significant and localised environmental or health risks. Of particular concern are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and VOC emissions. The financial consequences entities face from air emissions vary depending on the specific locations of operations and the prevailing air emissions regulations. Impacts on human health may be exacerbated if E&P operations breach air emissions limits close to population centres. Amid increasing regulatory and public concerns about air quality, active air quality management through technological and process improvements could allow entities to mitigate adverse financial effects of regulations. Entities could benefit from operational efficiencies that may result in a lower cost structure over time.
Water & Wastewater Management
  • Water Management

    Depending on the extraction technique, exploration and production operations may consume significant quantities of water, which may expose entities to the risk of reduced water availability, regulations limiting use, or related cost increases, particularly in water-stressed regions. Contamination of local water resources can result from incidents involving produced water, flowback water, hydraulic fracturing fluids and other well fluids. Historically, the possible impacts of hydraulic fracturing operations and the risk of groundwater supply contamination have raised concerns. Reducing water use and contamination through recycling, other water management strategies, and use of non-toxic fracturing fluids could create operational efficiency for entities and reduce their operating costs. Such strategies could also minimise the effects that regulations, water supply shortages and community-related disruptions have on operations.
Ecological Impacts
  • Biodiversity Impacts

    The Exploration & Production (E&P) industry’s activities can have significant impacts on biodiversity. Examples include habitat loss and alteration through land use for exploration, production, disposal of drilling and associated wastes, and decommissioning of onshore and offshore wells. Oil spills and leaks are a threat to species and habitats affected by hydrocarbon contamination. Biodiversity impacts of E&P operations can affect the valuation of oil and gas reserves and create operational risks. Because of increasing protection of ecosystems through popular consensus and legislation, the environmental characteristics of the land where reserves are located may lead to higher, or even prohibitive extraction costs. Entities could also face regulatory or reputational barriers to accessing reserves in ecologically sensitive areas. This may include new protection statuses afforded to areas where reserves are located. Examples of such areas include the Arctic and shorelines with mangroves and swamps, which are not only extremely ecologically sensitive, but also entail more complex and expensive clean-up operations for hydrocarbon spills or leaks. Depreciation in the future value of reserves may be mitigated by considering the proximity of reserves in or near protected areas as part of the decision-making process. Entities with a good reputation for minimising biodiversity impacts could gain a competitive advantage in accessing new reserves in or near protected areas. Ongoing E&P operations could be at risk in the absence of effective environmental management plans for various stages of the project lifecycle because of regulatory penalties, litigation, community protests and associated costs.
Human Rights & Community Relations
  • Security, Human Rights & Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Exploration & Production (E&P) entities face additional community-related risks when operating in conflict zones; in areas with weak or absent governance institutions, rule of law, or legislation to protect human rights; or in areas with vulnerable communities such as indigenous peoples. Entities using private or government security forces to protect their workers and assets may knowingly or unknowingly contribute to human rights violations, including the use of excessive force. Entities perceived as contributing to human rights violations or failing to account for indigenous peoples’ rights may be affected by protests, riots or suspension of permits. These entities could face substantial costs related to compensation or settlement payments, and write-downs in the value of their reserves in such areas. In the absence of applicable jurisdictional laws or regulations to address such cases, several international instruments have emerged to provide guidelines for entities. These instruments include obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples for decisions that affect them. Several countries have implemented specific laws protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, creating increasing regulatory risk for entities that violate those rights.
  • Community Relations

    Exploration & Production (E&P) activities take place over many years and can have a wide range of adverse effects on communities. Community rights and interests may be affected by the environmental and social impacts of E&P operations, such as competition for access to local energy or water resources, air and water emissions, and waste. Entities frequently need support from local communities to obtain permits and leases and conduct their activities without disruptions. Entities may experience adverse financial impacts if the community interferes, or lobbies its government to interfere, with the rights of an E&P entity in relation to their ability to access, develop and produce reserves. In addition to community concerns about the direct impacts of projects, the presence of E&P activities may create associated socioeconomic concerns related to education, health, livelihoods and food security for the community. E&P entities engaging in rent-seeking and exploiting a community’s resources without providing proportional socioeconomic benefits in return may be exposed to actions by host governments and communities that restrict their activities or impose additional costs. These could include imposition of ad hoc taxes and export restrictions. These risks vary depending on the country and could be higher in countries heavily reliant on oil and gas for their economic growth. Entities in the extractives industries can adopt various community engagement strategies in their global operations to manage risks and opportunities associated with community rights and interests, such as integrating community engagement into each phase of the project cycle. Entities are beginning to adopt a ‘shared value’ approach to provide significant socioeconomic benefits to communities and allow them to operate profitably.
Employee Health & Safety
  • Workforce Health & Safety

    Workers involved in Exploration & Production (E&P) activities face significant health and safety risks because of the harsh working environments and the hazards of handling oil and gas. In addition to acute harms resulting from accidents, workers may develop chronic health conditions, including those caused by silica or dust inhalation, as well as mental health problems. A significant proportion of the workforce at oil and gas drilling sites consists of temporary workers and employees of oil and gas service entities. An entity’s ability to protect employee health and safety, and to create a culture of safety and well-being among all employees, may prevent accidents, mitigate costs, reduce operational downtime and enhance workforce productivity. Additional health and safety protocols may be needed to protect groups such as women and minorities in regions where they continue to face discrimination.
Business Model Resilience
  • Reserves Valuation & Capital Expenditures

    Exploration and production (E&P) entities may be unable to extract a significant proportion of their proved and probable oil and gas reserves if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are controlled to limit global temperature increases. Entities with more carbon-intensive reserves and production and higher capital costs may face greater risks. Regulatory limits on GHG emissions, together with improved competitiveness of alternative energy technologies, could reduce global demand growth, and therefore reduce prices for oil and gas products. Extraction costs could increase with regulations that put a price on GHG emissions. These factors could affect the economic viability of oil and gas reserves. Regulatory actions that are more abrupt than anticipated, or those focusing on industries with high emissions, could impair asset values over a short period. Stewardship of capital resources and production decisions that consider near- and long-term trends related to climate change may mitigate potential asset impairment and maintain profitability and creditworthiness.
Business Ethics
  • Business Ethics & Transparency

    Managing business ethics and maintaining an appropriate level of transparency in payments to governments or individuals are significant issues for Exploration & Production (E&P) entities. Relationships with governments are especially important to entities in the E&P industry since entities compete for access to oil and gas reserves. Anti-corruption, anti-bribery, and payments transparency laws and initiatives globally create regulatory mechanisms to reduce the risk of misconduct. Violations of these could result in significant one-time costs or higher compliance costs, whereas successful compliance with such regulations could avoid adverse outcomes. Enforcement of these laws could affect an entity’s social licence to operate. Entities with significant reserves or operations in corruption-prone countries could face increased risks. Entities must ensure their governance structures and business practices reduce the risks associated with corruption and wilful or unintentional participation in illegal or unethical payments, or with gifts to government officials or private individuals.
Management of the Legal & Regulatory Environment
  • Management of the Legal & Regulatory Environment

    The Exploration & Production (E&P) industry is subject to numerous sustainability-related regulations and a rapidly changing regulatory environment. Entities in the industry regularly participate in the regulatory and legislative process on a wide variety of environmental and societal issues, and they may do so directly or through representation by an industry association. Entities may participate in these processes to ensure industry views are represented in the development of regulations affecting the industry, as well as to represent shareholder interests. However, such attempts to influence environmental laws and regulations may have an adverse effect on entities’ reputations with stakeholders and ultimately affect the entity’s social licence to operate. Entities that can balance these tensions may be better positioned to respond to medium-to-long-term regulatory developments.
Critical Incident Risk Management
  • Critical Incident Risk Management

    The Exploration & Production (E&P) industry faces significant hazards associated with exploration, development and production activities. Accidental releases of hydrocarbons or other hazardous substances can also have significant consequences for an entity’s workforce, as well as negative social and environmental externalities. In addition to effective process safety management practices, many entities prioritise developing a culture of safety to reduce the probability of accidents and other health and safety incidents. If accidents and other emergencies do occur, entities with a strong safety culture are often able to detect and respond to such incidents more effectively. A culture that engages and empowers employees and contractors to work with management to safeguard their own health, safety and well-being and prevent accidents may help entities reduce production downtime, mitigate costs, ensure workforce productivity and maintain their licence to operate.

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