APPEA launches important environmental metadata sharing collaboration

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31st Oct 2016

A pilot project that generated the first snapshot of combined environmental data collected off the northwest coast has led to the sharing of metadata from many industry and publicly funded studies in Western Australia.

The Industry-Government Environmental Meta-database (IGEM) - a collaboration between the oil and gas industry, government agencies, research organisations and the Western Australian Marine Science Organisation (WAMSI) – was officially launched by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) at its Health, Safety and Environment Forum in Perth on 26th October.

IGEM  not only shows what marine studies have been completed, by whom, when and how, but also allows reports to be sent to operators with the metadata and contact details of the people who hold the datasets. The online centralised system allows companies that are responding to emergencies or developing environmental plans, to search available data sets to avoid repeating existing expensive data collection.

Facilitated by APPEA, the oil and gas industry’s peak industry body, companies that have so far agreed to share information about the huge number of datasets they collect include; Woodside, Chevron, Inpex, Murphy Oil Australia, PTTEP, Quadrant Energy (formally Apache), Santos, Shell Australia.

WAMSI, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO and the state government Departments of Parks and Wildlife, and Fisheries are also contributing their own metadata to the IGEM.

Developed by WAMSI, the IGEM portal provides members with access to enter the IGEM website, view and filter metadata and export results to a report. The site will also have a page with information for the general public.

“As an industry, we collect a huge amount of data,” APPEA Chair Bruce Lake said. “Having a place where everyone can see what information has already been gathered will dramatically improve response times.”

Currently IGEM covers the marine environment between the Abrolhos Islands and the Timor Sea, out to the Australia’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

“In the last ten years we’ve spent 100s of millions of dollars actually understanding the environment, doing impact assessment, doing compliance monitoring in that region,” Woodside Energy Chief Environmental Scientist Luke Smith said. “Woodside alone has spent $80 million on doing basic scientific understanding and baselines there. So it’s the perfect place to start to understand how we can actually use baseline information to support our business and government’s business down the track.”

“The long-term goal is to avoid overlap in data collection and facilitate the sharing of data sets and knowledge amongst industry and government for the benefit of all marine users and the long-term management of Australia’s marine estate,” Dr Smith said.

IGEM will have the capacity to increase its key datasets but it has begun with using metadata collected post-2008 in seven key areas: mangroves; benthic habitats; demersal fish, nesting turtles, seabirds and shorebirds, megafauna; and sediment quality.

Subscribers are able to search for relevant environmental studies by research activity in a specific area; the date it was collected; the organisation that collected the data; and key words.

The web platform, which is in development, initially provides access to geospatial metadata records on key studies off Western Australia, but with the potential to expand nationally.

“I hope as the system evolves that other companies, agencies and research groups see the positives in this process and follow the lead of the current participants,” WAMSI CEO Patrick Seares said. “Sharing metadata has so many upsides and really doesn’t expose the data owners to any risk so I’m also encouraged that the industry partners are considering making it a public resource.”

The IGEM system for sharing industry and government environmental metadata is the first key outcome to be realised for improved efficiency in marine science to come from Western Australia’s Blueprint for Marine Science Initiative