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Synopsis of 2nd Place Gulf Guardian Awards

(To learn more, please request a copy of the full submission -
these short summaries do not provide a complete picture of the project)


Project #: HAB 2000-20
Company: Conoco Inc., TEXAS
Project Name: Conoco's St. Charles Field- Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

A Culture of Environmental Stewardship

Category: Business
Project Type: Habitat

Brouce Moulton of the TNRCC presents award to Mr. Hymie Gonzales
    Conoco's St. Charles Field, located in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, is a sterling example of profitable oil and gas operations co-existing with wildlife and nature. Since 1939, Conoco's plan for managing the St. Charles Field provides for the minimization of impact to the Refuge's primary Whooping Crane territories and allows systematic and prudent oil and gas exploration and development of remaining reserves. Through Conoco's culture of environmental stewardship, an ongoing relationship and spirit of cooperation exists with the Refuge and other environmental advocates in the preservation of this environmentally sensitive area.

    The diverse habitat of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, including wetlands, tidal marsh areas, wooded dunes, oak thickets, and grassland meadows, is the winter home of the Aransas - Wood Buffalo Whooping Crane flock. This flock constitutes the last viable population of these endangered birds in the wild. During the 60 years that Conoco has conducted business at the St. Charles Field on the Refuge, the flock has increased from fewer than 20 birds to 1997's count of 181.

    Over the years, there have been many examples of Conoco's demonstrated concern for the Refuge and the environment in general. Here are a few of those examples:

   While Conoco’s oil and gas rights pre-date the establishment of the Refuge, Conoco has consistently been conscious of safeguarding the habitat of the Refuge and sought special permits prior to conducting operations. These permits have sometimes included significant and costly mitigation measures to protect Refuge resources. Examples of special permit conditions accepted by Conoco are:

Conditions for the seismic permit included hiring five monitors selected by the Refuge Manager to provide oversight during the project; funding a major research project to determine the presence or absence of endangered ocelots and jaguarundi; provide telemetry work for a bobcat / whooping crane habitat interaction study; and many specific restrictions on when, how, and where the work could be done.

In our drilling operations, we have maintained a "no drill zone," isolating an area of the refuge from any future drilling activities due to the habitat being uniquely critical to the whooping cranes existence.

We also adhere to performing our drilling activities in a defined work window of April 15 to October 15 (offseason for the whooping cranes), maximized the use of single locations for multiple drilling bores, slant drilled from formerly drilled sites to avoid drilling on new pads, and used existing roads and corridors for pipeline construction. In our selection of drilling contractors, we have used only companies with solid reputations for environmental concern.

During the major 3-D seismic survey conducted on the Refuge in 1994, care was taken from the planning stage of the project, when the selection of a environmentally sensitive contractor was priority, to the completion of the seismic work, drilling over 7000 holes so dynamite could be detonated 100-120 feet underground. The entire environmental community watched closely during the project to assure that wildlife and habitats of the Refuge were protected. In the end, the work was completed in a manner that left little visible short-term impact and no lasting impacts on the Refuge.

Beginning in 1989, Conoco provided substantial support for a volunteer habitat protection project at Aransas, the Aransas Shoreline Protection Project. Over four years, the Refuge, using corporate volunteers, was able to stabilize over 8700 feet of shoreline. Conoco provided the lion’s share of volunteers; corporate executives, office and field personnel, who worked side by side with others to hand place 57,000, 60-65 pound interlocking bags of cement along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway through the Refuge. Prior to one year’s project, Conoco found several tons of donated cement and employees gave up several weekends bagging thousands of bags of material in preparation for the waterway work.

And finally, in 1999, after years of working with the Refuge, Conoco and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entered into an agreement, a Comprehensive Management Plan. The plan outlines Conoco’s commitment to the Service for all current, future and final operations at the St. Charles Field.

Working in partnership with the Refuge to fit the needs of the wildlife and the environment, that’s Conoco’s culture of environmental stewardship.

Last Updated: 6 June 2000

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
FAX: 228-688-2709

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