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Social risk focus of shale gas tool

Environmental consultant SLR Consulting has launched a new tool to help shale gas project developers to secure and retain social acceptance for extraction schemes.

The process and management tool - named MI-STLO - is aimed at assisting project and programme managers with gaining a Social Licence to Operate (SLTO), which is seen as a vital step in gaining broader acceptance of shale gas schemes.

“Securing community acceptance for the exploration, development and production of a local shale resource should go hand-in-hand with the work streams relating to planning, permitting and overall project management,” said SLR project director for SLTO Nicki Bourne.

“MI-SLTO now offers operators a structured, consolidated and collaborative approach to addressing issues that communities are concerned about.”

According to SLR, MI-STLO uses a data driven, evidence-based and progressive approach to stakeholder and community engagement to assist in preparation of a successful SLTO programme. SLR has said that assessments to gain STLOs were previously unstructured but MI-STLO provides a structure and introduces community engagement, communication and information transparency to community concerns.

SLR worked with Nottingham University professor Sarah O’Hara to develop the tool and it builds on legal and regulatory best practice to seek an on-going improvement programme on a wide range of specific and critical issues.

The tool measures projects across five key themes: social and political; economic; community impact; security and safety; and environment and health. Each theme has up to 20 key issues that each reflect a specific and critical area of community concern, ranging from the routing of trucks to the abstraction of water and from seismicity to waste disposal. The end result is a consolidated SLTO “footprint”, indicating overall project SLTO performance and highlighting areas for improvement.

Bourne added: “By adopting this approach, projects will be better placed to gain and retain a SLTO. MI-SLTO also ensures that the difficult questions get resolved, SLTO is integrated into project objectives and accountability for SLTO is established throughout the project lifecycle.”

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