Working responsibly

Resource use, emissions, discharges, waste and sound

As society transitions to a low-carbon economy, we believe that balancing the ongoing need for energy with reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will require the efficient use of hydrocarbon fuels for some time to come. We continue to responsibly manage the natural resources we use, from energy to water, and the waste our activities produce.

Energy use

Given that our seismic and drilling programmes are not constant, Cairn’s energy consumption fluctuates year on year, depending on the level of operations. Energy use across the Group is relatively modest and mainly comprises diesel fuel combustion in our field operations.

Emissions and discharges

For all activities, we carefully manage emissions and discharges arising where they cannot be avoided. It remains difficult to set specific reduction targets when levels of activity vary from year to year.

We remain committed to minimising our environmental impact from operations, and to reporting fully and transparently in accordance with industry good practice and methodologies, and international standards. Some of the locations we work in are heavily regulated so complying with national regulatory requirements is an important aspect.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our activities arise mainly from the combustion of fuels such as marine diesel and form a relatively modest part of our operational footprint.

We report on an ‘operational control’ basis, including emissions from those assets that are operated by us but not those controlled by our partners. Nearly all of the GHG emissions associated with our sector occur in the supply chain, so our influence over carbon management and reporting is largely limited to the selection of contractors and the efficient use of equipment.

In absolute terms, our GHG emissions are heavily influenced by the level of operational activity over the year. In turn, this is impacted by safety considerations, technical requirements, distances between operations and support bases, and local environmental and meteorological conditions.


We recognise that access to clean water is a basic human right. We also acknowledge that our business both impacts and depends on water resources close to our operations, so we have had a water resource strategy in place for some years. This covers:

  • assessing the need to abstract and use freshwater;
  • investigating ways to manage freshwater more efficiently;
  • identifying and implementing measures to reduce our operational impacts on freshwater; and
  • enhancing the reporting of our freshwater resources management.

Our use of water is largely limited to seawater used in some drilling fluid make-up and freshwater for domestic use, both offshore and onshore. 


Our exploration activities generate different volumes and types of waste, including oil-contaminated wastes, chemical wastes, non-hazardous wastes, domestic wastes and clinical wastes from medical facilities offshore.

We are committed to maximising the reuse and recycling of waste, and minimising the amount sent to landfill. We implement clear waste management plans aligned to mitigation requirements from our impact assessments and apply industry good practice wherever we operate. Where we are not the operator, we seek to influence our partners to do the same. 


Sound generated by our operations has the potential to impact marine fauna. The environmental impact of sound associated with our activities is assessed in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) we undertake ahead of all operations.

Read about how we conduct safe seismic studies in Suriname in our Corporate Responsibility (CR) Report