El Paso Energy: Visual impact assessment of coastal E&P project


El Paso Energy commissioned Plexus to carry out a seascape visual impact assessment (VIA) for a planned near-shore oil and gas development off the coast of North East Brazil. The project was located in an environmentally sensitive area known for its fishing and tourist activities. The objective was to prepare a detailed evaluation and definition of all impacts on seascape character and visual impacts and to identify mitigation options that would avoid or reduce any adverse impacts. 

We mobilised a multi-disciplinary team comprising international and local experts in the area of visual impact assessment and visualisation, coastal zone management, ESIA, community relations and environmental permitting in Brazil.


Following a review of the project concept and location the Plexus team visited the project location. The visit featured a detailed review of existing aerial photography and mapping of the area, coupled with an appraisal of the project concept and design. On this basis we identified the range of locations from which the project would potentially be visible. 

The location of these sites was plotted on a map and overlaid with socio-economic and environmental data of the area. This resulted in a visual sensitivity map and formed the basis for subsequent technical recommendations relating to project siting and design optimisation. It also provided the basis for subsequent stakeholder engagement and communication, including with the regulatory authorities.

Alongside the VIA report, Plexus benchmarked best practices in the area of visual impact assessment in Europe, North and South America and prepared a comparative review of similar projects around the world. This featured an analysis of experiences in the area of stakeholder engagement, environmental permitting and the choice of mitigation options (e.g., choice of platform lighting, flaring protocols, decisions on project design and location). 


Alongside submission of the impact assessment, Plexus gave presentations on VIA and provided capacity building in relation to European experience in the offshore wind energy sector. We also reviewed the project ESIA and provided recommendations regarding the impact of lighting and flaring on migratory birds and marine turtles. 

The report also set out recommendations relating to project design, including in relation to platform lighting and flaring to minimise impacts on biodiversity and the human environment, and provided the project design team with mitigation options relating to issues such as platform design, colour scheme, flaring practices and platform lighting. 

The project identified a range of other socio-economic and environmental pressures on the local area, notably regarding unplanned tourist and related infrastructure development and provided advice to the client in terms of engagement with the local and regulatory stakeholders.