The two environmental challenges faced today are the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity
In order to develop new establishments Snam adopts procedures that meet stringent environmental compatibility and safety assessments and that guarantee maximum respect for the natural environment and the protection of biodiversity.
With regard to the development of the gas pipeline network, which is the most recurrent and significant case, the approach adopted covers all phases of the pipeline's life: from design to decommissioning and closure.
Particularly Snam aims to completely restore to pre-operational conditions those areas affected by the construction of its gas pipeline routing, the Group has a specific commitment to reforest (no net deforestation), that is to restore the original vegetation of the natural and semi-natural areas involved in the construction of the gas pipelines (no net loss), providing crop care and substitution of fallacies for a period of 5 years after the completion of the works. Some points (BVS) and stations on the line, of negligible area extension (total less than 1%), can be located in natural or semi-natural areas for the need to combine compliance with technical and safety regulations ( D.M. 17/04/08) with the surrounding territorial constraints. In these cases, Snam is committed to compensate with reforestation projects of the same extent.
In the design phase the path is chosen from among different alternatives, seeking to avoid or reduce to the necessary minimum the network’s passage through developed areas or those in which new residential settlements are expected, areas of significant natural or cultural interest, archaeological areas and geologically unstable areas.
These assessments are made as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), after which the administrations in charge, both centrally and locally, issue the authorisations provided for by current regulations.
On the website of the Ministry of Environment it is possible to find the ongoing investigations and the granted provisions about projects subjected to EIA, while on the website of the Ministry of Economic Development (available in italian only) it is possible to find procedures about gas pipelines and compressor stations for which the Construction Authorisation is granted.
Once obtained the expected authorisations, in order to restore the ecological value of the areas, Snam designs and implements environmental protection measures, with specific actions to restore the natural habitat. These actions are aimed to minimise or eliminate impacts, often realising improvements of the previous situation as in the soil consolidation.
Right from the design phase, Snam conducts field studies to understand the areas affected by the laying of pipelines. The various specialized surveys (geognostic, hydrological, forest, botanic, faunal, landscape, etc.) carried out analyse the main faunal, botanic and soil parameters of the areas, without any impact on vegetation, water or existing ecosystems.
This work is carried out by highly skilled personnel (including engineers, surveyors, geologists, agronomists, foresters and naturalists, also in collaboration with universities) who examine the entire area in order to identify the best routes.
The results of these studies help the company to make the most appropriate design choices to minimise the environment impact with particular regard to biodiversity, especially during the construction phases, which are followed by environmental restoration and monitoring, carried out in agreement and in cooperation with the entities in charge.
The purpose of the environmental monitoring projects is to verify the renaturalisation process along the stretches of pipeline laid, based on a comparison of the original environmental conditions (“ante operam”) and the environmental conditions once the works have been completed (“post operam”). In particular, monitoring is carried out on more significant habitats (directly and/or indirectly affected by gas pipelines in development) that are identified and analysed during the “ante operam characterization” phase of the project.
The objective of vegetation restoration, especially reforestation, is not merely to rebuild the forested areas, but also to reconstitute the countryside and restore the biological function of areas with specific biodiversity characteristics.
Restoration and reforestation are followed by the execution of “plant care”, i.e. caring for and maintaining the bedded-out plants for a period of at least five years.
All our pipelines are subject to a biodiversity assessment. The total lenght of our network is correspondent to 32,647 km, out of which 61 km were constructed in the past 5 years in close proximity to Natura 2000 areas: all of these have a biodiversity management plan in place.
Natura 2000 network is the main instrument used by the European Union for the conservation of biodiversity. Established under Directive 92/43/EEC on Habitats to preserve natural habitats at Community level, the Natura 2000 network consists of Sites of Community Interest (SIC), Special Areas of Conservation (SPAs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). For 2020, the Natura 2000 Network Sites subject to Snam's infrastructure laying covered the following regions: Piedmont, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Apulia, Sicily and Republic of San Marino for a total of 34.6 km. The accurate impact assessments that are carried out on the basis of the aforementioned Directive also highlight all the design and management measures taken by Snam in order to minimize or avoid any impacts on Natura 2000 network.
The need for more careful environmental protection in areas where pipelines are under construction has led Snam to adopt innovative trenchless methods which, by limiting the use of open-cut excavations, have less impact on the landscape and the environment than traditional construction techniques.
Pipelines decomissioning and closure phase
The measures described above (carrying out targeted specialist studies, use of specialized personnel, etc.) and environmental monitoring and restoration activities aimed at minimizing impacts and ensuring the recovery of the full ecological functionality of the project areas affected are also implemented for decomissioning projects aimed at pipelines replacing and disposal.
A goal for biodiversity safeguard
The importance of biodiversity safeguard is testified by a target which shows Snam's committment on the subject: our new ESG Scorecard has incorporated a new specific objective for vegetation restoration in natural areas affected by the construction of the Group's pipelines, which aims to ensure almost complete (>99%) restoration of the vegetation in question up to 2023, the progress of which will be available from 2021.
The stages of biodiversity
Snam produced guidelines for the “conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the design, construction and decommissioning of pipelines” with a dual purpose:
- to provide guidelines for the best possible actions to ensure the respectful and sustainable use of biodiversity in its gas pipeline operations
- to provide an additional knowledge base for all company personnel
An operating unit within Snam Rete Gas was established to perform centralised activities for the conservation of biodiversity, ensuring the coordination and implementation of environmental impact assessments.
2012 - 2016
Published the Sustainable Pathways series; the series was created to raise awareness of Snam's commitment to safeguarding the environment, vegetation and morphological restoration. The second volume of the series was realized in 2013 and it reports on the collaboration between Parco delle Prealpi Giulie and Snam which led to the creation of the Malborghetto-Bordano pipeline. The third volume, dedicated to Maiella Park, was realized, while the fourth volume, dedicated to Ticino Park was published in 2016. During 2016 was also created Seasonal paths, an information and multimedia support created by Snam in conjunction with Federparchi and three Italian parks (Nebrodi, Prealpi Giulie, Ticino), the main protagonists of the project. The digital platform is composed of a website that houses the history of the region of the park and a mobile app so that you can always have your itinerary with you, even when there is no signal.
In 2017 the volume A garden in the network [Un orto nella rete] was published and presented in the Turin book Fair.
In 2018 a fifth publication was added to the existing four volumes of the Sustainable Pathways series. The book is about the Foreste Casentinesi Park, a national park stretching from Tuscany to the Emilia Romagna region and crossed by a short section made up by two parallel gas pipelines belonging to the core transportation network, importing the gas from North Africa to Italy. Like in the other volumes, the story of the park and its specific geographical, nature, historical and cultural heritage is interwoven with the methods practised by Snam in an area of particular value, which enable vital infrastructures for the country's energy requirements to coexist with the environment and the ecosystems. The book was presented to the public in 2019.
24 June 2021 - 11:04 CEST