The sector is under attack on many fronts at the moment.
In announcing the award, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association board member and Buru Energy executive chairman Eric Streitberg said the judges found that Woodside had consistently shown excellence across all facets of environmental performance.
"Woodside has integrated world-class environmental management into its exploration and its facilities," Streitberg said.
"The company seeks to protect its workers, its communities and the environment by delivering sustained leading health, safety, environment and quality (HSEQ) performance."
In accepting the environment award, Utsler said Woodside was "very humbled" for the third year in a row to be recognised by its peers and in the industry.
"It's a reminder to all of us this evening that, as we've discussed over these last two days [at APPEA 2017], our industry, while challenged and facing new challenges, also can be tremendously proud of the impacts of the good that we do," he said.
Utsler said that in industry's social license to operate, the oil and gas industry does "amazing things each and every day".
He said that both the environment award and the safety award, which his boss Peter Coleman had just accepted, were two examples, from an awards perspective, that "reflect and remind us that we are a force to be reckoned with and a force for good, and a force that can have a positive impact in the communities, the countries and our global bases where we operate".
Woodside's environmental approach has four key elements:
• An integrated HSEQ culture that fosters environmental awareness and drives continuous improvement;
• A strong HSEQ capability that the company is continuously improving;
• Using sound science and strong, long-term partnerships to understand local environments, deliver public benefit and build trust with stakeholders; and
• Using strategic planning and risk management to minimise environmental risks and impacts.
Streitberg said Woodside focused strongly on energy efficiency and producing its energy as sustainably as possible last year.
Energy efficiency was included for the first time as a metric in Woodside's corporate scorecard, and it had set a corporate target of 1% fuel intensity improvement.
That was on top of its existing annual flare reduction target. Since 2013, the company has reduced its flared gas intensity by more than 50%.
Woodside engineers developed several initiatives that directly reduced fuel usage or flaring, or improved the company's production efficiency.
"By continuing to enhance its data science capacity, Woodside is finding more opportunities to use existing equipment in smarter ways that reduce emissions intensity and add value," Streitberg said.
To further reduce its emissions footprint, Woodside is also now aiming to maximise its use of LNG as a shipping fuel.
Woodside recently formed a joint industry project with miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Mitsui OSK, one of the world's largest shipping companies, to look at developing Capesize iron ore carriers to use dual fuels.
LNG has 25% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel and 30% fewer emissions than heavy fuel oil, the dominant fuel in shipping, with no sulphur oxides or particulates, and has low nitrogen oxide emissions.
In April 2016, Woodside signed a five-year charter of the Siem Thiima vessel from Siem Offshore, which is not only Australia's first platform support vessel capable of running its engines on both LNG and diesel, but also the southern hemisphere's first vessel fuelled with LNG.