4.1 The Government is determined that environmental considerations remain at the forefront of the industrys activities.
4.2 This chapter sets out in detail the United Kingdoms offshore environmental regulations and the current initiatives being undertaken to protect the environment.
DTIS ROLE AS A REGULATOR
4.3 The prime environmental control is exercised through the licensing system, though this is complemented by legislation and international conventions. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) normally acts only after consultation and detailed consideration by a number of other Government departments and agencies, including the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR), the Scottish Office, the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).
EU Habitats Directive
4.4 Primary responsibility for the implementation of this Directive (92/43/EEC) lies with the DETR. Regulations implementing the Directive in Great Britain came into force on 30th November 1994.
4.5 In accordance with Article 4(2) of the Directive, member states are obliged to take certain protection and conservation measures in respect of sites designated under it as candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or which are Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under Directive 79/409/EEC (the Birds Directive). This requirement is reflected in regulation 3(4) of the 1994 Regulations, which requires "every competent authority in the exercise of any of their functions to have regard to the requirements of the Habitats Directive".
4.6 The DTI complies with this regulation as the competent authority on offshore licensing, initially by consulting the JNCC (the governments statutory adviser on nature conservation matters) before acreage is offered for licensing. JNCC advises on whether exploration or production activities under a licence would be likely to have significant effects on SPAs or candidate SACs. It may advise that certain blocks are not offered for licensing or that conditions should be attached to others to protect particular sensitivities. The JNCC is then also consulted about subsequent consents for particular activities under licences.
4.7 The DTI carries out this consultation in accordance with regulations 3(4) of the 1994 Regulations, which implements the substantive provisions of Article 6(2) to (4) of the Habitats Directive. Nevertheless, it is proposed to introduce new regulations to implement this Article specifically as it applies to offshore oil and gas activity; these regulations are expected to be made in late 1998.
EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
4.8 Again, primary responsibility for the implementation of this Directive (85/337/EEC) lies with the DETR. Regulations implementing the Directive in Great Britain come into force in May 1998. These apply to consents under Town and Country Planning legislation, including those which are required for certain activities under onshore licences.
4.9 The Directive is not explicit as to its intended extent and for a number of years there was internal discussion between United Kingdom government departments as how far it should be implemented for oil and gas exploration and production activities beyond the seaward limits of the town and country planning regime. Deep drillings, petroleum extraction and petroleum pipelines projects are all covered by Annex II of the Directive, which requires Member States to carry out environmental impact assessments before consenting to projects determined as likely to have significant effects on the environment.
4.10 In July 1997, consultation was opened on a draft of Regulations to implement the Directive for oil and gas activities across the whole of the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS). The consultation period closed on 1 October 1997, following which the text was revised. The amended draft was then the subject of further consultation during February 1998. At the time of writing, the Regulations are expected to come into effect in April 1998.
4.11 Copies of the Regulations will be available from the Stationery Office. The DTI has prepared some informal guidelines to help interested parties through the process introduced by the Regulations; copies of the Guidelines may be obtained from the DTIs Aberdeen office (see Appendix 17 for telephone and address details).
4.12 Under the Regulations, companies will be required to provide an environmental statement (ES) for any project determined to be likely to have a significant effect on the environment. Any ES must be made available to relevant environmental authorities and to the public, and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is obliged to consider the ES and any views expressed by the environmental authorities and the public before deciding whether or not to give consent to the project.These Regulations use powers in the 1985 Directive to implement thresholds for oil or gas production or pipeline size above which projects will normally require an environmental statement to be provided. These thresholds were introduced by a second EIA Directive - 97/11/EU - which amends the 1985 Directive. Regulations to implement fully the amending directive as it applies to offshore oil and gas activity will be made before the end of March 1999.
4.13 Under the model clauses incorporated in licences, Licensees are required to prevent the escape of petroleum into the water and to notify the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry of any such escape. The regulations also require Licensees to show that they have funds available to discharge liability for damage caused by pollution. In addition, operators are also expected to have in place an Oil Spill Contingency Plan which has been accepted by the DTI and other statutory bodies. This plan generally details the area in which either a well is being drilled or a development is taking place, and the steps that will be taken in the unlikely event that a significant spillage of oil occurs. Regulations are to be introduced later this year by the DETR, which require all offshore operators to provide site specific plans which have to be approved by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
4.14 In 1997, the DTI referred 3 cases to the Procurator Fiscal in Aberdeen for investigation of possible offences under the Prevention of Oil Pollution Act 1971 (POPA). Under the Act, it is an offence to discharge oil into the sea, unless it can be shown that the spill was neither due to lack of care nor could not have been avoided. Also, an operator can contend that the spill was neither due to lack of care nor could have been avoided. It is for the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland to decide whether offences have been committed, and whether or not to take a prosecution.
4.15 Chart 4.1 shows the comparison of oil spilled during the period 1988 to 1997; Table 4.1 shows the reported figures. While it is unfortunate to note that the amount of oil spilled into the sea has increased substantially, when account is taken of the 3 largest spills (totalling 750 tonnes), the general trend for smaller spills remains evident. The two largest spills are amongst those referred to the Procurator Fiscal.
Chart 4.1 - Total amount of oil spilled by year
Table 4.1 - Oil spills reported to the DTI, 1988 - 1997
|Total Amount Spilled (tonnes)||2727 (2)||517||899||192||225 (5)||224||174||84 (6)||127||866 (8)|
|Of which (1):
Oil from oil-based mud spills
|326 (3)||466 (4)||116||49||145||74||29||28||38|
|Other oil spills||191||423||76||176||79||100||55||99||828|
|Number of installations reporting spills||44||44||56||39||43||43||50||52||77||96|
|Total Number of reports||259||291||345||234||194||183||147||145||300 (7)||349 (7)|
|Total Stabilised Crude Oil produced
from offshore oilfields (million tonnes)
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4.16 Since 1986, the UK has carried out surveillance flights over offshore installations in accordance with international obligations under the Bonn Agreement. These flights are unannounced and cover all offshore installations on the UKCS. The DTI funds this programme to estimate both the quantity and frequency of any discharges from offshore installations.
4.17 In 1997, over 300 hours were spent on 55 dedicated oil installation patrols. The total amount of oil observed from unreported pills was 1.54 tonnes. Three thousand and forty nine surveys of installations (drilling rigs and production facilities) were undertaken. The reference to dedicated patrols is to clarify that these are the overflights funded by the DTI; those on behalf of the Marine Pollution Control Unit (at DETR) are not included. The Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency also undertakes its own routine overflights of the UKCS. Any sighting of oil from an offshore installation during one of these overflights would be reported directly to the DTI, hence overall unannounced surveillance is much more than the 300 hours currently funded directly by the DTI.
4.18 In addition, in September last year the DTI acquired a direct computer link to the aerial surveillance aircraft which can now transmit photographic images of any pollution incident. This has enabled a faster response to oil spills.
4.19 There were 62 inspections of offshore oil and gas installations, between April 1997 and March 1998. In the main, inspectors found the environmental performance of offshore installations to be satisfactory, with only minor comments relating to keeping documentation up to date, storage of chemicals and the display of statutory documents, such as exemptions from the POPA, on Environmental Notice Boards for all to see.
4.20 It is impossible to make unannounced inspections of offshore installations. For safety reasons and in accordance with normal aviation practice, flight plans must be filed and the permission of the Offshore Installation Manager must be sought to land on a platform. However, a number of inspections were made at very short notice and breaches of environmental compliance are difficult to conceal and rectify in a short period of time. In many cases it would also require changes to other reports which would be picked up by other government monitoring activities.
DISCHARGES FROM OFFSHORE INSTALLATIONS
4.21 In the UK, targets for oil discharges are regulated by conditions attached to exemptions issued under section 23 of the POPA for the discharge of oil in produced water and some other operational discharges. These targets are agreed by the Oslo and Paris Commission, a body charged with the prevention of pollution in the North Sea, which has indicated maximum target concentrations of oil from these sources.
Produced Water Discharges
4.22 When the discharge of oil-contaminated produced water from offshore installations is permitted by an exemption granted under POPA, the oil content must not exceed 40 parts per million. It has proven increasingly difficult for a few installations, particularly those on mature fields, to meet this target. In 1997, of the 63 oil installations discharging oil in produced water, 6 exceeded this target when averaged over the whole year. However, in terms of the UKCS as a whole, the average amount of oil in produced water for the year was only 25 parts per million. Table 4.2 shows the amount of oil discharged with produced water.
4.23 As fields are depleted, the amount of water produced with the oil increases. Table 4.2 shows that as water quantities increase, the amount of oil discharged in the water also increases. Industry is aware of the problems of treating produced water and, with the encouragement of the DTI, is continuing to invest considerable resources into the development of new technologies to treat or otherwise reduce the discharge of produced water to the environment. Unfortunately, the conditions are different between installations and can vary widely in the long and short term. At a single installation for example, where oil particles are extremely small, it is much harder to separate them from the water. For this reason there is no single treatment system which can be applied across the board to all offshore installations with equal success.
Table 4.2 - Oil discharged with produced water, 1988 - 1998
|Total Oil (tonnes)||3234||3423||4393||5490||4850||4232||4418||5855||5706 (1)||5766|
|Number of Installations
permitted to discharge oil
|Average Oil in
Water Content (mg/kg)
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Oil Contaminated Drill Cuttings
4.24 With effect from 1 January 1997, the UK has not discharged mineral oil contaminated cuttings into the sea.
This is in accordance with international obligations, which specify that the amount of oil discharged on the cuttings must not exceed 10 grammes per kilogramme of cuttings. This is currently technically unachievable, hence there has been no such discharge. Offshore operators have therefore adopted other options for cuttings disposal including reinjection and shipping to shore.
Synthetic Drilling Fluids
4.25 A further means by which operators have sought to achieve compliance with international obligations not to discharge mineral oil contaminated cuttings has been the use of synthetic or pseudo oil-based muds. However, concerns have been raised as to the environmental acceptability of some of these products. Studies of several of the commonly used synthetic fluids have however shown that their biodegradation properties were very similar to those of the mineral oils they had replaced. Whilst recognising that biodegradation is not the only factor to be taken into consideration when assessing environmental impact, the DTI has decided to reduce the discharge of several of these fluids to zero by 31 December 2000.
4.26 In order to achieve this, all operators were asked draw up a company specific phase out schedule. The schedules demonstrate how each company will reduce its discharges by approximately 20% each year using a 1996 baseline. Chart 4.2 shows the synthetic mud discharges for 1996 and the estimate for 1997 as well as the following 3 years (A few operators are still compiling some 1997 results, which will be received at the well completion stage). Operators are required to report discharges and provide an updated schedule each year.
Chart 4.2 - Synthetic drilling fluid discharges
4.27 The DTI continues to monitor the use and discharge of chemicals offshore, through its non-statutory Offshore Chemical Notification Scheme (OCNS). Operators are requested to submit chemicals for testing and categorisation and to report quarterly on their use and discharge. In the UK, the system has had a positive effect on the types of chemicals being discharged offshore. The UK is currently working towards the introduction of a Harmonised Mandatory Control Scheme within the framework of the Oslo and Paris Commissions.
The Oslo and Paris Commissions
4.28 The Oslo Commission was established by the Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft, commonly called the Oslo Convention, which was opened for signature in Oslo on 15 February 1972. The Convention entered into force on 6 April 1974.
4.29 The Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-Based Sources, commonly called the Paris Convention, was opened for signature in Paris on 4 June 1974. The Convention entered into force 6 May 1978.
4.30 The United Kingdom is a party to both Conventions and therefore has a duty to report information on offshore discharges and emissions each year, two years in arrears. (Both conventions have now been unified under the OSPSR Convention which entered into force in March 1998.) The information is presented at the Workgroup on Sea-Based Activities meetings (SEBA).
4.31 The UK delegation undertook to participate in a workshop on Produced Water Management, to be hosted by the Netherlands. The conclusions of the workshop were reported to the 1998 SEBA meeting.
4.32 The UK delegation also undertook to host a workshop on drilling fluids, which was held in Aberdeen on 11 - 14 November 1997. The workshop was open to international representatives, non-Government organisations such as Greenpeace, and industry representatives. Again, the conclusions were presented at SEBA 1998.
4.33 The UK delegation presented information on offshore discharges and emissions, as well as the conclusions of the workshop on drilling fluids. The UK continues to take the lead on the issue of drilling fluids, which will involve dialogue with other Contracting Parties. The UK also put forward an information paper, agreed with industry, that on a trial and voluntary basis a company specific target of 30 parts per million oil in produced water would be sought on the UKCS.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
4.34 The DTI has continued to fund offshore environmental research and development programmes which aid the understanding of offshore pollution and can assist in reaching decisions on environmental controls, licensing and decommissioning. Funds from Government seed industry involvement, and assistance is given to small joint venture projects within industry. Projects which received funding in 1997 included one which is looking at improving environmental information with respect to future offshore oil and gas activities, another which is seeking to further manage produced water discharges from offshore installations and Phase IV of the Seabirds at Sea project, which aims to identify and map areas of vulnerability for seabirds.
4.35 In addition, the DTI participates in industry funded programmes such as the Atlantic Frontier Environmental Forum and the Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network, both of which are designed to collect and disseminate environmental information for use in planning future offshore projects.
Box 4.1 Climate Change
The United Kingdom is determined to play a constructive role in continuing international efforts to deal with the threat from climate change. At Kyoto in December 1997, a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed. Under the protocol all developed countries now have legally-binding targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The reduction covers a basket of six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.
The EU (including the UK) has a commitment to reduce emissions by 8% below 1990 levels in the period 2008-2012. Under the UKs Presidency of the EU, it is hoped to agree burden sharing of the target amongst Member States, and to take forward proposals for common and co-ordinated policies and measures to meet the EUs overall legally-binding target of an 8% reduction.
The priority within the UK will then be to ensure that we achieve whatever legally binding target the burden sharing gives us. The Government will be consulting widely later this year on the development of a new climate change programme which will largely focus on delivering our target and moving towards our domestic aim of a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010.
It is intended to provide further information on the climate change position in Volume 1 of the Energy Report 1998, which is expected to be published later in 1998.
| Table of Contents
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9
Appendix 1 | Appendix 2 | Appendix 3 | Appendix 4 | Appendix 5 | Appendix 6 | Appendix 7 | Appendix 8
Appendix 9 | Appendix 10 | Appendix 11 | Appendix 12 | Appendix 13 | Appendix 14 | Appendix 15 | Appendix 16 | Appendix 17
Plate 1 | Plate 2W | Plate 2E | Plate 3W | Plate 3E | Plate 4W | Plate 4E | Plate 5W | Plate 5E | Plate 6 | Plate 7
Plate 8W | Plate 8E | Plate 9W | Plate 9E | Plate 10W | Plate 10E | Plate 11 | Plate 12