European Commission - Press release
Energy: Commission sets out new safety standards for offshore oil and gas operations
Brussels – 27 October. The likelihood of a major offshore accident in European waters remains unacceptably high. With a stringent safety regime it is possible to bring the risk of such an accident down to the absolute minimum. Damage done to the environment and coastal economies can be significantly reduced if an effective emergency response plan is put in place beforehand. This is why the European Commission has proposed today a new law which will ensure that European offshore oil and gas production will respect the world's highest safety, health and environmental standards everywhere in the EU.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "Today, most oil and gas in Europe is produced offshore, often in harsh geographical and geological conditions. Given our growing energy demand, we will need all the oil and gas from beneath our seas. But we need to prevent accidents like Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico from happening. Securing best industry practices in all our offshore operations is an undisputable must. Today's proposal is a crucial step forward towards safer offshore activities to the benefit of our citizens and our environment".
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We have learnt our lessons from last year's Deepwater Horizon accident. Today's proposed regulation will help us prevent such future crises from happening in all marine waters which fall under EU Member States' jurisdiction. This safety update is good news for the environment, but it's also good news for business which will be able to deploy its operations in a predictable framework. There is ample evidence from past accidents that prevention is better than cure."
The new draft regulation sets clear rules that cover the whole lifecycle of all exploration and production activities from design to the final removal of an oil or gas installation. Under the control of the National regulatory authorities, European industry will have to assess and further improve safety standards for offshore operations on a regular basis. This new approach will lead to a European risk assessment that upgrades continuously by taking into account new technology, new know-how and new risks. It introduces requirements for effective prevention and response of a major accident:
Oil and gas have been extracted from beneath the seabed in Europe since the 1970s. Today, over 90% of oil and over 60% of gas produced in the EU and Norway comes from offshore operations. There are more than 1000 offshore oil or gas installations in operation in European waters. Whilst most production is from the North Sea region, and most of the oil come from the UK and Norway, interest is developing throughout the EU offshore provinces and 13 Member States (UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Malta and Cyprus) have awarded offshore oil and gas licences.
The offshore industry in different Member States operates to different environmental, health and safety standards. To date EU legislation does not cover all the aspects of the offshore oil and gas industry and national legislation is very different between Member States. Despite action by some Member States to reform their systems after disasters in the North Sea in the 1980s there is still a significant risk of severe accidents in the EU. Past events show that at least 14 major offshore disasters – such as well blow-outs and total loss of production platforms - have occurred around the world in the last 30 years, 5 of them in the last 10 years. Possible consequences of a major accident are extreme. They include loss of lives, major environmental damage, and collateral damage to coastal and marine livelihoods. In financial terms, as we have seen, an event on the scale of the Gulf of Mexico disaster can cause damages of Euro 30 billion.
In conjunction to this legislative proposal, the Commission is putting forward a proposal for the EU to accede to a Protocol of the Barcelona Convention that protects the Mediterranean against pollution from offshore exploration and exploitation activities (see IP/11/1261).