Following the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the European Commission (EC) launched its communication “Facing the challenge of the safety of offshore oil and gas activities”. It concluded that the existing regulatory framework applying to the safety of offshore oil and gas operations in Europe, along with current industry safety practices did not provide adequate assurance that risks from offshore accidents were minimised throughout the Union.
As a result, Directive 2013/30/EU, on safety of offshore oil and gas operations was published, and must be implemented into UK law by 19 July 2015.
The Directive has both environmental and safety implications, and aims to reduce the occurrence of major accidents related to offshore oil and gas operations and to limit their consequences through the following:
- before exploration or production begins, companies must prepare a Major Hazard Report (containing a risk assessment and emergency response plan) for their offshore installation;
- companies must keep resources at hand in order to put them into operation when necessary;
- when granting licenses, EU countries must make sure that companies are well financed and have the necessary technical expertise;
- technical solutions which are critical for the safety of operators' installations must be independently verified prior to the installation going into operation;
- national authorities must verify safety provisions, environmental protection measures and the emergency preparedness of rigs and platforms;
- EU countries can impose sanctions, including halting production, if companies do not follow established minimum standards;
- information on how companies and EU countries keep installations safe must be made available;
- companies will be fully liable for environmental damages caused to protected marine species and natural habitats.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will jointly lead the implementation of the Directive, the majority of which will be through new Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations. However, it is also expected that additional existing legislation will also have to be updated to fully implement the provisions.
Regulations implementing Directive 2013/30/EU are expected in March 2015, along with guidance for regulators and operators.