LONDON – An independent review commissioned in March 2011 has acknowledged the strengths of the UK’s offshore oil and gas safety and environmental protection regime, according to Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.
It also has identified scope for improvement.
The review panel, headed by Professor Geoffrey Maitland of Imperial College, London, recognized the positive steps taken by industry and regulatory authorities to raise standards following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico.
Their review praised the UK’s offshore regime for its stringent assessment of environmental impacts; a safety system that requires industry to identify hazards, assess the risks, and follow best practice to manage them; and its comprehensive emergency response framework.
But the panel saw scope for raising standards through strengthening mechanisms to assure implementation of safety and environmental management systems; improving the learning culture and processes for spreading best practice; greater integration between the regulatory authorities; a clearer command and control structure in the event of a spill; arrangements to ensure operators’ level of liability and ability to pay in the event of a spill; and intensified R&D to develop improved avoidance, capping, containment, clean-up, and impact monitoring of major offshore oil spill incidents.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry said: “It is vital for the future of North Sea development that our offshore regulatory regime remains at the forefront of the global industry…
“But we must not be complacent and I welcome the review’s constructive suggestions for improvement. I am asking the regulators and industry to consider the panel’s findings in detail and to report back to me by July next year.”