OGUK alarmed at proposed safety initiatives

The European Commission has called for member states to consider suspending oil and gas licensing until it has assessed European offshore safety regimes. It also plans to introduce new European Union-prescribed safety standards.

Offshore staff

LONDON - The European Commission has called for member states to consider suspending oil and gas licensing until it has assessed European offshore safety regimes. It also plans to introduce new European Union-prescribed safety standards.

Malcolm Webb, CEO, Oil & Gas, said the measure was “wholly unjustified and inappropriate for the UK offshore oil and gas industry.

“It is also deeply worrying that in addition, it [the Commission] now proposes to implement centralized and prescriptive safety regulation. In our opinion, this would undermine the advanced and highly sophisticated regulatory regimes currently working so well, for example in the United Kingdom, Norway, and the Netherlands, each of these being global exemplars of which Europe should be proud.”

In the UK, Webb pointed out, the industry has successfully drilled around 7,000 wells over the past 20 years.

“The Commission says that safety is non-negotiable. We fully agree. Safety is the most important issue for all persons working in the UK oil and gas industry and we never take it lightly. Our lives and livelihoods depend on it.

“This is why we must respectfully but openly disagree with the Commission’s proposed implementation of a federal, prescriptive approach to safety across the EU. It would run directly counter to the UK approach, which ensures that the risks associated with drilling programs are considered and reduced to as low as is reasonably practicable on a case by case basis. Any erosion of that system would jeopardize and not improve safety.”

Webb said that the UK’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG) started operating within a month of the Macondo incident.

“Its work has so far assured us that UK practices and procedures are robust and fit for purpose but it is also coming forward with recommendations for enhancements. Some of these already have been implemented and more will be coming.

“This process is likely to be substantially completed before the Commission anticipates coming forward with its new legislative package. This speed of response underlines one of the inherent advantages of the UK’s safety regime. The much slower, legislative approach often delivers its ‘prescriptions’ when they are already out of date.

“Finally, not only is the Commission apparently suggesting prescriptive pan-European regulation, but also, it would seem, it wishes these to be applied on a uniform basis outside the EU… there is a suggestion that companies with headquarters in the EU should be required to follow the envisaged prescriptive standards in all their operations worldwide, failing which, regulators might withdraw operators’ licences or permits. This proposal reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the distinct and complex nature of operations in different oil basins both within Europe and around the world.

10/14/2010

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