Offshore Directive – the safety of offshore oil and gas operations

In January, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) produced an update on the schedule for implementing the Offshore Directive.

Background

Following the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the European Commission (EC) expressed its initial views on the safety of offshore oil and gas operations in its communication ‘Facing the challenge of the safety of offshore oil and gas activities’ (published on 13 October 2010). The EC communication concluded that the existing divergent and fragmented 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.

On the 28th June 2013, the EC published the Offshore Directive. The objective of this Directive is to reduce as far as possible the occurrence of major accidents related to offshore oil and gas operations and to limit their consequences. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and HSE will jointly lead the transposition of the Directive as it contains requirements relating to licensing, environmental protection, emergency response and liability, in addition to safety. The Directive has to be implemented by 19th July 2015.

Schedule for implementation

Although the majority of the Directive is likely to be transposed into new Offshore Installation (Safety Case) regulations, it is expected that additional existing HSE and DECC legislation (e.g. on well integrity and emergency response) will also have to be updated to fully implement the Directive.

Both DECC and HSE’s implementation teams are currently working to complete their analysis of the Offshore Directive before beginning to draft new regulations in conjunction with legal advisers. The timetable for the remainder of the transposition process is:

  • Nov – March 2014 – Informal consultation with industry, Trade Unions and other stakeholders (e.g. the environmental NGOs) on the offshore competent authority options, emerging issues and draft regulations.
  • April 2014 – DECC Ministerial submissions and HSE Board Paper on the Offshore Directive consultation package.
  • June – September 2014 (approximately) – Formal consultation on the competent authority and legislative proposals to implement the Directive.
  • October – November 2014 – Final drafts of new regulations produced, based on consultation responses and final legal package prepared, including updated guidance.
  • December 2014 – DECC Ministerial submissions and HSE Board Paper on the Offshore Directive legal package.
  • January 2015 – HSE Minister asked to clear the Offshore Directive legal package.
  • February 2015 – Regulations to implement the Offshore Directive laid before Parliament.
  • March 2015 – Guidance for regulators and operators on new regulations published.
  • 19 July 2015 – New offshore Regulations come into force.

This timetable will be updated by the HSE as firmer dates become available.  More details on this and a copy of the Directive can be found on the HSE website.