A series of new European rules must ensure the safety of offshore oil and gas drilling operations following the adoption, with a large majority, of a Report by Ivo Belet Member of the European Parliament by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy of the European Parliament.
Ivo Belet said: “Europe has learned from the Deepwater rig catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and wants to limit the environmental and safety risks of offshore oil and gas exploration to a minimum. A solid legislative framework is urgently needed, especially today, when many Member States with no or little experience in oil and gas operations, are looking into starting up drilling operations.”
These are the main innovations of the new Directive:
Stricter licensing procedure
Only operators with sufficient technical expertise and financial security to guarantee the safety of offshore operations will be granted exploration and production licences. Offshore drilling operations have to be approved by independent national authorities.
Liability and financial guarantees
Operators are fully liable for any environmental damage caused by offshore drilling. They must prove that they have sufficient financial means to cover the consequences of an incident.
Mandatory risk assessment and emergency plans
Prior to starting drilling, operators should carry out an in-depth risk analysis and have an emergency response plan in place that is updated annually. Coordination with neighbouring countries is required if there can be transboundary effects.
A greater role for EMSA
The expertise of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) should be used in case of a gas or oil leak. EMSA should inspect all emergency plans.
There was no majority for the proposal for a ban on oil drilling in the Arctic.
“Calling for a moratorim is not the right approach. The EU has no waters in the Arctic. Only Norway, that cooperates with the EU via the European Economic Area, carries out drillings in the ice-free area above the Arctic Circle. Therefore, it makes much more sense that the EU countries Sweden and Finland ensure that the highest safety standards are observed by all members of the Arctic Council”, concluded Ivo Belet MEP.
In the EU and Norway, over 90% of all oil exploitation and over 60% of gas exploitation is carried out on offshore rigs. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010 killed 11 people and caused over €30 billion worth of environmental damage.
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that promotes cooperation and coordination between countries in the Arctic area. Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland are Members of the Arctic Council.
Press Release, October 9, 2012