An independent review commissioned by British government ministers acknowledged strengths of the existing UK’s offshore oil and gas safety and environmental protection regime while outlining ways in which it could be improved.
“We have found a great many positives in the UK’s safety and environmental regulation, in what is generally regarded as a world-leading regime, whilst identifying areas where there is still scope for further reducing the risks of incidents occurring,” said Geoffrey Maitland, a chemical engineer professor with Imperial College, London.
“Although it is apparent industry and the regulators strongly subscribe to the need for continuous improvement, it is critical that safety and environmental protection is thoroughly embedded in the culture and ethos of the industry,” said Maitland, who headed the panel compiling the report.
The panel’s review recognized the merits of the UK’s offshore regime for stringent assessment of environmental impacts, requirements for industry to identify hazards, assess the risks, and follow best practice to manage them, and comprehensive emergency response framework.
At the same time, the review panel highlighted the importance of continuous improvement and the scope for improved standards through:
• Strengthening mechanisms to assure implementation of safety and environmental management systems.
• Improving the learning culture and processes for spreading best practice.
• Increasing integration between the regulatory authorities.
• Clarifying command and control structure in the event of a spill.
• Requiring robust arrangements to ensure operators’ level of liability and ability to pay in the event of a spill.
• More research and development to develop improved avoidance, capping, containment, clean-up and impact monitoring of major offshore oil spill incidents.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry said, “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.”
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