Article by Tom Chapman.
Following the Deepwater Horizon blowout in April 2010, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, commissioned an independent review on 14 June 2010 into the regulatory regime concerning the safety and environmental control of oil and gas exploration in the UK.
That review, lead by Professor Geoffrey Maitland of Imperial College, London, was completed in December 2011. Whilst notably praising the strength and rigour of the UK’s offshore oil and gas safety and environmental protection regime, the report also highlighted the importance of not becoming complacent and making continuous improvements to raise standards further, most notably 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;
- robust 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.
The Government has today issued its full response to the Maitland Review. A copy of the report can be viewed on the DECC website.
In summary, the majority of the recommendations made in the Maitland Review have been implemented in their entirety. Key responses to the recommendations include:
- Industry has developed and published guidance to ensure that critical safety equipment remains in good repair;
- The pan-industry forum set up to share best practice and develop guidance and standards for well management and design will remain in place permanently;
- Guidelines for improved management systems to give assurance that safety and environmental plans are implemented robustly;
- DECC has published guidance on how petroleum licensees on the UKCS can demonstrate that they have the financial capability to respond to an incident, before consent is given to drill exploration & appraisal wells; and
- Increased requirements for operators to carry out offshore oil and gas emergency response exercises involving the Secretary of State’s Representative, from every 5 years to every 3 years.
The implementation of the recommendations is being overseen by a new senior oversight group, comprising DECC, the HSE and the MCA.
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