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Aberdeen delegates are updated on the EU Offshore Safety Directive

02 April 2014

James Davies unpicks some of the issues

More than 180 oil and gas industry delegates gathered in Aberdeen recently for an update of the implications of the EU’s Offshore Safety Directive for operators in the UK North Sea.

The message from the regulator at the ERM sponsored event was largely “business as usual” in terms of the existing North Sea safety case regime. But the implications of a series of provisions relating to the environmental aspects of major accident hazards are still emerging. 

Environmentally Critical Elements
A more integrated approach to safety and environment under the EU Directive provoked questions for both the safety and environment regulators who presented at the event. Participants wanted to understand, for example, expectations around Environmentally Critical Elements (ECEs). There was also discussion about the new requirements for emergency response plans and how a new single Competent Authority (CA), covering safety and the environment, would operate under the Directive.

According to the regulator, there will be a two-tier structure for ECEs. One tier relating to Major Accident Hazards, where Safety and Environmentally Critical Elements (SECEs) will have a lot of commonality and another tier focussing on breaches of regulatory compliance. Regarding emergency response plans, the Directive will lead to substantial redrafting of existing regulations with closer ties, it seems, between a process safety incident and its environmental consequences.  Similarly, we can only assume that a single CA will lead to a more integrated approach in areas such as reporting, inspections and general guidance.

What’s new in an MHR?
The Directive’s version of a safety case is the Major Hazard Report (MHR) which will need to be generated for production and non-production facilities. It will include the following new elements:

  1. A Corporate Major Accident Prevention Policy (CMAPP);
  2. An assessment of major environmental accident hazards and risks;
  3. Measures to control environmental accident hazards;
  4. A description of the Internal Emergency Response Plan (IERP);
  5. A description of the Safety and Environmental Management System    (SEMS).

Timetable for change
In Aberdeen at least, the regulators accepted they were operating against a tight timescale which includes the following key dates:

  • 19 July 2015 - EU Member States must turn the Directive into national law, including setting up a new Competent Authority

  • 19 July 2016 - the final date for all new and planned production installations and non-production installations to comply. Delegates at the seminar were surprised to hear that any existing installation, required to submit a notification for well activities under the Directive, would need to comply by the 2016 date – although we suspect this might alter as the UK regulations are drafted.

  • 19 July 2018 - this is the final date for existing production installations to demonstrate compliance. Transitional arrangements will begin in 2015.

As noted above, the details of how the Directive will play out in different EU waters is still emerging. If you would like to discuss its safety and environmental implications in more detail, please contact james.davies@erm.com, the Risk Partner in charge of ERM’s Aberdeen office.

 

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