The European Union (EU) Parliament has approved a new directive on the safety of offshore oil and gas operations.
Oil and gas companies will have to prove their ability to cover potential liabilities from their operations and submit major hazard reports and emergency response plans before commencing any drilling operations in EU waters.
Member of the Parliament (MEP) Ivo Belet (EPP, BE), who steered the legislation, said: "We need more important standards when it comes to risk management. We believe that the rules we are currently coming up with can be used as a template at international level."
Belet, while commenting on the Arctic, said: "The EU has no territorial waters in the North Pole area, so it’s difficult for us to envisage a moratorium on gas and oil exploration in this area."
The parliamentarian also said that all operators will have to ensure that they have access to sufficient physical, human and financial resources to minimise and rectify the impact of a major accident.
Licences will be granted only if applicants provide evidence that required provision has already been or will be made, to cover potential liabilities resulting from its offshore oil and gas operations.
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Prior to starting operations, drilling companies should also have to submit a special report, describing the drilling installation, possible major hazards and special arrangements to protect workers.
In addition, oil and gas exploration companies will have to provide an internal emergency plan with full description of the equipment and resources available, and what measures it will take in the event of an accident.
The new law also calls for all EU member states to prepare external emergency response plans covering all offshore drilling installations within their authority.
Welcoming the EU directive, Oil & Gas UK health, safety and employment director Robert Paterson said: "Oil & Gas UK has worked hard to campaign for this directive in place of the European Commission’s original proposition of a regulation and the very real danger to our workers’ safety that this would have brought".
"In this, the 25th anniversary year of Piper Alpha – which was the world’s worst offshore disaster – we are heartened that the world-class goal-setting regulatory safety regime put in place after the disaster will be protected," Paterson added.
Paterson also said that the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will shortly begin transposition of the directive into UK law.
Image: The Piper Alpha disaster remains a constant safety reminder to the offshore industry.