John Hayes

The UK Government has announced various measures for the country’s offshore oil and gas industry to ensure safety and environmental protection, as well as to avoid incidents similar to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The government, while taking an alternative approach on certain issues, has implemented most of the recommendations made by the review panel, headed by Imperial College London Energy Engineering professor Geoffrey Maitland.

Maitland was appointed by the government in 2010 after the Gulf of Mexico incident, to look into reports of the incident and their relevance to the UK’s oil and gas industry.

The report, released in December 2011, recommended measures under 11 themes including implementation assurance, workforce engagement, liability and insurance issues and technology development.

While some of the recommendations given by the panel have been implemented, a few of them are being worked on.

Measures that have already been implemented include development and publishing of guidance to keep critical safety equipment in good repair; establishment of a pan-industry forum to develop guidance and standards for well management and design; and guidelines for improved management systems for the implementation of safety and environmental plans.

Permission to drill exploration and appraisal wells on the UK continental shelf are given only if petroleum licensees show that they have the financial means to respond to an incident, under the guidelines prepared by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

It was also made mandatory for field operators to undertake offshore oil and gas emergency response exercises once every three years.

"The government, while taking an alternative approach on certain issues, has implemented most of the recommendations."

UK Minister of State for Energy at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, John Hayes, said it is vital that the oil and gas activities meet the highest possible standards of safety and environmental protection.

"I am confident that the government and industry responses to the independent panel’s recommendations, alongside other ongoing work, will ensure that the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry builds upon its existing high standards," added Hayes.

The recommendations that are in the process of implementation are being overseen by a senior oversight group including the DECC, the Health and Safety Executive and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Commenting on the new measures, professor Geoffrey Maitland said: "As chair of the review I am very pleased to see the substantial progress made on so many of the recommendations and that others continue to be worked on with timeframes for delivery in place."

Image: John Hayes expressed confidence that both government and the industry would respond to the review panel’s recommendations. Photo courtesy of Business, Innovation and Skills Office, UK.