Interview: Most countries are struggling with Offshore Safety Directive implementation

Rob Beks; Image: Offshore Energy Today
Rob Beks; Image: Offshore Energy Today

During last week’s Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC) 2015 in Amsterdam, Offshore Energy Today interviewed Mr. Rob Beks, Senior Consultant, Asset Risk Management at DNV GL, prior and in relation to Offshore Safety session, held on the second day of the conference.

During this session, the topic of offshore safety was observed from different angles by four key industry stakeholders, the Netherlands Oil and Gas Exploration and Production association (NOGEPA), representing the interests of those holding the licences to explore and produce oil in the Netherlands; Paragon Offshore, an offshore drilling contractor; DNV GL, an independent verifier and Centrica Energy. The stakeholders looked at the consequences of the new Offshore Safety Directive (OSD) and shared their experiences in implementing the changes.

As a representative of the independent verifier, DNV GL’s Mr. Beks shared with us his thoughts on the new directive and what this means for the industry.

OET: When asked about the Offshore Safety session and his expectations, Beks said:

What is interesting about this technical session is that you have four different companies at the table, some are delivering services, other companies are getting those services and there will also be a drilling company. So, there is a full cycle and that makes it interesting.

Four different companies at the table…

We are very curious about how the operators are looking at these new regulations because there is a decline in business, people are getting fired and there is less money to spend. These new regulations are coming now and that means that operators have to spend more money on safety.

We are very curious about how the operators are looking at these new regulations because there is a decline in business… 

Some of them are working for thirty-forty years without major accidents and they don’t see the benefits of these new regulations. That will be discussed tomorrow, so I’m very curious how this discussion will evolve.


OET: Can you briefly explain what the Offshore Safety Directive is and its main goal?

Beks: The new EU Directive (2013/30/EU) on Safety of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations aims to reduce the risk of major accidents associated with offshore oil and gas operations thus increasing the protection of the marine environment and coastal economies against pollution, establishing minimum conditions for safe offshore exploration and exploitation of oil and gas and limiting possible disruptions to Union indigenous energy production, and to improve the response mechanisms in case of an accident.

…to reduce the risk of major accidents associated with offshore oil and gas operations. 

The Directive requires owners and operators to prevent and mitigate the impact of major accident hazards through the implementation of a systematic and effective approach to risk management.

Accidents relating to offshore oil and gas operations, in particular the accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, have raised public awareness of the risks involved in offshore oil and gas operations and have prompted a review of policies aimed at ensuring the safety of such operations.


OET: Which countries and operations does it apply to?

Beks: Within EU waters, the EU OSD will be mandatory.

Outside EU waters it requires EU Headquartered Operators to conduct operations both inside and outside the EU waters in accordance with their Major Accident Prevention Policy (MAPP); companies Headquartered in EU to report to the EU Competent Authority on accidents on their installations even if accidents happened outside EU waters; and confidential Reporting Scheme to also enable people outside the EU to report their concerns on EU offshore operations.


OET: What about Norway?

Beks: The Norwegian interpretation of applicability of the directive, is that it does not apply in Norway. Unless this position is subsequently challenged by the EU Commission, the directive will not be implemented in Norway.


OET: What does it mean for offshore workers and for the environment?

Beks: The risks relating to major offshore oil or gas accidents are significant. By reducing the risk of pollution of offshore waters, this Directive should contribute to ensuring the protection of the marine environment and in particular to achieving or maintaining good environmental status by 2020 at the latest.

The risks relating to major offshore oil or gas accidents are significant.

Because Safety Critical Elements are already included in existing practices, there are no major changes foreseen for offshore workers in relation to safety.


OET: DNV GL published a Recommended Practice (RP) related to the EU Offshore Safety Directive – what is the main objective of this RP? How can DNV GL help?

Beks: The objectives of this RP are to provide guidelines and good practice for identification of potential major environmental incidents (MEIs) and major pollution incidents (MPIs) on or in connection with offshore oil and gas installation operations, and the management of the associated environmental risks through the use of critical elements to prevent MEIs and MPIs from occurring and reduce the consequences should one occur.

Also, to assist industry, DNV GL has developed this RP to describe the DNV GL recommended approach for the identification and management of major releases to the environment and their associated risks through the use of critical elements.

The EU Offshore Safety Directive requires only that a major environmental incident (MEI) be identified and controlled where it may result from a MA that has the potential to cause significant harm to people. It is also possible that a MEI could occur that does not have the potential to cause significant harm to people. DNV GL considers it good practice to also identify and manage these incidents even though they are not required by the scope of the EU Offshore Safety Directive.

The approach being recommended in the RP is the same for both MEI and MPI. The approach builds on and aligns with the existing approach used within the management of MA safety risk and is applicable to support compliance with the EU Offshore Safety Directive as well as in support of effective environmental risk management worldwide.


OET: As an independent verifier, what kind of experiences have you seen with different stakeholders in implementing the changes?

Beks: At this moment most EU member states are struggling with implementing the Directive into local legislation. We also experience that operators are curious and concerned with regards to how they will need to react to comply to the new regulations.


Progress in the UK

The European Oil & Gas safety Directive 2013/30 EU, has been reviewed and its contents incorporated into an update to the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations, 2015 (SCR15). This new Statutory Instrument is the UK’s implementation of the EU Directive, and incorporates the old requirements for offshore installations to operate under a goal-setting safety case regime, along with the need to incorporate environmental considerations into the safety case, among other new requirements.

A Competent Authority, the Offshore Safety Directive Regulator, (OSDR) has been setup up comprising members from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), in particular members of the Offshore Oil and Gas Environment and Decommissioning Team (OGED), which is responsible for implementing offshore environmental legislation. HSE’s Energy Division (ED) is responsible for implementing health and safety legislation for offshore oil and gas operations.

The UK Competent Authority has developed systems for submissions to be made and assessed. As many as 23 pre-submissions have been made to test the Competent Authority (CA) procedures.

As well as new safety cases being submitted for assets which must immediately comply with SCR15, all UK operators have had to submit a material change Safety Case to the Offshore Safety Directive Regulator (OSDR), for acceptance prior to the implementation date of the directive and new UK regulations, of 19th July 2018 for production units and 19th July 2016 for non production units.

Most EU member states are struggling with implementing the Directive.


Progress in Spain

According to Beks, there are no details presently available on implementation of the directive in Spain.


Progress in Ireland

The contents of the directive are being adopted under Irish Law, and The Commission for Energy Regulation will act as the Competent Authority.

Limited information is available as to overall compliance with meeting the 19th July 2015 implementation schedule, but it would appear that systems will not be in place fully until the autumn of 2015.


Progress in Italy

Still waiting for formal adoption of the Directive into Italian Law. No information is available at present as to when it will be adopted.


Progress in The Netherlands

Parliamentary delays in passing the new regulations to apply the directive in The Netherlands mean that the Commission deadline of July 19th for having national regulations in place will be missed. A delay of at least 6 months is anticipated before the Dutch regulator is fully ready.


Progress in Denmark

The OSD has been reviewed and public hearings with industry in Denmark took place in 2014. A response by the working group under Oil Gas Denmark (trade organization for the oil and gas sector in Denmark) was issued to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) in August 2014.

New Act No. 1499 on changes to the existing Offshore Safety Act was voted through the Danish Parliament on 18 December 2014 and issued on 23 December 2014. Act No. 1499 of 23 December 2014 will be effective as from 19 July 2015 and implements the contents of the OSD into the existing Danish goal-setting Health & Safety Case regime.

A larger number of revised/new Executive Orders under the Offshore Safety Act are expected to be issued in 2015 to support the implementation. However, due to the country’s recent general election, it will not be able to pass secondary laws in time. The Commission has been informed about this delay.

The Offshore Safety Unit was transferred from the DEA to a new 8th office under the Danish Working Environment Authority (WEA) as of 1 January 2015 in order to separate the competent and licensing authority. The Offshore Safety Unit supervises the health and safety aspects of the offshore installations on the Danish Continental Shelf in the North Sea, and will have the responsibility as the Competent Authority together with The Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


There’s a huge safety awareness in the oil and gas industry.


OET: Oil industry has slashed hundreds of jobs to cut costs in a low oil price environment and unions claim that fewer workers means increased safety risks. Do you agree?

Beks: In the oil and gas industry, there is a huge safety awareness. Of course, fewer workers will have its impact, but this will also challenge the discussion between operator, Competent Authority and Independent Verification Body.

Within these three parties, all safety and environmental issues need to be addressed in a verification scheme according to minimum requirements; because of our more than 30 years’ experience as an Independent Verification Body, we can fulfill an important role in keeping the safety and environmental standards at a high level.

Offshore Energy Today Staff