UK oil and gas industry continues downward trend in discharges and emissions

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Discharges to sea and emissions to the air by the UK’s oil and gas industry continue on a 15-year downward trend, according to a new report.

SPE Offshore Europe

The trend is said to reflect the decline of UK oil and gas production together with effective process management and industry’s use of best available techniques, says Oil & Gas UK’s Environment Report 2016.

The report contains data reported to industry’s regulators and addresses the sector’s environmental performance to the end of 2015.

Last year industry had its first increase in production in 15 years, and the extraction of more oil and gas resulted in a slight rise in 2015 in the mass of production chemicals discharged and produced water volumes, as well as in emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. According to the report, the proportion of the rise was not as great as the production upturn itself.

The average oil in water concentration in produced water last year was less than half of the recommended limit set by the OSPAR Commission. Similarly, 2015 saw the smallest mass on record of accidental oil released to the sea. With 82 million tonnes of oil equivalent produced in 2015, accidental oil releases represented less than 0.00002 per cent of total oil production.

While there was a slight rise in the mass of chemicals released last year, almost half was the result of three incidents. The overall mass of chemicals accidentally released between 2010 and 2015 is down 65 per cent. Carbon dioxide emissions from offshore oil and gas production contributed slightly over three per cent of the UK’s total CO2 emissions in 2015.

The report does show a continuation of a rise in waste materials being returned to shore from offshore. However, part of last year’s rise was due to the downturn, as much of the waste came from sludges, liquids and tank washings from mobile drilling rigs being taken off hire.

In a statement, Mick Borwell, health, safety and environment policy director with Oil & Gas UK, said: “The Environment Report comes at a challenging time for the UK oil and gas which is working extremely hard to navigate through the downturn, while maintaining environment and safety standards.

“Despite the UK Continental Shelf being a mature basin with technically challenging production, the overall trend for the last 15 years is downwards for discharges, emissions and accidental releases. Put simply, we are using the same amount of chemicals and emitting less CO2 in the production of more oil and gas.

“Industry is committed to minimising the effect on the natural environment and all operators have an environmental management system which is designed to minimise environmental effect.”

The full report can be found at: