What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations? Ways to strengthen and support existing and proposed offshore safety regulations

Professor Muir contributed to an October discussion of CommentVisions on What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations? Her comments in that forum are provided below:

What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations? Ways to strengthen and support existing and proposed offshore safety regulations

·         Value of comparisons between Europe and other offshore jurisdictions such as Canada, Brazil, China, Russia, US etc.. Though existing European regulations are based on Norway and UK, there can be mutual learnings between all offshore jurisdictions for both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. For example, Canada is a federation of provinces and territories, where the federal and regional governments have shared responsibilities for offshore energy development and work cooperatively within joint institutions to regulate hydrocarbon safety. Comparitive and shared approaches will be particularly relevant for the development of Arctic hydrocarbons between Scandinavian countries and other Arctic Council member states such as Canada, United States and Russia.
·         Culture of safety within hydrocarbon corporations and offshore operators, and encouraging that safety culture through regulations, industry agreements, and voluntary measures such as environmental management systemsThe real key will be the way in which the regulations are viewed and internally implemented by the hydrocarbon industry and offshore operators. Regulations can be implemented to support the development of this safety culture, and have been done in other jurisdictions and by regulators, such as Canada’s National Energy Board.
·         Enforcement and compliance:  Regardless of the strengths and shortcomings of any regulations, a very important aspect is the willingness and ability of European and national authorities to operationalise these regulations consistently across all jurisdictions, and to use the full range of enforcement and compliance tools and mechanisms.
·         Public acceptance is crucial for offshore hydrocarbon development and other offshore activities. Tthe Renewable Grid Initiative and European Grid Declaration for Electricity Network Development and Nature Conservation in Europe provide lessons for engaging stakeholders, reconciling conflicting interests, and developing public acceptance for offshore developments and infrastructure. See www.renewables-grid.eu for further information.
·         Special safety regimes for special circumstances: Certain offshore hydrocarbon activities may require unique safety regulations and regulatory approaches. This includes hydrocarbon development in the Arctic where remote and difficult conditions combined with vulnerable ecosystems could turn an oil spill into an environmental disaster; hydrocarbon activities occurring in proximity to other oceans uses (such as renewable energy) or in areas of great biodiversity; or  the development of marine methane hydrates in coastal and marine waters.
·         Data, research and technological development to support environment and safety and realize future economic benefits for Europe. There is a distinct role for the European Union and in particular the Director General Maritime Affair in supporting data, research and technological development for offshore hydrocarbons and related sectors like offshore wind and ocean energy. This development is consistent with Europe’s Blue Growth initiative to support growth in the maritime sector by focusing on existing, emerging and potential activities.   Community level research and supervision can occur from the EU bodies and agencies best placed to sponsor, coordinate and supervise this research and development, particularly for activities in European waters or to assist in the transfer of knowledge and practices from international jurisdiction.
·         Maximize benefits of offshore hydrocarbon activities through regulations: Maximizing benefits through regulations, such as multiple use and design parameters of offshore platforms, no-take zones in proximity to facilities, seasonal restrictions on hydrocarbon activities, underground pipelines implemented through horizontal and directional drilling beneath seabed through areas of great biodiversity value or multiple uses. Research is already underway for multiple use ocean platforms under the European collaborative TROPOS project which develops floating modular multi-use platforms for use in deep water with18 partners and 9 countries (including the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Denmark) under the coordination of the Public Consortium Canary Islands Oceanic Platform .
·         Connections between offshore hydrocarbons, offshore carbon capture and storage (CCS), and offshore renewable energy: Proposals forCCS under the North Sea would use depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs and existing pipeline infrastructure for the long term storage of greenhouse gases under the seabed. As such, it will be important to have flexible regulatory regimes that will facilitate the safe re-use of this infrastructure. For both offshore hydrocarbon activities and renewable energy, common regulatory approaches could be useful for marine spatial planning for shared or overlapping areas of operation; ship-based support and space monitoring,; the multiple use or re-use of offshore hydrocarbon platforms for wind and ocean energy; and knowledge sharing and transfer betweee industries.
·         Lessons learned and applicability to other emerging marine sectors. Regulations for offshore hydrocarbon sector will provide important safety lessons and models for other emerging offshore sectors that such as offshore carbon capture and storage, offshore wind and marine renewable energy, power transmission infrastructure, ocean mining, marine biofuels and biomass, fishing and aquaculture.
Complete text of the CommentVisions discussion “What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations?” is available at:

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