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Offshore Oil and Gas Industry

The major developments in the offshore oil and gas industry in the OSPAR maritime area have primarily taken place in the North Sea. While production of hydrocarbons has peaked in the North Sea and is expected to decline in the near future, oil and gas production in other parts of the OSPAR maritime area, such as the Barents Sea is projected to increase. All phases of oils and gas activities, including exploration, appraisal and exploitation, can have impacts on the marine environment. Discharges of produced water from the routine operation of production platforms are a constant source of oil and chemicals from offshore oil and gas activities. Accidental oil spills can have acute effects on the marine and coastal ecosystems. Also the development of infrastructure and placement of structures, pipelines and cables, pollution from cuttings piles, emissions to the atmosphere and acoustic disturbance can affect the ecosystem adversely.

The objective of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Strategy therefore is to prevent and eliminate pollution from offshore sources and to protect the OSPAR maritime area against the adverse effects of offshore activities so as to safeguard human health and conserve the marine ecosystems. When practical, marine areas which have been adversely affected shall be restored.

The Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Strategy sets out the development and implementation of programmes and measures in respect of all phases of offshore activities. It requires the OSPAR Commission to collect information about threats to the marine environment; establish priorities for taking action; and develop and periodically review environmental goals. The oil and gas industry related work is implemented by OSPAR’s Offshore Industry Committee (OIC).

The OSPAR Commission also cooperates with other international organisations in developing measures to prevent and eliminate pollution from offshore sources. From its regional seas perspective it contributes to international efforts, including the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention, 1972) and efforts by the European Union, the most relevant being developments under the REACH Regulation (for Offshore Chemicals).