In the OSPAR maritime area, in particular in the North Sea, progressive developments in the oil and gas industry have resulted in a large number of offshore installations.
The OSPAR maritime area is a mature oil and gas production province, although total production has been steadily falling since its peak in 1999. OSPAR Contracting Parties with an offshore oil and gas industry include: Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Since 1998, the dumping, and leaving wholly or partly in place, of disused offshore installations within the OSPAR maritime area is prohibited under OSPAR Decision 98/3 on the Disposal of Disused Offshore Installations. However, following assessment, the competent authority of the relevant Contracting Party may give permission to leave installations or parts of installations in place in the case of:
- steel installations weighing more than ten thousand tonnes in air;
- gravity based concrete installations;
- floating concrete installations; and
- any concrete anchor-base which results, or is likely to result, in interference with other legitimate uses of the sea.
OSPAR monitors the development of offshore installations and maintains the OSPAR offshore oil and gas installations inventory . The database includes the name and ID number, location, operator, water depth, production start, current status, category, function and weight of the installations.
At present more than 1,350 offshore installations are operational in the OSPAR maritime area, most of them sub-sea steel installations and fixed steel installations. So far, around 170 have been decommissioned and ten derogations have been granted. As the province matures, an increasing number of offshore installations will reach its end of life in the next two decades.