Detailed guide: Oil and gas: inspection strategy and enforcement activity

Overview

The Offshore Safety Directive Regulator (OSDR), a collaboration between OPRED and the HSE, produces yearly intervention plans detailing planned inspections to be undertaken of oil and gas installations. The OPRED contingent of the ODR intervention plan is based on the OPRED inspection strategy.

The Offshore Environmental Inspectorate Team, enforcement policy applies to all offshore oil and gas installations operating in connection with the exploration, development or production of petroleum that come within the scope of the relevant environmental legislation. This includes:

  • production platforms
  • mobile drilling units
  • floating production and storage offtake vessels
  • pipelines

Inspection strategy

As part of its regulatory function OPRED undertakes a programme of planned inspections, both at operators and owners’ onshore offices and of offshore oil and gas installations, to ensure compliance with relevant Regulations and permit conditions. It is also to gain assurances that operations are undertaken with due consideration of environmental aspects and impacts and with effective controls to minimise the likelihood of releases to the environment.

OPRED Inspection Strategy (PDF, 296KB, 3 pages)

Enforcement policy

Inspectors enforce the requirements on operators set out in statutory instruments (regulations) relevant to the protection of the offshore environment which include the:

  • regulation, using permits with conditions, of the activities of discharge and use of offshore chemicals, the discharge of oil, and emissions from qualifying offshore combustion installations
  • prohibition on the release of offshore chemicals and oil
  • requirement for Licensed Operators to have an oil pollution emergency plan

The enforcement methods available to Inspectors are detailed in the relevant legislation and include: a warning letter, the serving of an enforcement, improvement or prohibition notice, revocation of a permit and prosecution. This policy sets out the general principles that Inspectors shall follow in relation to enforcement including prosecution.

The Offshore Environmental Civil Sanctions Regulations 2018

The Offshore Environmental Civil Sanctions Regulations 2018 (the 2018 Regulations) enable OPRED to impose civil sanctions on offshore oil and gas companies who are found to be in breach of some existing environmental regulations. The 2018 Regulations entered into force on 1 October 2018 and OPRED will consider the imposition of a civil penalty for relevant offences committed on or after 1 November 2018.

The introduction of the 2018 Regulations provides OPRED with a more flexible, proportionate and timely enforcement response in respect of breaches that amount to criminal offences and would otherwise be dealt with by prosecution. The 2018 Regulations also allow OPRED to accept undertakings from offshore operators to take action for the benefit of any person affected by the offence (including payment of a sum of money) and for this to be taken into account in setting the variable monetary penalty for the most serious breaches.

The 2018 Regulations will help to ensure that OPRED has the ability to provide sufficient deterrent against non-compliance and tackle the behaviour of those who continue to perform poorly or ignore their environmental responsibilities.

The following guidance document is designed to set out how OPRED will apply the civil sanctions regime under the 2018 Regulations; how it makes decisions, and the processes followed by it:

The Offshore Environmental Civil Sanctions Regulations 2018 - Guidance Document (PDF, 337KB, 24 pages)

OPRED (BEIS) has a statutory obligation under the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 to maintain a public register of certain notices.

The Public Registers of Enforcement Activity are a new addition to OPRED (BEIS)’s Oil and Gas website and have been introduced to bring this area in line with our policy on publication of data. The registers outline the formal enforcement activity undertaken by OPRED (BEIS) in respect of offshore oil and gas operations on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Under the code of practice on access to government information, OPRED (BEIS) is committed to make available, on request, information about its actions and decisions, which includes information on formal enforcement activity.

The information provided within the registers will be subject to release and publication in accordance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).

OPRED (BEIS) enforcement activity falls into 4 main categories:

  • letters
  • enforcement, improvement and prohibition notices
  • permit revocation
  • prosecution

The public register of enforcement improvement and prohibition notices and the public register of convictions are available below.

Public registers of enforcement activity and prohibition notices

The OPRED (BEIS) Offshore Environmental Inspectorate enforces offshore oil and gas environmental regulations and permit conditions. On occasion OPRED (BEIS) may require offshore permit holders and/or licensed operators to make improvements by issuing them with a notice; either an enforcement notice or improvement notice which allows time for the recipient to comply with prescribed conditions or a prohibition notice which prohibits an activity from occurring until remedial action has been taken.

An enforcement notice or an improvement notice may be issued where the Secretary of State is of the opinion that:

  • any condition of a permit has been contravened, is being contravened or is likely to be contravened; or
  • a release or a discharge without a permit has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur

Each enforcement notice and improvement notice will identify the steps to be taken to remedy or prevent the contravention/release or discharge and will specify the period within which those steps must be taken.

A prohibition notice may be issued where the Secretary of State is of the opinion that the operation of an offshore installation involves an imminent risk of serious pollution. Each prohibition notice will specify the steps to be taken to remove the risk involved in the operation of the offshore installation before operations are allowed to be undertaken again.

The issue of an enforcement notice and/or a prohibition notice does not prevent other enforcement activity, such as prosecution, being progressed if this is deemed appropriate.

The OPRED (BEIS) public register of enforcement, improvement and prohibition notices includes all notices issued in the last 5 years. Notices that are older than 5 years old are available on request. To account for the appeals process and quality assurance there is a 5 week period following the date of issue of a notice prior to publication of the notice details on this register. Where OPRED (BEIS) are notified of an appeal outside this time period, details of the notice will be removed from the register. Notices that have been appealed will not appear on the register until after the appeal has been disposed.

Register of enforcement and prohibition notices (last updated 13 June 2019)

Notice Number Operator Notice Type Legislation Issue Date
011/2019 CNR International (U.K.) Limited Enforcement Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 10 May 2019
010/2018 CNR International (U.K.) Limited Enforcement Regulation 13(1) of The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 20 June 2018
007/2018 Bumi Armada UK Ltd Improvement Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Sections 21, 23 and 24 18 May 2018
030/2017 Nexen Petroleum U.K. Limited Enforcement Regulation 13(1A) of The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 19 December 2017
022/2017 ENI UK LTD Ltd Enforcement Regulation 13(1) of The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 19 July 2017
004/2017 Statoil (U.K.) Limited Improvement Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Sections 21, 23 and 24 03 February 2017
033/2016 BP Exploration Operating Company Limited Enforcement Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention And Control) Regulations 2005 13 October 2016
032/2016 Nexen Petroleum UK Limited Enforcement Regulation 13(1A) of The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 27 September 2016
031/2016 Maersk Oil North Sea UK Limited Enforcement Regulation 25(1)(a)(i) of the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 29 June 2016
028/2016 Total E&P UK Ltd Enforcement Regulation 25(1)(a)(i) of the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 29 June 2016
030/2016 ENI Liverpool Bay Operating Company Ltd Enforcement Regulation 13(1A) of The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005 24 June 2016
031/2015 CNR International (UK) Ltd Enforcement Regulation 13(1A) of the OPPC Regs 2005 13 November 2015
023/2015 Marathon International Oil (GB) Limited Enforcement Regulation 16(1A) of the OCR Regs 2002 12 August 2015
002/2014 Chevron North Sea Limited Enforcement Reg 3A of the OPPC regs 2005 12 November 2014
001/2014 Britannia Operator Limited Enforcement Regulations 16A (1) & 16A (1A) of the OCR Regs 2002 as amended 03 September 2014

Register of convictions

This is a register of the prosecution cases resulting in successful conviction which have been brought by OPRED (BEIS) against offshore permit holders and/or licensed operators in respect of the relevant environmental legislation administered. In general, prosecutions are pursued where OPRED (BEIS) consider:

  • the gravity of the alleged offence, taken together with the seriousness of any actual or potential pollution justifies this approach; or
  • the general record and approach of the alleged offender warrants it; or
  • there has been a reckless disregard of requirements enforced by the legislation

The register includes Prosecutions brought by OPRED (BEIS) in the last 5 years. Details of ongoing prosecution cases and any convictions subject to appeal will not be published. To account for the appeals process there is a delay of 9 weeks following conviction before a case is added to the register. Details of prosecutions will appear on the register for a period of 5 years after which they are removed from the register and are available on request.

Date of Incident Company Legislation Date of Conviction Sentence
10 August 2011 Shell UK Ltd The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention Control) Regulations 2005 24 November 2015 Fine £22,500
11 May 2013 Shell UK Ltd The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention Control) Regulations 2005 1 July 2015 Fine £6,000
17 December 2013 ConocoPhillips The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention Control) Regulations 2005 26 July 2016 Fine £7,000
09 July 2016 Dana Petroleum (E&P) Limited The Offshore Chemical Regulations 2002 29 May 2019 Fine £6,000