EU Energy Commissioner holds talks on oil platform safety to avoid repeats of US disaster

Brussels, 11 May 2010. Commissioner Günther Oettinger will meet later today representatives of oil and gas production industry operating in Europe and its off-shore areas. The European Commission wants to obtain assurances from the industry that they fully manage all necessary risks to avoid disasters similar to the one currently witnessed in the USA.

Günther Oettinger, Commissioner responsible for Energy said: “No regulatory regime alone can give us 100% guarantees of safety. Much depends also on the attitude and practices of operators and on having an operational system available. I wish to make sure that the necessary legislation is in place and effectively implemented and that, at the same time, all possible efforts are made by the industry to avoid a similar accident and consequent oil spill. Politics and business need to work together to ensure that the European environment and the public are as safe as they possibly can be.”

While oil and gas exploration and production operations off-shore the European Union are not taking place in the same extreme conditions as those in the Gulf of Mexico, the EU must also deal with the possibility of an accident near its shore. In the meeting scheduled for today, EU Commissioner Oettinger and high level representatives of major oil and gas companies will discuss EU legislation and best practices in place, both to prevent a disaster and to act in case of an accident. They will also discuss the level of technology in the field.

Although safety standards in the industry are high, EU public must be reassured that it can feel safe about continued off-shore operations near EU coast. The meeting will also be an opportunity for the Commissioner of International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva to present the preparedness and response plans to marine pollution incidents.

EU legislation provides the framework for safety of operations as well as environmental protection both in general and in case of an accident. Oil platforms are regulated under the Directive (94/9/EC) on “equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres”. It sets minimum industrial safety standards. The control of the platforms falls within the competence of national authorities. Workers on oil platforms are protected under the Framework Directive for health and safety of workers (89/391/EEC) which applies to all sectors. As on and offshore drilling of oil is a high-risk sector, the EU also adopted specific legislation (individual directive 92/91/EC). It contains detailed minimum health and safety provisions, in particular from fire and explosions, escape facilities and alarms systems.

In case of accidents offshore drilling operations are subject to the relevant EU environmental legislation, including directives on environmental impact assessment, habitats & wild birds’ directives, environmental liability, and the Water Framework directive for coastal waters. While the responsibility lies with the affected coastal state, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) supports the pollution response actions. EMSA has a fleet of oil recovery vessels under contract in the different EU seas, which can be mobilised on request under the Civil Protection Mechanism of the EU.

List of companies attending the meeting

  • OGP
  • BP
  • BP Group
  • ConocoPhilips
  • Apache
  • Chevron
  • ENI
  • ExxonMobil
  • Nexen
  • Repsol
  • Shell
  • Statoil
  • Maersk 0&G
  • Total

Citation:  EU press release IP/10/555


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