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Oil & Gas UK Environment Report shows downward trend in emissions in 2015

16 January 2017

Discharges to sea and emissions to the air by the UK’s oil and gas industry have been on an overall downward trend over the last 15 years, according to a report published by the sector’s trade body. The trend echoes the decline of UK oil and gas production together with effective process management and industry’s use of best available techniques, says Oil & Gas UK’s Environment Report 2016.

Oil & Gas UK Environment Report infographic
Oil & Gas UK Environment Report infographic

The report – containing data reported to industry’s regulators – captures the sector’s environmental performance to the end of 2015.
In 2015 industry had its first increase in production in 15 years, and the extraction of more oil and gas resulted in a slight rise that year in the mass of production chemicals discharged and produced water volumes, as well as in emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.
However, the proportion of the rise was not as great as the production upturn itself, demonstrating industry’s commitment to environmental management, as well as its efforts to minimise emissions.
The average oil in water concentration in produced water last year was less than half of the recommended limit set by the OSPAR Commission.
2015 saw the smallest mass on record of accidental oil released to the marine environment. With 82 million tonnes of oil equivalent produced in 2015, accidental oil releases represented less than 0.00002% of total oil production.
While there was a slight rise in the mass of chemicals released last year, almost half was the result of three incidents. The overall mass of chemicals accidentally released between 2010 and 2015 is down 65%. Carbon dioxide emissions from offshore oil and gas production contributed just over 3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions in 2015 – the same level as the previous year.
The report does show a continuation of a rise in waste materials being returned to shore from offshore. However, part of last year’s rise was due to the downturn, as much of the waste came from sludges, liquids and tank washings from mobile drilling rigs being taken off hire.
Mick Borwell, Health, Safety and Environment Policy Director with Oil & Gas UK, said: “The Environment Report comes at a challenging time for the UK oil and gas which is working extremely hard to navigate through the downturn, while maintaining environment and safety standards.
“Despite the UK Continental Shelf being a mature basin with technically challenging production, the overall trend for the last 15 years is downwards for discharges, emissions and accidental releases. Put simply, we are using the same amount of chemicals and emitting less CO2 in the production of more oil and gas.
“Industry is committed to minimising the effect on the natural environment and all operators have an environmental management system which is designed to minimise environmental effect.”

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