Assessment of the OSPAR Report on Discharges, Spills and Emissions from Offshore Installations, 2013 – 2015
This report presents the discharges, spills and emissions data from offshore installations in the OSPAR maritime area for the period 2013‐2015 and provides an assessment of that data. The assessment is based on the data provided to OSPAR by Contracting Parties and published in the annual reports on discharges, spills and emissions from offshore oil and gas installations.
a. Level of Activity
The OSPAR maritime area is a mature oil and gas region with the majority of Contracting Parties experiencing declining production. Despite this, oil and gas exploration and development activities continue to maintain production figures and maximise economic recovery of reserves. The number of wells drilled during the period has varied from a peak of 416 in 2013, to 366 in 2014 and 381 in 2015. While the total production of hydrocarbons in OSPAR’s maritime area has decreased by 33% over the last 10 years, there has been a 5% increase in total production during 2013‐2015 primarily due to a 10% increase in production from Norway and a 3% increase in the UK over the same period. Despite the long term production decrease there has been a 22% increase in the number of oil & gas installations, with the greatest increase in the number of subsea installations used to recover hydrocarbons from more marginal fields.
b. Discharges & Spills of Oil
Discharges of oil continue to decrease
The total quantity of dispersed oil (aliphatic oil) discharged to the sea from produced water and displacement water increased between 2013 – 2015 from 4 009 tonnes in 2013 to 4 523 tonnes in 2015. As in previous years, produced water and displacement water are the main contributors to the oil discharges from offshore oil and gas activities, representing 97‐99% of the total amount of oil discharged to the sea during the 2013‐2015 period. Flaring is a minor source of oil discharges and is not covered by OSPAR measures.
It should be noted that dispersed oil in displacement water contributes less than 1% to this total.
The quantity of oil spilled has varied over the period as might be expected ranging from 172 tonnes in 2013 up to 230 tonnes in 2014 and down to 82 tonnes in 2015.
The concentration of dispersed oil in produced water is below the performance standard for most installations
The annual average dispersed oil content in produced water was 11.8mg/l in 2013, 11.1mg/l in 2014 and 12.1mg/l in 2015, well below the current performance standard for dispersed oil of 30 mg/l for produced water discharged into the sea.
In 2015, 19 installations exceeded the 30 mg/l performance standard for dispersed oil in produced water. Despite the efforts made to reduce the number of installations which exceed the standard, there are still some installations which raise concern; however, the amount of oil discharged from 11 of these installations is less than 2 tonnes annually. In total the discharge of dispersed oil in excess of the performance standard is less than 1% of the total discharge of dispersed oil in the OSPAR region.
Most chemicals used and discharged offshore are considered to pose little or no risk
Since 2001 the use and discharge of chemicals have been regulated by OSPAR. The first reporting year for which all major contributors provided data was 2003. The total quantity of chemicals used offshore decreased from a peak of 937 000 tonnes in 2013 to just under 850 000 tonnes in 2015. For 2015 less than 2% (by weight) of the chemicals used contain either substances on the OSPAR List of Chemicals for Priority Action (LCPA) or substances which are candidates for substitution.
The total quantity of chemicals discharged into the sea decreased from a peak of 281 000 tonnes in 2013 to 207 000 tonnes in 2015, 83% of which were chemicals on the OSPAR PLONOR list. Less than 1% (wt.) of the discharged chemicals contains substances which are candidates for substitution. Discharge to the sea of chemicals on the LCPA was 0 kg in 2015.
OSPAR Recommendation 2005/2 set environmental goals for the reduction of substances on the OSPAR LCPA such that discharges were to be phased out by 2010. There was a 90% reduction in such discharges by 2010, with respect to the 2005 baseline set in the OSPAR Recommendation. There were no discharges of OSPAR LCPA chemicals in either 2014 or 2015.
The OSPAR Recommendation 2006/3 sets out environmental goals on the phasing out of discharges of offshore chemicals that are, or which contain substances, identified as candidates for substitution by 2017. There has been a 69% reduction over the last 10 years with a 21% reduction between 2013‐2015. The reductions in the amounts of LCPA and substitution chemicals discharged are indicative of the success of the OSPAR measures.
d. Atmospheric Emissions
Atmospheric emissions are stable or decreasing
Atmospheric emissions are not regulated by OSPAR measures, nonetheless, atmospheric emissions from offshore oil and gas activity are reported annually by operators. Emissions to the atmosphere have generally decreased or remained relatively stable for the period 2013‐2015, with the exception of nonmethane volatile organic compounds (nmVOC’s) which have increased 19% from 78 000 tonnes in 2013 to 90 0000 tonnes in 2015.
 “Aliphatics” and “aromatics” are defined by the reference method set in OSPAR Agreement 2005‐15 (Solvent extraction, Infra‐Red measurement at 3 wavelengths). In that context, “aliphatics” and “dispersed oil” mean the same thing.
 Pose little or no threat to the environment - PLONOR
 Except for those chemicals where, despite considerable efforts, it can be demonstrated that this is not feasible due to technical or safety reasons. Demonstration of those reasons should include a description of the efforts.