UK oil and gas sector delivers stable environmental performance alongside increased production

The UK offshore oil and gas industry has delivered stable environmental performance whilst the sector has increased production levels, according to a new report published by Oil & Gas UK (OGUK).

2019 Environment Report, which analyses and interprets data gathered and monitored by the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED), considers performance across a range of areas including emissions to atmosphere, chemical discharge, waste disposal and produced water, to the end of 2018.

The insight also provides a summary of activities undertaken by OGUK groups over the last year to support the development of new legislation, whilst acknowledging the industry’s critical role in achieving a net-zero future and its integral part in transitioning to a low carbon economy.

Key findings include:

  • There was a 3% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2018, compared to 2017, whilst production increased by 4% year-on-year.
  • A total of 74% of CO2 emissions were from power generation.
  • Upstream oil and gas operations contributed 3% (14.65mn tCO2e) of total UK greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Produced water discharged to the sea fell by 3% compared to 2017.
  • Last year, 2018, saw a decrease in drill cuttings discharged to sea, with 21,450 tonnes discharged.
  • Just under 120,000 tonnes of waste was generated in 2018, a 22% decrease on 2017.
  • There was a 39% increase in decommissioning waste from 2017 – however, 72% was either re-used, recycled or used for power generation.
  • Some 73% of chemicals discharged were classed as low hazard, or PLONOR (pose little or no risk to the environment).
  • There was a 65% decrease in accidental oil releases compared to 2017 – 293 releases totalling 14 tonnes – which is the lowest annual total since 2011.
  • Some 95% of the mass of chemicals accidently released were of PLONOR or low hazard chemicals, and less than 1 kg of the highest hazard chemicals were released.

Commenting on the report findings, Louise O’Hara Murray, OGUK’s Environment Manager, says: ‘The UK Continental Shelf is a mature and complex basin, and our report analysis shows that in 2018 we are delivering a stabilised environmental performance alongside increasing levels of production. Operators are making changes to processes and equipment offshore to continually improve efficiency and emissions performance. Alongside this, OGUK is actively working with its members to understand solutions to meet our commitment to the UK's net-zero ambition by 2050 and the expectations of society whilst maintaining sovereignty of supply.’

She continues: ‘We need a diverse energy mix in the transition to a net-zero future to maintain our security of supply. The forecast demand for oil and gas in the UK in 2050 will exceed current estimates of supply from the UK Continental Shelf, and maintaining energy sovereignty means avoiding premature cessation to UKCS production and displacement of production to other basins.’

‘As a major hazard and heavily regulated industry, continued engagement with the regulator, government and the sector is key in supporting efforts to reduce environmental risk and ensure continued safe operations. With that in mind, this annual report provides an opportunity for us to review environmental performance, reflect on the compliant practices and focus on areas where there are opportunities to drive further improvements.’

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