EMSA adopted an action plan for response to marine pollution during its Administrative Board, 37th Meeting held in Lisbon, Porugal, on 23-24 November 2013.
EMSA’s Action Plan covers the response to oil pollution caused by offshore installations. The response to pollution caused by gas installations is not addressed due to the particularities of such incidents. EMSA’s expertise and response capabilities are primarily focused on oil pollution in the marine environment. Gas emissions may include liquid condensates, which evaporate into the atmosphere, with limited residues persisting on the water surface, meaning that on-site recovery is not feasible.
However, gas plumes from gas installation incidents can pose a significant hazard to responders and EMSA will therefore explore monitoring options for oil and gas incidents, taking into consideration recent technological advances in this area.
The Action Plan provides:
- an overview of international and regional regulatory and cooperation structures for pollution response, addressing offshore installations in particular;
- information regarding particularities and challenges of pollution caused by offshore installations and response measures to marine pollution caused by such installations, including some case studies;
- a brief overview of both Member States’ and oil industry’s preparedness and response activities regarding oil pollution caused by offshore installations; and
- an array of proposed activities by the Agency in the fields of operational assistance, cooperation and information.
The activities proposed in the Action Plan shall be implemented on a step-by-step basis through the Agency’s Annual Work Programmes, following the approval by the Administrative Board. The actual timing and extent of its implementation are dependent on the available financial resources as well as the levels of support and participation from both Member States and the oil industry. Nonetheless, EMSA intends to build up an appropriate ‘reserve for disasters’ by adapting its current capabilities and developing new ones.
Map of offshore installations across Europe
The North Sea is the most mature area in Europe, with more than 40 years of offshore activities and the largest number of known oil fields and offshore installations. Due to the shallowness of this area, the majority of these installations are in waters of less than 300 metres depth. Deepwater oil installations can be found east and west of the Shetland Islands and west ofNorway.
The Baltic Sea is an area with very limited offshore oil and gas activities. There are only a few offshore installations in the Baltic Sea, all of them located in the south-east, in Poland and Russia.
In the Mediterranean Sea, Italy operates approximately 100 offshore installations, mainly for gas extraction and exploration. These facilities are located in the Adriatic Sea, in the Ionian Sea and in the Sicily Channel. Spain also has two installations in the Mediterranean Sea. No active offshore installations are reported in the Cypriot, French, Maltese and Slovenian sectors, but some of these countries have had drilling activities in the past (France,Cyprus) and/ or plan to start drilling activities in the near future (Cyprus and Malta). Croatia also has some offshore installations, as does Greece, which is also planning more.
Offshore activities also take place in the waters of North African states and non-EU Member States around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Libya and Tunisia. Production in the territorial waters of these countries is modest but there is significant exploration activity, particularly in Egypt and Libya. A number of European companies are active in the region.
In the Black Sea, exploration and production activities have been conducted for over 30 years. Romania is the only sizable producer of oil, with several offshore installations already in place. Some offshore installations are also located in Bulgarian and in Turkish waters, and exploration is being carried out in all areasof the Black Sea.
In the Arctic region, oil is currently produced in the shallow waters of the Barents and Norwegian Seas. The Barents Sea is one of the widest shelf areas in the world and has a mean depth of 230 metres. Both Russia and Norway are exploiting the area, which, from an ecological point of view, is considered to be highly sensitive.
The implementation of this Action Plan is dependent on the Member States’ policies and strategies for pollution response and on available pollution response capabilities of the Member States and the oil and gas industry. The document has therefore been developed in consultation with these two groups. This approach aims at building upon a common understanding of the threats of offshore oil and gas activities and identifying pooled resources for pollution response. In addition, it enables the Agency to develop only those pollution response activities that bring an added-value, in line with its ‘top-up’ mandate and the need for cost efficiency.
It is acknowledged that the industry has an obligation with regard to pollution response and that relevant capabilities are already in place, with additional ones being further developed on a global scale. These response tools are primarily available to the industry partners, but under certain conditions they can also be requested by Member States. Nonetheless, without the intention of duplicating industry resources and capabilities, the Agency will provide a direct ‘government-to-government’ resource,with guaranteed availability of pollution response capabilities to authorities in Europe.
For more details, please click at image below to read “EMSA’s Action plan for response to marine pollution from oil and gas installation”
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