LONDON – Discharges to sea and emissions to the air by the UK’s oil and gas industry have fallen steadily over the past 15 years, according to Oil & Gas UK’s Environment Report 2016.
Last year the UK offshore industry increased production for the first time in 15 years, which led to a slight rise in the mass of production chemicals discharged and produced water volumes, as well as emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
However, the proportion of the rise was not as great as the production upturn.
The average oil in water concentration in the UK’s produced water last year was less than half the recommended limit set by the OSPAR Commission, the report added.
Last year the UK had its smallest mass to date of accidental oil released to the marine environment, representing less than 0.00002% of the 82 MM metric tons of oil equivalent produced.
There was a slight rise in the mass of chemicals released last year, although almost half was the result of three incidents. The overall mass of chemicals accidentally released between 2010 and 2015 was down 65%, the report found.
Carbon dioxide emissions from offshore oil and gas production contributed just over 3% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions in 2015, the same as in 2014.
Waste materials being returned to shore from offshore did increase, although this was partly due to the current 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: “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.”