Essay: The Deepwater Horizon incident

Following the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the European Commission (EC) pressed its primary views on the safety of offshore oil and gas in 2010 and concluded that the existing divergent and fragmented regulatory framework applying to the safety of offshore oil and gas operations in Europe did not provide adequate assurance that risks from offshore accidents were minimized throughout the European Union especially in countries that have recently being involved in exploration and production actions, such as those in the Mediterranean region.
In order to ensure that the best practices and procedures are applied in oil and gas operations in European waters, the EC prepared a Directive (EU Directive 2013/30/ EU on Safety of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations (which will be called from now on ‘Offshore Safety Directive’ or ‘Directive’) aiming to reduce as far as reasonable the possibly repetition of major accidents- like the one occurred in the Gulf of Mexico related to Oil and Gas exploration and production activities- and prevent or limit to the maximum extend their impacts on safety, environmental, social and economic parameters.
On the 28th June 2013, the EC published the Offshore Directive and Member States have the obligation to adopt and implement the provisions of the Directive by the 19th July 2015. The updated Offshore Safety Directive proposed from EU is based on the best practices and procedures applied for exploration and production (E&P) activities in the North Sea region (UK, Norway and Denmark) due to their long exploration and production experience in the offshore oil and gas sectors. Therefore, the Offshore Safety Directive proposes the minimum conditions required for safe offshore exploration and exploitation activities and aims to [2]:
‘ increase the protection of the marine environment and costal economies against pollution;
‘ ensure safe operations for personnel involved in the oil and gas activities;
‘ improve the response mechanisms in the event of a major accident;
Briefly, the Offshore Safety Directive sets clear rules that deal with the whole lifecycle of oil and gas exploration and production activities from design to the final removal of an offshore installation. It is noted that the new law has to be implemented in Member States and affect the existing offshore installations (such as producing platforms) and future offshore drilling and production installations. Offshore oil and gas operations will only be carried out by operators appointed by licensees ‘ when the proposed operator is approved from the licensing authorities -or appointed by the licensing authorities. The license authority shall consult, where appropriate, the Competent Authority (CA), which is a new proposed body responsible for the implementation of the Directive and ensures safe and effective operations under all foreseeable conditions. Provisions ensuring the independence and objectivity of the CA and preventing conflicts of interest are included in Offshore Safety Directive. Thus, Member States should ensure a clear deviation between regulatory sectors relating to offshore safety and environment and regulatory sectors relating to economic development, including licensing and revenues management [3]. It is also significant to note that, the Offshore Safety Directive provides rules for transparency, cooperation between Member States, emergency response plans and trans-boundary emergency preparedness and response and sharing of information [4].
The Offshore Safety Directive affects Mediterranean countries, including Cyprus, due to the fact that significant offshore oil and gas activity, such as exploration drilling for hydrocarbons, has been observed in the region of South Eastern Mediterranean. Major oil and gas players are operating in Cyprus nowadays, such as the Eni ‘ Kogas consortium (Italy and Korea), Total (French) and Nobel Energy ‘ Delek Drilling (America and Israel) as it is demonstrated in the following Figure 1 1 and in total, these companies have drilled three (3) exploration wells in deep-water locations. The first one was drilled in the fourth quarter of 2011 from Nobel Energy, while eni Cyprus drilled one in the fourth quarter of 2014 and a second one in the first quarter of 2015.

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