Environmental Performance of Industry Captured in Key Report

North Sea oil and gas production is up but greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 were down against 2015 performance, according to Oil & Gas UK's latest Environment Report.

Although carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) rose by 4 per cent between 2014 and 2016, this was against a background in which production increased by almost 16 per cent.

The decommissioning of platforms with older turbine technology and the introduction of new energy efficient installations has led to the decreased emissions footprint.

The review of industry's environmental performance during 2016 also shows that the volume discharged to sea of produced water - water that comes to the surface with hydrocarbons during production - is down 6% on the previous year.

Report findings include:

  • Total greenhouse gas emissions from UK operations fell by nearly 1 per cent to 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 - contributing 3 per cent to the UK's the total emissions: the same level as 2015.
  • Average emissions per unit of production – industry's carbon intensity – has been declining since 2014.
  • The volume of gas flared and vented has continued to fall since 2014 as newer installations designed to flare less.
  • More produced water was reinjected into the subsurface than ever before to enhance oil recovery and reduce the quantity discharged into the marine environment.
  • Increased production led to a 3 per cent rise in the amount of chemicals discharged that were used during production –  proportionally less than the rise in production.
  • Of chemicals discharged to sea under permit, 72 per cent were classified as those that Pose Little Or No Risk -PLONOR.
  • There were 520 accidental releases to sea of oil and chemicals - with a total mass of 370 tonnes.
  • Of these, 287 were accidental oil releases – with a total volume of almost 115 tonnes.
    • this represents less than 0.00014 per cent of total oil production
    • much came from one single high-volume release
  • Most accidental oil releases came from production systems - industry continues to focus on reducing releases through improved maintenance and monitoring, as well as via new technology
  • Almost 258 tonnes of chemicals were accidentally released in 233 incidents in 2016 – 84 per cent were PLONOR.
  • Accidental chemical releases make-up less than 0.1 per cent of the total chemicals used offshore.
  • Waste returned to shore decreased by 22 per cent in 2016 – the lowest in a decade.

Louise O'Hara Murray, Environment Manager with Oil & Gas UK, said: “For the last two years the sector has focused on improving the efficiency of its offshore operations – increasing production while halving unit operating costs despite the challenges of a maturing oil and gas basin.

“Implementing these efficiencies has also brought improvements in environmental performance in several key areas, demonstrating that increasing efficiency can also reduce impact on the environment rather than generating greater risk.

“The UK Continental Shelf is a mature basin where exploration and production is challenging and more energy and chemicals are needed to extract hydrocarbons.  However, we are continuing to manage industry's emissions and discharges.

“The overall trend captured in our Environment Report shows that discharges, emissions and accidental releases are still trending downwards. While production has gone up, emissions and discharges have not gone up by the same proportion. This shows that we are managing them appropriately.

“The industry takes its responsibility for the environment it works in very seriously and is committed to minimising its impact on the natural environment.”

The Environment Report 2017 – which presents data for 2016 and is the most recent dataset available – can be found here.

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North SeaUKUnited KingdomUKSCCO2greenhouse gas

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